There hasn't been any posting this week because I have been back in Salt Lake for work meetings. Just days before leaving, though, the trip to Utah took on a whole new meaning.
In the last 30 or so years my father has been out of my life more often then he has been in. When I was younger it was by his choice - as I have become an adult I didn't maintain contact and he respected my wishes. He is not a bad person but he has been fighting demons his entire life and those demons (namely alcohol) would usually win. It has been close to a decade since I have had any contact with him. Since Peyton's birth there have been several times I tried to search for him on the internet just so I could know if he was alive or dead. I hated answering the question "Where is your dad" with "I don't know, I'm not even sure if he is still alive". When I had last heard from him I knew he was not in good health and was on disability due to COPD. At that time he was still smoking and drinking and making no effort to improve his health. I wasn't prepared to sit around and watch him slowly kill himself - it was too much to deal with at the time.
So fast foward to last week when my uncle tracked down my sister to let her know that my father had accidentally caught himself on fire while smoking and using oxygen and he had been life flighted from Idaho to the burn unit at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake. Yes, the same hospital where three out of his four children work. Knowing I would be in Salt Lake within a few days for work, I hoped he would survive long enough for me to at least say goodbye. In the week since the accident he had been kept sedated and was not awake or aware of his situation.
Tuesday night I visited him late in the evening by myself - I figured I would have a good cry when few people would be around to witness it. To my surprise, he was awake and after a few questions from me and a few nods and shakes of his head it was clear he was also aware. Although he had no idea where he was or why he was there he knew who I was and was very surprised to see me. With all the tubes in his mouth he could not talk and with the bandages on his hands he could not write. Communication was strictly based on me asking yes/no questions that he could shake or nod his head but it was clear he wanted very badly to talk to me. Because he was emotional I had to be the strong one and the good cry would have to wait. Not so different then our relationship has been all along.
I broke the news to him that he was going to get a trach. He got very upset but I am not sure he even knew what a trach was. Obviously our family is all too familiar with life with a trach. When I first heard it was a possibility I had a difficult time getting past the irony of my child and my father both having a trach at the same time - what are the chances? For the second time in my life, I experienced the love/hate relationship with a tracheostomy. My conflicted feelings about the trach are not that different then my conflicted feelings for my father I guess.
I am not sure if Peyton will ever get the opportunity to meet her grandfather. But I find some comfort in knowing that when Peyton sees a picture of him she will finally see someone that looks like her - right down to her trach. And in that my father has given his granddaughter a gift none of us ever could have imagined.