My father died on Saturday. Might as well just get to the main point right away. I’m still working through a lot of thoughts and sometimes this helps sort things out.
On Wednesday, we got a call from the retirement home saying he was “listless”. By Friday, that had become non responsive. The last communication on Friday evening made it clear that the situation was not good and that the end was near. It is possible that he just went downhill that fast but it is also frustrating to not get a clear picture until it was almost too late. It is also true that it is hard to predict end of life when the body just shuts down.
So I cancelled my lesson on Friday and then still had a few things to do that night to prepare and left early Saturday to get up there. My sister was coming in from out of state as well but her drive was longer and she wasn’t due in until late in the afternoon. For very good reasons, my other brothers were not able to come.
My original plan was to wait for my sister and go in together but something in me said I couldn’t wait, so I stopped in early afternoon and sat with him for about an hour. I have no idea if he knew I was there because he didn’t move or give any sign of recognition. I ended up leaving to wait for my sister and just as she arrived, we got the call that he was gone.
While there is certainly sadness at his passing, I have to say there is a great deal of relief as well. To be honest, life had been taking him away for years If life were fair, he would have died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his cats shortly after Mom went. But life is what it is and the last three years have been spent trying to find reliable help to honor his wish to remain in his house. And dealing with the falls and the trips to the hospital and the rehab places. Then finally having to move him into assisted living when he was wheelchair bound and no longer really able to live on his own.
One of the last times I had spoken with him, he talked about being afraid. His vision had been going for years and his hearing was also going. So I can understand the fear of being left blind and deaf and stuck in a wheelchair and totally dependent on others for help.
On top of that, life decided to take his mind as well. I know he did a lot to try and keep it alive – I’d spend time looking up baseball players from the 30’s that he remembered as a child and fill in the gaps when he couldn’t recall who played a certain position. But the forced isolation due to the pandemic and the months he spent in the last rehab place before we could get him into the assisted living place just accelerated the decline. Towards the end, the conversations were a mix of lucidity, grasping for things he wanted to remember and wild fantasies that he believed were real.
I don’t know if this was some karmic punishment or just a bad deal of the genetic cards but it just seems so unfair that he was turned into a shell of what he was. This is also why I say there is a lot of relief mixed in with the sadness. We were spared the worst parts of dementia – I couldn’t imagine visiting him and having him not even recognize us.
In the end, I think he simply decided he had enough. Stubbornness was a strong trait of his and if he set his mind to something, he was going to get it done. From what I learned from the nurse who was there when I was there, he wasn’t in any pain. So he just quietly slipped away and that is honestly the best outcome we could hope for at this point.
It is a strange feeling when both parents are gone. I’m not saying that we had an especially close relationship but there was just that link to the past knowing they were still there. Now that is broken. I think of the little town they retired to and as my sister and I drove around the next day, it just felt empty and different.
We have decided to delay the service until late May. Then we have the unpleasant job of sorting through the objects of their life and choosing what we want to save and disposing of the rest.
I miss him but I am glad he went before things had gone farther downhill.