I’m sitting at the bar wondering how a nice hotel like this can have such an epic meltdown that it is 6:48pm and they don’t have their rooms ready for new guests yet. Maybe a strike. Whatever. It’s been a long day, at the end of a long week, before another long week. I’ve got no problem relaxing by myself with a few Yuenglings and my laptop. They don’t even have these beers where I live. The rationalization seeps in and feels good. I take another handful of wasabi peanuts and settle back in my chair.
Rhonda’s dad is dying. About a month ago, he was given two months to live. This week he really began to deteriorate. Rhonda was planning on going to Michigan this weekend, but called me on Tuesday after finding out that he’d fallen and been admitted to the hospital. “This might be it,” she said. “I need to go early.” An hour later she was home to pick up her clothes and walked into the house looking like she’d been hit by a truck. Uh oh… he already died, I thought. But I was wrong. She walked in and sat down in the kitchen. “My mom just had a stroke.” That’s right. Her mom and dad are in two separate hospitals, about 20 minutes apart, for entirely serious reasons. And they haven’t known about each other, as the doctors thought it would be bad for her mom to hear about her dad and her dad isn’t in a great place to process information about her mom. So now things worsen. In addition to waiting for the inevitable passing of her father, my wife has to worry about her mom too.
We’ve been in Michigan off and on for the last month. I was there earlier this week and now her sisters and their families have arrived as well, coming in from all around the country… Ohio, Indiana, California and Missouri. They spend time together and with their dad while the sun is up, during the fleeting times that he’s awake, and then take turns staying in his room at night. There isn’t a person that isn’t emotionally exhausted. It’s good that they have each other. I don’t know if the other sisters are like my wife. She goes into doctor mode during the day to cope and make sense out of everything going on. But then at night, when things are quiet, when there’s time to think about what’s on the horizon…that’s when Rhonda melts down. I know it’s heresy to say it, but I am secretly hoping this time will pass quickly. The longer it goes on and the more she has to endure seeing her father slowly slip away, the more it takes out of her. She’s been very close with him… the closest of all the daughters from my estimation.
Ava and Lily know what’s going on, but of course the magnitude of death isn’t something they can truly comprehend. Still, it’s the seriousness that I think they are able to detect. They haven’t seen family members descend from across the country before, just because someone was sick. They are a little more clingy, a little more whiny. They’re both sick, so they’re a little more snotty too. Fun times. Sometimes I think they are lucky. Dealing with death gets much more difficult the older you get.
Still no room. But even if I can’t go anywhere, it’s better here. Half of my week was spent in a shitty Rodeway Inn in Kalamazoo, the four of us living out of a bag in a singular space. This weekend we’re moving to a hotel on Lake Michigan where I can take the girls to the beach. That’s really my role – to take care of them and support my wife. It’s hard for me to be around it all. Most everyone involved had been in the family for years before I ever came around, decades even. I’m used to not having much in common with them outside of holidays and occasional barbecues, but not having a lengthy history together makes processing a situation like this different as well. I try and focus on the girls, try and not be aloof, try and support my wife. We’ve never been through something like this before but we’re stronger now that we’ve ever been in the past. She’s not always a big talker. This, I know. I’m not pushing. The worst thing I can do is add more stress to her late night hours.