Not All Christmas Memories are Happy Ones…

Tuesday, 1/25/2011

The Call

Got a call today from University Village…  Dad has been sent to the hospital (UCH)…  “Why?”  “He isn’t real responsive… you know he hasn’t been eating or drinking a lot lately… we think he’s just dehydrated.”

Talked with Joe…  set up paperwork for Family Medical Leave stuff and left work early…  Called Harrell to go sit with Dad in the ER… left work to get ready and go to Tampa…  Something tells me I need to go…

Dropped my cell phone – can’t see anything on the screen… seems to still be working, but can’t really tell cause the screen is black…  of all days for this to happen!!  I need a working cell phone!!  Stopped by a Verizon Wireless place on the way home…  got a brand new cell phone…  they were so nice, just replaced the whole thing…

Continuing home to get packed and leave…  saw (Pastor) Tony’s car at church… stopped to let him know I was leaving and ask for prayer…

Home…  packing…  dogs going with me…  oh yeah, gotta call Penny…  need to arrange to get keys to her house…

Almost packed and on the way…  ER doc calls…  “How aggressive should treatment be for your dad?” (or something like that)…

“How serious is this?”

“He has had a serious heart attack…  his blood count is very low…  I’d give him a transfusion, but I don’t think his heart could handle it…  he almost kicked me when I touched his abdomen…  kidneys are failing…”

Yep, this is serious…  and at University Village they thought dad was just dehydrated??!!

“Dad is a DNR… and he does have an aortic aneurism that they have been watching for years… at this point in time, what do you think, doc?”

“I think the less done the better for him…  let’s see what happens.  Probably won’t explore the aneurism too much.”

“Ok…  and the man that is sitting with dad now is a family friend…  you can tell him anything you’d tell me…”

Ok…  gotta get in to Tampa…  gotta get Mom to the hospital to see dad…  he is probably dying…  car is packed…  on my way…  stop for gas…

Call Iris to go sit with Mom til I get there…  tell Iris what is happening…  called Mom to let her know that Dad has had a heart attack and is being admitted to the hospital and that I am on my way…  she doesn’t understand what I am saying…  I asked the nurse to tell her…

“You want me to tell her THAT??”

“Yes!  And tell her I am on my way.”

Call Penny and let her know what is going on… Penny is still in St. Pete (at work), but will get home about same time I will…

Got to Penny’s…  unloaded stuff and dogs…  I am glad I brought Buster and Nugget…  it almost feels like they are the only constant in my life right now…  I feel as though I will need their physical presence with me…  dogs are good “people” to talk to…

Got to University Village…  Iris and Raul are with mom…  I tell her Dad has had a heart attack and been admitted…  does she want to go to the hospital to see him?

“Yes.”

Get her to car, and on the way, I call Harrell to find out where Dad is…  he has been admitted and is in a room… cardiac progressive unit or something like that…

We get up there and into Dad’s room… and the waiting begins…

Iris and Raul are with us… and Harrell stays with us…  I walk out of the room, and Harrell comes with me…

“You know what you’re looking at, don’t you?” he asks me…    “Yeah, I know…”

I do know…  Dad is dying… don’t know how long it will be…  I call Celeste and Dena to let them know what is happening…  it is hard to tell them that Dad is dying…  they can’t get here, but would want to know…

Call Gerry to let her know what is happening…  Aunt Pina lives with her…  she needs to come see him…  tonight, I think…  I don’t tell Gerry that she has to come tonight, but she understands…  Gerry and Aunt Pina get there in a short time…

Gerry has also called others, and Billy and Sandy come to visit (say good-bye, without saying good-bye)…

By 10pm or so, Billy and Sandy, Harrell and Millie, Gerry and Aunt Pina, Iris and Raul, and Mom and I are there…  Dad is conscious and able to talk…  but not fully…  and as time goes on, he begins to drop off little by little…  well it is getting late at night…  is Dad getting sleepy?  or going into a coma, to then slip away to heaven?

Mom keeps talking with him….

“Honey, honey… do you know who’s here?”

“No… who?”

“There’s Iris and Raul and Harrell and Millie and Gerry and Pina and Billie and Sandy and Jonelle and…”

“Well, I’ll be damned!!!”

And everyone in the room cracks up laughing… mom is scandalized…

“Have you ever heard him talk like that??!!”

And we laugh…

People have to leave…  it is late…  Harrell will stay with Mom and me…

the waiting continues…

 

Wednesday, 1/26/2011

Dad is in Heaven

Mom has been awake all night…  and except for when she needed to go to the bathroom, she has sat by his side, holding his hand and looking into his face…  she has not slept…

Dad finally dropped off to sleep last night…  I don’t think he will wake up on this earth again…

Harrell has slept off and on, and I have dozed off for very short times…  but not really gone to sleep…

Eight in the morning and both Harrell and I try to get Mom to go back to University Village to change clothes or get her meds…  she won’t go…

“I am not leaving his side!”

So that’s that…   we continue to wait…  Harrell goes home and tells me to call…  he needs to sleep a little, shower and change clothes…

Gerry and Aunt Pina come back…

We continue to wait…  Mom sits by his side, and continues to look lovingly into his face…  Dad’s breathing is calm…  Dad is peaceful… I know Dad will not wake up again…  I just don’t know how long it will be before he takes his last breath…

At around 11:25am, Dad takes his last breath…  I did not look at the clock to be sure of the time…  but I know it was about that time based on the time of the phone calls I made…  to Harrell, to Celeste, a text (“Dad is in heaven”) to Pastor Tony, to Dena (did I call Dena, or did Celeste?  Not sure), to Iris, to “Pastor” Michael (he shows up, has a prayer with us, sits for a short while and leaves… he has never really been a pastor to my parents), to Adolpho (funeral guy)…

Mom is glad that Dad is at peace…  Aunt Pina says that she did not expect to outlive her little brother… I am sad… have cried some… know that more tears will come over time…

Mom is not ready to leave the room… the hospital personnel tell us we can have as much time as we want…  others besides Michael (who did not stay for too long), have come, but I don’t remember who now…  I think Harrell came back…  maybe Iris…  Gerry and Aunt Pina are there…

Dad is in heaven…

And in an instant, a person becomes a memory…

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Laundry Time…

They sit in their rooms… or lie in their beds… or sit in a common room… or wander through the halls…

They laugh, they talk, they cry, they babble…

Some are recovering from a hospital stay and will be going back to their homes and families and independence…

Some make perfect sense and know who and where they are…  most of the time…

Some live almost exclusively in their own little worlds…

They are the who-knows-how-many-people who live in elder care facilities… nursing homes… health care centers… assisted living facilities… Altzheimer’s units…  They are there because they have aged and need help in caring for themselves… maybe their memories are bad and they’d forget to take their medicine… or maybe they are too weak to stand or walk or dress themselves or go to the bathroom by themselves or (whatever)…

Maybe their family members need help to care for them… or maybe their family members just don’t want to be bothered…

They are our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, neighbors…

Many of them have been forgotten by the world and by the very people that, not so long before, they loved and cared for with pride and joy…

My mother is in such a facility.  It’s a very nice place and Mom is cared for very well.  I visit her almost every day.  We were joking the other day about how she wouldn’t be able to pay her “laundry lady” (me) because that day she just happened to be a “little short of cash”…

And as we laughed and I told her that her credit was good enough for me, I was thinking what a privilege it was to be able to do such an easy and mundane thing as laundry for this incredible woman I call “Mom”… and that I was the one who would never be able to repay the debt…