Today after yoga, I dropped off at my parents' place, ready to take them to the 99 market, where my dad hoped to score some striped bass. I wasn't able to get any for him at the farmer's market on Friday because the doctor took too long to examine them, and besides, I had no cash. I couldn't go to the Saturday Farmer's Market because of the play, so I thought the 99 would do for this purpose, though the fish wouldn't, I was sure, be as good or as ecologically correct.
When I came in the door, my father was collapsed, unconscious, in an armchair close to the door, wearing his outside jacket. His face was white, his lips blue. His hands were covered in dirt. I asked the caregiver, not the usual one, what was up. Apparently, he had been working in the garden three times that morning, doing who knows what, and it was too much for him, by far. He gasped for breath, the caregiver told me, and she was afraid to make him walk to his room. Instead, she encouraged him to nap right there, the way he was, until he had gained enough strength to wheel himself back on the walker to the bathroom to wash and to sit in his chair by the tv. in his room.
I told her that if that happened again, or worse, it might be a good idea to call an ambulance, but then I wondered: is it better to send him to the hospital, where he has twice had heart attacks, and where he would most likely die at this point, or to leave him right there, where he might recover, as he did today, or else die peacefully in his own bed? Of course, from the perspective of the board and care, they don't want to be held responsible for his death, so the former is infinitely preferable, but from his perspective, and mine, the second is looking better all the time.
I found myself praying, horribly, that my mother would not outlive my dad since it would be so awful for her, so difficult to keep her from running off to look for him, thinking he was somewhere else, perhaps back in the old place, or in the hospital. But it is more than likely that she will outlive him. And we will have to deal with things as they come.
POSTSCRIPT: I took mom to the 99 market, where she stared at all the multi-colored fish corpses laid out before us on a gigantic bed of ice. The woman in line behind me, hand and lower arm covered in a plastic bag, showed me how to peel back the gills of the fish to gauge their freshness, and together, we chose a couple of likely prospects from the pile. She took one too. Then I pointed to a gigantic golden carp, looking like a magic fish from a fable, and told her about gefilte fish, and how I thought she could make it. She liked the sound of that, and as we went to pay for our prize, she was hefting the gigantic fish up with her plasticked hand. We stopped at the Chinese bakery, near our parking spot, and bought mom a lovely pastry, and then went home, where we found dad working on his puzzles.