It's been a year today since I saw my dad. Tomorrow it will be a year since he died. That means, somewhere around the time I was putting Nutter to sleep, the anniversary of the last time my dad seemed to know who I was passed. It seems so far away, but I know that's because I spent so many years saying goodbye to my father and missing him when he was right there in front of me. One good thing about a long goodbye is that your mourning is totally different.
When my black cat died in 2006, unexpectedly, it was like part of me had been ripped out. I spent months crying and it was a year before I got another cat (not a replacement cat). I spent 18 months saying goodbye to Nutter, and although it was awful to take him into the vet and have the needle put in his leg and see the light go out of his big, pretty eyes, I didn't cry for weeks or even days. I still have my moments (like right now) when I miss my silly white kitty, but I'm okay with the fact that he died. He was 15 and he had cancer and he was done. He told me he was done and I honored that and let him go.
By the time my dad died last year, he was done too, and watching him die was like a battle. I can't even go back and re-read that section of this blog. It was horrible to have my cat killed (and face it, even though we say "put to sleep" and it was a gentle, painless act, at the end my cat was dead and I signed the paper making it so), but it was more horrible during his last days to watch the cat suffer, and to try everything to fix him and not be able to make it better for him—except to offer him that final needle. It really did stir up memories of last year and watching my father suffer with no hope of recovery.
I know I've said it before but why is a human allowed to suffer yet we can easily end the suffering of an animal, a lesser creature? If there was the slightest chance he could have woken and been my father again...oh how I would have fought for treatment. Instead the only treatments prolonged his pain. I can only hope that long before his body gave out, my father's mind and soul had fled to the Elsewhere Bar. No one should have to live for weeks in a body with a fever of over 100, with a broken and bleeding mind, burning up from an untreatable infection. I can't imagine how much physical pain he must have been in. Maybe that's why I was so intolerant of Nutter's final days. We took him to the vet and tried a last ditch treatment, which didn't work and left my kitty sprawled on the floor crying in pain, still unable to eat, hardly able to breathe. The very next morning, I made the call for his final appointment. No way was I letting that go on, as they say, "until nature took its course." I spent too long last year watching Nature's ineptitude with my dad. I have so many wishes about my father’s death. I wish that he had died from that heart attack the year before (the same heat wave that killed my black kitty, in 2006). The hospitalization for the stent implantation sent him on a long spiraling journey to his death. We would have ranted and raved of course, saying he had more good years left in him, but he didn't. He had maybe 6 months (that next spring is when he started getting really violent) and "good" is relative. I wish that when he hit his head at the nursing home and the doctor told us he wouldn't survive the night, that he hadn't survived not only the night, but the next 6 weeks. His true, horrid suffering started then--with the seizures, the massive brain damage, the ongoing bleeding from the heart drugs (for the damn stent), and of course the lovely MRSA that finally did him in, although it took its time doing so. I wonder if the resentment and anger over how my dad died will ever fade. I can get over that he had Alzheimer's, even though he got it way too early and his life was cut short. But the actual manner of his death, how he looked…I haven’t been able to put from my mind. The nursing home did the best they could keeping him comfortable and I hold no blame in my heart toward them. I hate that hospital though.
A new interview with Terry Pratchett, the author I like so much that got diagnosed right after my dad died, just came out. He says he has Alzheimer's but it's actually posterior cortical atrophy (which is some kind of weird variant, I guess). He's having trouble getting dressed and driving but he's still writing. I just read his newest book, Nation, which isn't part of his Discworld series. He was diagnosed partway through writing it. I didn't count how many times the book made me cry. It's not about someone with dementia--it's about two children from different cultures coming together to rebuild civilization after a tidal wave--but it has themes of social isolation, and descriptions of being a grey ghost in the world, unable to communicate with anyone. I wonder if he wrote any of it consciously as a metaphor for his condition? It also has a rather unhappy ending, in that what you WANT to happen doesn't. Rather like how Stephen King ended the Dark Tower series--the only way it could end, but not the happy and desirable outcome. Pratchett claims he has a few more books in him before the darkness takes him, and I hope so. Although the Discworld books don't have an overarching plot like the Dark Tower did, I still want to read more of them. Maybe Pratchett will try to come up with an ending, but I hope not. I hope that when his mind does leave this world, it goes there, to the back of an elephant standing on some turtles (or is it the other way around?) and he becomes a living part of Discworld and for him it goes on forever.
I guess that's all anyone can hope for, whether they call it Heaven or crossing the rainbow bridge or going to the Elsewhere Bar, that it goes on forever and no one's in pain anymore. To quote Kurt Vonnegut: "everything was beautiful and nothing hurt".
(screenprint of Terry Pratchett interview)
Since I last posted, saying I was putting Nutter to sleep, I also lost Zeebo and Onnie, two of my parrots. Zeebo died a couple of weeks after Nutter, with no warning. He was a hybrid and they don't live long--his sister was ancient at 16 and he was 15. A couple of weeks later, Onnie left me too. With no job, I can't afford necropsies, so I don't know what killed them, only that I feel very, very bad. My pet cemetery box has grown to be a pet cemetery shelf, I have so many tins of ashes. Ironically, on that same bookshelf are all my Discworld books.
My father's 1253-day journey through Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and my feelings about it. Now my aunt appears to have dementia, so this is her chronicle as well. All material is copyrighted by Gevera Bert Piedmont (except where noted and where quoted from other sources); please do not repost without permission.
"The cost of Alzheimer's? Everything you ever owned, everything you ever thought you would get, and things you never even thought about."
"It's a long, slow slide into oblivion, with no brakes."
"If this was a paper journal, the ink would be running with tears."
"Imagine a really beautiful, perfect statue, left out in the wind and rain for centuries, to be worn away, until it’s only retained the shape of a person, not any of the individuality. That’s what Alzheimer’s did to my father. It wore him away, all the sharp edges and crisp points that made him Bob, who loved his family and his pets and his raspberry bushes, and turned him into a fearful person with a vague and confused stare."
"It's a nasty disease, surrounded by shadows and small, largely unseen tragedies."--Terry Pratchett
This is a reminder that Alzheimer's disease affects real people, real families. My dad wasn't a monster, just a man whose brain was slowly eaten by a terrible disease.