Many of you have been enjoying my family stories. This one isn’t really posted for enjoyment but I hope someone can get something from it. I’m not even sure this is appropriate.
As you may or may not know, both of my parents are now gone. My father passed at age 57 13 years ago. Mom nearly made it to her 65th birthday 3 years ago.
In dad’s last years he was getting in to video production. Setting up an editing studio and his subject matter was how to videos. How to oil paint, how to wood carve, how to basketweave. Any artsy or crafty type pass time he sought out people to be featured in these videos. During his last few months with us, he had become quite ill and for the most part preferred to stay in bed rather than do much of anything. This wasn’t unusual as he had problems and from time to time they would creep up on him and knock him on his ass so to speak. Since I didn’t live there I didn’t really realize the magnitude of it all. Sunday nights, were family dinner night and as far as I could see, it was business as usual with him. During his last few weeks, once, he tried to tell me what he wanted when he passed. As I said, he had gotten sick before, always recovered, so I didn’t want to hear any death talk from him and told him so. That, turned out to be one of the biggest regrets of my life.
The day of the last time I saw him alive, he had called me to come over that evening to help him with something computer related. I don’t even remember now what it was. Apparently he was finally feeling better because he had also invited friends over for later in the week. This was a Tuesday (I’ll never forget it). When I got there that evening, he was sitting at the kitchen table shivering uncontrollably and becoming more and more incoherent. We called 911 and EMS came, checked him out, and took him to the hospital. Mom told me to just go home and she’d call me when she knew anything. She called me a couple hours later and told me they were waiting to give him a cat scan or something like that. I could see him the next morning and mom left to go do something (I think). They gave him a medication that was supposed to relax him and left him laying on the gurney in the hallway. Apparently this med relaxed him too much because for a 10+ minute period, he choked to death, while unattended. I suppose it’s entirely possible he would have died that night anyway but the way it was described to me, he should have been alive the next day if they had been keeping a better watch on him. When mom shortly after, returned to the hospital, her husband was dead. Just like that. I had rented a movie on the way home and fell asleep watching it. I was awakened at around midnight with my dog having a major fit outside at the gate, and my uncle at the door to tell me my father had died.
We spent the next day trying to figure out what he might have wanted and I couldn’t help think back a couple months earlier, when he tried to tell me and I wouldn’t listen to it. That was my own selfishness at it’s peak in my opinion and something that to this day, I still regret. I didn’t listen to what he wanted to say to me and I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. We had had our clashes over the years. Every father and son does. The only thing I could take solace in for myself, is that after the last one, we told each other that whatever it was, was stupid to argue about (it was) and that we loved each other. We made the best arrangements we could think of for him and gave him a nice send off. Was it what he wanted? In part, I think so but I’ll never be certain of it. It really doesn’t matter I guess, he’s just as dead either way but, I still wish I had listened to what he had to say to me.
4+ years ago, mom was told she had cancer. She told me. Said surgery wasn’t an option with the type and even if it was, she’d been cut open enough in her last several years. Didn’t want anymore. I had to respect that decision because nothing I said was going to change it. At the time I was driving test vehicles for a local company who does testing and other things for the (then) big 3 auto companies. The work was becoming scarce anyway so I told them that if they absolutely had to have me, I’d be around but otherwise, I had things to take care of. Mom had decided to try and fight the cancer with treatment minus surgery so the point was going to come where she needed a lot of help. She didn’t want to tell any other family members, and didn’t. I was the only one who knew. My nephew knew as well because he lived with her at the time. She insisted, up until the treatments and even while she was receiving them to keep working at her home improvement business. She was always convinced that if she just laid down, she would never get back up again. The first doctors had basically told her to go home and die. They told her to get rid of her dog, boot her grandson and his kids out of the house, no more gardening, just sit there in a plastic bubble. I believe to this very day that though mom had decided to fight the disease, she was convinced she didn’t have long to go. The type of cancer just isn’t something that’s easily beaten because of the nature of it. The way it was explained was even if they can get it into remission, it has a way of masking itself and showing up somewhere else.
Anyway, she went through 4 brutal rounds of Chemotherapy and by the time she completed them, was about half her body weight as when she started. She of course lost all of her hair but she never gave up. I was her driver and go getter. By the time of the third round, we finally told my sister who decided then, to move back to the area. Many may think it cruel of mom to not want to say anything but she hated pity parties and didn’t want any for herself. She was convinced that if she Had said anything, that’s all it would have been. For her, through most of that first round of treatments, it was business as usual. Even still, though, we never talked about what if she doesn’t make it. She had convinced herself she was going to beat it and do so on her terms. After the end of the 4th round, it even began to appear that way. Her PET scan a month later, revealed they had gotten the cancer. Remission! HOOORAY!!!!!
Mom began to gain her weight back and even was regrowing her hair though at this point she hadn’t let anyone see her without it. The final part of treatments was radiation to make sure that the cancer hadn’t spread to the brain. It cost her her hair again. Near the end of those treatments, they told her the cancer was back. Long story short here, she wasn’t going to beat it this time though she did try. When I took her for the final treatment, they told her it was pointless to continue putting her through that. Sometime earlier, the discussion had come up about what to do for final arrangements. Remembering back to how I didn’t want to listen to my father, I asked mom what she wanted done. She told me and it’s what she got.
While I lost my father suddenly, and never got a chance to say goodbye to him, I was able to spend the last year of my mother’s life with and looking after her. I didn’t live with her mind you, she remained independent until she couldn’t any longer, but I was never more than a call away. When mom passed, the family was around her. She just simply exhaled her last breath and didn’t take another. I am forever grateful that I/we were able to be there for it and at the same time, regretful of the way my father went.
Be good and listen to one another. You don’t know for a fact, you’ll have a second chance to do it. Those are my thoughts for the day. Kind of a dark subject matter I know but, it’s part of what makes me who I am. It’s part of the why I treat people the way I do. I’ll continue with the lighter stories later in the week.