what a weekend. possibly the very nicest, most loving, least self-conscious and unjudgmental uncle i could have ever possibly had passed away sunday night. after recuperating from a heart transplant in a cleveland hospital for eight months, my uncle pete flew home strapped in a gurney in a tiny hospital plane to a chicagoland nursing home this last thursday night. upon receiving news that my dad was hospitalized, his wife [and my dad's favorite little sister] kay then came to the hospital friday. in the intensive care unit family room, she told me about the horrifying ride in this itty-bitty jet with a giggle and her signature pursed upper lip.
pete was hilarious, welcoming all the guys with a warm, rollicking handshake. every girl was "his girlfriend" and he'd tuck one or two under each outstretched arm and exclaim, "god bless america!" to everyone he offered a drink, a hug, and acceptance -- he was actually albanian, allegedly quasi-literate, and spoke an albanian-greek patois so he knew from being judged, lemme tell ya. at two in the morning, he drove my very young mom to the hospital [albeit the wrong hospital] when she was pregnant with me and her water broke. after my parents' divorce, he was always ready with a kind word and a warm message for us to pass along to her. he didn't ask about her the way the others from my dad's side did [as though she were dead or in a coma or something] but acknowledged her thriving existence.
my father is doing okay. he is experiencing a frustrating aphasia, and he gets downright pissed off at himself because he can't get what he wants to say to form into words. this means that, though the verbal tics are still in tact, all the "y'knows" and "what-nots" are the steel links to a flimsy chain of nonsensical garble about lighthouses, landscaping, dogs and garbage cans.
for me, what is even more frustrating is the friggin' volume in the i.c.u. isn't that supposed to be a quiet place? here i am leaning over on my dad's bed, supported by both locked arms with my ear to his dry, trembling lips, trying to parse his growly whispers. just when i think i can finally extrude some meaning from the mumbling over the roar of the arctic a/c, so begins one of several loud talking, nasal nurses, speaking with what seems to me to be a most untherapeutic and cacophonous volume. someone tell me: are nurses trained to speak this way!? when they command my dad to push and pull them and hold up fingers, you can see his large brown eyes roll like, "jesus christ, lady." when i visit today, i'm bringing my hearing aid, dammit.
we learned that he finds words better when he focuses on one point, so we tried to coach him to keep his eyes open. amidst all the talk of burger kings and parameters with half-mast eyes, he affixes his gaze on my face and asks the only lucid question of the day, "why don't you come over any more?"