My Story
Mysterious Memories

Visiting my Dad After Heart Bypass Surgery

Holy Cross HospitalHoly Cross Hospital

The year before my parents went to Kenya, my dad had a heart bypass operation. The operation was at Holy Cross Hospital, I think this was somewhere near Elbow Park south of downtown Calgary. After my dad had the operation, I drove my mother down to visit him. He was just out of intensive care. We went to his room. There was just my dad and a nurse in the room. My dad was lying half upright in a bed. He had intravenous hooked up, and something was hooked up to his throat to provide oxygen. His upper torso was not covered and I could see his chest had been shaved, and there was a huge scar with big stitches down the center of his breastbone area.

When he saw me and mother, he got very excited. He couldn't talk so he motioned me to come over. He kept trying to use sign language to communicate with me. Over and over he would point to himself and himself and shake his head. I would try to say the words as he made the gestures. "Me" as he pointed to myself. "You" as he pointed to himself. "Not" as he would shake his head. Then he would get excited and try to get me to make the connection, so I would try saying "Me, you, not, I am not you. Yes. I am not you" Then he would frown because I was obviously not getting the point he was trying to make. Finally he starting pointing out the window which was behind me. I said "window". He shook his head and squinted his eyes like he was trying to block the sunlight. I said "sunlight", he nodded encouragement, and I finally said "sun", which he nodded agreement. He then tried the whole thing again, him making the gestures, me speaking the words.

Holy Cross HospitalMy Parents

Pointing to me "I", then shaking his head "not", then pointing to himself, "you" and finally pointing to the sun "Sun". "I am not you son… I am not your son." He smiled a big smile and emphatically nodded his head in agreement. I felt very, very strange. I felt kind of uncomfortable and embarrassed. I don't remember any reaction from my mother. She stood away from the bed and I am sure she was as puzzled as I was. My dad then motioned for a pad and pencil so he could write something.

He wrote a name on the paper, and passed it back to me. The name looked very strange. I spoke the name, and he gestured again. I got the feeling that he was trying to convey to me that this was the name of my father. He motioned back for the pad and wrote another name on top of the other which was a more familiar looking name. While I am not sure of my recollection on the names which were written, I do think the names were maybe Eugene Moncla, both names written in block capital letters. I spoke the name and said "He is my father?", to which my dad nodded emphatic agreement. He then did something which confused me even more. He pointed to the name on the paper, and then pointed to me. I asked as a question "He is me?" to which my dad also nodded agreement. I was now very confused. I think I spent some time trying to sort it out which my dad meant. He just kept agreeing with me when ever I asked either question. I was wondering if this might have been something related to the medication. It seemed strange to see my dad so animated, and oddly, he seemed extremely happy like he had just discovered something wonderful. When I left, I put the piece of paper in my wallet and would over the next several days take it out and look at it.

After a while, the incident faded from memory and it was only recently that I remembered that strange day when I went to see my dad after his operation.

Note: This occurred in 1978, which means I was about 23 years old.

More Thoughts - November, 2012

A year or two after I wrote this, I had a conversation about this with my mother. She didn't say anything about what happened that day in the hospital. I'm not sure if she remembered and didn't want to talk about it, or if she had forgotten about the strange things my father seemed to be implying. She did say one thing that I had forgotten. She mentioned that she was upset because my oldest brother wouldn't drive her to the hospital. (My mother never got a driving license). So I had volunteered to drive her to visit my father.

When David Cherniack was filming "The Moncla Memories" he interviewed my father at his home in Cochrane, west of Calgary, Alberta. This was a year or two after my mother died and it turned out just a few short weeks before my father would suddenly pass away.

I wasn't there when my dada was in interviewed so I don't know all that he might have had to say. But the part of my father's interview that made it into the documentary was most revealing. When David asked my father if he could remember telling me that "he wasn't my father", he replied that he couldn't remember me being there in the room! I mean, he must have spent at least ten minutes doing these charades and then writing the name down on the pad. He couldn't remember any of it. But he did remember using hand gestures to talk to the nurse. He gestures a "halo" around his head and points to her, the message, he indicated was she had no halo, so he knew he wasn't in heaven.

When I saw this, I could remember he had done this, after I had walked over to stand by the door so my mother could have a visit with my father. What does this mean?

1) Maybe my father didn't want to remember or had simply forgotten talking to me?

2) Maybe, (strange as this may sound), it wasn't really "my father" communicating with me, but "some other entity" that was temporarily animating my fathers body.

If it is the second option, then perhaps the meaning of "you are not my son" was actually meaning it wasn't my father communicating with me? I know this sounds strange, but I know that I was in fact very confused by the whole thing. In fact, I do recall, when my dad wrote the name down on the piece of paper, I wsn't sure if he meant that this was the name of my "real father" or if he meant that the name on the paper was "me" (which made absolutely no sense to me at that point).