As I arrived home from work, I entered the apartment to see my dining room table set with all my best dishes. Settings layered from dinner plates to finger bowls at the top with doilies separating each layer. Crystal stemware positioned atop of each setting. Sterling silverware shined and properly placed. Emily Post would be proud. My prized hand painted chinoiserie white and gold edged teapot only used for the most special of occasions adorned the table as its centerpiece. Surrounding the teapot was a trio of pastries; muffins, scones, and macaroons, with jellies and hand churned butter situated at their sides. The tea perfectly steeped and ready to be poured.
Each evening I would exit the bus and anxiously walk in the bone chilling wind several blocks to my apartment.
Fully wrapped in my oh my god winter weather attire, the coat and boots that are pulled out of the depths of my closet only when the temperature goes below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoiding deep city pools of water coated in slush, I carefully plotted each step toward home.
You might think the anxiousness was from my weather concerns, but it was due to the visit of my parents. They had retired in Florida 10 years before the incident. My tiny New York City apartment became their home for several months, and it was the never-ending visit that created my anxiety. Life with them was always unpredictable. I never knew what was next...
Minnie, our great aunt to three generations was turning 100 years old. A party was planned at a NY restaurant, in her honor.
Mom and Dad decided that coming up to New York to celebrate was a great idea. The trip would include the party, plenty of family visits, and a needed change of scenery. As they aged, coming up to visit was becoming more and more of an ordeal. The family tried to discourage the trip, but Dad felt confident that he would be fine if they traveled on the auto-train. Their preferred method. Mom was afraid to fly, and the auto train significantly altered the length of time in the car. Mom didn’t drive so dad had the full run all to himself. A 24-hour drive became 4 hours on each end of the trip separated by one day and night on the train. The bonus was the car traveling on the train with them, eliminating a need to rent a vehicle. They always booked 2 adjoining staterooms as the berths were bunk beds and neither of them were able to climb to the top. It also gave them the luxury of 2 baths. If you could call them baths. The 2x2 square housed the toilet and shower. The toilet centered in the square with the showerhead perched above. A curtain gave privacy. The water from the shower was contained within this area by a metal lip about 2 inches tall from the floor that required an obvious step over to enter the space. The entire room was miniscule.
In their retirement, finances had become difficult and to be able to book this trip, they found that a single room would better accommodate their budget. Excited and on their way, Mom and Dad were always ready for a party.
Dad was a strong and effervescent man always proud to have his beautiful wife on his arm. He would refer to her as his young lady. They were 79 and 83 respectively. He had a warm and friendly smile that won him friends everywhere he went. He was always confident about everything and an optimist which created an aura that people gravitated toward. He had that bigger than life persona.
Mom a bit demurer and happier to be at his side always. Their marriage lasted for 66 years and would have continued forever if it weren’t for the passing of Dad. The older they got, the closer they became.
Happy to be on their way, they phoned from the car, we’re coming! See you tomorrow. Dad loved to travel. Mom, not so much.
That evening at two am, the phone rang. It was dad.
Hi Ca, sorry to wake you but I have a bit of an emergency.
What’s going on? Are you and Mom, okay? You sound terrible.
Moms fine, but I was climbing up to the top bunk when the train shifted sharply, and I fell off the ladder and landed flat on my back. There is a metal ledge from the shower, and it dug into my back and I’m in agony. I don’t think I can drive. My best guess is that several of my ribs are broken.
Dad, oh my, you must call the conductor and get off the train. You need to go to a hospital and get checked out.
I can’t do that. That will leave the car on the train, and we will be stranded. I don’t even know where we are. If I’m hospitalized it will leave your mother isolated in a strange place. I just want to get to New York and be seen by my doctor.
Can you wait that long? It sounds as if you are in a great deal of pain.
I’ll make it, but I need you to come with Mike (my husband) so he can follow us back in our car.
The train arrives in the D.C. area around 8am.
Okay, Dad, we will be leaving shortly to meet the train. Hang in there. Help is on the way.
My husband and I went rushing off to D.C. without any hesitation and we reached the station just as the train arrived. I spied this cute older couple, my parents, exiting the train with dad walking so gingerly and mom holding him so close. He looked terrible. His complexion paled from pain and exhaustion. Slowly we assisted him into the car and off we went directly to the hospital emergency room in New York City.
We called his doctor on the way, but he suggested the emergency room for immediate attention. The ER was packed wall to wall with all types of conditions. From gunshot wounds to sore throats, city hospitals are always a challenge. There was no room for dad, so they placed him on a hard chair squeezed between stretchers as he waited and waited for hours before being seen. They handed him a Tylenol, explaining until his condition was diagnosed, they cannot offer anything else.
Finally, after hour 5, he was x-rayed and determined to have broken 3 ribs. They taped him up and released him with pain meds and the recommendation to rest for the next several weeks until he heals. There was not much else they could do.
Pain meds. Oxycontin. I was not fully acquainted with this drug, but believed I heard of it before and decided to trust the doctors to prescribe the best meds for him. But my Spidey sense was not comfortable. I was to learn that they are clearly not recommended for the elderly, and additionally, how dangerously addictive these drugs are known to be.
When I went to fill the prescription, I asked the pharmacist, “Is this the drug that we have been hearing about on the news? He replied, “Yes, it is.” It’s an amazing drug and it will relieve his pain, but you must be careful and watch him closely. I phoned his physician and inquired about another type of drug only to be given another form of oxycontin. He was in such pain; we had no choice but to let him have this form of relief.
”Mental status adverse events, mind altering in the elderly”
These are the first warnings to pop up when this medication is googled.
We awoke the next morning in my apartment to the sounds of dad pacing. He was unable to sleep between the pain and the meds. His mirages were vivid and startling. We had coffee together that morning and he explained to me that he witnessed the French Revolution. Through the large picture window, facing the River, he saw Napoleon Bonaparte leading his army to victory at the Coup of Bramaire. It all took place adjacent to the Hudson River. He was emphatic about what he witnessed.
The French Revolution in New York City.
Dad was a history buff and an avid reader. It made sense that his hallucinations and altered state would be of an historic nature.
That night was quite long as his sleep patterns were all thrown off with his mind completely delusional. He was not coherent. Just as the warning indicated for use in seniors.
My dread each evening to go home was on my mind all day. Worried about leaving them alone while at work, yet needing the break from the challenges of their daily needs. I would stop at the apartment door just before entering, take a deep breath and ramp up my courage before making my entrance.
Wow Dad, Good Evening…what’s all this? The table is beautiful. You must be feeling so much better.
You’ve shaved and put on lovely clothes. What a wonderful surprise to come home to….
Proudly he replied,
Of course, all must be beautiful. The Queen of England will be arriving momentarily for tea.