I was getting my report from the previous shift at the hospital. I worked in Coronary Observation. I previously had rooms C100-104 but on this day, I was assigned rooms C100-103 then C119. That last room was all the way at the end of the opposing hall. Why would my charge nurse give me that room?
I enter room C119, gave my little nurse's introduction and then proceed to examine the patient. He didn't seem too receptive to me. Flat affect as far as I was concerned. The man HAD had a heart attack for God's sake. What did I expect?
I took his pulse, temperature and blood pressure and then I noticed the man's name. Leon C. Cox. It flashed in my mind that this name was "supposedly" my father's name. My next thought was, "this could be my father and never know it!" But how would I know? How would I know for certain?
I completed my nursing assessment and then headed to the nurse's station. Could this man actually be my father? After twenty-nine years, is THIS how I discover who my father is?
All the information I would ever need was in his chart. Before I looked in his chart I thought to myself...What do I KNOW about my father? What had I overheard about him throughout the years? Well, he was an electrician, he lived in Maynardville, TN., his middle initial was "C" AND he was married to a woman named "Pearlie." How many men would fit that description?
I opened his chart and every detail I just told you was there. He was my father.
My charge nurse interrupted my thoughts and asked, "Is everything alright? You look like you've seen a ghost?"
"I haven't seen a ghost," I said, " but my father is laying down there in room C119!"
"Oh my God!" she said, "You've never seen him before?"
"No I haven't. Not until just now."
"Well, you can't tell him who you are." she said. "The hospital would be liable if you go in there and tell him who you are. He could have another heart attack."
Really? I just discovered that a patient of mine is my biological father and my charge nurse is worried about a lawsuit?
I grew up without a mother or a father. As a kid, I decided that I was going to make something out of myself so when I got old--at thirty--I'd find my father and show him what HE missed. I was two months away from my thirtieth birthday and BAM! My father is one of my patients!
I went back down to his room, walked in and said, "Mr. Cox, we have alot in common." After a couple of beats I added, "we are both from Maynardville."
He looked straight ahead at the bare room's wall and said, "Yeah."
"Do you know Lara Roberts or her sister Allie Wayne?"
"Yeah. " he said never taking his eyes off the wall.
"Allie Wayne is my mother."
"Yeah." he said with no emotion.
"It's been interesting meeting you." I said.
I walked out of his room and to the nurse's station. "If the man in C119," I said to my co-workers, " calls out, needs a medication, a drink, a straw---ANYTHING--don't bother me with it."
"Is he a difficult patient?" another nurse asked.
"No, he's my father."
This was too much of a soap opera for me to handle. I traded him to another nurse and would return to my original end of the unit: C100-104.
The next day, he had been discharged, he was gone. Gone forever.
At one time or another, every nurse I worked with on that unit came up with a reason to go in his room to see if we looked alike. Why not? This was a juicy story, right? How many nurses stumble upon the father who abandoned her twenty-nine years ago?
I never saw him again. I just meant nothing to him.
I made myself feel better by telling myself that it must've been terrifying for a man who'd had a heart attack to realize that his nurse was the daughter he had abandoned. How would she treat his life when he hadn't acknowledged hers at all?
He died four months later without ever trying to get in touch with me.
So as usual, I won't be celebrating Father's Day on Sunday. People say you can't miss what you never had but you can. I did. I missed the safety and security a father's love gives a female child. I missed the force who'd give me that safe place to fall. I missed that love. A father's love.
Don't miss that love this Father's Day.