- CRITTER TALK
- SCI/TECH/OTHER STUFF
I’ve spoken to Mike about it a few times, and he has been understanding and a real friend when I needed one. He thinks that what I’m doing by taking care of my father makes me a noble person and he admires me for it. And while I appreciate it, it ain’t the truth. Far from it, actually.
See, this is not the first time I’ve had to deal with a member of my family having cancer. Back in 1994, my Uncle Jesse was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a year later. It hit me hard- so hard in fact, that I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over his death. But the difference between then and now is that, thanks to my Uncle, I now have the tools I need to keep going, even when it looks like all is lost.
At the time, my Uncle Jesse was going through his chemo treatments and we would sit and talk. He would tell me about his experiences with alcoholism, the troubles in his first marriage, and being a single dad raising two kids. Of course, he had his regrets and there were things that he wished he could have done differently, but as he said, “Greg, you’re always going to make mistakes in this life, but the trick is that you have to learn from them and fix the ones that can be fixed. As for the mistakes that can’t, all you can do is not dwell on them and keep going forward. When life kicks your face in the dirt, you have two choices- you can either lie down and die, or you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.”
Those words have been seared into my brain since then, and have saved me more times than I can count. See, at the time my Uncle was nearing the end of his days, I was going through some major heartbreak. I was never the suicidal type, but l wasn’t doing much in the way of living, either. His advice was the lifesaver I needed to keep from drowning in my pain.
And here I am, back at square one. Only this time, my father is the one dying in front of me. The harder part is that my Dad, or at least the part of him that was the dad I used to know, is gone. About six years ago, my father came down with cirrhosis of the liver because of alcoholism. It wasn’t until last year that the doctors discovered the tumors that are killing him.
What makes it so much worse is that since his liver functions are minimal, the toxins that his body produces aren’t being flushed out of his system as well as they should be. So essentially, it’s like living with someone who is drunk every hour of every day.
Now keep in mind, I don’t want to speak ill of my Dad, because he is a good person. He was never a mean or abusive drunk, it was just something that he abused his body with. He was more of a functional alcoholic than anything else. But that’s not to say his drinking was an easy thing to live with. It wasn’t. I hated it back then, and seeing him like that now is like having a permanent piece of barbed wire wrapped around my heart.
My emotions change every day. Sometimes I’m able to function normally, sometimes I’m sad, sometimes I’m frustrated, and sometimes… I’m fucking angry as Hell.
I’m angry because my father, for all intents and purposes, did this to himself, and now my Mom and I are paying the price. I’m angry that his medical insurance company has pretty much written him off as another casualty that’s too expensive to treat. I’m angry that my father constantly fights us when it’s time to take his meds, and I’m fucking ANGRY that I can’t keep my father from dying in pain!
What I’m doing isn’t fucking noble in the slightest. All I’m doing is caring for the husk of the man whom I have looked up to my whole life. And I fucking hate every single second of it. If I could pack up my shit and go running off to some island, never to be seen or heard from again, I would. But I ain’t built that way, and it sure as fuck ain’t the way I was taught. I’m not abandoning my family.
When the possibility of my father having cancer was first brought to our attention, I made a promise that I would be there for him and my Mom, no matter what. And if you really knew me at all, you’d know that when I make a promise- I keep it. I have yet to miss a doctor’s appointment or be there when my folks need me. And I never will.
It doesn’t matter how this happened or why. All I have to do is see this through until the end. I would much rather make my father’s last days as peaceful as I can, even though he isn’t always helpful in that regard. If I have to be the asshole sometimes, then I’ll do what I have to do to keep him alive and deal with the guilt later.
At any rate, while living like this is taking a toll on me, I deal with it the same way I always have- with humor and sarcasm. Last week, my father was having some issues and landed back in the hospital. He was pretty much confused and no idea what was going on, so I had to stay with him in his room overnight for a few days. It was not a fun experience, but at least he had the added benefit of not knowing what was going on. I wasn’t that lucky.
While I was there, I wrote about my experiences in my journal. Some of them are kinda funny. Judge for yourself.
January 14, 2013-
I think Dad is so far gone that his mind has passed the signpost up ahead. He is now in the twilight zone. While Mom and I were spending the day with him in his hospital room, he turned to her, pulled her close and whispered, “Psst, Virginia! Why don’t you get the car and bring it around to the front so we can make a fast getaway?”
My mother just sat there with a ‘WTF?’ expression on her face. She had no idea what to say to that. But I’ll give her some credit- she did her best not to laugh.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t suppress my amusement. I shot back, “Dad, what do you think this is, a scene from BONNIE & CLYDE? First of all, you’re wearing a hospital gown, and you’re butt-naked under that thing. Second, how do you hope to look cool making a dashing escape while dragging a plastic bag of urine behind you?”
I’m telling you, whatever they’ve doped him up with must be some primo shit!
January 15, 2013-
Today has not been a good day. And believe you, me- that’s putting it mildly. Dad is going on his fourth day of hospitalization, and he’s getting as antsy as fuck. I can’t say I blame him, but between the two of us, I’m actually aware of my surroundings. All he knows is that he isn’t at home.
At the moment, I’m writing this entry from our deluxe accommodations here at the Kaiser Permanente hospital located in Baldwin Park (CA), otherwise known as one of the branch offices of Purgatory. I’d rather be anywhere than here. For example, I think I’d prefer being the appetizer in a prison full of same-sex rapists during their cocktail hour. And when you stop to consider how much the chair I’m sitting in is hurting my ass, there’s not much difference between the two.
January 16, 2013-
Dad is doing a little bit better today, but not by much. When I asked him where he was, he said, “Palm Springs”. When I asked him what year it was, he said, “1963.” I was tempted to ask him what time Frank, Sammy, and Dean were gonna be over for happy hour, but thought better of it.
I thought last night would be as rough as the last all-nighter I spent with Dad, but this one was smoother and relatively more pleasant. Or as pleasant as it can be sitting in that torture device they call a recliner in the room. God, I hate that thing. Whoever designed it must have had an ass the size of the Grand Canyon and a spine reinforced with steel rods. I’m amazed that my back didn’t go out.
Dad was on broken record mode all night long. Every sentence out of his mouth was, “Well, let’s get going!” and I had to constantly tell him no. Every twenty seconds, it was, “Well, let’s get going!” “Well, let’s get going!” “Well, let’s get going!” and my answer was always the same- no! Sometimes I wouldn’t even let it get that far. I’d say no before he could even utter the first syllable.
It wasn’t before long that I started to get creative with my answers. Here are some of my favorites:
“Let me think about it…. NO!”
“How about I say yes, but it still means no?”
“”Wait for it….. um…. NO!!!”
And my personal favorite- a line from AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER: “No, you crazy Dutch bastard!!!”
(I should probably point out that my Father isn’t Dutch, unless there’s something he isn’t telling me. But whatever.)
I think I may have hit the Guinness world record for the amount of times one person can utter the word ‘no’ in a single night. And here’s the funny part about it- even as shitty as my day had been up until that moment, never did I once lose my temper with Dad.
I swear, the only way I’m gonna get through this nightmare with my sanity intact is by laughing through it. Granted, it isn’t a laughing matter by ANY stretch of the imagination, but if I don’t find the humor in it- for both my family and me, then we are done before we even get to the end.
I honestly think my Father would approve of that, if he were in any condition to appreciate it. I know because even though he’s in pain, he still manages to laugh at my jokes.
January 17, 2013-
And we’re back in the hospital, doing nightwatch on my Father. I can’t believe it’s already Thursday. This whole week has been one big blur of sleep and hospital room visits. I’m beginning to wonder if there’s more to life than wandering around antiseptic-smelling hallways and sitting in waiting rooms.
It’s 9 pm and it’s blissfully quiet. Well, except for the guy barfing his lungs out a couple rooms down from us. I hope it stays this way- for a while, at least. Who knows how long it’s going to last? Dad finally fell asleep, and he seems to be resting comfortably. That makes me happy because now I won’t have to hear him ask me when he’s going home. It tears my heart out to have to tell him that he has to stay.
In other news, Dad finally had a large bowel movement. I’d throw him a ticker-tape parade if I could actually get anyone to show up for that reason.
January 19, 2013-
Thank Heaven! I’m finally home! If I had to spend one more minute in that glass-encased house of misery, I think I would have gone completely bat-shit! I feel horrible that I couldn’t bring Dad with me, but as long as he is the way he is, there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.
We had a bad night last night. Dad kept waking up and babbling incoherently, pulling at his IV feed, and was asking questions that made no sense to anyone but himself. I tried to sleep, but it was impossible with the racket going on all around me. It was like trying to sleep with an air-raid siren going off in your ears. The constant beeping noises alone were pissing me off no end.
I hate the fact that no matter what I do, it never feels like it’s enough. And what I am doing, I’m screwing up. Mom says I have nothing to feel guilty about, but it’s nothing that she can solve for me. I have to come to grips with it on my own terms. My one big fear is that I don’t think I ever will.
My father’s death is going to change me in ways that scare the shit out of me. Having to see it happen on a daily basis is screwing me up already, I think. It’s getting hard to remember what he was like before his health problems kicked in. And the way he is now is NOT the way I want to remember him.
Before his time comes, all I want- all I wish is for him to have one last moment of pure clarity. A moment where I can tell him how I feel, how sorry I am, how I tried my best to help him, and how much I love him. That’s the only thing I want before the end. Just to see the look of understanding in his eyes one final time.
I know I’m grasping at straws on that score, but if God truly exists, then maybe he can see fit to grant me this one small miracle. If he gave it to me, I would never ask him for anything else.
My father is back home now, but he’s not quite back up to his normal level of functionality. As I write this, he’s napping in his room. I think I’ll sit with him for a little bit. You can take what you want from this article, it makes no never mind to me. I’m just doing things the way I was taught by the finest man I have ever known. The best advice my father ever gave me was this:
“As long as you do your best with what you have, then nobody can ever take that away from you.”