Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:21 PM on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In the midst of life's trials, constants provide comfort

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


McKibben Jackinsky

We've all heard about people who swear they've seen the Virgin Mary in gravy stains on carpets and in the burned pattern on pieces of toast. Some are certain they've seen the face of Jesus in the clouds and mysteriously imprinted on pieces of fabric.

Like some of you, I've laughed when I've heard those claims, but that was before last week.

Last Thursday morning, I found "certainty" in a sack from McDonald's.

Ten days ago my dad was admitted to South Peninsula Hospital with pneumonia. At 95, Dad's no stranger to hospital stays. This year reasons for overnight visits have become more frequent. With each event, the level of seriousness increases.

This time around, my sister, Risa, and I have stayed especially close to Dad's side. His hospital room has become our home away from home. We sleep within a few feet of him, alert to changes in his condition.

What we wear during the day generally becomes what we wear during the night. Clean, unwrinkled clothes would be nice, but aren't necessary.

In the mornings, we crawl out from between our blankets and fix our attention on Dad and how he fared the night. Second come thoughts of our hair sticking out in all directions, the sleep caked in the corners of our eyes, our foul breath and teeth that need brushing. Cups of coffee brewed and generously shared by one of the certified nursing assistants has helped smooth the mornings' rough edges.

Mealtimes are consumed with trying to coax Dad into taking bites of this and a drink of that, while we eat tuna fish sandwiches made and delivered to us by my husband, Sandy, snack on homemade cookies from him and our friend, Milli, and soothe our concerns about Dad's health with late-night runs to Safeway for comfort foods like potato chips and fried chicken.

The television in Dad's room hasn't been turned on in favor of peace and quiet so he can rest. Instead, Risa and I have entertained ourselves by catching up on some quality reading. Ask us about the Kardashians, which movie stars are getting married or divorced, which celebrities look best in which designer's clothes and we can give you all the details.

My work has become narrowed down to what can be done with a laptop and cell phone. Risa's cat has expressed displeasure, as only cats can do, over being left alone. Meetings and appointments on Risa's and my calendars have been canceled, rescheduled or attended during the few hours each day we take turns getting out for short breaks.

The demands of the week have been eased by nephew Joshua, who kept an eye on Dad a couple of nights so Risa and I could get some uninterrupted sleep; Vicki, who found a replacement razor when Dad's razor failed; Gayle, who joined me on a walk one afternoon when I carved out enough time to head for the Spit Trail; Hospice of Homer visitors who kept Dad company; and all the family and friends who have sent emails and photos to cheer Dad and us on.

In other words, the last 10 days have been filled with upheaval and uncertainty.

I'm not whining. I know, judging by the number people visiting rooms on either side of Dad's hospital room, that my family isn't the only one in this spot. Multiply what we're experiencing by everyone else in the hospital and, well, there are a lot of us that don't know what tomorrow will bring but do know that nothing is the same. Priorities have been reevaluated. Routines have gone by the wayside.

I hit a particularly low point one morning last week. For starters, Dad wasn't doing so well. Throw in my lack of sleep, concerns about work, personal matters that needed tending to and there I was with tears pooling in my already red eyes.

It was then I was told my boss, Lori, was at the nurses' station asking to see me.

Sure enough, there she was. With a big smile. Her presence a reminder of life beyond the hospital walls. In her hands, a McDonald's sack containing breakfast for Risa and me.

And it struck me: In a world where circumstances can change in the twinkling of an eye, what says "certainty" like food from McDonald's? You know how it will taste before you take a bite, whether you're ordering in Homer, New York City or downtown Moscow. That, my friend, is no small thing.

Laugh if you want. You can even compare me to those who see divine images in their mashed potatoes. But I'll be forever thankful for the reminder that in a world of change, some things remain the same. Like breakfast burritos from McDonald's.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.