• Sofiya Pasternack

The May Update

Hey friends. This is sort of an unscheduled type of update, and not one that I ever really planned on getting into that much. I'm a relatively private person, but I feel like vanishing off the face of the Internet for a couple weeks warrants some kind of explanation. So here it goes.

Last year, May was a big month for me. My birthday is in May every year, so that was pretty normal. But things happened that weren't normal. Last May I sold my book to HMH Versify. It was an incredible feeling. I was walking on sunshine. The deal report went out on May 24th. It was a huge day. I got congratulations from every person in the world, it felt like.

The year before that, May was also a big month for me. My birthday was that May. Per the usual. I graduated from college that May. That was nice. After my graduation, after my birthday, my sister called me. "Congratulations. Happy birthday. Dad's in the hospital."

Dad had been in the hospital a lot in recent months. He had leukemia, and he was choosing not to treat it. I kind of rolled my eyes and said, "Yeah what's new?"

"No," she said. "This time it's different."

My dad and I didn't always get along the best. That graduation I mentioned up there? I graduated summa cum laude. Valedictorian. When I told my dad, he didn't congratulate me. He said, "Too bad you didn't get a degree in something honest."

I have a degree in nursing. But in his opinion, nurses are just shills for Big Pharma. So I was just getting a degree in Drug Shillery.

We fought about his healthcare. At first I was angry that he was foregoing treatment with an oncologist in favor of doing nothing. I looked up his leukemia. I asked the doctors I worked with. This type of leukemia was manageable. With careful treatment, he'd be able to extend his life by several good years. I yelled this at him until I was blue in the face. He didn't listen. He was in and out of the hospital. I was yelling the whole time about what he should do. He never listened.

He didn't need to listen to me. His life was his business. I let up after a while and just asked him to make a power of attorney for one of us to take care of his stuff, and an advance directive just in case he got so sick he couldn't make his own decisions. He refused to do either. I yelled again.

And then my sister called. "This time it's different."

So I flew home.

I walked into my dad's hospital room and knew it was different. I worked in critical care. Emergency. Disaster. When you work around a lot of death, you get an eye for it. And I saw it in that room.

The last thing my dad ever said was to me. He said, "You were right."

I didn't want to be right. I didn't want that to be the last thing I ever heard my dad say. I didn't want to hear that, but he needed to say it. He didn't say anything else after that. He went to sleep. My sister and my brother sat in his room for a while, and I interrogated the hospice doctor about why my dad wasn't getting more pain medicine, why he was still on oxygen, why a thousand things. We went home. I asked the nurses to call me if anything happened. They said they would.

The next day, my brother went to the hospital early. My sister and I were only half an hour behind him. He texted me as we parked in the hospital parking garage: "I think he's not breathing anymore."