One flight later

January 19, 2021

This isn't for you, but for me. Don't live the default life. Remember what is most important to you. If you do find yourself in the default life, break the loop now, not in a little while, not after this last thing. Halt. Time is all you have, everything else is fungible.

On last Friday I was at home. It was around 5:00pm my time when I received a call from my mom. I could hear the unfamiliar sound of her car accelerating in the background. She told me, "Don't worry, but your niece called the ambulance for your dad". I sat there only able to listen.

She made it home upstairs to find my dad being assisted by EMTs in his room. My mom sounded more worried than I've ever heard her before; her voice was trembling, her speech was fragmented and all I could do was just sit there in my living room 40 minutes away and listen.

For some reason she decided to use facetime to show me how my dad was doing. He was sitting in a brown recliner with some fluids getting pumped into his arm. His eyes were sunken, flittering; he was not speaking. The phone changed directions as my mom was scrambling in the crowded room. Suddenly my window into the situation was handed to the EMTs. The EMT took time to explain to me what was going on with my dad. He had tearing sensations in his stomach, a symptom sometimes associated with heart attacks. With his medical history of past heart failure, and an inability to get good readings of his vitals they made the call to have him life flighted to Boise.

The phone was returned to my mom where my dad came into view. All I could see was a skeleton bound to a stair chair, slumped forward with his head dangling. My mom called his name frantically multiple times with no response. I stared at the tiny window in my hands thinking that was going to be the last time to see my dad alive.

I immediately started packing my things and rushed over to the St. Luke's Boise hospital. I was bawling, hardly able to drive as I tried to recall the last time that I spent quality time with my dad. All I could think about was our last phone conversation which fizzled out due to some miscommunication. That was going to be it? That was the note I was going to end it on with one of my best friends and mentors?

After mere minutes in the St. Luke's Boise parking lot, I received another call from my mom. She told me that they decided to fly him down to the Meridian St. Luke's instead because of how severe his condition was. Meridian was a 10-minute-flight while the Boise flight was closer to 20 minutes. I picked back up and made my way to the Meridian location.

As I drove I talked on a three-way call with my mom and my sister Rosie. It was the first time that I had even talked with my sister since reconnecting with her only a few weeks before. The topic: "Who was going to go in and visit dad?". She had done some research and found out that the visitation policy was only one person per day due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was clear that my mom was going to be the one, but I came to the location anyway. Rosie understandably decided to stay back due to the visitation policy.

I got there and frantically walked into the emergency exit like an idiot. All the signs pointed that the exit was for patients only and all my caveman brain could do was continue forward. As I stepped into line a mall cop stuck out a box of masks. He told me I had to put one on over my personal mask. Obliging his request, I grabbed the string for one and took four with it; it would surely be the last time that our family was going to come out on top in regard to the healthcare system. I stood in line for the emergency patients and was pointed to sit down by a nurse. She told me that I had beaten him there and that she would let me know when his flight arrived. About 10 minutes later my mom arrived.

I saw her walking up to the emergency room in her pink leather jacket. We embraced outside the sliding doors without saying a word. We then awkwardly stood in the emergency entrance line again wherein the same nurse came back over to tell us that we would need to sit down. The nurse went back to the desk and checked in on his status. He had just arrived but as we had found out only one person could visit. I told my mom that I would go to the car and wait, the nurse looked at me and said, "You could do that or maybe go home.".

Initially I was a little shocked by her response, but as I was walking back out to the car it sunk in that the only reason she would tell me something like that would be if my dad were stable enough to be okay. I stayed in the car awaiting direction from my mom while she saw him.

I sat there in the parking lot, staring through the windshield blankly, feeling the cold and guilt starting to sink in. Why? Why did I not spend more time with him? I knew how bad of shape he was in. Every time I went down a path to not visiting with him be it via text, a phone call or in person, the excuse always came back to work. And why? Because I was afraid. Afraid that I wouldn't excel in my job or that I would somehow lose my job even if things were okay. And at what cost? Not spending time with my family and friends? Not having enough restorative time to live a normal life.

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