A Parent Struggles With Kidney Disease
Nothing can be more heart-wrenching than watching one of your kids go through a terrible situation like kidney disease. As parents we are instinctively geared to protect our kids. Even though they turn 24 years of age, like my son, they are still our kids.
This is the story about how I informed my wife that our son was dying…
Cindy, the best secretary ever, saw me as I rushed into Jennie’s open office. Now vacant, computers on, stacks of work in progress and arranged in a circular perimeter. I envisioned her in the middle, still working long after everybody had left for the day. But, where was she now?
“Hey Chuck,” she walked in behind me. “I thought that was you.”
Cindy. Thank God. She would know exactly where my wife would be.
“I need to talk to Jennie.”
“She’s in Cabinet,” arching an eyebrow. “Can’t be disturbed. Doesn’t even have her phone turned on.”
Both phones, I thought. The previous year I’d bought her an iPhone with a personal number since the State of California-issued Blackberry was part of a budget-cutting plan, which included not ever getting a message to finally receiving one weeks later. Joining our Family Plan, she assured me, the kids and I would always be able to reach her.
“Cindy, go get her. It’s important.”
“I—can it wait another hour?”
Cabinet is the once weekly meeting held that nobody could interrupt. The event was crucial to those charged with running the State School For The Deaf. Jennie was a crucial part of this team and she consistently worked 60 hour weeks. It pretty much consumed her, but since we were empty nesters, I was also able to match her hours. But now I needed to speak to her. I had to do so immediately.
“Michael is in the hospital.” I tried to hold back the tears forming. ” Please.”
It came in a whisper and my eyes welled as I watched her pick up the phone and punch a series of buttons.
“No answer,” she reported, “it must be something critical if they are not picking up. Don’t worry,” she said in a rush, “I’ll send Robin in the golf cart to retrieve her.”
I sat on the sofa in the reception area and as I waited, I wondered how my sister was doing locating flights to Northern California. The ticketing prices would be outrageous since we needed to leave immediately, but it mattered little at the moment. I punched her number into my mobile phone.
“Any luck on flights?” I asked.
“Can you believe Southwest? It’s like they shut down after lunch. Nothing to northern California until 6 AM and then you are going to pay through the nose.”
I thought of driving and imagined the nerve-wracked trip it would entail. Leaving in a couple hours meant we’d arrive at midnight. Certainly, we’d go directly to the hospital. Then what about our daughter, Jordan? I wanted to tell her and there would be no keeping her at bay. Ever protective of her brother, she would join us.
“I am going to call Jordan as soon as I speak to Jennie.” I replied. “Book the soonest flights you can get and please and see if you can find us a room somewhere.”
Out the front window, I saw Robin driving the golf cart with Jennie in the passenger seat. Anybody witnessing this would surely sense the high tension in the air. Neither of the women were talking, nothing going on between them and Jennie must know how serious it would be for me to drive to her office and pull her out of such an important meeting.
Cindy, to her credit, had left me alone, returning only once with an offer of coffee. I braced myself, alone, no receptionist on duty when Jennie opened the door with a jerk and saw the look of despair on my face.
“What?” she sat very close to me, taking both my hands in hers.
I tried. God knows I tried and I’ve always been the one to deliver bad news in our family. I should be polished, composed. God knows I have had several instances of bearing bad news. Telling my mother that grandma had died. Telephoning Jennie’s mother several times as she was admitted to surgery for various ectopic pregnancies, but this was different. This was about our only son. It was Michael.
“Tell me.” She demanded as I tried to breathe—tried to swallow through a closed throat.
“It’s Michael.” I began, my words coming with a shudder. “He’s in the hospital. His kidneys have failed.”