My last few days with my Dad were quite poignant. Over the months he had become more and more quiet. No longer easily agitated or acting out. He could spend an entire day and say absolutely nothing. This made my Mother crazy and constantly asking him if he wanted something, but he was content. I think he had ended the battle with his body at that time. When he did talk it was powerful and emotional, which knowing my Father was NOT the way he normally talked.
I was in the office one day working on some bills and paperwork, when he walked in with his walker. He said “I’m not sure exactly what you do, but I know we wouldn’t be able to get by without you. I really appreciate you and all you do.”
I couldn’t cry then, but I did on my drive home. He always wanted to sit next to anyone and hold their hands. This was such a sweet man, and the man he wanted me to remember.
On a Wednesday in March, he had an eye appointment. I didn’t want to take him, the car and getting outside made him nervous. We had already been told there was nothing that could be done for his vision. He lost most of the sight in one eye during his stroke 2 years ago and the other eye was doing all it could. But, he was feeling no one was paying attention to his needs and I wanted to appease him. So we went to the eye doctor. And, yes he was confused, and agitated and frustrated. They could do nothing. We drove home and he reached over to hold my hand (as he often did in the car) and started to talk to me. He said he was getting worried he would “forget her”. I knew he meant my Mom. I tried to reassure him that it was my job to be his memory. I would do my best to make sure he knew who she was. He said “this time of life is not what I expected”. He became very quiet after that.
2 days from that appointment, I received a call early in the morning. “Your Dad can’t get out of bed”. I got dressed and headed over. When I arrived, he was standing in his underwear at the foot of the bed with his walker. He was marching in place. He couldn’t go forward. This went on for quiet a while before we could get him into the bathroom. Eventually we got him dressed and sat down at the breakfast table. I would ask him a question, “Dad, do you want coffee?” and he would say “Do you want coffee?”. This went on thru the breakfast and then we got him in his chair. It was clear he had had some type of stroke. I started making phone calls and trying to prepare what might lie ahead. Then around 3 o’clock, we tried to get him out of the chair. He couldn’t bend or move. He was no longer responding. We literally “wheel barreled” him into the bed. Then I called my Sister and arranged for her to come out in the morning. Hospice brought us a hospital bed and the long vigil began.
8 days. For 8 days he laid in that bed and didn’t eat, or drink or respond to much on anything. One night I brought in my guitar and we sang and laughed and played music. We read to him, we held his hand. My Mother only left his side for a few hours each day. They brought her a hospital bed too and they could hold hands at night. His body was deteriorating in front of us. I had NO IDEA that a body could go that long without any nourishment. The VA came out and did a ceremony in honor of his service. A minister came by a few times. Then, on the 8th day I went back to my house (which I did each night) and got a call around 11:30. He stopped breathing. I think my initial thought was, “Thank God”. I felt as if I had said goodbye to him numerous times through the week. In fact I felt as if weeks ago we had our goodbyes. The day he came into the office, the way he looked, the way he spoke, It filled me with more love for him than I could have ever imagined. That was our Goodbye, that was our Bon Voyage. I will miss you forever Dad.