Tuesday, November 13, 2007

154 Visit with a dog; life with a soundtrack

Saturday I was determined to bring Ace to see my dad. I went over my mother's house (she wasn't home) and said "Wanna go for a ride in the car?" which of course provoked all kinds of wild jumping and barking. So I kidnapped the dog, put him in the car and we went up there.
He was very good. He walked right to the front door like he'd been there before. I carried him through the halls to my dad's room and put him on my dad's bed. I was worried he'd want to jump down or wouldn't know my father but he sat right down. My dad was unconscious (not asleep--they said he was in a coma). I lifted his hand and put it on the dog's back and started petting the dog with my father's hand, and my father made a noise. I hope it was a joyful one that he knew his dog was there in the bed with him and not a groan of pain or annoyance.
We stayed about half an hour and because the dog was being so good I let him walk out. Several residents were sitting in the lobby and they all said "let me see your puppy!" I was hesitant because Ace doesn't like men or strangers in general, but he responded well. He let everyone pet him and they all seemed so happy to see a dog.
When I got home my mother yelled at me for taking the dog up there. Not because something bad could have happened to the dog, but because she thought it was a waste of time. But I wanted to bring the dog and I felt better because I did. Even if my dad didn't know Ace was there, he brightened up those other people's day and that's important too.
Yesterday I was at a friend's house in Middletown for a while and then I went up to see my father. He was semi-conscious only. I collected some of his things to bring home--his glasses, his shoes, all his sweatpants (I'll wear them, I don't care). He rolled his head in my direction when I greeted him. His rash was terrible and his fever even worse. I went in the bathroom and wet a wad of paper towels and wiped down his arms, neck and face. When I put the cool cloth on his forehead he closed his eyes and he moved his head to follow where I was wiping. His breathing was ragged and awful. I went to the nurse's station and asked what was going on. I didn't get much of a straight answer, just that he is getting various pain medicines, liquid via mouth and also via butt, but they can't bring down his fever. He hasn't been fed in about a week except the IV with the glucose in it. I told him again that it's okay for him to go. I told him he can't get better, that fighting will only make him be in more pain. When I was leaving I said I would be back in 2 days but that if he wasn't there that would be okay too, and he reached up with his other hand and grabbed my hand where it was holding his and held me there. So I sat back down for a few minutes and rubbed him with the wad of wet paper towels.
It reminded me of when he first got there, when he could still talk a little, the day he hugged me and told me he loved me when I got there, and then when I tried to leave he pushed me back into the chair and said "No, not enough." I've been thinking about that day a lot. It seems to me that's the last time he spoke to me, the last time he really knew me, but I could be wrong. All the while, playing in the background was a classical music cd. One of the nurses brought in a cd player. It was the kind of music played over the credits of a sad movie, all weeping strings and crescendos. So here I was holding my father's hand while he starves to death, with violins wailing in the background, and it was surreal, it really was.
When I left two of the aids came over to talk to me because they could see I was crying. They asked how they could help me and I told them to keep wiping my father with a cold cloth. But I shouldn't have to tell them that; they should know already!
Yesterday my best friend came over after work and we spent several hours eating Chinese food ("we delivery") and going through piles of photo albums. If I had to do it alone, I would have just cried and cried, but she made it fun, by laughing at 80's pictures of me with big hair and stirrup pants, and being amazed at old pictures of people we still know. Two more of my friends showed up too, just to hang out and provide moral support (and play with the kittens). We picked out a lot of family photos and we're making 2 different picture boards for the memorial service. She is allowed to print things out at work, and they've got a plotter, so she can print really big things like posters and banners. We scanned in all the pictures we picked out and cleaned them up in Photoshop and she's going to print them all out at various sizes and draw out some layouts of how we can arrange them. I also got a lot of pictures of butterflies and other things my father enjoyed to sprinkling among the family photos. My favorite picture is the one shown here--me and my dad with our first Siamese cat. Looking at it makes me cry. If this was a paper journal, the ink would be running with tears.
My mom went to see my dad this morning. She said he "told" his aide, the one who loves him, he didn't want the oxygen anymore. I am skeptical that he spoke actual words, but Mom thinks he did. I think he might have grunted and pushed her hand away; I might describe that as him "telling" me. His fever is back down (again) and he seemed more awake. The aide said every day she expects to find him dead. That must be wearing on her too. I can see how much she likes him; she calls him Bobby and I saw her tickling him and trying to get him to laugh one day.


Anonymous said...

(( hugs )) I don't know what to say, but I have been thinking about you. D

Richard McNally said...

I'm Patty Doherty's brother Rick and I wish you all the best as you take care of your Father. You're doing the most that's humanly possible and that's the best thing for him and for yourself.

Gail Rae said...

Continuing to visit, read and hope for everything for which you asked your readers to hope.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog avidly for several months, and what your family has been going through is giving me a preview of what my family is to go through soon. My mother is suffering from the same horrible disease, and in terms of progress is consistently about ten months to a year behind your father. It's heart wrenching to watch someone you love, who was once so wise and witty and capable, fade away into oblivion, losing the capacity to do the simplest things. I admire your strength and candor, as I find it exceedingly difficult to handle.

Thank you.

Patty McNally Doherty said...

Hi Bert,

I see my brother Rick has visited your blog and left a comment. He and I spent three months together up in Cambridge earlier this year, and you "guest-hosted" my blog while I was away. You are in the hearts of many people, your father isn't passing without so many of us watching and walking beside you.

It's an all too familiar procession, but our family walked it, and yours will to. And hopefully, the next family coming along will have us to be there as well.

Too many people, all heading off the edge of the same cliff, no?

I love your bringing of the dog to the nursing home. It means so much to people, to touch the warm fur and feel the beating heart of an animal.

I'm thinking of you, glad to hear your friends are there, helping, offering their company, doing the Photoshop work for you.

Talk with you later.