I know that there is a very real, very valid answer to this question. But that doesn’t make it any more real to me at the moment. Today I had to make a trip that, while I knew it would eventually need to be done, I certainly didn’t expect it to be any time soon. I still cannot believe this is happening right now.
My Dad has always been a very strong man to me. As a little kid, I remember going fishing with Dad and Papaw. I remember watching them do work on our house on Gentry Street. It always seemed there was nothing they couldn’t do.
I remember watching my Dad working. For a long time he had a home office where he would do work to try to make extra money to make ends meet as I was growing up. I remember playing with my toys at his feet (sometimes under his feet). There were days when I would go with him to work on the weekends when he was trying to put in extra hours so that our family could have what we needed.
When I was in middle school, Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He was in his thirties then. I watched as this disease slowly robbed him of his ability to do the work that he loved. I remember watching in awe as he would draw on those blueprints and the detail he would put into those drawings…not with a computer, but with squares and pencils…on paper! As this disease progressed, he become less and less able to create these drawings.
I remember going with him to clear out his desk at Carolina Steel because he had to go on disability. I believe that day, to date, probably rates as one of the most heart-wrenching days of my life. I watched as his co-workers tried to encourage him, but the pain on his face is something that has always stayed with me…the realization that he was no longer going to be able to work to provide for his family.
I have watched over the years as Mom has carried the unbelievable burden of caring for him as his condition continued to worsen. I have also seen how he has fought with every ounce of his being to retain the ability to do what he wants, even though it might not have been safe for him. There have been several times that he has gone off by himself, either in the house and even once out of the house, to do what he wanted without getting the help he needed. He refused to “listen” to what was best for him to do. I guess that is a testament to the strength that he still felt inside even though his body would no longer let him do it.
A couple of months ago, Mom had to admit him to the VA in Salisbury so that she could get some rest for a while. Last week, he was diagnosed with double pneumonia and a secondary infection. It was our understanding that he would recover from these infections. Although the infections are gone, that is not the complete picture. It seems that since he has been in the VA, they conducted a swallow study and found that there is nothing they can give him that he won’t aspirate on. That, along with his inability to even speak a complete sentence because the Parkinson’s won’t allow his mouth to form the words, now qualifies him for Hospice care. Since he can’t take his medicine or get proper nutrition, his life expectancy has now been reduced to a few weeks. He is now waiting to come home to try to enjoy whatever time he has left with family and friends. They are working to get him back home on Monday of next week.
Today, my siblings and our mom had to go to the funeral home to start the decision-making process for my Dad’s services. So, I ask again, how did this happen? How is it that we are in this situation while he is still alive? This is not like we are making decisions or helping HIM make decisions for some arbitrary date a few years or more down the road. We are having to make these decisions for now…the next few weeks! I know there is no way to know when, but we know it will be soon. I think it was probably the closest thing I have ever had to an out-of-body experience…it just didn’t seem real, but at the same time, I was fully aware of what we were doing today.
I am able to through my day and seem to not be bothered, but yet as I went to pick up my daughter from school, the gravity of the situation hit me to realize, “I have to go to the funeral home to help make decisions.”
How did this happen?