I spent the day at the hospital while my father-in-law was in surgery. This is the same hospital where two of my children were born. We stayed in the same waiting room where I waited during several operations for my own father.
My dad never left the hospital. I still miss him, everyday.
I sat in the waiting room with my father-in-law’s wife, my brother-in-law and his wife, and my sister-in-law. Husband had to work and wasn’t able to come up until later in the afternoon. For several hours, the mood was light hearted and optimistic. About the time we were expecting my father-in-law to come out of surgery (about two hours from when it began), the nurse called to let us know that they had removed the gall bladder and would be completing repairs and closing up. We took that to mean that they hadn’t found anything surprising – or at least we hoped that is what it meant. She gave a time period of 1 to 1.5 more hours before the operation would be completed. That gave us pause since they had originally given an estimation of 1 hour and 45 minutes, total.
I called my husband to let him know and we trooped downstairs seeking out frozen yogurt, leaving Stepmother by herself. We didn’t find any yogurt but the walk did us good. We returned before the doctor arrived. In fact, the clock kept ticking and we had no word.
Commencing at about an hour and half after the nurse’s phone call, I observed my father-in-law’s wife go from chatty and optimistic to quiet. She began picking at her nails and set down her magazine, clearly no longer interested in reading or unable to concentrate. After another half hour, sister-in-law began pacing and I did the same. Stepmother was white knuckled and silent. Conversation lagged and there were long moments with no one speaking. My husband arrived which prompted some conversation but it quickly died away.
Another fifteen minutes passed with no word. I am sure I am not the only one who was beginning to become concerned. I looked at Stepmother and wondered to myself, morosely, I’ll admit, if I was looking at a widow. Surely the doctor would have called by now if things were going okay.
Brother-in-law wandered away to read from a magazine. His wife, who is typically cheerful, kept a smile on her face but left to get something from the car. I wandered over to stand where I could see down the hall. Sister-in-law walked by and I am sure she was doing the same thing I was - looking to see if the doctor was coming. I wanted to see his face and try to read this expression.
At this point, I was filled with concern for Stepmother and my husband. And I thought of my own dad, turning the clock back, mentally, to the time when he fought in that place dividing life and death and there was not one thing I could do other than hold his hand, pray that the pain would end, and whisper that I loved him.
Finally, nearly two and a half hours after we’d had a phone call from the nurse, the surgeon darted out of a side door. He was dressed in scrubs (I looked at him, intently, but they didn’t look blood splattered – I am not sure why that would matter). Instead of coming to the waiting room, he headed in the opposite direction and entered the doctor’s lounge.
That can’t be good, I thought.
About five minutes later, he reappeared, wearing a white coat.
That can’t be good, I thought, again. Is he donning the mantel of a physician to be in the correct costume to deliver bad news? He wasn’t smiling and my stomach dropped. I turned to walk over to Stepmother and told her, “The doctor is coming.” She looked relieved and terrified at the same time.
The doctor arrived and glanced around the waiting room. The volunteer pointed him in our direction and he held out his hand to shake Stepmother’s. Without preamble or a summary of the outcome, he launched into a chronological description of how the surgery progressed. My heart was in my throat and I kept expecting him to reach a point where he said, “And then…[something awful happened – fill in the blank]. But as he kept describing the operation, it finally dawned on me that the shoe wasn’t going to drop. Relief rolled over me.
Father-in-law still isn’t out of the woods but they found no sign of cancer in the samples they took during the surgery. He’d had an inflamed gall bladder that clearly was quite diseased, but the doctor said that he was a tough old bird and that he believed that was the only thing making father-in-law sick. Barring any complications, he should be back to his regular routine within a couple of weeks.
In a way I can't describe, I felt a sense of victory. Death took my dad but father-in-law managed to slip that noose.
Once I got home, I sat on the patio with a glass of wine and wallowed in the sense of gratitude and relief. I confess, I shed a few tears, primarily of relief from holding in my emotions, all day, but a few because I really miss my dad. And more than a few because I am so happy for my father-in-law and the family. And I am happy for myself because even though I don’t have my own dad, having a sweet father-in-law is the next best thing.
So why am I still crying?
Thank you all for your prayers and I hope you will continue to remember him while he recuperates.
Penny, Evelyn and Pearl