Last week, my Mom and Dad welcomed a new roommate–hospice. Trudging through a typical Northern Indiana lake effect blast last Wednesday, the social worker who has worked with my Dad for the last six months spoke to us about pain management options. At this point, he has so many medications that I could only deem it as a drug dealer’s personal paradise. I sifted through the pill bottles and decided very quickly I would rather have a nurse take a stab at organizing drugs I’ve never heard of in most cases.
In the few days I was home, my Dad was frail. He has no appetite and is subsisting on a diet of mostly ice cream. The pain medication (and realistically other meds he is taking) made him confused and in a waking-yet-sort-of-asleep type stage. One minute he’d know what was said. The next, he would accuse me of stealing his car keys. This is a man who has clung to his independence with an iron grip for years.
Growing up, my Dad’s solo parenting for a few years meant he was the caretaker for both my Mom and myself. The roles are now reversed and I am afraid for my Mom. She is not in the best physical shape herself. My parents are both intelligent people, but I can see the frustration on her face when she cannot understand what my Dad is saying. Even his voice, which could be quite loud when I was a teenager, is now barely a whisper.
Last night, I dreamed about my parents retiring to Arizona. In the dream, they’d already built a home and were excited to move out there. Both of my parents were healthy and my Dad was excited to play golf, a sport he has loved since a teenager, year-round without having to bundle up. They have close friends who semi-retired out there. When I awoke, I was instantly disappointed and sad that this was not to come to pass.
When I left Friday, I sat down on my Dad’s bed and said good-bye. He wrapped his arms around my waist and began to sob. I cannot properly put into words how scared I was that this moment was the last time I’d speak to him. He told me he was sorry he and my Mom hadn’t been able to come down to Indy as much as he had hoped because of his battle with cancer and Parkinson’s. I told him he really wasn’t missing much and the changes to US 31 made the drive very easy. He then told me he was sad he’d “never get to experience that ease.” He also told me he knew I could take care of myself and he and my Mom were proud of me. In the last few years, I hadn’t felt like I’d given them much to be proud of, especially professionally.
I spoke to him on the phone Saturday. His voice was still a whisper, but he was more coherent. While I am not religious and I am not a big fan of the term “thoughts and prayers” due to politicians cheapening the meaning, I prayed for him with a few of my teammates yesterday after derby practice. My parents are members of a nice church full of great people who’ve helped them in my absence.
They’ve demonstrated what religion should be about–community and selflessness. That seems so rare these days.
I don’t know how long he has on this Earth. I don’t even really know what else to say. I just want him to not be in pain anymore.