Oh Dad; Poor Dad…..


A week after my last weekend visit, and two weeks prior to my next one, I received one of “those” phone calls late on a Saturday night.

Dad was failing in the skilled nursing facility; was turning purple, and needed to be taken to the ER–for the second time that week.

They told me to get on the next plane.

After calm but urgent phone calls to my sister and mother, I headed to the airport in the middle of the night to catch the first flight out.

I’m SO thankful that my sister got my mom there so Dad wasn’t alone.
He was scared; thought this was it, and none of us wanted him to be alone.

Four days later, he’s still here, despite multiple issues:
Consistent urinary tract infections

His body is shutting down.

We thought he had a DNR, as did the hospital. He was put on a ventilator and removed two days later. He’s breathing on his own, with help from oxygen. No more ventilator; not ever. It’s what he wants.

He’s also going to go home.
No more hospitals.
No more rehab.
DNR in place.

I have tried my hardest to respect his wishes–what I know they are; what I have confirmed them to be despite his dementia.

I’ve had some of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had this week–with doctors, with hospitalists, with nurses, with hospice care.

Hospice is a scary word to my parents’ generation. It used to mean imminent death.

It’s why they call it comfort care or palliative care now.

The goal is to make the patient comfortable at home. No more hospitals; no more rehab.

It doesn’t mean no treatment; just treatment at home.

Dad wants to go home. Mom wants him there.

It’s been nearly seven months since mom and dad have been in the same place, and I know and they know that is impacting both of their recoveries.

Although, I don’t think Dad is going to recover, I know he’ll be more comfortable at home. Getting through to him while he was intubated was overwhelmingly sad. Having him squeeze my hand to confirm his wishes was almost more than I could take.

I am SO glad we’ve had these conversations before, when he was lucid.

He does have lucid moments, like when he out of the blue, after the tubes were out asked me “What about my dementia? Can they help that?”

Broke my heart.

“No dad; I’m sorry–it doesn’t appear that the surgery has worked given all the ongoing issues.”

“OK, I want to go home,” he said.

Or when we were having the DNR and hospice conversation with the social worker in the room, and I got emotional.

Dad said, while taking my hand, “It’s OK. I get it. I had elderly parents too.”

That’s the father I miss. I know he’s in there.

I’m going home for 9 days with a clear head, a heavy heart, wet eyes and a heavy burden.
I know I’ve done the right thing. I’m unburdened by my sibling relationship. I am taking it for what it is, and I know I need to take care of myself.

I’m blogging from the air, and wondering if that makes me a member of the mile-high club.

That IS what they mean, right?

I took mom to dinner last night and hit my wall.

“No more questions,” I said. “I’m sorry. I need a break. I love you, but I need to stop for the night.”

The other day, after a round of parental caretaking calls while in a taxi, a colleague asked the following question:

“”What would happen if you just let it go to voicemail?”

It’s as if the question came from my partner. I’m not sure, but I do know the issue would be there when I returned the call.

My partner is the most centered person I know, and I’m channeling him a great deal lately.

Another friend asked me this morning if I was OK about leaving today.

“Are you OK if he dies while you’re gone,” she asked.

“I’ve reached a point where I know I’ve done everything I can,” I replied. “I no longer need to be here at the moment he passes. I’ve progressed. I’ve been here for all the important moments along the way.”

I’m at peace, although sad.
I’m concerned that I’ve developed a thing for men in scrubs, cannot tolerate Fox News on the hospital room TV, and smile that the woman at the rental car counter knows my name and asks “How are the folks.”

Mom is strong, resolute, sad, emotional, but always funny.

It is remarkable to us all that this 77 year old Type 1 Diabetic, who wasn’t expected to live into her 50s will in all likelihood say goodbye to her husband.

It is not something we envisioned or were led to believe as we grew up.

When I signed the DNR for my dad, she looked at me and said–right out of “When Harry Met Sally”: “I’ll have what he’s having.”

Love you mom.

Wishing you peace and comfort dad.

Anticipatory grief is underrated.


~ by Butch on September 5, 2012.

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