Uncle Ed and Aunt Lynette with Olivia and Catalina
I must admit learning of his passing yesterday morning, I cried for the first time I can remember. True, actual sobbing. I’m sure it was ugly. I didn’t cry when my dad died—a random tear here or there during the immediate events and cry some more recently looking back, struggling with his death still. But, I’ve never actually sobbed upon hearing sad news before yesterday morning.
We last saw him six weeks ago at a family reunion in South Dakota—an epic road trip for a family of seven. He didn’t look 100%. Within a week of us heading back to Texas, he found out that he had cancer. You always see these things better in hindsight.
My dad was one of 12 children—10 surviving past childhood. Of the 10, six brothers and four sisters. My dad was the first to pass away in 1997. Ed is now the 4th of the boys. While my uncles have always taken special care of me, be it their oldest brother’s youngest who lost Dad when I was 12, it has been such a joy for them to equally take a special interest in my kids. There are many things hard about not having Dad around to see them grow up and I’ve voiced difficulty in picturing Dad playing with my kids. Having my uncles treat my girls as I could imagine my Dad doing has been a true grace.
Of my uncles, he was the one whose looks and mannerisms reminded me most of Dad. I wanted him to live forever, even if it was unfair of me to want it, in part, because he helped me put an adult context to the fading childhood memories of my Dad dead 19 years. Quite selfish, to be honest. He was a good man who was kind, loving, and sweet in a wonderfully gruff way. I’m going to miss him dearly.
Blessed are those who have died in the Lord; let them rest from their labors, for their good deeds go with them.
Eternal rest grant unto him , O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
As a freelancer, one of the most stressful parts of the job is the lack of a safety net. When life happens, there is no one else in the office to take on a little more work to keep projects flowing through the pipeline. Support requests are delayed. Deadlines are impacted.
This weekend, the biggest unexpected incident in our little family happened.
Olivia, our oldest who is three, had been coughing at bedtime for a couple of days. Her allergist had suggested that she may have asthma a few weeks before, but we weren’t really sure what the symptoms looked liked in Olivia. We gave her medicine on Wednesday evening. Thursday, she progressively had a more difficult time breathing, requiring higher doses at lower intervals.
Finally, near 10 p.m. Thursday, she woke herself up coughing. We gave her the dose we had increased to and it didn’t work. Labored breathing, wheezing, coughing. We spoke to the on-call doctor at her pediatric allergist’s office. Time to move.
As a kid, I went to the ER a few times. In every case, we waited in the waiting room for sometime. I went to the military clinic, so there was not an urgent care option (at least back then), so the emergency room was the after-hour solution. It was always a wait. A long, long wait.
When you take a child into an ER complaining of difficulty breathing, let’s just say things are different:
Desk Person: “Hi, what can we do you for today?”
Me: “My daughter is having difficulty breathing. The on-call doc at her allergist told us to come to the ER.”
Triage Nurse (overhearing us, comes over from her station): “When did this begin? What medications has she been administered?”
Me: “This immediate set of issues began about 24 hours ago. She had been responding to albuterol via neb, but we’ve had to increase the dose to X and decrease the interval throughout the day to Y.”
Triage Nurse (listening to her chest): “She’s tight.” (To another person) “Take her back.”
Desk Person (handing me a pencil and a scrap of paper): “Her name and date of birth.”
And that was it. We were in a room.
Early into her hospital stay.
As soon as they gave her a quick assessment and hooked her up to an oxygen monitor, her RN opened up a package of bubble solution and started playing with Olivia, blowing bubbles throughout the exam room. You could see the uncertainty in Olivia’s face wash away.
They began treating her and, while her oxygen levels were always okay, it took quite a bit to get her breathing under control. As we went longer into the night, the doctor prepared me that they would admit her if the next attempt didn’t get her back to where they wanted to see her.
Olivia did well, in the beginning, partly because I failed to bring any toys or books with us, so she got to play on “Daddy’s Exus” (known to us as a Nexus).
It was hard to see Olivia there. As her treatments in the ER had to intensify, so did the monitoring. With the levels of medication they were giving her, there was a concern about her heart rate increasing too much, so she was on an EKG and an automatically-monitored blood pressure unit. Her oxygen levels were still being monitored and something else that I can’t recall now.
Poor thing was exhausted.
The hardest part, though, was when she finally fell asleep around 4:30 a.m. She was on her breathing mask, all of the various monitoring tools were wired to her. Granted, I’d been up since 6 a.m. the previous morning, trying to stay awake in her darken room. I was tasked with ensuring the mask stayed on her face if she moved. It was hard to be alone watching your child try to sleep like that.
Finally, around 6:30 a.m., the call was made to admit her. It took a few more hours to actually get her over to a room, but by the time they did, she was actually doing okay and didn’t require the constant mask or the monitoring.
She's going to be admitted soon. Responding to meds at levels unsafe for us to admin and not for as long as she should considering dose.
The hospital experience, after that, was actually enjoyable. She was still in too bad of shape to go home, but she was past the worst of it. They let us explore the hospital and we found one of the playrooms open to patients and siblings.
The rest of the day progressed fine with slow, continual improvement. The call was made for one more night of observation since night time is the worst and she was showing displaying precursors to her last attack.
In the end, she improved and was released early afternoon on Saturday. In that time, I slept about six hours total, but she was happy, could breathe normally on a level of medication we could administer at home, and we were without the worry earlier in the week when this was an unknown, new thing for us.
Now, that Sunday night rolled around, I went back into a normal mode. Processed more e-mails that were skipped, checked out the project lists, todo lists, calendar and whatnot. Since I’m with the kiddos during the week, weekends are important times for my work schedule and this one was shot. I don’t care, though. Olivia is far, far, more important than anyone’s website or business, my own included.
The pro of being a freelancer in this situation is there was zero question on if I was taking the day off. The con, though, is next week won’t have any down time.
In the end, I can’t complain to have the work and and I can only celebrate having Olivia home.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 154,000 married fathers care for their children under 15-years old at home full-time while the mothers worked outside of the home.
Now, the number is 154,001.
I am officially a stay-at-home dad, a stay-at-home father, a house dad, SAHD, househusband, a house-spouse.
How? What? When?
There are a number of reasons that led us to this point including availability of maternity-inclusive, lower-deductible health insurance and that I have a better skill set for working freelance than V. She went back to the school she taught at previously; now in administration. I resigned from the Knights of Columbus. In addition to taking care of Olivia and Catalina, I’ll develop websites (more on that later).
This looks to be extremely challenging. It’s one thing to be told no by someone you just met when trying to sell them insurance. It is another thing completely to handle your two-year old yelling no at you. Completely different skillset. My goal is to share some of the more unique experiences here on the Daddy’s Corner segment. As soon as I can figure out how to get through a day doing everything needed to run my part of the household before 1 a.m, I’ll let you know the schedule.