We had recently moved from the area my daughters grew up in when I received a call from an officer with the PD. When he first began speaking, telling me who he was and where he was calling from, my first thought was, oh dear god, something has happened to my Dad. Once i snapped out of my fearful thoughts, I heard him say he was with my Dad at mothers house and that my Dad had found her, dead, in her living room. I asked how he was doing and the officer told me, not so good. I asked to speak with him and when i heard his voice, although it sounded like my Dad, he was not his normal boisterous self and i knew he was very upset.
My Dad was back in the hospital, which marks his 6th stay in as many years. His doctor said he was having some issues with his heart and they needed to adjust his pacemaker. I had no reason to worry that it was anything more than a routine hospital stay. However, on April 20th, I flew to Victorville to see my Dad as he had yet to be discharged and it was determinedly the longest he had ever been in the hospital. I spent the weekend with him; talking, laughing, watching tv. On the second day of my visit, I informed the nurse that we would be going out to lunch at a nearby restaurant. She proceeded to tell me that he wasn’t allowed to leave and I told her i would take full responsibility for him. She still wasn’t happy but she didn’t attempt to stop us either. I assumed she realized that my being his medical power of attorney, perhaps she wasn’t going to put up much of a fuss. My Dad ordered apple pie and added a bit of hot sauce, as usual. This gave me hope as this showed me he was not doing so badly since he was still in his regular but odd eating routine.
As we ate, i noticed my Dad was wearing a very nice gold ring with several diamonds running across the top. I wasn’t going to ask, however, I’d never seen this ring before and was more than curious. He told me my mother bought it for him many years ago, when they were still together. As i listened, a realization hit me, that I didn’t expect. He was mourning her death. Normally, i suppose this wouldn’t be unusual, except that, when they were together, it was one fight after another. They divorced the year after i left home.
We returned to the hospital and he settled in to his room. At some point a nurse came to the door and asked to speak with me. she seemed overly concerned as we walked back to her station so I began the conversation by asking how my Dad was doing and when he was slotted to be discharged. She gave me a curiously strange look and said, ”Normally, our hospice patients do not return home or discharge to any other facility”. At this point, I think my mind shut down and I told her I was going back to my Dads room. I didn’t ask him about the hospice as I had decided she had my Dad confused with another patient and there was no point in causing him any undue stress. We did discuss the VA hospital/home in Reno and I told him they would have a place for him soon. This would mean he would only be approx 90 miles from where I was living and would make visiting so much easier and more frequent.
On the third day of my visit, Sunday, I flew home. Although my flight was relatively short, I couldn’t relax. Something didn’t feel quite right. On Monday morning, the hospital called me. His nurse was explaining to me that at the end, they typically will stop all medications except what is necessary to keep their patients comfortable. My heart and mind were telling me that something was terribly wrong and as i realized i hadn’t heard a lot of what she was saying, i asked to speak with his doctor. He proceeded to repeat what she had initially explained to me about his meds and I asked, doesn’t he need his medications? At this point, he basically said, he would only be administering any pain meds, my Dad would need, to be comfortable until the end. The end? Of what…his stay? His next words still throttle my heart…”Your Dad is dying and we want him to be as comfortable as possible”. The confusion didn’t stop me from asking the doctor why he was doing so well when i was there visiting and even when i took him to lunch. Now the confusion bug had just bit the doctor as he asked, “when did you take him to lunch?” When i told him, just a couple of days ago, the silence was deafening. Tuesday came and I was still reeling from the previous days conversations with the hospital. His nurse called and said he was resting well and asked if I’d like to speak with him. What? So he’s doing alright then? No…but he will probably be able to hear your voice. I can hold the phone to his ear.
As i spoke to my Dad…my heart was breaking. I was still in denial of what the nurse and doctor had told me, so i played along, hoping that, in the next few minutes, he would break out in to one of his laughs and whatever this was would go away and we’d be back on course with our plans to move him to Reno. As quickly as that thought came, it left with the sound of his nurses voice…she was telling me that my Dad heard me talking to him as he was smiling. My daughters also spoke with their Grandpa, briefly. The next morning had to be one of the worst days of my life. The hospital called and told me my Dad was gone. Passed away peacefully.
The month of April sucks! I lost my Dad on the 23rd, and one of my dearest friends was murdered two years later on April 7th.