Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Okay....Now What?

Over the past couple of days, my family has gone through the rituals of saying our final goodbyes to my dad.  I was dreading visitation, because it puts you in such a position to "host" the event, when you really just want to sit and cry.  A friend who has experienced a great deal of loss over the past few years told me to really focus on the stories people would tell of my dad.  She said to really listen to what folks had to say about him.  I really did try to do this.  I learned things about my dad from his friends, co-workers and fishing buddies that I did not know.  I did hear some great stories.  I did see that my dad was really loved and respected by so many in the community.  Many of the guys that worked for him at B.G.M.U. had tears in their eyes when they spoke to me about him.  It made me proud to be his daughter.  I know that in the coming days, weeks and months, these stories about daddy will bring me comfort.  You do "host" visitation, but I also did enjoy seeing friends of my family, family members that I rarely spend time with and a couple of big surprise reunions of dear friends from my childhood.  I was sincerely moved by the number of friends who came up from Tennessee to pay their respects to my dad and to show support for me and my family.  I want to write more about the friends I have been blessed with at a later time, but just haven't found the right words to even start that tribute.  They deserve so much more than my simple words. 

My life over the past many months has revolved around doing my best to help take care of my father and spend as much time with him as I could.  I don't know how many times I have driven between my home in Tennessee and his in Kentucky since May.  When I was home, it was a whirlwind of taking care of my household, showing my face in the office for a bit and figuring out how quickly I could get back to my dad's.  When I was at my dad's I hated when the days would roll around that I had to leave there.  It was exhausting running up and down I-65, but it was what I had to do.  Being with daddy was bittersweet.  I wanted to be there all the time, but watching him failing was heart wrenching.  I enjoyed the times he was talkative, but knowing those conversations were the last ones we would share was hard.  The days were filled with helping him, getting him medication, food, to the bathroom when he needed it.  During the times he slept, I worked furiously at my job because I didn't want to let any of my responsibilities there falter.  I wasn't sleeping when there because I was always listening to see if he and Jan needed my help during the nights.  At home I wasn't sleeping because I could not shut off the thoughts of his pending death and what that meant to me.  These last months have been the hardest of my life. 

After dadddy died on Friday night, the next couple of days my time was filled with making arrangments, planning, running errands, spending some time with friends who had rushed to be with me and making calls and answering emails.  Then visitation and the funeral and the family coming back to the house to share a meal and memories of daddy.  Dealing with death is very busy for a bit.  Yesterday evening, I packed up the items in my dad's house that I had taken and left because of living there a few days a week.  We loaded my car and Kim's with suitcases and flowers and plants from the funeral, food that Jan wanted out of the house and made our trek home.  I've not slept more than 2 or 3 hours a night since last Thursday. Last night I turned out the light at 9:30 and slept nearly straight through until 10:00 this morning.  I've not slept that late in the morning since I was in my 20's.  I'm rested, but foggy minded, which I know is grief.  I came downstairs, drank coffee, spent some times with the dogs, started some laundry and then found myself standing in the kicthen overcome by an overwhelming sense of emptiness and struggling to figure out what I am supposed to do next.  I no longer have to rush through taking care of things at home so that I can hurry and get back to my dad's.  I know that my life will get back to the routine I followed before my dad got sick pretty quickly, but at this moment all I can think is what?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Going Through the Motions

I couldn't sleep last night.  I was exhausted, a wee bit drunk and even with a sleeping aid, just couldn't shut off my head.  I seem to be well on my way to another sleepless night.  I wish there was a switch you could throw that would turn the spinning throughts in my brain to dust. 

Today we made the arrangements for my dad.  It was surreal talking about his life to come up with the perfect obituary.  How do you sum up someones life in such a short space?  Choosing a casket is such an odd thing to do.  The casket showroom is eerie and has such a used car lot feel to it, in my opinion.  We picked our model of casket and color and I half expected the guy to say that he would have it washed and gassed up for us before we drive it off the lot.  Oh, don't get me wrong, the funeral home person was great.  It is just the experience.  So, I guess we have the bones of the service and visitation together, the obituary sent off to the paper for tomorrow's edition and daddy's final outfit for burial.  It is all so weird and I felt so disconnected from it.  The afternoon was spent making phone calls, accepting visitors bringing gifts of food to the house and answering calls.  The medical equipment company came by and picked up all the tools of caring for my dad.  They whisked off with the wheelchair, hospital bed, walker, oxygen units and other supplies.  It was like erasing that my dad was sick.  We moved the furniture back in place now that we don't have to maneuver a wheelchair through the house.  All is like it was, except my daddy isn't here. 

Tomorrow we will meet with the preacher and nail down the service details and gear up for the difficult days of visitation and funeral service.  It is crazy how you just walk through this stuff on auto pilot.  I don't give a fuck about his casket, his wardrobe, his obituary.  What I care about is my own broken heart, the broken hearts of his wife and his nephew.  The desire to see him when you know you can't is overwhelming.  You smile and make choices and just get through it when all you want to do is wail, rend your clothes, tear your hair and lie of the floor kicking and screaming like a toddler.  I want to climb on the roof and scream to the world that my dad has died and how dare the world continue like this is not the great catastophe that it is.  You can't do that, though, so you put on the brave face and continue going throught the motions. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodbye My Sweet Daddy

This evening at around 7:00, my dad drew his final breath.  I knew on Wednesday afternoon when I left BG that he was taking a turn for the worse and we probably did not have much time left.  He had a terrible night last night and this morning my cousin called to tell me he thought I needed to come back to BG.  I got to daddy's around 3:00.  He was fairly alert, knew who I was, but was complaining about pain.  He had been throwing up quite a bit from the morphine and was refusing to take it.  Hospice came around 4:00 and decided that he needed to have a catheter inserted since he wansn't going to the bathroom  The insertion of the catheter was brutal for him and I wish in hindsight that we had refused to have them do it.  My cousin and I finally coaxed him to take some crushed up pain medication in a spoonful of pudding, which did ease him, although mostly he was agitated.  At around 6:30, I locked myself in the bathroom and proceeded to beg God to take him home.  Shortly afterwards, he quieted down and his breathing became more and more shallow.  Jan, Jim and I gathered round him, laid our hands on him and told him we loved him.  I told him to go on, we would miss him but would be fine.  He died quietly with those of us who loved him best at his side.  It was peaceful at that moment.

I am numb.  My cousin and I proceeded to drink way too much Grey Goose while we discussed funeral arrangements. I am sitting here in the bed listenig to my husband sleep and all I feel is just numbness.  I'm grateful that my dad's suffering is over, but devastated by his passing.   I know the next few days will be filled with a lot of activity, planning a funeral, friends coming by to visit, phone calls to make.  It is so surreal.  It is like I am in someone elses life.  I miss him already.  Goodbye my sweet daddy.  I love you so much.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Unanchored and Adrift

Daddy graduated to Morphine today.  I knew when I headed home yesterday that we were about to enter a new stage of decline.  I know that our time together is drawing to a close.  My prayer is still that it is sooner than later.  Watching someone you love being tortured by disease is horrible.  I wish I could take it away from him, but I can't.  All I can do is make sure he knows how much I love him, how honored I am to be his daughter and help to make him as physically comfortable as possible. 

I've mentioned that my sister was killed in a car wreck about 33 years ago.  She was 13 years old.  Karen was a wonderful little imp.  I called her monkey.  She was full of life, sweet as could be and I adored her.  The day she died was certainly the worst day my family had ever experienced.  My dad has been angry at God ever since the day he buried his baby girl.  Since becoming ill, he has been working his way back to a relationship with God.  I'm sure that is common for everyone who is dying, but I am glad that daddy is trying to heal his soul.  He has been reading spiritual books and literature, talking a good deal with the preacher from the last church he attended regularly and I hope he has been praying, too.  I have no worries about my dad's salvation.  I know that God is in his heart somewhere and that he will be welcomed in heaven as one of God's beloved children.  My stepmom and I spoke a good deal about daddy's spiritual life and she told me that he had asked the preacher if my sister would know him in heaven since he was now an old man.  That statement just wrecked me.  I'm glad he is thinking of heaven and I hope that being reunited with Karen and other loved ones who are gone are bringing him peace. 

What made me so sad about his question was the image I had of Karen and daddy embracing in the next world.  My mother (although my folks have been divorced forever and my dad happily married to a wonderful woman for 32 years) looking on with joy.  My small famiily unit all together again, the only one absent is me.  Don't misunderstand me, I still have lots of living I hope to do in the world, but being the last one left alive in my family is so sad for me.  I have great friends, really great friends.  The kind of friends that I can call 24/7, who would drop everything to rush to my side.  Friends who I know without a doubt love me and support me and are there to comfort me. Friends I can cry with, show my anger to, friends I feel completely safe with.  Friends I love so much I can't even put it into words. I know the saying "friends are the family you choose" and I really even believe that. However, knowing I will soon not have any of my immediate family in this world leaves me feeling unanchored and adrift. 

I've grieved terrible losses before and so from experience I know that I will get through losing my father.  I know that time will ease the hurting and that the memories of this horrific experience will fade and the wonderful memories of my dad will bring comfort.  I know that life is for the living, that I am not unique in this experience, that we all suffer great losses in our lifetimes.  I know that God walks with me and that he is the great Father that I can always turn to.  I know that the feeling of being abandoned as my last living parent is journeying toward death will be replaced by the love of my friends and that does bring me ease. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Smacked in the Face

I noticed today that almost every entry I have written has been done while I am in Bowling Green.  At home I have distractions that I don't have when I am here.  I have my loving husband, my wonderful friends, my pets, my household responsibilities, my life's home base, so to speak.  When I am here in BG, and believe me I want to be here, there are no distractions from the reality that my dad is dying from a horrible disease.  Today was one of the toughest days yet. 

I'm emotional to a fault.  I have been my entire life.  My mom used to tease me that I would cry at a K-Mart grand opening.  The stage of life that I am in now when my body is going through hormonal changes has ramped the emotions up to 11 (Spinal Tap reference).  I often tell people that it is really a handicap.  I have no control over it.  I have a pretty high level job in a large company that sells DVDs.  Nothing is quite as embarassing as sitting in a meeting full of peers while a studio is showing trailers from their upcoming slate of releases and tearing up during a preview.  I can't tell you how many times I have struggled to pull it together before the lights come back on.  It is terrible.  Since daddy has been sick, there have been days where I have literally cried the whole day.  Seriously, the salty discharge will not stop.  Today was one of those days.  Daddy just didn't want to get up today.  It freaks me out a bit when these days roll around because I know we are entering a new stage in his decline.  He did finally decide he wanted to get up and move to his chair in the den around 1:30 this afternoon.  I know that the day is coming where he just doesn't get out of the bed anymore.  His body is actually lumpy through his back and abdomen from the tumors that are growing.  He hurts.  He is weak.  Yesterday afternoon he had an episode where he got very flushed and sweaty, shaky, dizzy and nauseous.  I knew it was a sugar drop (he is diabetic) and tried to get him to drink some juice.  He got a few swallows down and began to feel better.  Jan told me this morning that last night when they went to bed, he told her he thought he was dying during that spell and that he was so disappointed when he didn't.  That breaks my heart. 

Where I am overly emotional, Jan holds tight to her emotions.  Today we were eating breakfast and chatting and the next thing I know she has her head on the table and sobs are wracking her body from the soleslof her feet to the top of her head.  I'm glad that she spilled some emotion.  I think that is healthy, but it was so sad to see.  I admittingly feel very sorry for myself that my dad is dying, but she is losing her life partner.  Today was full of conversations about his future care.  We both agree that giving him his maintenance drugs seems a bit ridiculous, but as long as he still wants to take them, we do.  His potassium levels are elevated and we are supposed to give him this liquid that will flush the extra postassium from his system.  Side effects are acute diarhea.  Hell, the man can hardly get stand, let alone get to the toilet.  We have both felt guilty that we have not given him that medicine, but why bother, really.  Why put him through the misery and maybe the loss of dignity that the side effects may cause?  His level will be out of whack again soon, his kidneys are failing.  These decisions are logical, but making them is very tough.  The hospice nurse helped us both feel a bit better about not treating him.  She was very matter of fact about the weeks to come and how much more difficult things will get.  I appreciate her frankness.  I want to know what to expect. 

A little while ago I helped put my dad to bed, told him I loved him and wished him a peaceful night.  I washed my face, brushed my teeth and climbed into the guest bed like I have done many nights over the past several weeks.  I try to read, try to meditate, am successful sometimes and calming my mind, but more often than not, in this quiet time, the reality of it all just smacks me in the face.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Overwhelmingly Sad

After my folks divorced when I was around 13, I never lived with my dad again, except for a few months in 1985 while I was saving money to move to Nashville.  Spending two to four days a week in his home now while I am helping to take care of him is so nourishing to the little girl that lives inside me.  Even though he is weak and frail and so very sick, I am comforted each night I lay my head on the pillow that he is just down the hall.  There is a photo of my late sister and I in the room that I stay in.  I remember going to have that photo taken years ago at Grant's department store.  I was probably 9 or so and Karen was around 4 or 5.  At that time in our lives, we were daddy's little girls.  While my heart is breaking a bit each day as we get closer to the day it shatters completely when he dies, this time in his home is so important to me. 

Being here is so difficult and extremely emotional for me, but I don't want to be anywhere else.  Today was tough.  He is growing increasingly weaker and is to a point where he can barely stand up for more than a minute or two before he collapses in exhaustion.  He sleeps almost constantly, although today he was alert more than he has been.  We chatted some today about his boyhood friends, his college graduation in 1953 and trips to Louisville to visit friends of our family.  I enjoyed that.  Some days he barely talks at all.  I cannot imagine all the things that are running through his head.  When he was in the hospital, the pastor from the church that he attended for awhile came to see him very often.  As of today, he hasn't called or visited him at home at all.  Daddy said he thought maybe he had offended him or something.  While it really isn't my business, I emailed brother Steve today and asked him to call dad.  He did and even came to visit tonight.  It cheered my dad greatly.  I was glad I meddled.  Steve apologized to me, said he had been super busy the last few weeks and appreciated the kick in the pants not to neglect daddy. 

I know I am rambling tonight.  Being here is so bittersweet.  I love the time with my dad, but seeing him suffer and deteriorate is so hard.   I've had to run to the back of the house a lot today to cry for a few minutes before putting my brave face back on.  I know dad feels bad enough without me spending the day in tears in front of him.  The sadness is so heavy that I feel it is pushing me down.  I know I have the choice to not spend as much time here, but I am not going to let the emotional toll rob me from spending time with my dad.  I will bear the weight of being overwhelmingly sad to have every minute that I can. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Taking Care of Me & Feeling Guilty

Only those who have experienced taking care of a loved one who is dying from a terminal illness can truly understand the stress that comes along with it.  Yesterday my boss stood in my office door and told me that I probably didn't even recognize the level of stress our situation is causing yet.  Last night while laying awake listening to Kim sleep, I realized that he is probably right.  It does seem to be a sneaky stress.  Some days I think that I am functioning pretty well.  I'm working and I think I am managing to keep the many balls I handle in the air.  I'm managing my household and so far have not missed paying a bill or vacuuming every week.  My pets are fed, healthy and happy. I am cooking and keeping up with the laundry.  Other days I feel like I am moving through mud all day long.  It feels like it takes a true effort on my part just to breathe.  My thoughts are crazy and jumbled, even my vision seems out of focus.

I am often asked if I am taking care of myself right now.  It is hard to answer that question, because I am not sure I understand what it means.  I am keeping my bi-weekly massage appointments, which I need now more than ever.  I am keeping scheduled doctor's appointments.  I am making time to spend with my friends, going to concerts, dinner, shopping or just hanging out.  I'm spending quiet time at home doing nothing but enjoying my husband and our pets.  I'm praying and talking to God.  I'm journeling (via this blog) to help sort out my feelings.  I'm trying to do things that help me stop the obsessive thoughts of my dad's suffering, my step mother's suffering, my own suffering for a little while.  Here's the thing though, every minute that I am not in Bowling Green with my dad, I feel guilty.   I feel guilty because I am not spending that time with him when I know our time left together in this world is short.  I feel guilty that while I am having fun, Jan may be struggling to get him to bed or to the bathroom, or having to change the bandage on his side that is still leaking fluid from the cancer.  Jan and I had this conversation last week about the guilt when you catch yourself in the moments away from him that are enjoyable. 

Thing is, we both know that daddy wants us to get out, have fun, get away from him.  He is struggling with his own feelings of guilt.  He feels guitly that he can't do for himself and sees himself as a burden to us.  He feels guilty that we will never leave him alone.  I wouldn't take a shower the other day until Jan came home from running errands.  I know it made him feel terrible, but what if he needed to go to the bathroom, or choked while I was in the shower and couldn't hear him? Guilt is as much a part of our daily feelings as sadness, anger and grief. 

So, am I taking care of myself?  I honestly don't know.  I'm trying to find a balance between my life in the land of the living and my need to be with the dying.  I'm trying to allow myself to feel and roll in all the emotions that wash over me daily and not stuff them down.  I'm trying to talk about things when I need to and not talk about things when I don't want to.  I'm trying to squash the guilty feelings when they come along.  I'm just trying to get through the days, hell, sometimes I am just trying to get through the minutes.  I guess that is the best I can do.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Head Is Spinning

When I got to the office yesterday, I realized that I had no recollection of actually getting in my car and driving there.  I know we all do that once and awhile, but the last week or so, I have noticed that I am having lots of moments like that.  Certainly it it stress.  I keep telling myself that I am really handling everything so well, but the truth is every action is a struggle.  I am not prone to depression and when I recognize that I am, I'm always a bit startled by it.  Not me, I don't get depressed.  Sure I have the occaisonal blue day once in a bit, but not depression.  No way. 

I'm so fucking depressed.  I feel like the air is just being sucked right out of my corner of the world and I am struggling for every breath.  I want to be with my dad every possible minute that I can and am spending two, three or more days a week here.  I want to help care for him, at least as much as he will let me.  I want to be here to ease the responsibility of caring for him for Jan.  Each time I am here, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of caring for him and pained by how difficult this is for Jan.  I don't know how she bears it.  Tonight we talked about the depression, how oppresive it is.  For me, I have my job to focus on.  Even when I am in BG helping out, I am working remotely while I am here.  Dad sleeps or watches TV and I work.  It is a blessing to have something to occupy my brain besides my dying father.  Jan has no release.  The days I am here and she gets out of the house to shop, have her hair done, have lunch out, she feels increasingly guilty because she is enjoying herself.  I ache for her.  I worry about her as much as I am worrying about daddy. 

Dad is miserable.  He often makes comments about wanting to go ahead and die and sometimes mentions suicide.  I don't blame him one bit for having those feelings.  I'm sure most of us would.  I sit in my chair behind my TV tray office peeking over my laptop at him praying that this will be over for him soon.  His days rarley have joy in them.  He struggles with feeling he is a burden to us every time he asks for something.  Cancer is eating away at his pride as much as it is eating away at his body.  He struggles with even the smallest thing like swallowing a pill.  It is heart wrenching. 

Tonight is just a jumble of thoughts.  We've talked about music for his funeral and who will be pallbearers.  We've talked about the possibilty of him lingering in his current state for a long while.  Please God, no.  I've had to fix the printer on her computer, figure out how to use the regulators on the oxygen tanks from a new company we are using now, entertain a family friend who dropped food by this afternoon.  Work.  I've also worked.  It has been a busy day, but I can't settle my brain down tonight.  I want to gather Jan up and somehow make it easier for her to walk this path as her spouse is dying.  I want to take all the pain and suffering from my dad.  I want to curl in a ball and feel sorry for myself because my family is going through this.  I want it to be over.  I want my head to stop spinning...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Illusions & Hope

This past Saturday Kim and I went to Bowling Green to spend the day with daddy.  I've been spending two or three days a week in BG, but Kim hadn't been to see daddy since he had been home from the hospital.  We got to dad's place and it was remarkable how well he was doing!  He had great color, his eyes were bright and clear and he was very talkative.  Just a couple of days before he was depressed, quiet and seemingly so weak you wondered if he would even draw his next breath.  Now here he was sitting up, engaging in conversation and even asked me to make him half a chicken salad sandwich with sliced tomatoes from the garden on it.  He ate all but a breadcrust then asked for cake!  This is the man who two days before ate 1/2 a cup of oatmeal and an ice cream bar and that was forced down.  I was amazed.  What is this...acceptance of his future?  Making the best of the time he had left?  It was the best I had seen him in months, honestly. 

Sunday when I called to check on him and again on Monday, he had a lilt in his voice, was chatting about the visitors he had those days and just sounded stronger.  Again I wondered, is this acceptance, is he honestly feeling better, is it the miracle I've prayed for in between the prayers for just making his suffering end?  I felt this spark of something in my being that had not been there for weeks.  It was this little flame of hope.  A friend said to me the past Saturday night that as long as there was a spark of hope, anything could happen.  I've been beating myself up a good bit the past couple of months because I just didn't have any hope for my dad's future.  Before his diagnosis, I knew in my heart it was lung cancer and that it was bad while everyone else had hope it was something treatable.  When the oncologist mentioned the chemo pill that he may be able to take, I knew it wasn't going to be able to help him while others hoped it would.  When he said once daddy got to go home and was able to regain some strength that traditional chemotherapy might be an option, I knew that he was never going to get stronger while others hoped he would.  I've felt sincerely shitty about my lack of hope. 

Those who know me know I am a half full kind of gal.  I usually am pretty good at keeping a positive outlook on things.  Hell, I dont think I could have survived certain things in my life if I was pessimistic all the time.  Daddy's well being over the weekend really got me hoping that he did feel better and would be able to embrace the rest of his life and find some joy in it.  I was so excited about getting to his place last night so I could spend hours visiting with him and chatting about our history and fishing and ballgames and golf and how Tiger Woods sucks.  My illusions were quickly dashed when I walked in last night.  In the three days since I last saw my father, his physical appearance has changed greatly.  His cheeks are sunken, his body even more frail and he is so pale he is almost translucent.  Getting him ready for bed last night, I realized he is even weaker than three days prior and that the smallest task, like brushing his teeth is as exhausing to him as running a marathon would be to me. 

Today Jan took a break from her role as main caretaker and got out of the house early to enjoy some shopping, lunch out and the opportunity to recharge a bit.  She said daddy has usually been getting up and moving to his den by about 9:30 or 10:00.  At 11:00 when I couldn't wake him I began to be concerned.  He is diabetic and I was certain his sugar level must be extremely low.  I tried three different times to get him to sit up and drink some orange juice to regulate his blood sugar.  He could not stay awake longer than a minute or two.  At noon I started to feel a bit panicked and was in tears when the hospice nurse dropped by to bring us some pain medication.  She assured me that leaving him sleeping was the thing to do, not to be concerned with his blood sugar, his morning medications that he missed or anything else.  Excessive sleeping is a natural part of the dying process, she said.  At 12:30 he finally wanted to get up.  It took from 12:30 until 2:10 to get his face washed, him to the bathroom, dressed and moved to the den, where he promptly fell asleep in his chair.  He has eaten about 3 bites of solid food and drank an Ensure all day and only used the bathroom twice.  I know his kidneys are beginning to fail.  Tomorrow we have to take him to the doctor, although Lord only knows why.  He is already dreading going out because it is so exhausting for him. 

I guess when I started writing this entry, it was really about my lack of hope.  I have realized that I do have hope though.  I hope this is over for him soon.  It breaks my heart to think of losing my daddy whom I adore and putting that into words seems almost cruel in some ways, but there is where my hope lies.  Not in illusions of wellness that is not there. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Orphanhood Pending

When my sister was killed years ago, I remember that I noticed siblings together everywhere.  Karen and I were worlds apart at the time of her death.  She had just turned 13 a couple of months earlier and I was 18.  The five years between us at that time might as well have been twenty, our lives were so different.  She was just discovering boys, Ronnie Barnes who lived behind us in particular and I was entering my adulthood.  We weren't close at that time although we loved each other dearly.  Once she was gone, I was so aware of not having a sibling to share life with and was so envious of anyone who did.  Her death left a huge void in my life and left me angry for many years.  You don't expect your baby sister to die. 

You do expect your parents will die before you do.  It is the natural order of things.  My mom and I were very close.  She truly was my greatest friend.  When she died unexpectedly in 1999, it wrecked me.  I mean WRECKED me.  My life for months afterwards felt like I was living in a bubble.   I went through the days, tried to do my best at work, tried to be a good wife to my husband (we had just been married about four months), tried to enjoy my friends but I just wanted to curl in a ball and die.  I never dreamed that I would ever feel joy again, enjoy anything at all again.  The pain was nearly unbearable.  Of course, it does get better, but nothing is quite the same after losing someone you love.  It has been 12 years years since mom died and rarely does a day go by that I don't think of her and miss her. Every achievement I've made in my life since her death is a little less bright because I can't share it with her.  Every milestone, a little less of an event.  She was my cheerleader, even when she knew I was making mistakes and bad choices.  She had unwaivering faith in me even though she witnessed my failings.  She had my back.

Now as I face my father's illness with him and know that his death is bearing down on us, I have so many feelings about being left parentless.  Sure, I have great friends in my life and they really are the "family you choose" and they lift me up constantly.  But it won't be the same as having a parent's encouragement.  Who will nurture my inner child when she needs it?  Knowing that soon I will never answer the phone again, "Hi Daddy" breaks my heart in a million little pieces.  I'm really trying to just get through one day at a time, but I can't help it that in the quiet times my mind goes to the future.  I am cherishing every minute that I am spending with him.  I am cherishing every conversation that we share these days.  I am grateful to be able to take care of him at this stage in his life.  I cherish making him a sandwich, bringing him a glass of milk, watching "American Pickers" and "Pawn Stars" and every judge show on TV with him.  I really am trying to drink in every minute that I have left with him.  I am trying to keep the future out of my head but I keep coming back to my ophanhood pending.  My entire family unit will be gone once my dad dies except for me.  There is something so sad about that.  No one left in the world will share the memories of my youth growing up in that immediate family.  It feels like some of your history just begins to fade away, like even my presence is becoming fainter...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hanging On By A Thread

We saw the oncologist today.  He had been to see daddy in the hospital a couple of times and had thought that he may be a candidate for a chemo pill that might help him.  It turned out that his cancer would not respond to it.  He told me that once daddy got home and regained some strength, we could possibly try some traditional chemotherapy, but I knew in my heart that was never going to happen.  When you aren't eating and can't walk more than a few steps without being exhausted, how are you supposed to get stronger?  So, the visit today was just the official "we can't do anything for you" step.  Oh, the doctor was very kind, compassionate and honest and we all appreciated it.  He talked to us at length about pain therapy and Hospice and sent us home with an appointment in a month.  Frankly, I don't know if daddy will be with us in a month.  Anyway, we all expected that news, but hearing it officially was extremely emotional for us all.  During the visit I asked about possibly prescribing daddy anti-depressants.  Daddy said he didn't want those, but he wanted a pill he could take that would just make him die.  He got weepy and just said he couldn't stand being a burden to Jan and myself.  We tearfully assured him he is not a burden, but a bessing and that we love him and want to take care of him.  It was so sad.

The doctor arranged to have Hospice call us, which they did about half an hour after we got home.  Tomorrow we have a consultation scheduled with a Hospice nurse and I guess once we talk with them we will decide the next steps.  Daddy was very resistant to Hospice several days ago when we discussed it with him, but after the doctor spoke about them, he was willing to call them.  I hope once he understands all they can do for us in aiding with his care and comfort, he will be at peace with the decision to call them.  I hope that they can be of help to Jan when I am not here.  He is failing so quickly.  So we are plodding along, taking it day by day and still hangin on, even if by a thread.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Joining The Club

Humans are social animals.  From a young age we seek to form relationships and join groups.  I couldn't wait to become a Brownie, where I could have a cool little brown uniform and make a jewelry box for my mom out of a cigar box, macaroni and green felt.  Later it was about joining a dance class or being a 7th grade cheerleader.  In high school, it is all about clubs, drama club, speech club, student council and in my high school, the Ugly club.  I was thrilled to become a member of the GTB's, which was a social club that my boyfriend at the time belonged to.  As adults we join book clubs, civitan clubs, the Jr. Leauge and if we can afford it, country clubs.  Clubs are a part of our daily lives.  So much so that we often use the phrase "join the club" when someone may be describing experiences that we've already had. 

Life gives us membership to clubs we don't want to be in.  When my sister died in a car accident in 1978, I suddenly found myself a member of the Becoming an Only Child club.  In 1979 and again in 1981 I became a two time member of the Victims of a Violent Crime club.  In 1996, the Divorced an Alcoholic club and in 1999 the My Mom Died club.  My point is, until you've experienced certain things, you can never truly understand the impact events can have in our individual lives.  I have several friends who are also members of the My Mom Died club and all of us share a unique understanding of the special grief that losing your mother means.  I am now in the initiation process of becoming a lifetime member of a new club that I did not want membership in.  Dear friends of mine have cared for their loved ones while they were dying of cancer or other horrible diseases. I felt empathy for them and tried to be supportive and understanding of their experiences, but I truly had no idea of the horrors and hardships they endured. 

Today was a tough day. I bet daddy didn't eat a full cup of food today. He is in pain, can't walk but a few steps before he is gasping for air like a marathon runner in the last mile, is using a potty chair in the den because the short trip to the bathroom is too much for him.  Misery is his constant companion as despair is becoming mine.  Seeing a loved one uncomfortable and not being able to help them will drain your very soul and until you have walked this path, you cannot begin to understand the pain it causes. I have renewed sympathy and respect for my friends and others I don't even know who have experienced this difficult part of life.  Meanwhile, I am joining the club.