I wonder what other people are doing to celebrate. Picnics, BBQs, cakes, golf dates, bike rides, opening presents.
We might do some of that — I have a card and a gift and my mom might get a cake.
One thing I do know is how we will spend part of our day:
He and I will gather in the afternoon or early evening for his three-hour in-home dialysis treatment just as we do every other day. Just as we’ve been doing for almost two years.
First we will set up the machine that cleans his blood. It’s about the size of a small refrigerator. We’ll open the door and install a cartridge, then hang a bag of saline. We’ll connect a series of lines, made of surgical tubing, which ultimately get connected to my father. We’ll start the machine to get the saline running through the cartridge and eliminate air bubbles. That takes about 20 minutes.
Then one of us will lay out gauze pads, Bandaids, two fat needles, alcohol and betadine wipes, adhesive tape to secure the needles, syringes to fill with saline, and one syringe we’ll fill with the blood thinner heparin. My father usually heads to the kitchen at this point to make coffee.
The machine will chime, alerting us to a few more things we need to do before he is ready to hook up. Then my father will wash and prep his left arm, the one with the bulging fistula (an artery-vein) that winds its way up between his inner wrist and the crook of his elbow.
He will sit, inserting one needle, then the other. For each, once we see the blood pulsing through the base of the narrow surgical tubing connected to the needle, I’ll secure it with a Bandaid then connect it to the tubing that snakes through the machine.
We will start the machine, ramping up the cycler to our cruising speed of 460. If all goes smoothly — no alarms, no need to remove tape and adjust the needles — I can work on my computer just a few feet away for the next three hours. Sometimes I read or get him something to eat, pour him some coffee or fetch him some paperwork since he’s confined to a chair.
He will take regular blood pressure readings and record that with information from the machine onto a log sheet. He might watch the news or do a crossword puzzle. He might nod off for a bit or work on his laptop. He’s been enjoying discovering Seinfeld through re-runs. I laugh too.
We always talk. Some days more. Some days less.
Last weekend he asked, “What did you do today? It was a nice sunny day.”
“I went for a bike ride,” I said, a little taken aback at his interest, and for a moment I felt a tinge of guilt, a fleeting self-consciousness at my energy and freedom. Not that he would want me to feel that way. Maybe he just wanted to talk about something other than dialysis or the news.
I thought how nice it would be if he had gone for a bike ride, too, with me or not. I don’t know the last time he went for a bike ride.
My father gets around. He shops, keeps in touch with his friends, goes to a weekly conferences related to his profession, though he’s retired. But he's also tired. Dialysis takes up a lot of energy and, especially, time. More for him than for me.
Sometimes I think he feels guilty for taking my time. For relying on me.
He shouldn’t. This is my commitment. I’ve made this part of my life.
And the truth is, though I don’t like that he has to be on dialysis, I like being able to help, being someone he can depend on after so many years of me depending on him. And I even find comfort in my routine of being there every other day. It anchors my weeks.
So, yes, I will see my father on Father’s Day.
It’s not what many people will do this day. But I don’t care.
I will give him a silly card and some fancy coffee that we will share in coming weeks and a book I think he’ll like.
And we will talk. We will talk of sunny days and things other than dialysis.