May 19 Sunday
Dad is still alert, eating watermelon and ice cream, requesting his favorite comfort foods, giving instructions and reminders in a hoarse whisper. He chews cubes of watermelon, sucks out the juice, spits out the pulp. We’re supposed to thicken his water and other liquids with a corn starch powder called Thick-It, but he doesn’t like it. So far he’s only taking 15mg liquid morphine once a day, though his O2 needs have increased to 3 liters/hr. He’s still swallowing medications and relieving himself.
We were told he would deteriorate quickly – in a matter of days, or weeks if he was lucky. He said he was told two weeks, and as Thursday marks Day 15, he’s asked that family around the world be notified of his imminent demise.
Today he asked me to read passages from an old Bible he kept on his nightstand. It had my name written inside, from the first Sunday school I attended in the U.S. I was caught off-guard by this request, and I wept through the entire endeavor. I’ve cried a few times in the past couple of days, but at least I’ve been able to express my love and admiration for him. I don’t think he takes for granted the care Hubs and I have tried to give him and my Mom. One always hopes, but there’s such a variation as to what “care” really means.
May 24 Friday
Alas, Dad looked great last Sunday, but lost a little ground each day since. Today he sleeps. The first thing he said to me when I came in this morning was, “I’m dying.” He still ate a bit of soft-boiled egg, some watermelon and Boost (not a great combo), but not, “What do you have?” Last Monday he asked the hospice nurse about physical therapy. She probably laughed. I’d given him some foot reflexology on Saturday and thought that might’ve contributed to his alertness on Sunday. It probably just coincided with that final burst of energy we’re told precedes the period of not eating/sleeping. I had a glimmer of hope for a second, but now I realize that was silly.
My Mom spent all day getting my brother discharged from the skilled nursing facility he was transferred to from the hospital. Needless to say the facility was keen to get him out, though his surgery wounds are barely healed and the staples still need removal. His body was full of edema and he was wheelchair bound when he first arrived there, but he’s now able to walk about, though he’s weak and tires easily. Behaviorally he’s a bit better, if not completely in touch with the fact that my Dad is in his last days on earth. I also don’t think he realizes how fragile his own health is. My Mom swigged a large glass of wine and practically inhaled a Double-Double (In-N-Out burger) after that activity. Perhaps she should’ve taken an Ativan as well…
We got home and the pool was 85 degrees. Mike assembled the pool cover reel and declared swimming season officially open. He swam, I dipped my legs in. It’s a cooler Memorial Day weekend (in the ’70’s), and a brisk afternoon breeze dulled my desire to dive right in.
May 25 Saturday
A wonderful thing happened today. My uncle (Mom’s oldest brother, who is 85) and cousin drove down from Las Vegas to pay their respects to Dad. What a fine visit that was. My uncle was a career military man, whose MOS was running nightclubs at US naval bases! He’s quite the storyteller and Hubs was spellbound. The topper was that my cousin (whom I’ve met only twice) was an ex-Marine Amtrakker (same as Hubs). He was an Amtrak mechanic, used to ride quads, has loads in common with Hubs… This was a terrific discovery – not sure why we didn’t know this sooner. I see much more socializing in the future, and trips to Vegas of course (not my favorite place, but there’s a big difference if you have family there).
Dad was very happy about the visit. My uncle expressed his love and gratitude to Dad for taking care of his little sister, and apologized that all these years he “never knew how smart and accomplished” Dad was. I think that might be true – I recall my Mom’s siblings always loving my Dad, but they used to give her a hard time about “the one who got away” – some guy she dated from the military academy. Years later (like, 30 years) he rose to prominence and was always keen on her, but she never looked back.
It’s much more difficult to hear and understand Dad now. His whispers have become slurred and extremely labored. At times he appears asleep, but I think his eyes are merely half open. His consumption is down to a few tablespoons of Boost or water, and his saliva seems to be building up in his throat and mouth. He was experiencing great pain in his right shoulder, and would wince when I exerted any pressure on his collarbone. Is it the tumor pressing on a nerve? His shoulder was very hot to the touch, and he asked me to apply Vicks Vaporub on it, and cold washcloths. He took a bit of liquid morphine, but it didn’t seem enough to relieve his pain. All these changes in just one day.
I thought having this extra time with him was better for me, but trying to get used to the idea he’ll be gone is difficult. I try to place it in context with my own impending death. I may not know exactly when I’m going, but I’ve lived the past 7 years with an awareness that death has a way of sneaking up on us, especially when we think we’re not there yet. I need to stop thinking I have more time… I need to get my family squared away – ASAP.
Sorrow and exhaustion has me firmly in its clutches. I pray and count my blessings endlessly.