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21 June 2009 @ 11:39 pm
The Death Of My Father  


"We say that the hour of death is uncertain, but when we say this we think of that hour as situated in an obscure and distant future. It does not occur to us that it can have any connection with the day already begun, or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance".
Marcel Proust
In Search Of Lost Time, Vol III -
The Guermantes Way, Part Two : Chapter One


I heard this quote before all the events below took place and it never really made real sense to me. It does now. I can seem rash – I know this – randomly moving to New York without a plan. Why I urge people to just do something and not be indecisive. All because of this quote. And the death of my father. It may not be correct, and it probably isn't, but it's who I am now. Perhaps it'll change.
I do realize though, that the quote doesn't make the same sense to everyone as it does to me and that is why people don't always understand my thoughts on situations. And honestly, I hope they never do find themselves really understanding it.


So, just a warning: this is going to be a bit disjointed and rather oddly written but it's on my mind – given the day – and I really haven't shared the story with many people in New York so I figured writing it would be easier than going into detail in person because I get confused by the sequence of events and the time line. Sometimes it seems like the whole ordeal lasted years and other times it seems like it lasted for a split second. I am going to be as honest as my mind is allowing me to be – and some parts may paint me in a bad color – but it's how I felt. The things I said and did. The things I thought. It's shocking, even to me, to look back at some of my thoughts when it was all going on and think how selfish and insane I was. Perhaps it is common though? A way to deal. To be angry, to be sad, to be indifferent, to shut down, to open up. I'm not a psychologist so I'm not sure but I'd venture to guess I'm not completely alone in all the mixed emotions and reactions that everyone else got.

This is long. When I thought I'd write it I figured it would be a page at most. It sits around 15 pages. If you want to read it, feel free, if not that is fine. It was therapeutic to write. Ignore spelling and grammar errors...I don't feel the desire to go back and critically proof 15 pages of this.



James Terry Long: November 24, 1952 - March 7, 2007

It was just now Saturday, November 4th, 2006.

I smoked cigarettes at an alarming rate. I do again now, but I do quit during the time period this story takes place (and lasted for nearly two years; perhaps I'll quit again soon, I should) – one thing that was common for my friends and I to do was to sit outside on my driveway, usually with some sort of fast food and drinks, and smoke to the early hours of the morning. We rarely slept, we gossiped, we ranted and raved about the things that seem important when you are in your early 20s and believe you know it all.

This was another typical night like any other. November was warmer than usual in Florida and Magali and I sat outside. I smoked one after another, Newport Light 100s, broke twigs in a nervous fashion, and bitched about my on again-off again boyfriend Pat who just “didn't understand me” and I wasn't sure I was ever going to be able to forgive him for all the cheating and all the lies I had recently found out about. She, of course, agreed sympathetically and talked about how hideous he was, inside and out, like any lifelong loyal friend would do.

It was just after midnight, the traffic in my 734 house neighborhood was thinning out, and I lit yet another cigarette just in time to hear my mother open the front door and make her way outside to us. She did this frequently, would come and check on us and annoy me and ruin the conversation at hand. I sighed and looked up and she spoke quickly and loud.

Magali you need to go home. Jenni, you need to drive your father to the hospital, he thinks he is having a heart attack. He thought it was his back but the pain is getting worse. Quickly, put clothes on.

Even then I rarely wore actual clothes. I'd lounge around out front in pajamas, if the weather was cold I'd add on toe socks and a blanket. Yet, tonight was warm, my clothes were limited and my mind just wasn't processing the facts.

Did you call an ambulance?

I flicked my cigarette down as Magali wished my luck and got in her car and sped off. I went inside, my father was laying in the living room floor on his back and looked up at me.

Quickly Beast, please.

I always loathed that nickname. It came about when I was little. Every father calls their little girls 'Princess' or 'Pumpkin' but to my father I wasn't just any little girl. I was his. And I could scream. And I did. Frequently, as a child. Beast worked in his eyes, as his own odd term of endearment. It stuck. I hated it.

My mind was numb and I was annoyed at the situation but the panic my mother was radiating (typical of her though, always a hypochondriac) slowly started to seep in. I threw on clothes, tossed my long hair into the bun on top of my head (a bun that my dad would call my “poof” as he'd walk by and playfully slap it out of place daily to my annoyance) and made my way outside, where my dad was now in the passenger seat of his car, my mom in the back, and I climbed inside starting the engine.

Why didn't you call an ambulance? And which hospital?

Take me to the one on McMullen Booth Road. Quickly. It's late, just ignore the red lights. And I refuse to be taken anywhere by ambulance. Ever.

After this point, everywhere he was ever taken was by ambulance. Except for the hearse, in the end.

I nodded, confused, and made my way to the hospital. I went through red lights, secretly hoping a cop would chase us to the hospital, light blaring, like you see happen in the movies. Would they shout with their mega-phone like speakers to “Please pull over!” - I never found out – they never did.

Perhaps you should cough dad. I think I read somewhere that if you are having a heart attack you are supposed to cough. A lot. Maybe your lungs press against your heart or something? I don't remember...

My mom started coughing. I rolled my eyes as we got closer to the hospital.

My father was silent except for the occasional cursing under his breath and at his urging me to speed and bypass more lights, do illegal u-turns, break all the rules of the road – but just don't wreck his car. He liked his ugly car.

This is when I realized something was wrong. My father was never sick. My father was the type of man who would break his hand, groan about the inconvenience of it all, and wrap an ace bandage around it and continue on. He was also the most anal retentive driver I had ever known. He tried to teach me to drive and if I so much as blinked when I should be looking at the road he was insane – needless to say driving lessons with him only lasted a few sessions – before I declared I'd never learn to drive with him.

Obviously, he was in bad shape. We got to the hospital and I pulled into the Emergency section as my mom got out and got a nurse and wheelchair for him. They both rushed off inside while I attempted to find a parking spot.

It was a little after 1am. I got inside and was told they were checking him out already. That was quick. I guess the threat of a heart attack bumps you to the top of the list.

You can go back soon. Your mom is with him.

Right. I went back outside, lit a cigarette and sent a text to Teresa, Magali, Pat, Angel, and a few others on my phone. 'At the hospital. Dad heart attack? Will give more details tomorrow.'

I went back inside a while later and was finally allowed into the ER, to a fake room made of curtains to where my father was now dressed in a scrub, hooked up to some machines, an IV running into his arm.

Not a heart attack. The pain though...

My dads eyes were teary. My dad did not cry. What was going on?

My mom sat there, eyes wide, on the brink of a heart attack herself. I nodded.

So what then?

Not sure, x-rays soon.


I nodded again.

My mother then began her rant. Always needing to be right.

I told you your doctor was a kook. I told you that you needed to see someone better. You've had back pains forever now. Arthritis! As if. Your knee is huge, your ankle is still bothering you. Well, at least now you'll get some proper attention!

I watched as my mother spoke my dads heart monitor spike.

Mom, you are making his heart go insane. Shut up already.

I sighed, annoyed, and grumbled about not being given a seat in the fake hospital room. I poked my head out of the curtain, bored. Cute doctor. Someone puking. A kid, my age, requesting hard narcotics for some phantom pain he claimed to be feeling. Cops surrounding a man in his thirties with a black eye and bloody nose. Fantastic.

Excuse me? Can I get a chair? Hello?! Yes. You. A chair. I'd like to sit.

A huffy nurse brought in a chair. Very uncomfortable. Teresa would be a much better nurse than her I thought.

Hospital staff came and wheeled my dad out, my mom fell asleep in her chair. I wanted to wake her and ask her to switch chairs. She was asleep, surely she could sleep in the uncomfortable chair, and I could stay awake in the padded one she was wasting. I sighed. I checked my phone. I was bored. And annoyed. Where was my father? Why is he breaking down? He doesn't do this. Obviously something was wrong.

They brought him back, he was half awake, doped up.

Beast, hi. I feel better. Got pain meds...so relaxing.

Seeing your father drugged is a rather funny thing. I wonder what he'd be like to get high with. I know he did it when I was younger, my mom told me, but I don't remember. Maybe someday we can do it together...

A doctor came in. It was nearly 3am.

Alright, well, you can go now. We are doing your discharge papers. X-Rays didn't show anything. Here are some print outs of proper bending techniques. Bend at the knees, not at the waist. You just pulled your back we are sure.

My father always used to yell at me for that “bend at the knees, Beast, not at the waist!” when ever I'd do anything that required me picking something up. He was nothing if not anal about standing straight, sitting upright, head up, shoulders back...surely this was a mistake.

My drugged up father and half awake mother thanked the doctor. I stood. The doctor waved dismissively, offered a half smile, and turned to leave. I stood there still, staring.

Wait, what? No. See, you are mistaken. My dad – he is never in pain. Or if he is, he doesn't let it bother him. Something is wrong! Do something! He always bends correctly!

The doctor sighed and turned, looking me over.

He'll be fine. Look he is feeling better already. He just pulled something. We did x-rays.

X-rays? They don't show things well! Even I know this! Something is wrong! You can't send him home. You are wrong!

To this day I am still not sure why I got so frantic and the rest of my episode is nearly forgotten. I screamed a lot. I cried a little. The doctor and two nurses he called in to calm me down assured me things were okay and basically forced us from the emergency room. I was livid. My parents were annoyed. At me, not them.

We drove home in silence and I stormed off to my room. It was nearly 5am. I went to bed.

I woke up only a few hours later. I couldn't fall back asleep. I went to the bathroom, washed up, went into the living room. My father was laying on his side on the couch – back pressed against the cushions, my mother sat there staring at me.

Are you two still mad at me? Seriously?

Jenni...get dressed, we need to call 911 and get an ambulance. We were waiting for you to wake up.


“I told you so” was lost at this point. It didn't matter, something was wrong. I turned around and changed quickly, poof up again and grabbed blindly for books, my cell phone, the charger, all the packs of cigarettes I could find and went into the living room as my mother hung up the phone.

What happened?

They both looked at one another.

Your father slept out here last night, to support his back against the cushions. I woke up this morning and he wanted help to use the restroom. He tried to stand...he can't feel his legs. He had to pee in a cup.

My father groaned.

She doesn't need the details!

I remember thinking I hope they threw the cup away.

Oh.

I stood there, confused.

You can't feel your legs?

I stood there looking at my dads legs, curled up on the couch. He was 6'4” - that was a lot of self not to be able to feel.

They feel tingly, like they are asleep.

Someone was pounding on the door. I let them in. They got my father onto a stretcher, I was ushered out of the room. They loaded him up. My mother stayed behind to drive with me to the hospital. I was shaking. She was sobbing.

...He said he was never going to ride in an ambulance, ever.

We arrived at the hospital a short time later and went into the ER and made out way towards another fake room made of curtains. I saw the two nurses and doctor from the night prior. I glared. They looked away.

The rest of the day was spent with my father being taken from one test to another, the tingling in his legs disappearing, being replaced by nothing. Nothing at all.

He got a room. We called his brother. I went to the courtyard and smoked a lot. Talked to my friends. Spoke to Pat. I was confused.

My mother called and gave me his room number. I said I'd be up soon. I didn't want to go. I went.

Another doctor was in the small two bed room with dark beige walls. My father had the bed near the window.

My parents looked upset. I stood there. I looked to one of the comfy chairs that was sitting there for me. I wished I had the hard uncomfortable chair from the last night. The soft comfy chair didn't seem as appealing anymore. It didn't fit into this situation. So I stood.

We've found two lumps on your fathers spine. These seem to be why he has lost feeling in his legs.

Oh.

We are going to take a sample from them and see what they are. It'll hurt, but we have to do it.

Oh. Right.

Once we know what we are dealing with...we'll know the treatment we can provide.

Oh. Right. Of course.

I sat down in the comfortable chair finally.

I had no idea what he was talking about. They took samples.


It was now Thursday November 9, 2006.

Many tests had been run. My mother went to get some food. I was sitting in one of the comfy chairs, staring at my dad. We were never extremely close. I went through a stage where I hated him. Now, I was indifferent to him. He wasn't mean, we just didn't mesh. My mother would spoil me, he wouldn't. It was as simple as that. I was an only child with that only child mentality that he didn't indulge in frequently. The silence between us was always awkward.

I coughed. I talked about Harry Potter – a book series I had just finished reading a few weeks prior. There was only one book left, I explained, I got into the series late. It's been going on for nearly ten years! The final book comes out eventually, not sure when. They haven't even released the title yet. He nodded, listening. The title ended up being released about a month after this. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My father and I liked the same sort of books. My friends didn't read. I kept the fact that I read from them. My father was who I spoke to of books. That, and computers, were one of the few things we ever had in common.

He asked if I had finished the Dark Tower series. I told him I had, that was why I bought those books on a whim – it was a box set – 6 Harry Potter books for insanely cheap. He said he wanted to finish the Dark Tower series, then maybe he'd read the Harry Potter books I was so excited about.

He never got a chance to do either.

We sat there in silence again. I thought of the conversation I had with Pat the night prior “You should tell your father you live him, Jenn, just in case.” We didn't say this to one another.

Dad, I just...Listen, I know we don't say this -you and I - but in case, you know...IJustWantedToSayILoveYouAndI'mSorryThisIsHappeningToYou.

He was silent. He stared at the ceiling. He spoke, his voice cracked.

It's always good to hear Beast. To be told. I love you too.

I cried. My mother came in. I left to go smoke.

I got a call from my mother that I needed to come upstairs right away. I ran.

The doctor was in the room, they all looked at me. I sat in the comfy chair.

Your father has Signet Ring Carcinoma. It's more aggressive than regular adenocarcinomas and harder to treat. It's extremely uncommon and only accounts for about 0.1% of all adenocarcinomas. It usually starts in the colon.

But no, my father just had his colon checked! His friend had colon cancer so he did it!

It unfortunately doesn't always cover the entire length of the colon. We are going to take more samples but we think it is also what is on his knee. His ankle. We also saw dark masses on his liver and his lungs. Which means, it's spreading.


I don't remember the rest of the conversation. My mother cried. I sat there. My dad was silent except to ask that we call his brother. He arrived a short time later.

I went out to smoke, again.

I came back up as my uncle and mother were standing outside the hospital room talking to the doctor. My uncle was speaking.

What is the light at the end of the tunnel then? What can we expect?

I'm sorry, to be honest, there isn't a light at the end of the tunnel. We'll do radiation to try and get him some feeling in his legs and move him into a facility for physical therapy but...


They stopped, finally noticing me.

Oh. Right. He is dying. It hit me then. I wasn't shocked. I think a part of me knew from the moment I took him to the hospital when he thought he was having a heart attack that my father was going to leave me. I went inside his hospital room and sat there in silence. It was less awkward than before with him now.

You know Beast?

I know. I'm sorry.

Don't lose hope. You never know.


I know he didn't honestly believe this. He lied to himself, or maybe just to us, about his hopes for survival. I hope it gave him some comfort.


A few days later they moved my father to an assisted living facility near our house. We had a private room and his pain was intense. He got mean. My mother and I visited him daily and he was always mad, in pain, and annoyed. I didn't blame him, of course, but it got to be a bit much to deal with. He was on liquid morphine and various pills to help with the pain – but it was so intense regardless.

He had two physical therapists that exercised his legs and would make him try and sit up with assistance for prolonged periods of time. He was taken three times a week – by ambulance – to a center for radiation on his back, knee, and ankle.

He was more or less numb, at this point, from his waist down. He wore diapers. He was embarrassed. Besides my mother and myself he stopped allowing people to visit.

Thanksgiving was fast approaching and he asked the nurse who would visit him if he'd be allowed home in time. Thanksgiving was to be on the 23rd. His birthday was the 24th. He wanted to be home. She said it would probably not happen before then. He grew more angry.

Thanksgiving came and my mother and I did a silent dinner at home, she cooked a meal big enough for ten. It gave her something to do. We packed up food after dinner and brought it to him. He barely ate. It was too dry, it was too cold, it was too warm, it didn't taste good. He couldn't stand the flavor of meat any longer.

My father, who ate nothing but meat usually, couldn't stand the taste. It was strange. He wasn't anyone I knew anymore.

His birthday came, he allowed his brother and his wife to visit briefly. He was angry still. They brought cookies. I ate more than anyone should, for something to do. I quit smoking. I told him. He said he was proud.

December came and it rained a lot. My birthday was soon, December 10th.

The nurse came to visit my dad and said he could go home. However, she said we needed to call hospice to have them set up a hospital bed somewhere in our house for him and we needed to have assistants come out daily and nurses three times a week. We agreed. He'd be home before my birthday.

It was December 4th. We went in the morning to the facility to see my dad; he was still asleep. We woke him up when his breakfast arrived and he seemed happy, finally. He was going home today.

An assistant at the facility brought him his pain meds, he seemed confused, he actually didn't need them – he wasn't in much pain today. Hardly any at all, my mom looked overjoyed, he looked pleased, I was worried. Why would it suddenly just stop?

The ambulance came and loaded him up, getting directions to our house from my mother. They put him inside it.

We got into our car and waited. And waited. An EMT got out of the ambulance back and said there was a change of plans. He needed to go to the hospital. They'd meet us there.

His blood pressure had dropped at an alarming rate, he was taken to the CCU with people dying around us and a kid, half my age, who had tried to kill himself who was currently ignoring the screams and shouts from his parents. He manged to kill himself the next night, in the hospital, somehow.

My father had blood clots that had entered his lungs, they put him on blood thinners, they put an umbrella like structure right below his lungs to stop others from entering. He was there for a few days.

December 8, 2006. A Friday, two days before my birthday, my father finally went home. We had rearranged our living room and the hospital bed was in the corner. The pain was back, but only slightly We had just learned that the lack of pain was because the cancer had climbed up his spine and moved into his brain. It was blocking the pain a bit.

Oh. Right. Of course.

So, my dad was home. My birthday, the 10th, was spent in the living room with my mother and him. I knew it'd be my last birthday with him. We sat around, watched TV, talked. It was nice. The hospice aids that came daily were overall okay. My dads favorite was a guy named Tom, he showed us how to clean my father. How to change his diaper. My parents were both adamant in the beginning that I would never have to change his diaper. However, that is one of those things that simply can't be avoided usually.


A Catholic nun came to talk to my dad one day. He told her he didn't believe in god but wanted to talk anyway. She said she'd pray for him.

Some hippies came another day and prayed over my father, chanted, played calming music, messed with his aura and did some type of healing with stones. My dad didn't believe their stuff but enjoyed it none the less. He said either way it was relaxing.


My job was amazing and allowed me lots of time off. My friends there took up a collection and handed me an envelope with an insane amount of cash since I was now taking unpaid days off. My mom, however, had to go back to work.

The medicine messed with my fathers stomach, of course, and when he went to the bathroom it was rarely ever in solid form. I managed to avoid having to deal with it much though.

Christmas came and it was rough. We didn't buy a tree, my father wouldn't have been able to see it anyway. We spent the holiday in the living room, some friends stopped by.

Every Christmas I bought my father the same things – golf supplies, a year long calendar, and socks. This year all those things seemed pointless to buy. He wouldn't need any of them ever again. I bought him candy, some playing cards, a new watch, and a rather awesome universal remote for the TV set.

My mother and I fought. The first fight, of many, through out his process of dying from cancer. I accused her of ruining my last holiday with my father. He cried as realization hit. I felt awful.

Christmas left and a New Year was upon us. I drank a bottle of champagne myself in my room that night after I got back from spending a rare night out with friends. I also took one of my fathers pain pills.


After the New Year began, it happened. My fathers pain was getting worse so they put him on more pain medicine. My mother had to work and I was home alone with him. The hospice aid called and advised she would be late, not there for another four hours, something had come up. My mom wasn't due home for another two. My father needed to be changed.

I, of course, wont go into the details but it took nearly an hour to change his diaper and it was one of the saddest things I've ever had to do. I could tell he hated himself and the situation so much. I caused him a lot of pain, I kept having to turn him onto his sides to clean. Again and again. I just didn't know what to do. It took forever. I was overall okay with it, but a small part of me was furious at life, at whatever god there might be, and at my father. Logically I knew it wasn't his fault but he was the one putting me in this situation by being here. My mother got home as I finished. I left the house and drove around for hours, until my car was nearly out of gas, and finally went back inside. I started going to work again the next day.

I woke up a few weeks later to my father crying. I asked him what was wrong, he said there was people in the house. I freaked out and got my mother, telling her I thought someone broke in. It was a fear we had – since there was so much pain medication laying around. My mother and I searched and we couldn't find anyone. She went to go talk to my dad.

Jim, I don't see anyone here, what happened?

They are there, in the corner!

...No one is there.

They said I can't go back home. They said I have to stay here. Can you please tell them I want to go back home and see my wife?


It was the first time, of many, that he had no idea who my mother was. He never forgot who I was – even if he forgot my name – during the whole process. I don't know how I would be now if he had.

The nurse came out later that day to access the situation. She told us she believed the cancer had started to spread more into his brain and the hallucinations were caused by this. She advised us she'd get medicine for us to give to him on her next visit, in two days, to calm them down.

I called out of work, advised them I didn't know when I'd be back.

The next day I woke up to my parents laughing. My father had seen a pirate holding a decapitated head watching my mother change his diaper. My dad was scared at first, he said, then annoyed.

I told him he shouldn't just stand there and watch my wife change me. I told him to drop the head and lend a hand to help! I've never seen a pirate run away so fast in my life.

It was surreal, but from there out his hallucinations weren't worrisome to him any longer and he spent about 50% of his time in a reality we couldn't see. The medicine didn't seem to help much to stop them and they weren't bad, so we stopped giving them to him.

He was playing golf a lot in his mind. Sometimes he'd be frustrated because he couldn't stand and play – he didn't understand why he was stuck in a bed on the golf range and he'd ask my mother (who was sometimes a stranger he didn't recognize, or his own long deceased mother) to help him get out of the bed. She'd make up random reasons for why he needed to stay in it and more often than not, he'd grudgingly agree and continue on playing golf. He usually did quite well, according to him.

One day he had a five hour long fight with a cop who pulled him over in his car for speeding. My father was livid and kept making snide remarks under his breath to me. He kept asking me for his insurance papers. By the end of the hallucination he had a bed filled with random scraps of papers he believed were various forms he needed for the cop.

He could no longer read. Words were jumbled messes in his mind and when he would attempt to write it would come out as random letters connected with squiggles.

When I was little I would ride with my father to the bank every Saturday morning. I'd get a lollipop from the bank teller and my dad would hand me the cash envelope. I'd sit in the car on the way back, the cash envelope in my lap and one of his stubby golf pencils clutched in my hand. His car had plastic fake leather seats that my legs would stick to in the Florida heat painfully. It was some of the best times of my life. My father would explain that cursive writing was simply the same as normal writing I had just learned to do – except you linked the letters together. I would attempt to write in cursive with various loops, waves, and squiggles connecting the letters. To this day I blame this weekly attempt at trying to master it as to why I can barely write that way at all. My father couldn't even do it at all anymore.

My father and I talked a lot. I asked him random questions about his life I never thought to ask before. My mother always told me everything about her life – my father never did. He told me about being in the air force. How much he hated Germany and how awful it was being stuck in the Black Forest for so long. He told me, vaguely, about the drugs he had done, what he suggested I never try. He told me amusing stories from his youth. We would watch Myth Busters, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Treasure Hunters together constantly. It was nice. I finally felt close to my father.

By February he was in his own world about 75% of the time he was awake, which was about 8 hours a day. He'd forget my name, but not who I was, and that blasted nickname “Beast” was still always there. I still hated it. I'd get annoyed at the time it took to get him his medicine. He was rarely aware of what was going on and I'd have to force the medicine into him. I was mad that most of my friends had stopped talking to me because I was too busy taking care of him to be social. I told Pat I was done talking to him again. We still have not spoken to this day. Eight years as someones best friend and lover gone. Such is life. At least I had one left to live.

A part of me, and I'm not certain the size, was mad that my dad was still alive. Even writing this makes me feel like the worst person ever, but it is the truth. People don't talk about these things – is this a common feeling? Perhaps it isn't. I'd assume it is though. I didn't want him dead, but he was dying, and I didn't see why it was happening at all and when I was frustrated I just wanted it all to be over with. Then I felt awful. Of course.

February 14th was my parents wedding anniversary. He wasn't awake most of the day. He did remember my mother that day. I think that was his gift to her, even if it wasn't an intentional one.

On one of my fathers more lucid days a friend that he had known through his youth and into his college life came to visit. He'd flown in to Florida to see some family he had left when he moved away years earlier and decided to see my dad as well. I had called him earlier in the year to tell him of my dads health. I didn't know the man but I had heard stories of their wild times. The conversation was brief and awkward. He called back the next day, apologized, and said he'd be in town later and wanted to see my dad. We arranged the details. I didn't stay in the house during his visit. I went out with Magali. I didn't want to witness a goodbye.

By the end of February my father slept more than he was awake, ate less than the amount of medicine he was taking, and was pretty much constantly in a hallucination. It was steady though, no decline. I decided to go back to work soon. Sometime in March.

March 6, 2007. The weather was a bit cooler than it had been in November. I was going back to work today. I got there at 1:00, an hour before my shift was set to begin, and went to talk to the nurse that worked there. I told her that we weren't sure how much time my father had left but I wanted to know if there was sort of Florida plan that would allow me to get some sort of government money if I had to take more time off to take care of him. There wasn't.

The nurse assured me that I'd be okay if I took my unpaid time off. They were so very understanding. I told her things seemed okay right now so I'd work as long as I could. She advised me to think about it. She didn't want me to regret spending time at work instead of with him. I nodded and said I understood. While part of me agreed and knew she was correct another part of me longed for the escape that work could provide me for 9 hours a day.

I got to my desk and turned on my computer. Said hello's and answered people's polite questions about my father. I turned on my phone and started to get calls.

Thank you for calling BIC Graphic, this is Jenni, how can I help you?

Huge corporations calling and bitching about their latest batch of pens that had a color slightly off on them didn't bother me. Your pens are wrong? Sucks to be you. My life is worse. It was an easy distraction. I was even a little happy.

Two hours into my shift my cell phone rang. I turned my phone off and went on a quick break.

Hi mom, what's going on?

Jenni? This is the hospice nurse at your house. You should come home now if you can.


My body felt very hot and very cold all at the same time. I hung up the phone and stood in the hallway a bit confused as to what to do. I finally forced my feet to move and went back to the nurses office and advised her that I was told I should go home. She asked to call me a cab. I said I wanted to drive home.

I went to my desk, gathered my stuff and left. I don't remember the drive home.

I entered the house and my father was still asleep. The nurse was there. My mom had been crying.

Your father is in a coma. He doesn't have much longer to live. A day or two at the most.

What? You were here just yesterday and said things were okay, he had time. No deterioration. Those were YOUR words!

I know, things changed. Listen...we've got this medicine here, it is for what they call the 'death rattle' basically his breathing will sound like......


Oh. Right. Of course.

She left. My mother and I stayed there watching my father. He didn't wake up. He moaned a lot in this sleep he had. We gave him lots of pain medicine until he was quiet. The nurse said to do that, the pain would make him cry out, he didn't need to feel anything at this point. There wasn't any reason too.

Wednesday March 7, 2007. My father still hadn't woken up. My mother and I hung around the house, barely talking. One of us was always in the room with him. I'd wander around the house, room to room, staring at things, talking to my cats, checking in on my father. Tom, the hospice aid came, he tried to be cheerful. He left and said goodbye. He didn't say he'd see us again soon.

LOST was coming on soon. My mother suggested we order a pizza. I agreed. She ordered the pizza then went outside to walk the dog and wait for it to arrive. I sat there, staring at my father. I stood. I went over to him and touched his hand. It was cold. His breathing was soft, but there. I watched him.

Dad? If you need to go, you can. Mom and I will be okay. We will manage to survive. You don't have to hang on for us any longer. We understand you can't. Don't be scared and I won't be either. Okay? Dad? Can you hear me? I love you.

I stood there a few moments longer, holding his hand then turned and left to go outside and wait for the pizza with my mother. It arrived and we went back inside and I stood just in the hallway just from the edge of the living room door and I knew what I'd see when I went back into the room. I could just tell, inside me, somehow.

Moving slowly I went into the room and looked at him. He was relaxed, his mouth hanging open, as if he was in mid-breath. His chest was no longer moving.

Jenni, come grab the napkins for me?

Mom, come here.

I'm coming! Can you please help?

No mom, you need to come here.


She grew silent. I heard the stove open and close. She had put the pizza inside. She knew as well. She came into the room. She sighed and went to the phone and called the hospice hotline. She requested a nurse to come over.

He's died. Just now. We only left his side for a total of five minutes and he picked that moment to die!

I then felt guilty. I had killed my father.

While later – like now – looking back, I know that isn't the case, it really was my thought process for a long while.

I went outside. The nurse came. She declared him dead. She called for the hearse to come. My mom, when left alone with my father, wrote I LOVE YOU in purple Sharpie across his chest, she told me weeks later. My father donated his body to science. She wanted the strangers that would view him to know that somewhere out there people loved him. That he had a family. That he was missed. We'd get the ashes back within two months in a small plastic black box.

Neighbors came over. Saw the hearse, asked questions. It's all a blur really. People apologized, asked for funeral information – one we never had – per his request. I called a few friends.

By 11pm everyone was gone. My mother and I stood outside while the dog peed on the lawn. Everyone went back to their lives, getting ready for bed, watching shows, planning their events for a tomorrow that hopefully they'll be lucky enough to have. The quote now made sense to me like it never had before.

We brought the dog inside. My mom got the pizza from the stove, now cold, and brought it into the living room. We sat on the couch, beside the hospice bed that was now empty. My mom turned on the TV, neither of us still talking. She pulled up LOST on the DVR and we sat there, in silence, watching it and eating the pizza. I can't remember the episode. The taste of the pizza. Any conversation we may have attempted.

I do remember I did not cry. Hospice came the next day. Removed the bed. My mother cried hysterically. I did not cry. Friends of my parents came by to bring food and we got packages and gift baskets in the mail daily. My mother continued to cry. I continued not to cry.

Two weeks later I was set to return back to work. I got into the car and drove down the road. Suddenly, I was unable to breath. I pulled over onto the side of the road, and cried, finally, for hours. I spoke to my boss and took another week off work. I drove to the hospice center and asked to speak with someone. I went into an emergency session with a on staff psychologist and sat there for two hours, crying, telling this very story to her – and the guilt I felt over his death. She nodded, said she understood, explained it wasn't my fault and advised me to come back and see her weekly. I never returned. And I had stopped crying again, except for on rare occasions from there on out.



I was always the emotional one in life, in relationships, watching a sad movie, reading a sad book and I still am to a point but no where near how I used to be. Lately though, it's slowly changing. I feel like I am more open to things again – friendships, the ideal of perhaps dating someone again, allowing myself to feel finally. And honestly? It scares the crap out of me. It's been a little over two years since his death now and I feel like I am now finally able to think about it and talk about it and learn to open up again. I suppose this is why I wanted to write this. I needed that release again. I actually feel a bit better now.

I lost a lot during that time. Many friendships, a relationship, part of the closeness I had with my mother before then, and of course, my father. I'd give anything to hear him call me 'Beast' again, to have long awkward spans of silence, and have him mutter about my poof while knocking it askew on my head once more.

This was a short period of my life, brief in the grand scheme of things, but was easily one of the most influential moments if my life. I'm still learning from it. I hope I always do.
 
 
Current Mood: okayokay
 
 
 
alabastardalabastard on June 22nd, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
As the computer is killing my eyes, I have sent this to work where I can print it out and read, as I do want to rad it, from what I've read so far.