“Weeks most likely. Not months.”
This is what we were told when my father moved to hospice. He was suffering from more medical issues than I can count so we weren’t surprised when the caregivers subtly hinted to us that we should start saying goodbye.
Then they kicked him out. “Too healthy”, they said. So he went home. Suddenly weeks turned into months, and months became years and then there was no longer a timetable on what dad had left in the tank. He gave up drinking. He quit smoking. He started walking once, then twice, every day. At first he struggled to get to his mailbox that was located just 100 feet from his door. Recently, however, he was walking over a mile…sometimes in the snow. He was healthy. For the first time in as long as I can remember, he was doing pretty well. Sure there were still issues, but we weren’t living in a world where the call could come at any moment.
Then it did.
My phone is off Sunday mornings. The “duck quacking” ringtone that Kristan set (and that I’ve been too lazy to un-set) would be far to disturbing if it were to go off in the middle of the sermon at church. It’s not uncommon for me to forget to cut it back on until after lunch. That’s what happened. I enjoyed Sunday morning worship, chatted with the people I love at Awestruck, and ordered the best fish tacos in Greensboro at Rio Bravo. That was my morning. While I was helping ladies across the icy parking lot at church, the door at my dad’s house was being broken down by EMTs or firemen or policemen. I don’t know who does that job. I guess it doesn’t matter.
There he sat. According to the medical examiner he just got tired and sat down. No pain or suffering. He didn’t struggle to breathe so there wouldn’t have been that moment of panic. Just tired.
When I finally cut my phone on I was standing in line to pay at the restaurant. I just turned it on and put it back in my pocket. Then the vibrations started going off. I think everybody knows that feeling. Somehow you can just tell – “That’s a lot of messages and calls…something is wrong”. Just as I grabbed my phone from my pocket it rang again.
“Have you talked to your mom?….Your dad died.”
I haven’t always been close to my father. Really, I’ve never been all that close to him. My parents divorced when I was young and he moved far enough away that, to a child, it may as well have been another country. We did have the occasional weekends. They were always the same: We would order pizza and watch Spaceballs and/or Tremors on Friday. Sometimes we would watch them twice over the weekend.
“Running isn’t a plan. Running is what you do when a plan fails”
“Go straight to Ludicrous speed!”
Then there was Saturday. My brother and I would find something to do while dad watched college football. Saturdays were the worst. Then we would pack our bags and sit at the door until he was ready to take us home on Sundays. Sometimes he would get a little irritated that we were rushing him.
It never really made sense why that would make him mad. Now that I’m older and a father I understand that it didn’t. He just didn’t want us to go.
That was it. Every visit from the time I was eight until I was eighteen. Kevin Bacon, Graboids, Rick Moranis and a Mog (Half-man, half dog…his own best friend). Then my brother and I moved away. Over the next ten years I think I saw my dad five times. Every now and then we would talk on the phone, but we were both bad at that. Understandably so. We both knew that the relationship was supposed to be closer than it was. We both knew that there wasn’t really anything to do about it.
Then he moved up to NC to be closer to me, Kristan and his grandkids. It was clear he had forgotten how to be around little kids, but I think it made him happy to see them. Once, when we were visiting dad in hospice, Nolan fell into a fountain. Dad thought it was hilarious. Last Christmas he suggested that we buy some gifts for the boys to leave at his place so that they would begin to really think of his house as a “fun place” where they looked forward to going. We got a basketball goal and a nerf bow and arrow toy.
When Nolan found the bow and arrow earlier today he said, “I’m really sad that our grandpa died”
I’m really glad that first call I answered was from Kristan.
There have been a lot more. Messages of love and support are coming in day and night. That stupid duck quack ringtone is driving me crazy. I’m going to change it after all this is over.
The truth is, I’m fine. We got years, not weeks. They were the best two years I’ve ever had with my dad and we didn’t watch Spaceballs one time. We actually talked some about important things: My faith, his questions about faith, his time in the war, some things he regretted, and, of course, movies. He loved movies.
Thanks for everything everyone! I appreciate you all more than you know.