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Alan D Busch

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Is It Okay If Your Father Cries (Revised Final Revision)
By Alan D Busch
Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rated "G" by the Author.

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writing axion ... if you think it's finished, it probably is not.

Is it Still Okay If Your Father Cries?

The phone rang. I had long dreaded this call. It’s Bobbie, my

dad’s wife. My father is in crisis. I know this because Bobbie is

calling me. We had agreed she would in the event of a life.-

threatening emergency. “Well? Pick it up already,” my wife


“Alan, I’m taking your father to the emergency room at

Prentice. Hold on. The paramedics have arrived. Oh my God.

Bye!” I left immediately for the hospital.


“Dr. Busch. Hmm, Dr. Busch?” the receptionist repeats while

searching her daily admittance list. “Patient’s first

name is?”

“Albert,” my father’s name shoots out of my mouth. The

receptionist, a young woman, in her mid-late 20s, with

painted nails, gingerly keys in our last name. “B-u-s-h, Bush”.

“No, Miss, it’s B-u-s-c-h, Busch.”

“Oh, okay, got it. There he is. Dr. Albert I. Busch. Treatment

Room number one. Oh my! Right over there,” she swivels in

her chair and points, “Turn right at the hallway.” I dash off

forgetting to thank her.

“Dad’s inside,” Bobbie gestures, nodding her head toward the

door. “My God, what am I walking into here?”  I wonder,

drawing a deep breath and swallowing. Bobbie follows me in.

The windowless room is cramped, clutter all over the place.

An extra gurney with a broken wheel, several wheelchairs

and a portable weight scale make it seem more like a storage

closet than a treatment room. The air is hot, fetid.

I see Dad lying atop a gurney several feet away wearing

nothing but a loosely-tied hospital gown, his clothes

unceremoniously stuffed into a clear plastic garbage bag.

My father is fading away. He has lost so much weight his skin

hangs off him like an over-sized suit. The skin of his neck sags.

His legs have become spindly, their skin tightly stretched and

transparently thin.

Two nurses are just finishing their second clean up when I

walk in. Soiled linens, towels and wipes are everywhere strewn

about. A momentary calm passes, just a matter of seconds

before ‘whoosh!’ A third torrent of “profound diarrhea” has

attacked my father only ten minutes after his arrival.

The nurses respond swiftly and unaffectedly. I watch them

with awe and thanks. Their tireless professionalism comforts

me. Dad’s in good hands.

Sarah, the head nurse, busy rifling through the cabinets for

more adult diapers, fresh gowns and bed sheets, asks us to

leave, but nods approvingly when I remain at my father’s side.

Bobbie steps out.”

“Alan?” Dad whispers, grasping my hand with his powerful

clench, a good sign. “Yes, Dad, I’m right here.” We both

manage a little smile. The door opens.

“Dr. Busch?” inquires a young resident, sporting a three-

day growth of beard and a black suede kippah.“Shalom

Aleichem. I’m Alan Busch, Dr. Busch’s son,” I quickly respond.

“Benjamin Finerman. Aleichem shalom,” he returns the

greeting, extending his hand in Shabbos courtesy. ”Dr. Busch,”

he addresses my father, “your chart indicates a few problems

with chronic diarrhea, high fever, dehydration and urinary

tract infection.”

“’A few problems’ indeed, doctor!” my father chuckles in

appreciation of Dr. Finerman’s understatement.

“Dr. Busch, we’ll be admitting you as soon as the paperwork is

processed.”  He turns to me and whispers: “May your father

have a refuah shleyma.” Within half an hour, just as he had

indicated, patient transport moved us to room 1676 where we

spent the next thirteen days.   

His last battle against profound diarrhea lies ahead. My dad

and I have no plan but to react. There are no offensive

measures we can take. It ambushes us whenever it pleases. His

body no longer signals any advance warning. We are stuck on

the defensive. Although not itself lethal, it is turning my

father’s remaining time into a living hell.                          

"Call the nurses, Alan.

"Dad, let me. I can take care of this by myself.”

Please, please don’t do any more,” my father pleads.

My protestation weakens.

“I understand your feelings Son but the nurses are better at

this than you. Let them do their jobs. Besides, it’s not right for

a son to help his father in this way.”

Though I have no doubts the oncology nurses are doing the

best they can, they cannot always respond to our calls in time,

especially in the early morning hours when staffing is cut

back. And I understand that. And so it comes back to me.

I can’t begin to recount the number of times Dad and I have

shuffled from his bed to the bathroom. Dragging that

awkward “post and poll”(as one nurse called it) to which Dad

is attached by his saline drip and heart monitor makes the

eight feet from dad’s bed to the bathroom seem like … well,

sometimes we make it. Sometimes we don’t. Each clean up is a

tiresome repetition of the previous one: helping Dad wash

himself, changing his gown and bed clothes, cleaning the

floor if necessary, bagging it all and calling housekeeping to

pick up the soiled linen and freshen up the room. Despite the

embarrassment of it all, Dad remains determined to reach the

bathroom in time and thereby regain, at least, partial mastery

over his body.

The doctors have no answers, their treatments remain

ineffective. “There is nothing more we can do for him,”

according to my father’s oncologist. My father is not ready to

go home, but the hospital is ready to release him tomorrow.

Time is running out.

In an act of desperation, I called my dad’s gastroenterologist

at 5:00 a.m. and left an urgent message with his answering

service. He called me back within minutes.

“Doctor, the “tincture of opium” you prescribed to treat my

dad’s diarrhea hasn’t worked. There is still no change,” I

explained as calmly as I could. It wasn’t easy. I was at wit’s end,

ready “to strangle” anyone who crossed my path.

“I’ve tried everything I know to do, but if the tincture is not

working, I do not know how to stop it,” he admitted. My

heart sank.

“The prognosis varies with each person,” my dad’s oncologist

explained later that morning. “This could go on for three to     

six months or even a year,” he added, shrugging his shoulders

and turning up the palms of his hands.

Dad was getting sleepy. We all needed a break. Ron, my older

brother, went downstairs to get a coffee for himself and

Bobbie.  I wandered over to a computer lounge with a

picturesque view of Lake Michigan. If only I had been able to

enjoy it. It was one of those moments, you know, when you

just stare out of the window …

“Prayer is like dialing long distance to ‘De Aibishter’”, the

voice of my late mentor, Reb Isser, spoke to me. “’Call His

number’ every day, Mr. Busch and remember to pray with

your heart. You may get a busy signal, lots of folks trying to

reach Him, so be patient or leave a message. He returns every


The sound of my brother’s voice “awakens” me. "It's so sad,"

Ron remarked, remarking that he and Dad had made it to the

bathroom in time that morning.

“You did? That’s good news!”

“Wait. There’s more. Dad told me he needed to sit for a while,

and that I should lie back down for a few more minutes. He’d

call when finished. Shortly thereafter, I heard him quietly

crying.” Ron detailed the rest of the day, one that had gone

from bad to worse.

Is it still okay if your father cries?

I watch him for hours while he sleeps. His once cheerful face is

now gaunt and expressionless. This is how he’ll look when he

dies, I suppose. I try to block such thoughts, but they intrude

upon my privacy nevertheless.

I glance at the clock radio, 3:00 a.m. Outside our door, I

catch a glimpse of the early morning nurses’ aides as they

scurry about from room to room. Barbara, a heavy set woman

in her mid-forties, currently assists Dad. I like her. She is good

at what she does and seems to care about my father.

I return to the same computer lounge at 3:15 a.m.

No other souls but me and the sound of Reb Isser’s voice

faintly echoing in my memory… “Keep dialing His number.

De Aibishter will pick up. You’ll see ...”

“Ribono shel Olam …

I do not presume any merit of my own. My father, without rancor, awaits his end of days. He has taught this lesson of faith and trust to me by his personal example. Please help my father, Avrum ben Rose. Heal his bowel so that he may live out his last days in dignity and peace.”

And so, I waited to hear from Him “who heals all flesh and

performs wonders.”

As the days wore on, I summoned all of my faith that The

One Above had heard my plea and would answer my prayer.

We waited for the tincture of opium to do its job.

Dad’s first few days at home were tenuous.  And then the

phone rang …

“Good morning Alan!”

“Dad?” I answered, surprised both by the call itself and the

upbeat tone of his voice

“So Dad, what’s …?”

“It’s worked. The tincture, Son, has finally kicked in,” he

blared so excitedly I had to remove the phone from

my ear. And kicked in it had, my father’s happiness … well, it

skyrocketed. “So Dad, tell me how you feel?” I asked, sharing

in his excitement. “Sonny Boy, I feel … I feel,” his voice

cracking ever so slightly. “I feel … like I’ve so much to be

thankful for.

My father’s struggle reminds us of the importance of

choosing life when sickness all too often extinguishes hope

and all is given up to surrender. In my father’s case, cancer was

killing him, a fact he recognized and accepted with calm and


The diarrhea, on the other hand, represented a formidable

obstacle which we overcame by the combination of my

father’s sheer drive to emerge the victor and the power of

prayer. When he passed away on Shabbos morning, October

18, 2008, he did so as a man at peace whose dignity had been


Alan D. Busch








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Reviewed by walter wolf 9/8/2009
nice story r.alan. i had to wait to read this until I got out of the hospital...It was clear to me, however, if the meeting with the jewish doctor occurred on Shabbat (re: the handshake). faith does bring healing, if not of body, of spirit. this is a nice tribute to your father, a"h.
Reviewed by JMS Bell 9/7/2009

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