When I started thinking about this blog, I never expected to immediately be in the situation I’m in today. I had in my mind several topics to talk about, like how I tear up every AARP invite I get in the mail and how I do NOT want discounted coffee at McDonalds. Light, hopefully entertaining rants of a man for whom the years have somehow sneaked by like the most advanced stealth fighters.
But as I write this, I am in my mother’s den, with my only brother, and my oldest (my son,) with my father in a Hospital Bed in the room with us. He came home from the hospital into hospice care, and last night the nurse took us into the dining room so Dad couldn’t hear, and talked to us about handling his last days. She gently told us everything is shutting down but the passing should be peaceful; he will, she assured us, go to sleep (he’s been sleeping a lot) and simply not wake back up. My mother, who called my brother and I and told us we need to drive from our homes hours away from here and get here immediately, knew this was the end, but talking with the nurse last night made her truly accept that her husband of 63 years would be gone in what will surely be a matter of days. We talked funeral arrangements and how important it is for her to tell Dad she’s going to be OK.
My Dad has been struggling with COPD for years. He grew up in the south and smoked his entire life and this got him before cancer did. He’s been rushed to the hospital enough, due to breathing problems, that the local EMS drivers know him well. Every time, for the last year, that he’s gone in I’ve been prepared for him to not make it out, but every time before he recovered, came home, and has been fine other than being attached to his oxygen and unable to move much. For an old rugged retired Air Force sergeant, the inability to do much for himself has been hard.
He was a tough but loving father while I was growing up. He wasn’t very emotive, but he would say he loved me when I’d hug him before going to bed every night. He would have that rough stubble on his face at night and the smell of Old Spice. I saw the change in him when my kids came along; Papa was a very emotive, open, loving grandfather.
I’m at the age where losing your parents is something you prepare for. You know you’ll get that phone call any day. My parents are both in their 80s and they have both had some health problems. You tell yourself you’re prepared…. and then this. I don’t know if it would be “better” if I’d simply gotten the call from my Mom one day saying Dad’s passed away, versus sitting here looking at him and knowing that tonight, tomorrow, maybe a few days from now but certainly not two weeks ago, he will take his last breath and my Dad will truly be gone. I worry about my Mom when that happens, but that’s another set of thoughts and emotions. Right now, I’m looking at him, thin, in a hospital bed, trying to breathe while he sleeps, wondering when it will be his last, and remembering the young man that took me fishing and stood on the sideline watching as I was playing pee wee football, remembering how he came home every day in his Air Force khakis, and feeling really, really old.
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