Friday, June 6, 2008

Daddy's Hands...

In honor of Father's Day this weekend I'm going to talk about my daddy

This song never fails to move me - sometimes right to tears. Friday, August 13th 1999 was perhaps the scariest day of my life so far. It started out a happy day for me I had gotten a job offer that netted me a $9K a year raise and I had given notice that morning. Then I left work early that day - was preparing to go on a business trip to Montreal the next day - a weekend sales meeting and I was speaking. I went to the mall to pick up a few last minute things and then I went home. When I got home there were at least 4 messages on my answering machine, all from my sister urging me to please call her cell phone, daddy had been in an accident at work.

My dad worked for over 30 years as a well driller. He ran a rotary drill rig and drilled for fresh water. Sometimes he had a helper but many times toward the end he worked alone. This was the case on the day of the accident, he was alone, drilling a new well at a dairy farm not far from where we live now. The rotary had gotten jammed up, he opened the cover (which should trigger an automatic shutdown, but it was not functioning) and being so familiar with the job and having done it a thousand times before he reached his hand in to pull out the offending piece that was jamming up the works. It all goes into a blur for him after that, but somehow his sleeve was caught and his hand pulled down into the auger. He was able to stop the machine, but his hand was trapped, somehow he had the presence of mind to reverse the drill and release his hand. He was losing blood fast, his left hand was mostly severed and just a few tendons kept it attached to his arm. He managed to hold his hand and run down to the barn to try and find someone to help. The first person who saw him was a young child (not yet school age) who was scared of the running, screaming, bleeding man and ran away but thankfully he ran to his daddy in the barn who came out and called 911. The next thing my dad remembers he was in an ambulance on his way to meet the helicopter that would fly him to Albany Medical Center.

By the time I got the phone calls, my dad was in surgery. As soon as I got off the phone with my sister I went on autopilot somehow - still in shock I called my boss told him I was not coming to Montreal with him and that I was going home to NY because my dad was in surgery after a horrible accident and that his condition was unknown. And since I had already given notice and didn't care if I burned the bridge a little I told him I was not sure when I'd be back that I'd take my laptop and work on wrapping things up when I could but that I couldn't promise anything. Then I called the airline - they gave me an emergency fare after confirming my father's condition by calling the hospital with an open ended return and I threw some clothing in suitcases and drove like a maniac to make that flight. I needn't have hurried because like most USAir flights it was delayed! By the time I took off there was no way I'd make my connection - was sure to be stranded in Pittsburgh but figured it was closer to home than I was at that point and I could get there earlier the next day. It was 9am by the time I finally got there. My dad looked like HELL, always a very strong man he looked like he had withered in just one day, pale, weak, and bandaged to the hilt.

They were able to reattach the hand, it is not functional at all though he tries. His pinky was lost for good, his middle and ring finger are not really attached quite right and are not useful. His thumb is fused and his index finger he can bend some. This is after a dozen surgeries, multiple titanium plates (that he kept breaking somehow) and finally a bone graft. This accident ended my dad's career and because of his age and the fact that he really had never worked at anything else and that he was no longer suited for manual labor or driving truck (the only two other things that might have worked) he was declared permanently disabled.

This one 24 hour period set in motion for me a desire to someday go back home. I spent the next 2 weeks at my parents house doing all the things my dad normally did and my mom could not do (having ruptured 2 discs in her back recently). This involved taking care of a small farm - milking, feeding, shoveling shit. I worked harder in those 2 weeks than I had for years. In that time my mom decided to downsize the farm and they sold off many of their best show animals because they could no longer care for them all. It was so sad watching my dad's face as his beloved does were loaded onto other people's trailers and driven away. (Thankfully they kept a few and were able to rebuild after he was up to working at it again)

It took me 5 years and the birth of a nephew to really make it happen but I came back home, husband in tow. I missed my family but had gotten used to being away, after dad's accident I was much more keenly aware of their mortality and knew I wanted to go home and spend more time with them.

It seems I should be there to help him but more often than not he's helping me. I came home because I wanted to be near them but now that I'm here I need them more than I ever did before with my husband's illness taking so much from him. My dad is my lifeline - the one who makes sure things get done. So far this spring he has fixed my roof, fixed my lawnmower, repaired a gutter, and today he ran over and unlocked the door I forgot to leave open for my cleaning lady.

All the things that make me successful in life are from him, determination, the inability to quit, stubbornness, the ability to talk to almost anyone, anywhere, a head for numbers (although my mom has that too), a quick temper but the ability to forgive as well, so much of who I am is just like him. I used to deny it - now I'm proud of it. I am his daughter.

1 comment:

Lothian said...

Beautiful post! I am sad to hear of your dad's accident. However I was relieved to read he will be alright.