I have mostly stopped blogging out of respect for Dad because the week to week life of an aged man needing 24 hour care is something that is reserved for family, on a need to know basis. To discuss the details, although helpful to those in similar situations, would have been an indignity to Dad.
But some things are funny and sad. And they need to be shared if only so we all know that life and death, love and hate, laughter and mourning, all exist at the same time, in every moment of our lives.
BOB (brother of blogger) came home to see Dad on a Friday. Dad’s joy was unparalleled at having most of his family at the dinner table, even though the rest of BOB’s family was still in Dallas (which is to be expected; they have school, etc.).
Saturday morning, Dad was barely responsive and unable to walk. We knew this was the beginning of the end. Except, not quite. Because Dad is the comeback kid.
Still, we all came running.
At around 7pm, by sheer force of family will, we had Dad in a wheelchair in the living room and drinking wine and toasting life. But we had to help him sip and then we had to get him back into bed.
But, if this was going to be the end, then our Dad was going to have whatever he wanted.
And, in the days ahead, that amounted to wine and chocolate ice cream.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Ask your loved ones for their ice cream of choice for end of life/palliative care purposes. I was surprised that SOB wanted chocolate (I was sure the answer would be vanilla) and that BOB has no preference (I was sure it was strawberry). Avoid the wrong ice cream choice at all costs. Don’t worry about the meds (other than the “chill” meds). Worry about the ice cream. TRUST ME.
By Sunday, BOB was having his first goodbye moment with Dad before he left to fly home to take care of his family.
ANOTHER SIDEBAR: Dad never goes down on any of the first fifty counts. How else do you think he got to 96.5??? We all knew BOB was coming back before the FINALE.
Monday afternoon, we re-enrolled Dad for hospice. He had been kicked off of hospice three times because he so far outlived every guestimate.
Tuesday afternoon, the hospice doctor was scheduled to come to examine Dad. Earlier that afternoon, Dad awoke from 36 hours of total unconsciousness and wanted fruit and ice cream and wanted to get out of bed.
EVEN BIGGER SIDEBAR WITH PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Death is never as linear, neat or as easy as in the movies. It is a war of attrition. At no point is it clear that the elderly or infirm person will die; it is clear however, that the caretakers might kill themselves. Resist the urge to go out the window. Close them. Child locks are best. Just sayin’. You eat more and drink more than ever you thought was possible. Go with it. The gym and the drying-out will have to wait.
So, Dad is being fed ice cream and fruit in the dining room, just as SOB is saying, “he needs to be back in bed before the hospice doctors get here….”
Sidebar: It was important for the hospice doctors to see him how he was — dying — and not judge him by his “perk” in mild energy and appetite. We needed hospice so that when he died, he would go from our warm embrace to ritual cleansing to burial and there would no interference by EMT or NYPD because that would defile his body.]
DING, DONG. KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK.
OH, SHIT. THE HOSPICE DOCTORS!!.
SOB slow walks to the door, yelling, “coming!!!!” as I pop a wheelie on Dad’s wheelchair and careen him toward his bedroom. I stop to get my scarf that is strewn on a chair, because I want the full-on Snoopy “Curse you, Red Baron!!” look.
Janet freaks out — but we need to have flair in these difficult times.
As Janet opens the apartment door, I finish my dash into Dad’s room where his wonderful aide is taking a short break.
“Quick, into the bed!!!!”
“Sorry, Dad, I know this is hard. . . . .” as Heather and I left him and place him on the bed, and then swing his body so that he is lying comfortably.
Dad goes back into his semi-coma before we even get him on the bed.
Heather and I barely assume our places in the chairs in Dad’s room before the hospice doctors come in. But everything is like a movie set. If this were the 1950s, we would be casually smoking cigarettes, as Dad is resting comfortably.
SOB looks at Heather and me and mouths, “strong work.”
The doctors note Dad’s strong pulse but acknowledge that hospice is indicated. And they order all of the appropriate comfort paraphernalia — from medicine to diapers.
Dad never regained consciousness.
And Lucy and Ethel took their bows.