Trying to pack a 24 hour day in a coherent post is about the subject. I had a couple options. But decided to go a different direction. Non fiction.
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning. It will very hot, as summer should. But the morning is slightly cool. Windows open and ceiling fan moves the night air. My day to sleep in stays about 9AM. My wife and I are locked in a routine.
After breakfast, we will go pick up my mom. We have seen her everyday for two weeks. The toll of my father’s illness still well concealed in her. We all know the day is coming. We don’t talk about it much. The night before Mom did. Sunday would be spent at the hospice. As every evening was. As every minute of work, or that didn’t income sleep would.
Mom was very relaxed. The feeling was lost on her for the previous year. By 11 AM, we have stopped by to get her. Normally, there would be anxiety and she would be at the door waiting. Thus day was a little different. The son doesn’t recognize acceptance without a mask.
My parents live about twenty minutes from the hospice. My mom spent about twelve hours away this time. That’s a record. She wanted my father in the hospice to make sure he had around the clock care to keep him comfortable. Also because as a nurse, she never wanted to be the one to give that last pain killer. The pills are always the same but one time the person will slip away forever. You can rationalize it. But what you have gave them has pushed them into permanent sleep. No spouse needs to feel that.
Our drive was quiet. An unnerving quiet. My wife tried to start conversations but they died quickly. “Where’s Val (my sister)?” My wife
“She’s having a hard time with this.” My mom.
(Like any of us like doing this! She’s a f’ing nurse! She can do it for others!) My mouth quiet but the mind speaks
“Where should we go for lunch?” My wife worrying about mom eating.
“Did you get any sleep? ” my wife again.
That’s about all that was said.
By noon, the the if us are bedside. My father was 5 foot, 10 inches tall, maybe 160 pounds when healthy. Pheocromocytoma had grown thirty years inside. It creates tumors in the glands. My father’s adernal gland was consumed by something that would become the size of an orange. The tumor would dump norepinephrine into his blood playing hell with blood pressure. It also produced little cysts that split off from the mother tumor. The mother tumor was called binary. But noone knew how many of the other cysts would become malignant. There were thousands in the end. He was 125 pounds at this point.
We spent a couple hours holding his hands. Talking to a body. Seeing him in a state of unrest. Not able to recognize us, but reacting to our voices every so often. This is not a day anyone should go through. The minutes were agony.
By 2pm, my mom decides is time for lunch. I get the draw to pick up food. Hell, I couldn’t tell you where or what it was. Just an excuse to free myself. I talk to a nurse outside the room. She tells me this can go in for days. And his schedule for pills for the rest of the day. She says 6pm and I never think twice why she mentioned the time until later.
By 4pm, my wife and mom have taken turns leaving the room. I’m suddenly realizing we have been telling my father is time to leave. We developed a chorus, a dark chorus of leaving his works of pain. He just kept hanging on. The hands would squeeze time to time. He would move abruptly. But never gain consciousness.
At 5:50, here comes the nurse. She is there to change the linens and that next pill. We move outside the room. We’re ask looking out the window at the beautiful landscape around the hospice. As single ding conned behind us. Neither if us move. We hear the door open and close behind us. We never saw a second nurse go in the room. He is gone. He waited all day and would not leave without us there.
My mom was dumbfounded. She know it would happen. She cried a little but was at peace with it. At least from the outside, she seemed if a weight had been lifted.
I had spent a year working my dad out, taking him up and down stairs, helping mom give him showers. I was so relieved. He was a lifetime learner. I mean dvds of art appreciation, world religions, math theory, astronomy, philosophy, high brow and deep science stuff. He was a organic chemistry Professor at local college. But he lost the ability of short term memory. He was a shell and he was well aware of it.
But in seven hours in a day, the finale was calling my sister and telling her. She answered the phone by saying “I’m pulling into Walmart.”
I told her that he was gone. And we were leaving the hospice. My day was over early. The relief and disbelief combined for a couple days.