I keep remembering this SCBWI event I was at a couple summers ago where J. got a phone call during the event. Her father had just had a heart attack and died. It was completely out of the blue. Though J. and I aren’t especially close, her getting that call hit me hard because I’ve lived the last seven years of my life afraid to go anywhere or afraid to make major plans because I know that call is coming for me, too.
Don’t get me wrong…I HAVE gone away (never for more than a week, though)…it’s just hard. It isn’t hard for my mother, though. She’s going to Florida in January for three months. And she’s leaving my dad in the nursing home. This is my mother…this is who she is (long story!). There’s no changing her. I am four and a half hours away from my dad; my brother is three hours away. Anything that happens to Dad while she’s gone will fall to us to take care of.
I just don’t see how she can go. Sure, it’s possible he’ll linger like this for several years yet…but I doubt it. I say this all the time, but I’ve never seen him look so bad as he did this weekend. And I honestly don’t see how he can get much worse. He’ll never walk again (it’s too hard on him…causes angina). He’s just getting weaker and weaker…he can’t even hold his head up anymore (that was a change since I saw him last month). He’s in terrible pain. He hardly spoke while we were there. Hardly ate (I even brought him some lefse…homemade…his mother’s recipe). He just wanted to sleep. His coloring was awful…his face was swollen…and it was like there was nobody home when I looked into his eyes. I know he’s depressed…he’s depressed because he’s turning 70 tomorrow and his own father died at age 70 (though he’s been saying he’s “ready to go” for years). And I know he’s depressed about my mother going to Florida without him. But this is more than depression.
Let’s just say I’m glad I threw the camera in the van at the last minute (and I’ve encouraged my brother, who will be visiting Dad tomorrow, to do the same). I got a picture of him with my boys, a picture of him with my husband and me, and a picture of just the two of us. I have a feeling those will be the last pictures I’ll have of him.
While my husband agrees that Dad doesn’t look good, he’s pretty sure we’ll see him in December. He doesn’t think anything will happen until either 1) the last week in December, a few days before my mom leaves (to prevent her from going) or 2) shortly after she leaves (because he’ll just completely give up then). Maybe…but maybe not…
I keep wondering…would it be better to be in J’s position, where it just happens. Your parent dies. No warning. No chance to say good bye. Or is it better like this…watching your parent linger with virtually no quality of life for seven years…though they ARE still alive…and most of the time they’re even mostly coherent…but each time you say good bye, you’re certain this will be the last good bye…
Maybe it isn’t any easier either way. It’s never easy to lose a parent. Even when you essentially “lost” them seven years ago.