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Saturday, November 12, 2011


Alzheimer's is the most insidious of diseases. Cancer is a close second if not a contender. My Dad has both. Neither are curable, for him. I've set up hospice, we've both signed the "Do not resuscitate" orders, and his doctors have ordered "Comfort measures only". I'm writing this for those that have been in the same situation, and for those that will be facing this in the future.
I'm prepared as well as I can be. When my Mother died suddenly, unexpectedly, it was heartbreaking, but ultimately braced me for what is to come.
This week has been very hard to bear. My Dad is another person that I don't know, and it's his disease. He has given up. He has no appetite, and he is 6 feet tall, down to around 140 pounds. It's the cancer. He is so weak, and it's very hard for me to watch him wasting away. He is fiercely independent, always has been, and it still comes through. He needs help showering now, and he hates it. Calls the nurses bitches. This from my Dad, who was the most easygoing guy. I'll go ahead and film reference here, he is George Bailey the majority of the time, Atticus Finch when he occasionally needs to kick ass, and Gary Cooper talking through his teeth when he is really pissed off. Once, it seems like ages ago, a kid in the neighborhood threw a rock at me, nicked my nose, close to my eye. Dad asked me to point him out when I saw him next, kid rode his bike past the yard one day, and my Dad strode out into the street like it was High Noon. He grabbed the handle bars of the bike, and leaned down, and told that kid if he ever did that again, he'd be very, very sorry.
I've been through the hard reality of Death before, but nothing hit me so hard as the sudden death of my Mom. She went in for bypass surgery. It's supposed to be routine. I didn't go home for it. That morning, Dad called me, told me that it took much longer than expected. Somehow I knew that something was very wrong, my heart sank. He told me to call him later. I waited all morning, and I needed necessities, cat food, TP. So I went out. When I got back there was a frantic message from a nurse. "You're Mother is very ill, call us immediately." I did, and she told me to get home, and then put Dad on the phone. He was incoherent. My parents at that point were married for 53 years, Dad was hit hard.
I booked a flight. The thing I didn't know is that that airline abandons the check in desk a half an hour before check in. I missed it by 5 minutes. The lady at the next desk told me I should knock on the door to see if they would help me. It's a wonder that security wasn't called... I kicked the shit out of that door, and I already have one TSA report on my record. Just a caveat, don't ever forget that you have a multi-tool with a large knife in the bottom of your purse...
I rebooked, got home early in the am, and am forever grateful for that empathetic woman.
We are now a litigious society. Because there are opportunistic, and well, to be blunt, still some Burke and Hare types out in the world, there is a rule that you HAVE to identify the body before cremation, which is the wish of both of my parents. Duty called. Argument at the funeral home ensues. "I'll do it, NO, I'll do it, Okay we'll both do it...we held and hands and did it. Bad, very bad. Mom had just come from the hospital, was...well, not done up. Plywood box, still in her hospital gown, no make-up, and her hair was greasy, my first thought? She would be soooo pissed off. She was always so stylish, immaculate. She'd have hated that.
Dad broke down. Screaming, crying, and this is a six foot guy leaning on 5'4" me. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of there. And then my 79 year old Dad at that point shoved me in the car, slammed it into reverse and peeled out of the parking lot.
Grief does these things to you. I know that I have gut punches and maybe even roundhouse kicks to the head coming, when I least expect it.
I'm sure that many of you have heard the phrase "Dig Deep"? Well, I'm digging for all I'm worth, and there ain't nothing in the well some days.
I'm alone in this situation, which is both good and bad. I'm an only child, adopted later in life. My parents took me everywhere. Vegas, Hawaii, the island of Cozumel that existed 35 years ago. They are and were the coolest of the cool. They told me I was adopted as far back as I can remember, and I readily admitted that. I was taunted. Even on the playground I was a smart ass. "Yeah, well, at least my parents planned me..." I get that fierce independence from both of them I think, and for that I am grateful.
Mom you wonderful, petite, sometimes scary woman, when you needed to be, I love you, and I miss you. You are responsible for my love of film and literature, and that is an admirable thing. Dad, thank you for teaching me the tomboy stuff, which you understood. Fishing, properly throwing a baseball, how to be a big time gear head, thanks for the life lessons. You both are in my heart, deeply.

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