Saturday, February 25, 2012

They Live On: The Prologue

This quickly in the book They Live On, I can already see a lot of parallels between myself and the author, Patricia. Her father is the one who first became ill. Her mother had to bear the burden of caring for him. She fought to do what she could, to follow his wishes and to care for him, but still ends up being the one who leaves first. Patricia lives far away and cannot always come home to help out. Neither can her sister, who also lives far away. She and her sister do have that biological bond, but are different enough that it is hard to hold each other up. It's more comforting for both of them to speak with friends and strangers than it is to depend on each other.

In one part, Patricia talks about sleeping in her parents' bed. Her mother was unable to lie in the bed that she had shared with her husband for so many years. She had moved to the guest bedroom. So when Patricia visits, she ends up sleeping there. It brings back memories of when I went home that spring break. Before my father went unconscious, I was able to talk to him on the phone. He told me that when I came to town, I could go ahead and sleep in their bedroom during my stay, instead of sleeping in my usual place on the couch out in the living room. (Their spare bedrooms in this retirement abode of theirs were for offices and storage.) I stayed in that bed every night until after Dad passed away. I only stopped when I donated the bed to one of my former "kids," for her future apartment living in college.

It was comforting to sleep in the bed. Even though the sheets were clean, I could still inhale the smell of my parents, which had permeated the bedding over all of those years. It brought back a sense of comfort so familiar from during my childhood. Many a night did I end up in their bedroom if I was feeling sick or had a nightmare. I vividly remember my nighttime ritual as a young girl, reading books and hanging out in their bed until it was time to get into my own across the hall. Sure, everyone has those memories. But these are my memories from my parents in their bed.

Patricia also talks about calling her mother on a daily basis to check on her. I had gotten into the habit of calling my parents at least once a week as it was. Whenever Dad was really sick, I would call my mother more frequently. As my mother deteriorated, I spoke with my father even more. After she moved into her first nursing home, I did talk to him almost every day. We needed each other even more at that point. At the very least, we kept up with each other on Facebook.

Another part I really liked in the prologue is this paragraph from page 5:
How I handle - no, how I participate in - my father's death will define me as a person. I want it to be the best me, one of whom I can be proud when it's over. One who doesn't run from the agony, who doesn't shirk the duty. One who really feels the pain, who lets it hurt and does not seek distraction. One who gives him what he needs and puts all the old wounds aside. I want to be someone my dad is proud last.
As soon as the nurse told us that our father had pneumonia that day he went unconscious, I knew it was the end. Just a half year prior, his own mother passed away after contracting pneumonia. It's the way the elderly often end up going. My father didn't seem elderly - he was only 68 years old. But his body was so old and tired and sick after years of illness, that physically he was significantly older.

When they scheduled his brain surgery on April 19th, I knew that I would not leave him until he hopefully came out of the ICU or the other unspeakable and inevitable happened. That surgery happened over spring break, which was why I had gone home, anyway. My sister was home because we wanted to all be together for a happier time than our previous reunion the previous fall at Grandma's funeral.

When Dad didn't wake up within the next few days after his surgery and kept getting mysterious infections, I took the following week off of work. My sister had to go back West for her job. I lived within driving distance but couldn't bear to be gone. I went to that hospital every day. I checked in with the nurses at least once a day when I wasn't there. I held my father's hand. I talked to him. I read to him. I played music and movies for him. I prayed alone and with numerous people over him. Only while their prayers were for his recovery, mine were to end his suffering, no matter the outcome. Yes, I wanted my father to stay with me. But that was too selfish. It wasn't my decision.

They moved him out of ICU to an LTAC - long-term acute care facility. He was still essentially in a coma. But he appeared to be stable. The hope was that he would eventually come out of it. I went home for a few weeks. But then I got the phone call saying that they were going to run tests on the brain waves and some tough decisions would have to be made. I took off the rest of the school year and returned home the Friday before Memorial Day. On Memorial Day, I got a phone call from a friend whose mom was one of the nurses. Dad's eyes were finally open! It seemed like a hopeful sign. But, it was just the beginning of the rally before the end. That was also the same day that we were told that his kidneys were shutting down and we needed to move him to Hospice.

That was the point at which I vowed that I would be there at the very end. My father witnessed me coming into this world. I was going to be there when he left it. I told him repeatedly that I would not leave him. I know he was happy I was there. He often cried when I had to leave at night. And leaving was so hard to do. You can read more about that last day at "P is for Peaceful Passing."

After he died, certain family members kept telling me they were worried about me. I would rage and lash out. I cried. I ranted. But dammit, I had just lost my father. I am the kind of person who needs to feel every inch of the pain to get through a situation. I will wallow in it, like picking a scab over and over. But I have to feel it in order to heal. Just because you don't understand my process doesn't mean it is wrong.

I also like to mark anniversaries. It is another coping mechanism. And that is why I am doing this series.

This book is also available from Yesterday's Muse.

1 comment:

  1. Touching and beautiful blog! You had me remembering and feeling all over again the deaths of my own parents.

    Many blessings for your loss. They are indeed always with you regardless as you know though...