My 88 year old Play-Dad had his leg amputated last week. He wasn’t aware it had happened.
A few days earlier his daughter had discovered him suffering a diabetic crisis, and had him rushed to the hospital, an infection raging through his body. She gave her consent to the amputation to save his life. I flew to Chicago afterwards to help encourage him, and joined the other family members at his bedside.
32 years ago when one of his sons and I became friends he had accepted me as one of his sons. By the time that son died, 6 years later, his other children had followed his lead and also accepted me as family.
Following surgery his condition improved slowly. We gathered together in his hospital room with our concerns, and shared memories and stories that are ingredients of family reunions. We were happy to see each other, especially those not seen the longest.
Dad’s general orientation came in varying degrees, with his ready wit the best indication of how close to his lovable self he was.
“Why are half the people in here so happy, and half so sad,” he asked one night.
“We’re all happy,” we replied. “Are you happy?”
“No,” he said.
“No women here for me,” he said, cracking up the room.
What would be his reaction when he became aware his leg was gone?
This was our greatest worry. The loss of his will to live could be more fatal than his diabetes.
6 days after surgery, it was time for me to return home. I went to visit him early not yet prepared to say goodbye.
He was his most lucid, and also restless. He wanted his hands freed from the mitts that prevented him from using them to disturb his dressings and intravenous lines.
We watched as his free hands traced over his head, down his face, onto his torso, and below. We held our breath at the shock that registered on his face as he fingered the bandages that safeguarded his healing stump.
“I didn’t know my leg is gone. Why?”
“To keep you with us. We need your love to last.”
“Are you okay with that, Dad?”
“You tell me to, so I have to be.”His weak smile uplifted up our hearts.
“I have to run, Dad,” I said, and kissed him on the forehead.
“Why can’t you walk?” he asked. This was his old self.
“I’m late for my flight.” I said and kissed his head again. “I love you, Dad.”
“I love you, son,” he said. “I love all my children.”
I left grateful for one of my most cherished gifts; the love of my “Play-Family”.
God Bless You Dad.