Timing is everything. This is short story about the irony of timing. A real life-and-death account that begs the cliche’: You can’t make this stuff up!
I flew back to Tampa last evening after spending six emotionally draining days with my father and family. Spending the time with Dad was the easy part. Playing referee to my high strung and sometimes squabbling mother, sister and nephews was exhausting!
But this story isn’t about them. It’s about timing and how small things can lead to amazing blessings.
My father has been quickly slipping away in fits and starts. He would have a good day, followed by one that’s not so good. Good meant he was alert much of the day, eating 3 small meals and able to smile and utter a few short, mainly unintelligible sentences.
Bad meant he was experiencing pain and discomfort in his abdomen and bowels. Dad has had prostate cancer for more than a decade. Before he fell in the shower (why the CNA had him standing-up I will never understand) and fractured his C-6 vertebra, he had been using a walker and would sit-up and eat at the kitchen table. Since then he has been relegated to bed and a fancy, multi-position wheel chair; now mostly bed.
A scan had revealed possible masticates in the area of the fracture. But I don’t believe that the cancer is killing him; too soon and he isn’t in enough pain. Dad has endured years of irritable bowel since being zapped with radiation for his prostate. And he has a catheter bag for urine; I believe that was added four or five years ago. Constant UTI infections and inactivity have left him weak. My father is now a 140 lb shriveled shell of the strong, 6′ 3″, 200 lb man he used to be.
Is he feeling urinary tract pain? After taking oral, liquid antibiotics for weeks, those have been discontinued. Is he feeling pain from straining to go so often he has injured himself? I observed several bloody stools as we helped keep him clean and dry.
My best guess is he has one or more tumors, most likely in his colon. For the first time his nurse can feel his lower abdomen is distended and rock hard. In the end, I believe it will have been infection that did-him-in. That and the fact he’s a remarkable 91 years old and worn-out. The guy is just tired.
But all in all he’s in remarkably good condition. Mentally, his dementia has progressed to the point he can barely communicate. It has gotten much worse since his fall. Hospice calls it “an event.”
I’m going to write more about hospice in the coming days. I have learned so much from them!
Now that you are up-to-speed about my father’s condition I can reveal my ironic twist.
Remember back in the beginning when I wrote, “Timing is everything. This is short story about the irony of timing.” Yes, sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.
Tuesday was a good day. Dad ate three meals and sat-up to watch America’s Got Talent after four of us took him for a walk down the middle of their quiet street in his idyllic retirement community, Wesley Willows. His CNA, Patricia, kept ahead of his pain and the subsequent anxiety, skillfully administering meds; enough to control the pain but not so much that he hit zombie land.
But Wednesday was different. Dad’s pain started earlier than normal; around 5 am. By 7 am he had been given three small doses of morphine in addition to his other meds.
My flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until early afternoon, so I gladly volunteered to stay with him while my mother ran errands. Dad was out-of-it, but he still knew I was there, holding his hand and spooning applesauce to help keep his mouth moist.
He smiled several times as we “discussed” the financial news of the day, Wall Street Journal folded across his lap; one of the business channels on the television.
For over two hours I had my father all to myself. The CNA on duty, Tina, helped-out as I shared stories about him and his life. She had a few funny ones, too. Tina had been coming to our home on and off for over three years.
I needed to leave Rockford for the airport in Milwaukee about 10:30 am. Before I left I said, “You can go to sleep now, Dad. No more schedules!” A cheap shot reference to my mothers obsessive-compulsive adherence to a strict meal and hygiene schedule. He smiled. I think he may have even chuckled a bit. Dad got it.
What I didn’t realize at the time was, by the time I landed back in Tampa at 6 PM, he would be slipping away.
I received several panicked calls as hospice attended to him and my family all converged on their home from various Chicago suburbs an hour or so east of Rockford.
All but me of course! Pattie had picked-me-up and we were making the hour drive home ourselves. Now that’s ironic, don’t you agree? Headed the wrong way at the right time.
Right time? I’m not sure I could have endured the overly dramatic family “death watch” last night; one that continues this morning. Ted Killingsworth is tough! Despite having stopped breathing several times through the night, Dad is still alive and breathing, oxygen mask on to help make him more comfortable. His nurse is administering small 2.5 ml doses of morphine orally, once every four hours at this point to help his breathing, too. Did you know that morphine actually improves respiration when taken in small doses? Guess it’s true.
Or maybe it’s all of the positive energy and prayers my readers have been passing along. How can I ever thank all of you for that?
And those two and a half hours with no other family members when I had my father all to myself? Priceless.
See! What may have seemed to be horrible timing on the surface–my landing in Tampa just as my father began to slip away–turned-out OK after all.
Life’s funny that way. I don’t need to be there when Dad takes his last breath. He knows I love him. And he’s surrounded by family members and friends that love him, too.
Timing, irony, life and death. Ho hum, just another blog post on MMB.
That’s the icing on the cake. Being able to share something so personal and emotional with my readers. I feel a lot better already! Now I need to prepare for my return trip and what should be a memorable week leading up to Dad’s memorial service. But that will be another long, sordid story!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat