the hospital

Last night I dreamed that I sat down with my father to record his life history. In my dream, he was seated in a wheelchair, but he was full of energy and smiles, like he was before the event that started his neurologic decline. His face no longer drooped on the left, but instead, was perfectly symmetric. His hazel eyes sparkled when he smiled and joked with me, the way he once used to. In my dream, he was going to tell me everything about his past, and I planned to write every word of it down. I carried a black pen and a blank notebook filled with white, college-ruled paper, ready to be filled with my father’s story.

But in my dream, we kept getting interrupted. Each time I sat next to him, ready to write, someone intervened and pulled my attention away from him. I never was able to write a word.

And then I woke up.

Today, my father is lying in a hospital bed and he’s unable to speak to us. He cannot move the left side of his body. He cannot swallow the secretions that pool in his throat, and when he coughs, he sounds as if he is choking. He does not open his eyes to look at me, and he will not wake up.

He had a large stroke yesterday, or maybe even the night before. I keep trying to pinpoint when it happened. When exactly did his heart flick off a clot that traveled in an instant to his right middle cerebral artery? Was it when I was sitting at his bedside in the emergency room, in that uncomfortable folding chair, thinking he was just sleepy from the Ativan he was given? Was it shortly after I went home that night? Or was it first thing Friday morning, while I was heading to clinic? I realize it doesn’t matter when it happened. What matters is that it happened, and that he will not recover.

I regret not seeing him one last time while he could speak to me. His last words to me on Thursday night were, “Do they think this is serious?” I want to remember different words.

I regret not canceling my clinic duties yesterday morning. If I had been there, maybe his stroke would have been recognized sooner. [I know that it wouldn’t have mattered, but I can’t help but regret this.]

I regret not ever taking the time to sit with my father, when he was fully himself, and writing down his story. Because when he is gone, I would have had  the physical reality of his story to cling to, rather than just my imperfect memories.


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34 Responses to “regrets”

  1. 1
    Janis — February 22, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

    I wish I knew what to say. I wish I could give you a hug. I know how it feels and I am hurting for my friend. Take care of yourself through this sweetie.

  2. 2
    Aimee — February 22, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

    I am so so sorry, my friend. Please know I am thinking of you and praying for strength for you.

  3. 3
    Sabrina Modelle — February 22, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

    I am so very sorry about your dad’s stroke. I am thinking of you and your family.
    Thank you (as always) for your honesty and raw truth on this blog.

  4. 4
    Elizabeth — February 22, 2014 @ 7:48 pm

    Prayers are with you and your family.

  5. 5
    Lana — February 22, 2014 @ 8:03 pm

    MJ, your post brought me to tears. My father suffered a massive stroke last fall and no one thought he would recover. Being a tough old goat with a very strong heart, he was declared a miracle and sent home. But even though he is alive, he is not the same dignified, handsome man he used to be just a year ago. And just like you, I regret my impatience with him, my lack of time to listen to his “digressions” and memories, my selfish, silent desires that he would find someone else to bore with his interminable stories. It hurts and it will hurt for a long time.

    I wish I could give you a big bear hug and cry with you right now. Kiss your dad’s cheek for me, too. and wish him peace.



  6. 6
    Lisa @ Garnish with Lemon — February 22, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

    Merry Jennifer, many prayers for you and your family during this difficult time. It’s so hard to watch our parents suffer. Sending lots of hugs and peaceful prayers your way.

  7. 7
    Aces — February 22, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

    Oh, Merry, so sorry. Being a physician in instances like this sucks. I hope for the best for your dad.

  8. 8
    Beth S — February 22, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

    So sorry to hear about your father. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

  9. 9
    Jen Schall — February 22, 2014 @ 8:40 pm

    I’m so sorry, MJ… We went through something similar with my grandfather, and reading this post brought back many memories and tears. I hope you will find some peace in all of it. Thank you for sharing something so vulnerable and beautiful. I’m sending my love and prayers your way.

  10. 10
    Macaroni Mama — February 22, 2014 @ 9:43 pm

    I love how you captured this moment. One day soon, you will bake or cook and awe your food bloggers about your wonderful recipes. Love you.

  11. 11
    Jayne — February 23, 2014 @ 2:10 am

    So sorry to hear this MJ. x

  12. 12
    Steph — February 23, 2014 @ 8:51 am

    Oh, MJ, I’m so sorry to hear this. Regret is so difficult to deal with. I still harbor a great deal of it from the loss of my mom almost 17 years ago. I never got to be an adult with her, really. She died when I was still a selfish brat.
    Anyway, I am sorry for what you are enduring right now. Hugs.

  13. 13

    MJ, I don’t really know what to say but I know your dad knows he is loved and cared for and I know if he could talk to you now he would tell you want a wonderful daughter you are. He’s a lucky man. Try not to focus on what you regret, please. Sending hugs and strength, always XO

  14. 14
    Kathleen S — February 23, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    I’m so sorry you and your family have to face this. Watching helplessly is hard and horrible.

    I’ll share something that helped me last year.

    Last words are not that important, all the words he’s said before are what matter. His life with you, love for you and your family. That’s the sum of a life.

    I understand the regret from having imperfect memories. I started a Memories Journal and I put everything I can remember into it, from stories to the quiet ways we interacted.

    I hope by sharing I can make your days a little lighter…

  15. 15
    Wendy Read — February 23, 2014 @ 9:57 am

    MJ, my heart goes out to you as I have walked the road that you are on. Coming to terms with your regrets is a process as you well know, but it is very raw right now and will be until it just isn’t anymore. I wish you grace and tranquility to get through the next few weeks and to be a support for your Mom as well. Hold her hand the best that you know how and hold each other up.

  16. 16
    Lizthechef — February 23, 2014 @ 11:08 am

    Such a hard time for you and your family. My thoughts are with you all.

  17. 17
    Lynda - TasteFood — February 23, 2014 @ 11:14 am

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, MJ. I lost my father just before Christmas. Try not to let regrets consume you at this time – you have done your utmost and he knows it.

  18. 18
    Katy — February 23, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    My heart aches with yours. May you find peace and joy in the good memories!

  19. 19
    Sharon — February 23, 2014 @ 11:56 am

    Your post brought me to tears. You gave been a wonderful daughter to your father. We can all look back and think we should have cancelled this or changed a moment (with regrets) but you were there with your father when he knew you were and he would want you to have no regrets.

  20. 20
    Smith Bites — February 23, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

    It seems from the comments above as well as my own will tell you there are many of us with regrets similar to yours; and you also know that in the depths of your gut that yes, even had you been there, nothing would have changed. I also think regret is part of grieving: the ‘what ifs, what might have beens, the future, the past’ – all of it. but you are not alone and i know that leaving my comment won’t change it or make this process any less painful. but i hope it helps, even if it’s for a blip of a second, that you feel the love that is surrounding you now. (((hugs)))

  21. 21
    jacquie — February 23, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

    I’m so sorry. my thoughts are with you and your family. and though it doesn’t help hugs to all

  22. 22
    Nancie McDermott — February 23, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

    I am thinking of you up here in North Carolina, dealing with these things that cannot be fixed. I am so sorry. It means so much to me to read your words and see your photographs, when they are delightful and delicious, and also when they are poignant and profound and sad.

  23. 23
    Gail — February 23, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

    Oh, MJ, my heart goes out to you.
    I felt the same way when my dad was dying. It was as though a big bag of marbles spilled on the floor, and I was scrambling to gather them up as quickly as possible. But, the more I rushed to get them, the faster they rolled away from me.

    Do not beat yourself up. Don’t be hard on yourself.

  24. 24
    Alice Martin — February 23, 2014 @ 8:22 pm

    Merry Jennifer, I have known you since you were a little girl and I want you to know that your dad has always been so proud of you. I remember how happy he was on your wedding day. You filled his life with joy! I am thinking of you and your mom and brother. I love you.

  25. 25
    DrAttai — February 23, 2014 @ 10:43 pm

    So very sorry. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts.

  26. 26
    Amy @ The Nifty Foodie — February 23, 2014 @ 11:27 pm

    I’m so sorry. You, your father and your family are in my thoughts and prayers right now.

  27. 27
    Leigh — February 24, 2014 @ 6:57 am

    MJ, I am so sorry for what you are going through. This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself. We’re here to do whatever we can. xoxo

  28. 28
    Di — February 24, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    Taking of leave of this world is often hard and agonizing work; bearing witness to it when it’s your loved one is heart-breaking. With sorrow for you and your family, I will pray.

  29. 29
    Bridget — February 24, 2014 @ 3:17 pm

    I’m so sorry. I’ll be thinking of you and your family, and wishing you all the best.

  30. 30
    Paula — February 24, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

    My heart goes put to you and your family, not to mention my prayers. I know that you know that your father loves you, then, now and always…without regret. Sending you heartfelt hugs.

  31. 31
    Kathy — February 24, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

    I ache for you. May you all find peace in the days ahead.

  32. 32
    Christine (Cook the Story) — February 26, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

    Oh, my friend. I am so sorry for your Dad’s illness and that you feel in any way to blame. You can’t live in the past and think what if because all the what ifs in the world can’t change it. But you can savor time together now. And I can tell that that is what you’re doing (you’re always so wise. You don’t need me to tell you anything like that!). You and your family are in my thoughts.

  33. 33
    vagabonde — February 28, 2014 @ 11:36 am

    I came to your blog from Sam’s My Carolina Kitchen and expected a merry recipe. I read your post and it really affected me. I am deeply sorry for your father, for you and your family. I also read your post A nursing Home Visit – so very sad. My husband has been diagnosed with Onset Alzheimer and reading your post – I realized this will come to pass for me too – not easy.

  34. 34
    Mary — March 1, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

    I’m so sorry to read that your dad passed. I have been reading your great stories about him and I think he was a loved man. My dad passed five years ago this year and I still cry everyday. I’m sure you will also but that’s alright. Thank you for sharing all these stories.

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