Dad passed away just before midnight on Monday, November 5th. Days before, he had told me, “You know, 93 is right on the brink, but 94? You might as well pack your bags.” He didn’t feel “peachy keen” anymore, though he still often said he did. He confessed to me one day that he felt like “horse doo-doo”, strong words for my dad who never complained. He had been diagnosed with pneumonia a few days before. He also said, “This is a funny thing. Either I’ll get over this or I’ll just go.” I asked if he’d decided which he’d do and he kind of chuckled and shook his head no. “But at least Mom is taken care of and all the funeral plans are made.” He said this very matter of fact.
When Dad couldn’t walk anymore, my sister and I took turns to stay with them. The facility staff does not do transfers or help with toileting. After Cathy left, I just moved in with them to help out. Oddly enough, though he was clearly getting weaker and weaker, his vital signs remained normal and the palliative care nurse didn’t feel he was necessarily ready for inpatient hospice. So, as a way to get him some help and evaluate further, they recommended having Dad go for a “medical respite” at a nursing home in town. He was transported Monday evening. I followed and stayed with him until 9 that evening. We called Mom from his room and he told her that I had gotten him settled into the hotel.
Before I left, he asked if I’d be there first thing in the morning. I certainly was. The call came right before midnight. Dad’s stay at respite care had lasted about 7 hours. I truly believe Dad’s leaving for the respite care gave him the permission and the space he needed to leave. I feel very much at peace with his passing.
I’m glad Cathy was able to come out one more time last weekend, and that our brothers, Tom and Dave, had been out very recently, too. True to Dad, he waited until everyone had gone home. I’m sure he didn’t want to upset their visits. And up until the last, he was trying to feed us all, offering us the desserts that came with his meals – heck, he offered us his meals, too, and a bottle of Ensure, if we wanted one!
From Dad, I inherited my organizational ability. I have his old desk, which he built, and it’s just as cluttered as it was when it sat in his office.
He taught me many things, but he didn’t teach me how to cook or how to eat healthy foods. His Christmas eve chili was made with an institution size can of pinto beans. When we got our brown bag lunches mixed up one day, I opened mine to a sandwich with peanut butter 1/2 inch thick and margarine 1/2 inch thick. Up until the last, he still was convinced that my favorite foods were pickled beets and Velveeta cheese. .. and Oreo cookies. He never forgot the Oreo cookies!
Dad taught me to not take life too seriously, to make friends where ever I go, to greet people in their own language whenever possible. He had the rare capacity to love unconditionally without loving blindly. He showed us, by his example, that getting old didn’t mean ignoring the world around you. He kept up with the news from around the world, especially his beloved Africa. He joined in with protests against the Gulf War and the news cameras liked to zoom in on the old guy who walked with a cane who was out there protesting. He took care of people, always offering them whatever he thought they might need.
He was my dad, and in the last ten years, my confidante and my ally. I will miss him terribly.