T.S. Elliot called April the “cruelest month”. And I guess it has been cruel. But another way of looking at it would be to call it the kindest. Dad has been slowly slipping away since his stroke about eighteen months ago. And it’s been hard to watch a guy who was interested in everyone and everything and would try anything begin to sleep his days away.
He enjoyed every day whether it included cross country skiing, driving dialysis patients for the Red Cross, volunteering at Tanglewood, teaching his grandchildren how to play “oh Hell”, taking his great grandchildren trick or treating, having a morning cup of coffee and doing the crossword puzzle with Annette in bed or simply sipping a Manhattan at the end of a busy day. The man never stopped and Annette, nine years younger, had trouble keeping up with him.
Yesterday was hard. Dad had been brought to the hospital on Saturday morning. He was unresponsive and seemed to be working hard with every breath. Saturday and a Sunday were long days, especially for Kim and Paula and Annette. I was there by late Sunday afternoon. The medical team was working hard to get his sodium levels down, telling us if they could get them regulated, dad would wake up and begin to get well.
By Monday morning, I think we all knew it wasn’t going to happen. The doctor wanted to do an MRI to determine whether dad had had a stroke. I asked what they’d do differently if they found out that was so. The answer was “nothing”…so we said no to the MRI. Shortly after that we talked to the doctor again. We all knew it was time to stop working so hard to keep him alive and just make him as comfortable as possible.
Dad was moved to a pretty room in their hospice section. A cart was brought in with coffee, tea and water and snacks for the family. We sat with dad, telling stories, playing music on my iphone ( first my church music and then Neil Diamond). The room was big and that was good. Five of his seven kids were there, Annette’s nieces came. Annette sat by his side, stroking his head, massaging his hands with cream. We worried about how hard he was working to breathe and the nursing staff increased the morphine.
I left with Annette about 7:15. Kim and John were going to take shifts during the night but that wasn’t needed. Dad died about 8:15. Annette and I went back and sat with him along with Kim and Karen. Annette’s nephew, George, arrived. Finally, about 10:00 Annette and I left the hospital.
Dad would have been 95 next month and even though we’ll miss him terribly, I know it was time and I know, as Paula said, he was probably very happy to get rid of his old, frail body. The next few days will be hard ones for all of us. And harder still will be the days after that when Annette, who until recently never went grocery shopping without him, has to get used to living alone.
Yes, April is the crudest month…and the kindest and yesterday was the saddest day but i am so very glad I was here to see a good, good man slip the bonds of earth and fly.