2014 January 22
On New Year's Day, I called my brothers and Dad to wish them a Happy New Year. While talking to Vinny, who has been my Dad's primary caregiver for the last eleven months, I was informed that Daddy was declining rapidly, and in Vinny's opinion, based on the information provided by Hospice, he felt that Daddy was within a week or two of passing on. Vinny asked if I wanted to talk to Daddy, and of course, I did.
[Now, if you've read any of this blog detailing our five month stay in Pittsburgh in late winter, spring, and summer of 2013, you might remember that Daddy had asked me, "Why the hell are you still here?" as well as telling me that he felt I was hanging around waiting for him to die. This was his way of letting me know that I could leave and live my own life.]
When Daddy got on the phone, I mentioned that I had planned to come back to Pittsburgh in February, but was wondering if perhaps I should plan to come in January instead. His response to this was, "You should come now. We'll let you." I mentioned to Vinny that Daddy's answer was not what I anticipated, but that I would look into how soon I could get to Pittsburgh, either by car or by air, and talk to him the next day.
I spent the next day awaiting a confirmation call from the Hospice nurse, after which I spent time researching airfares and departure cities. About this time an extreme cold wave was hitting the northeastern US and causing massive delays in airports from which I might depart. This factor, coupled with the need to keep an open ended time frame for my visit, lead to the decision to drive from Florida to Pennsylvania.
This decision did not sit well with Raymond. Although, this option was one we had discussed when leaving Pittsburgh in November, he was concerned about me driving alone. He suggested we (he, Greyla and I) drive to PA, stay in a motel together. I explained that I was not trying to be insensitive to his concerns, but that I would want to spend all my time, 24/7, with my Dad. And since Ray doesn't drive and wouldn't want to be at my brother's house as much as I would, I would be distracted by worrying about him and Greyla in a motel 10 miles up the road. I reminded him, too, of how much he hated being in the cold weather. As well as how much he had disliked being in Pittsburgh during our previous stays. He relented and agreed that, perhaps, it would be better for me to go alone.
I left Florida in the sunshine, the morning of January 4. I was making great time, until I hit north Georgia. There had been a horrific accident in the northbound lanes, and two of three lanes were shut down. It took three hours to go five miles. That put a crimp in my plans to drive straight through with just cat naps along the way.
I don't enjoy driving after dark. At sunset, I began looking for something to listen to on the radio. I found "A Prairie Home Companion", which allowed me to drive until 8 pm by providing some relief from the tedium of the road. Shortly after 8, I pulled into a rest stop that was patrolled and well lit. I called Raymond and Vinny. Both told me to go to a motel for the night. I was tired. I was shaky. I knew my judgment was not as it should be to continue driving. Especially since I was only in North Carolina. I decided to check out the coupon books at the rest area and find a nearby, cheap motel. I was rewarded by finding a coupon for Motel 6, for $32.95.
Once at the motel, I called Vinny and Raymond again. Both were glad I stopped. I tried to sleep, but tossed and turned till beyond 1AM. I think my fear of getting a phone call from Vinny during the night regarding Daddy's condition weighed too heavily to allow me to relax. Sleep did finally settle sometime after 1AM, but I was up several times during the night, and finally got up at 7:30 AM. A hot shower and a little breakfast were a good start. And the fact that the temperature had dipped into the 30s and there had been rain during the night, made me glad I had followed my husband's and brother's advice and stayed at a motel.
The drive north continued in light rain and fog, through NC and Virginia. By West Virginia, the sun was peeking through the clouds and the temperature continued to rise.
The next glitch wasn't until I attempted to navigate onto Route 28 north, on the North Side of Pittsburgh. It wasn't a bad hiccup, but I was anxious to complete this final leg of my trip, so it irritated me more than it probably should have. I had to go south across the 16th Street Bridge, follow Liberty Avenue to the 31st Street Bridge, north, across the Allegheny to finally reach 28 northbound. I got to Sharpsburg around 3:30PM.
I was unprepared for how Daddy's appearance had changed from when I had last seen him at Thanksgiving. I'll share more about that in my next installment.