In the last four weeks my world has been turned upside down and inside out with the death of my father. From elation at Dad’s sudden improvement in his health and mental status to despair as he chose to stop dialysis treatments to agony as we had to watch him die slowly over six painful days. Outwardly it seems we are mostly back to normal, and some days even feeling good again. But I still cry every time I leave Mom and Dad’s house in Dublin. Still can’t look at photos of him without grief. Can’t listen to the music we played in his room without tears. Maybe I’m hoping for too much too soon.
I thought again about all the times Dad “cheated” death over the last fifteen years, the close calls, the racing trips to Baltimore for what might be our last visit with him, sleepless nights at his bedside in the hospitals, sad pronouncements from doctors that didn’t materialize (much to their amazement). Then three years ago he made a trip down here to see old friends and family, and suddenly decided it was a good idea to try to move here.
We’d asked them to make the move for at least twenty years. I knew life in Baltimore was sapping his strength and endurance as the neighborhood declined, old friends moved or passed away, and time marched on. But suddenly he loved the idea of “coming home” again and the plans were laid. We spent a week or so looking at available houses for them, places that would accommodate his wheelchair and give him freedom to come and go. Finally this funny incident happened. Mom and Dad and Wendie (my cousin) went driving around to see if they found any houses that interested them. They saw one with a for sale sign in the yard and a box with a flyer. They got the flyer and liked what they saw. Meanwhile, their realtor went back to his office and checked the multiple list and found a house that was just listed that looked like it would be perfect for them. He sent me the listing by email to check out. And while I was looking at the online information, Mom called with information on the house they had seen…and it was the SAME house. When the day came to tour the house, it was a done deal. Dad could get into EVERY room of the house easily, including the bathroom, and the basement. There was a large kitchen with lots of cabinets for Mom, a garage, and a full basement, it was just right. It was the kind of house both of them had always wished for over the years.
A couple of months later, with the help of kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, Mom and Dad were moved in and enjoying their new surroundings so much. It was a new start for them in a safer, peaceful place with beautiful scenery and plenty of family close by. The grandkids and great grandkids could come and visit easily instead of being 300 miles away. But we all knew the clock of age was ticking. Every holiday, every birthday became more important. And the medical crises came again and again, each one a bit more scary than the one before. We all knew what it meant, but there was little we could do about any of it.
In the meantime, some real blessings transpired. My sister came to live with Mom and Dad. That was a true answer to prayer in so many ways. Because she battled with so many problems in her life, Dad and Mom both worried about her after they moved to Virginia. Dad wasn’t sure he would ever see his baby girl again. But he did, and she was able to help with Dad’s care over the last couple of years and do things for him that nobody else could. He was so thankful to have her home again, and grateful for her help in cooking and tending to his needs. She was able to help him through long anxious nights when he couldn’t sleep, she could calm him down when medication and nightmares conspired against him. She was also sharp enough to recognize and acknowledge what the rest of us were avoiding, that Dad’s health was going downhill steadily. She knew he was tired of fighting with the assaults on his body and mind. We were so busy cheering him on, encouraging him to keep going, we didn’t want to let him go. But ultimately, it was what HE wanted, and he was afforded the final dignity of choosing his own time and place for checking out. And I guess that overall, it was a good thing for him to have that control over his life and his body when so much else had been robbed by time and illness.