The avalanche of events…

Rather than taper off, the avalanche of bad news has picked up speed.  My father in particular has been dealt setback after serious setback.  Doctors earn their money the hard way as the bearers of all the news you don’t want to hear.  Few would argue the most important med school class for up-and-coming MDs and DOs may be “Bedside Manner 101”.

The slow-mo arrival of inevitability cannot be stopped or derailed.  That sledgehammer is coming and each of us knows it.  We feel its warm breath over our shoulder.  The time for denial is over.  This is all surreal in many ways; the planning for what lies ahead, packing of the old homestead, the quiet conversations tinted by fate, the upheaval and other realisms that must be handled now.

This past Monday’s letter to Ellen and Reid relayed as much information as matter-of-factly as possible.  But it was by no means or in any way adequate.  No page can do that justice.   Other details were passed along through more conventional means.  The kids are eager to know how their grandparents fare in no uncertain terms and they are old enough to digest the details.  Perhaps in this ado they see a preview of what lies down the road for them and me when our own avalanche of events gains a head of steam.  None of which is lost on me.

On my parent’s part, they literally demand to spend as much time together as they have left.  “How”s your mother?” asks my dad.  “Where’s Ralph?” pleads my mother.  They are separated now in different institutions to accommodate their different needs.  In strict health terms, that is the prudent move.  But as I tell my brother, who has persistently advocated such care, they have earned the right to be obstinate.  I take the other tact; let them live out their days holding hands.


My parents have a new address.  Their third in less than two weeks.  Here is today’s letter to them.

May 28, 2010

Mom and Dad: To say these past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for both of you is an understatement.  When it rains, it pours.  The four of us will have to get our hands around it as best we can.

Ellen and Reid are up to speed on things, and both have remarked how glad they were to see you just a month ago.  Dad, I’ve hesitated to give them your room phone lest they ring it off the wall.  Both of them feel you’re doing the right thing.

All things considered the people out at ___________ have been pretty good.  They seem to be genuinely concerned about the two of you, and have tried to find the best living situation that will keep the two of you together.  That’s as it should be.  I hope by the time you get this, dad, you’ll be out of there and back at _________ and on the mend.  How the heck did this blockage thing escape lots of sets of eyes?  But at least they caught it in time and got it removed.  Thank God none of this happened while you were still in the house.  That would have been total chaos for everyone.

A week from today I’ll be back there to tend to the house.  To be honest about it, this is the right move at the right time.  I’m not completely sold on how the real estate agent is approaching things – I don’t have a ton of faith in them – because their approach is always fairly formulaic; i.e. paint everything neutral and put in new carpet.  Please.  The beauty of that house is it is well built and well maintained, in a great neighborhood on a large, wooded lot and it is close to downtown to cut down on someone’s commute.  The agent should sell to the strength rather than make excuses.  I’ll have my hands full trying to corral your other son who is giving more orders than an Army general.  But he’s doing the right thing at a tough time.

I’m working from home today since they have shut down much of the Uptown area for something they call Speed Street.  NASCAR is in town and they shut off the main drag in our downtown for food tents, music and stuff like that.  My parking lot has become a temporary concert venue.  I’d rather be in the office than lazing around here in a tee shirt and shorts.  I don’t like that very much.  The Big Race is Saturday night but I won’t be there.  Not much planned for the long weekend beyond golf and riding my bike a little bit.

All of this is hard to see from afar.  I feel guilty in not being there and for foisting most of the work on my brother.  I guess that’s just the lay of the land.  But in a week I’ll be at your bedside trying to help.  I love you guys very much, and if that helps with your recoveries, so be it.  See you very soon.


1 Comment

Filed under Family, History, Parenting

One response to “The avalanche of events…

  1. nj

    D___ I’ve been reading through some of your earlier letters tonight but I keep finding myself coming back to this one!
    This is all so very familiar. I’d like to tell you a story, my story, our families story and what we went through as we walked with my father through his last years, last days and finally the last hours of his life.

    My father always was and always will be my hero!

    From the time I was a little girl, I remember telling myself that I was never going to let anything happen to him. I would tell myself I will never let him die. As a young child I was exposed to way too much sickness and death for someone my age to see and it made a real impression on me. I have feared death and sickness my whole life because of it. I remember it all so well and I remember telling myself nothing was ever going to happen to my dad, I would not let it.

    Then you grow up and one day you realize it is all beyond your control. No matter what you say or do there is nothing you can do to stop the inevitable!
    About 10 years ago my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Once dad was diagnosed and put on the medications to treat his disease he seemed to get a little better. I told myself again he was going to be ok, but you and I both know that is only temporary and as the years passed it became more evident all the time of what was yet to come.

    Alzheimer’s disease is one of the worst disease’s you can image for the family. I don’t know about the patient, they really aren’t aware of many of the things you see happening to them so for them it might be a little different. At times they get angry, at times they get scared, and sometimes they even get violent, but never my father.

    Through the whole disease process he stayed up, never complained, always tried to be happy. Every time I would go visit him, I’d say “Hi dad, how you doing?” He always said, “Pretty good, I’m still kicking” and he would kick his leg up as high as he could go to show you, then he would laugh and laugh.

    He father always tried not to worry anyone, his first priority was always to worry about his family and how they were taking his illness, rather than how it was affecting him. My parents had one of these fairy tail marriages for 65 years, in all those years I never heard a cross word between them. They did nothing but fuss over one another day and night.

    I had always thought of my mother as a weak person until I watch the way she stood by my father, until I watched the strength that she showed through it all. Over the next few years I watched my father, my hero slip away into a world where no one could go, a world that only he knew. We would visit him but he did not know who you were, you would talk to him but he did not know what you were saying. He was just a shell of himself in a world all of his own.

    My father had not known anyone for maybe 2 years or so, he had not talked for at least a year but probably more like 2, I mean talked where you could understand what he was saying. He might babble like a baby but there was nothing anyone could understand. I would go to see him, walk in and talk to him, he would just sit and stare, never moving a muscle, never even turning his head.

    I was really having a hard time making myself even go to the home anymore because at this point I could hardly handle it any longer. It had gone on so long. I could hardly breath when I got out of there, my heart would be pounding, beating irregularly, I was always very upset. It was so hard but I knew I had to keep doing it. I knew I did not want regreets’. Then one day after work I said to myself you have got to go to dads today, you need to go now because you know it’s coming to an end, he’s coming to his end. So on my way home from work that day I stopped by the home, I walked in as usual and said “Hi dad, how you doing?”

    I could not believe my eyes, I could not believe my ears. My dad turned and looked at me, grabbed my hand and started to rub my arm, and clear as day he said to me “I don’t want you to worry about me, I am just fine, I’m going to be just fine. Don’t you worry about me you remember that, ok?” And he kept repeating himself over and over again. I just stood there in shock, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I couldn’t believe what was happening!

    He had not been able to speak for years, he had not known me for years, yet my father, my hero came back to me one more time. He came back to me just like he did when I was a little girl and told me that it would all be ok, and that he would be ok.

    A couple weeks later last August on Sunday evening my mom called and said she was scared, that my dad was not acting right would I come to the home to sit with her. I immediately ran up to the facility he was at to be with mom. She didn’t want me to call anybody because she thought he was just having a bad day, but I knew the minute I walked in what was happening. I went into the other room and I called the hospice people and asked them if they could come, and I called my brother and sisters and told them they should come. We all sat at his side the rest of the night, hospice said he would be leaving us by Friday, ad we should say what we needed to say now, and we waited.

    It was about 11pm or so when mom said we should all go home and get some rest. I said somebody needed to stay so my brother who was used to the odd hours said he would and he would call if anything changed. I went home, got a couple hours sleep and woke about 3:30 or so. I got up, showered and went back to the home to relieve my brother. When I got there he said everything was the same, so about 5:30 I told my brother to go on, and get some rest, I would stay & sit. My brother left, and I sat and watched, I held my dads hand, and I talked to him. I said to him “It’s just you and me now dad, just you and me!” Not 20 minutes after my brother left, my dad took about 3 very slow breaths and it was over.

    I believe that there is a reason why things happen the way they do, and I believe that my dad was waiting for me to be there with him at this time.

    I believe that incident two weeks earlier when my dad held my hand and told me it was ok, that he was ok, and that he was going to be fine was getting me ready for this moment. This moment when he would teach me one last lesson, the lesson of life, the lesson of death, and the lesson that HE was going to be ok, that WE will be ok.

    D__They will be ok, and we will get through it. I pray as you make this walk with your parents through these last chapters, as all of us walk through our own last chapters that we remember we will be ok. I hope my story will bring you a little peace, I know how hard this is to go through and I know what it does to you inside.

    My heart and prayers are with you all!

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