Tuesday, November 27, 2007

159 aftermath

I feel bad for not feeling worse. I took yesterday off from work, but went in today. (I don't get paid vacation, sick or personal time.) Everyone was like, how can you go to work?
Well, how does it help to sit home? When I needed to not work was so I could go see my dad when he was alive. Staying home doesn't help him now, does it?
And I don't understand why everyone wants me to cry all the time. People who know he's died, when they see me, grab me and hug me and say sad things to me until I do cry. When I'm by myself, I'm okay 99% of the time. (Leaking a little as I write this.)
What people don't seem to grasp is that I have been in mourning for my father since the day I started this blog, in June 2003. I should be rejoicing and having a party that this veil of sadness can at last lift. I mean, I will miss my dad forever--I still miss my grandpa, 20 years later--but I don't have to mourn the chipping away of his essential self anymore. He's got that back now, and he's having a beer with Patty's father, in the Elsewhere Bar, and hanging out with all those dementia people who arrived before him. Knowing my dad, he's probably holding the door and shaking the hands of newcomers already, introducing himself and showing them the way. "I'm Bob Rizza," he's saying. "That's my daughter down there. She's writing about me."
I hope if he's watching me he's not too sad that I'm not very sad. I cried over him enough in the last 2 months, often when I was with him.
Last night I stopped by a meeting where a lot of my friends were, to get and give hugs. One of them asked me what my father actually died of. It wasn't Alzheimer's that killed him. I guessed kidney failure. When I was there on Sunday, his urine looked like molasses. And he's been in acute kidney failure since September. Someone spoke up and asked why he wasn't on dialysis. I answered, logically, "You don't put someone with Alzheimer's on dialysis." I don't remember exactly how the rest of the conversation went. Why didn't you get a different doctor that would put him on dialysis? Why wouldn't you put someone with Alzheimer's on dialysis? etc. I tried to explain that it's a terminal disease, you can't get better, ever, and no one is ever given extraordinary life saving measures like feeding tubes or dialysis. But it made me angry. Obviously she knows nothing about the disease (or maybe what I call "Hollywood Alzheimer's", like it was portrayed in The Notebook). I felt like she was judging me for the choices we made about my dad's care.
Anyway, because I was just writing about cause of death, I called the funeral home and asked. They were able to tell me the official cause of death was sepsis, UTI & Alzheimer's. So I guess in the end it was the MRSA that got him, huh? Because that's where it was--in the UTI. I know sepsis is basically a whole body infection--a couple of my parrots have died of it--when whatever infection you have gets into your blood stream. They weren't able to eliminate the MRSA, so I guess it's been lurking there inside of him all these weeks, slowly munching away.
Tonight I'm finishing up the picture board for the memorial service on Friday night. I'm going to buy flowers. I wrote the eulogy yesterday and I'm letting it sit for a couple of days before I look at it again. My husband said it was "sweet" which to me means sappy. I tried to put some humor into it, but he didn't seem to notice it. I'll put it here when it's reached its final form. And I'll link to his obit tomorrow and also post the scan from the paper.
Because we are having him cremated, we have to wait 48 hours--the medical examiner has to come and look at him first. It's strange to think he's in a drawer or something, waiting. When we were at the funeral home yesterday I gave the clothes I picked out (and what a row I had with my mom over that) and asked for his Safe Return bracelet back. The funeral director went into the other room and brought it right to me. It wasn't cold. Does that mean he's not in a fridge? I don't like to think of him decaying and stinking--that's why I went with cremation. I hate that my grandfather is still in a box inside a concrete vault, covered with mold, half liquefied, totally nasty, 20 years later. I like the old custom of burying someone in the ground for a few years, then digging up the bones that are left and reusing the ground, putting the bones somewhere else in a little box. But in our culture, that's repulsive.
So, about the clothes. I talked to my mom yesterday morning and said I had picked out some comfortable clothes for him, as I'd already mentioned on here, unless she had something different. She got all angry and started yelling at me: there's no wake. We aren't going to see him! Yeah, well, I can't bear to think he's being burned in his hospital johnny, okay? Even worse, with that damn catheter (which of course caused the UTI that killed him) stuck up in there. I want to remember him in his silly sneakers that he liked to color green with magic marker, with the bright green laces I got him (and he was SO grateful for them), wearing a nice soft pair of grey pants and a comfy green shirt. In my memory, he's got his Red Sox hat on, although that's not going into the fire with him.


Patty McNally Doherty said...

Dear Bert,

I love that picture of you with your father and mother. It so captures that moment in time. You look completely like you belong right where you are.

I take great pleasure in the Elsewhere Bar, I can almost picture it and you know, before we know it, we'll be toasted as well and they'll be saying "Like what you wrote about me - you did a good job but couldn't you have photoshopped a few inches off my waistline?" I can just hear it...

The day after my father died, I was up to my ears in family members arriving and millions of arrangements and everybody had their own idea of what should and shouldn't happen. I was taking a shower, a really long gone-into-hiding-has-anyone-seen-Patty-shower when I asked my dad a question - I asked, Dad, what do I do? And as clear as a bell I had his answer in my head, as if he had spoken. He said, "Love your mother."

And that's exactly what I did. Whatever she wanted, she got my full support. From the song selection to the get together afterwards to the ongoing struggles of moving ahead on her own, I've loved her. That's been my answer.

As far as wanting to celebrate that one has died, trust me, I'm with you 100%. If my father had been granted five minutes of awareness, I know exactly what he would have told me, demanded that I do - let him go. NOW! Trouble is, those five minutes were never granted, and he had to endure a long life, year after year of heartbreaking decline.

But it's over. It ended. When I walked into his room after he had died, I sat on the side of his bed, hugged him and congratulated him, that I was so happy he had finally made it. It was his day to say No More and off he went.

I'd like a red leather stool at the Elsewhere, near the juke box and not too far from the pool table.

You are in my thoughts, my prayers and I am smiling broadly. Tell me, have you smelled the air, looked up at the sky? Isn't it beautiful? Just incredibly beautiful?


Anonymous said...

My father died this morning after battling Alzheimer's for god know how long. He hid it well. He had been in a nursing home for 4 years. Seeing your blog reminded me, I'm not alone. I've watched him decline for 4 years, and suffered with my choice not to be aggressive in treating the final stages... I awoke at 5:15 this moring, I thought I smelt smoke, I bolted out of bed. no fire, but then the phone rang, he was gone.
I'm with you, I understand. Only alone, tonight when everyone else had gone to bed can I say I"m glad". He and my mother are together again, and I know that he is "right", I'm so sorry for your loss... we'll move through it, regardless of everyone who wants to tell us how to feel. I'm tired of telling people I'm fine... tomorrow when I clean out his room, I can put him to rest. Tonight I find myself, looking for someone who is as confused as me, and feels this loss as intensely. You are in my thoughts.

e said...

The one word that came to my mind as I read this entry--over and over is: EXACTLY!

Why take time off now, he's gone now. EXACTLY.

You don't treat these conditions in people with AD. EXACTLY.

Why can't we just be buried directly in the earth? EXACTLY. (BTW, google 'green cemetery' for more info on this--it's the way I choose to do it if I chicken out and decide not to be donated to science).

You've been mourning for three years. EXACTLY.

Maybe, maybe... If there is one thing to be "learned" from the AD experience it is that our lives are being prolonged too long. For What? Pills for cholesterol, BP, diabetes... so that we can live long enough to lose our minds? F**k that. I'm not saying don't try to be healthy or live long. And there are many other things that can and will probably kill us. But the body's (including the brain's) life is finite.

One of my co-workers mentioned that you just never used to hear about AD before... Well, it is my belief that 'before' we did not live that long. And we referred to it as a Second Childhood or something more genteel. And 'before' families stuck together, did'nt move across the or to other countries. Who needs a board and care or a nursing home when you have a whole stay-at-home family system?

I don't believe for one second your dad wants you to be any sadder than you are. This is something to move past, not wallow in. It still won't happen over night, but don't let anyone tell you how you should deal with it. What am I saying... of course you won't. :-)

Anonymous said...

((( HUGS ))) Sorry I haven't been here for a little while -- I understand how you must be feeling. I just read your post as I rec'd a letter from my mom and I cried when I saw how her writing has gone down. Then I felt bad for crying because this whole thing isn't her fault! Mixed up feelings that's for sure. D

Marvel said...

Hugs to you Bert and I'm very sorry for your loss. However, after reading all the comments above I must say to "e".... EXACTLY. Your response is right on. People who haven't gone through the prolonged grief of AD do not have a clue and it's hard to educate someone while you're trying to bury your father. Take care of yourself and your mother. It's a relief (for me) that you will continue this blog. You don't know how helpful/hopeful it is to check in and have a post from you.