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The Lingering Goodbye.

25 September 2017

My father survived his brush with death last month, and has now largely recovered physically, and even mentally. He’s capable of listening and engaging in conversations. He’s not slurring nearly so badly. And he doing less in the way of what I can only think of as “recent hallucinationing”. Meaning, he never seems to actively hallucinate, but he often would talk about conversations that he’d “recently had” with doctors or other people who he imagined told him things. Conversations that never happened.

He’s been moved to a secure wing of a nursing home in Tucson, because he keeps trying to hurt himself and escape. He’s completely unaware of how helpless he is. He thinks he can take care of himself, or that his partner or my sisters could take care of him. It’s delusional, in the extreme. But it makes him very depressed, because he doesn’t understand why he’s in the place he’s in.

And as long as he’s incapable of basic physical tasks like transferring from a bed to a chair, or a chair to a car, he can’t be moved. And he won’t try to do those things, because he thinks he can already do them. He won’t engage with physical therapy. Now that he’s not drunk all the time, he’s doing a bit better mentally, but it took a long time. The last month or two has to be a bewildering, Kafkaesque nightmare. I feel terrible for him.

Now, he’s become convinced that he is going to go live in a cabin in the woods at my little sister’s house. He’s further convinced that I am standing in the way of this. He wants to do this because he’s convinced that his partner is having orgies without him. My sisters are amenable (against my better judgment) to the idea of Dad moving to a nursing home nearer to where they live, but Dad can’t understand that they mean a nursing home and not this self-constructed cabin (it’s a nice cabin, but it’s in no way appropriate for anyone with any kind of special needs).

Dad is in a debilitatingly quixotic state of mind, and I’m convinced that within a month or two of moving to where my sisters live he’d be demanding to go home to Tucson again. I think my sisters are insane to entertain the idea, and I’ve told them so. I can’t in good conscience participate in that course of action, but I also won’t oppose it. I know they want what’s best for dad, and are doing what they think is right. They’re closer to it than I am. I’m allowed to disagree, but meddling or insisting would be inappropriate, and I won’t attempt to derail anything they choose.

So I’ve sort of come to a “on their heads be it” decision. Dad is in a place where he’s safe, well-cared for, and close to the woman who’s essentially been his wife for 25 years. He’s unhappy, but I doubt anything can be done about that at this point. Dad hasn’t been happy in years except in small and diminishing intervals. I feel terrible for him, and I kind of think the best thing would have been for the sepsis to kill him. He talks constantly of suicide.

This is all part of how we’ve turned dying into a long miserable slow cruel process. Half a century ago, my father would have died several years ago as a result of his stroke, and uncontrolled diabetes. But modern pills and treatment have kept him in a miserable limbo, existing in a state of semi-viability. The condition he’s in now could last a decade, with skilled nurses taking care of him. A decade of misery and depression, infirmity and rage.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 25 September 2017 09:47

    So sorry about your Dad and what this causing in the family.
    My mother-in-law is in a rehabilitation ward now after her fall. They did a cognitive test – not good scores. The fall, her lying there for in indeterminate number of hours and then over a week being shuffled from ward to ward and bed to bed with no phsyio mean she has declined dramatically in days. She can’t get up and walk at all now. She just wants to “go home”… to a huge house slowly falling in to total disrepair around her and which is totally impracticable now. Bathroom only upstairs, too many steps into out of etc. etc. But she just doesn’t understand. My wife is, now, and only child so she’s having to essentially make the decisions and deal with all on her own.
    Like you I do wonder. 33 years ago my Dad had a heart attack and was gone, 59 which was way too young … but… He’d been in his shed just beforehand still living his life well.

  2. Aimee permalink
    25 September 2017 16:22

    My husband’s grandmother died on Saturday. Everyone is sad, of course, but it was about the best death I can imagine, actually. She was in her mid nineties (she didn’t know old she is because she was born in a place and time without birth certificates) and that morning she had been up cleaning and cooking. Of course she’s been frail
    for many years and had bad spells here and there, but she was completely in her right mind and able to care for herself most of the time. Saturday afternoon she went to bed feeling bad, and when it was clear she was very weak everyone came to be around her and then she just died. At home, with her family around her, and very little pain. My
    Mother in law, her only daughter, did call an ambulance but it came “too late.” And really, thank God. I think people are only allowed to die at home in third world countries anymore.

  3. 26 September 2017 08:27

    I’m sorry that you and your family are going through this. It is difficult. My dad was dying for his last 20 (or more) years. It seemed he would never die, so when he finally did, it was shocking. I hope to God that this is not my fate, it is my worst nightmare.

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