(I originally posted this on facebook, but I wanted to spread it around, so...)
I'm struggling in my relationship with facebook and other social media these days but it seems like the most efficient way to get the news out so I'm just going to post it here for those who might be interested/concerned.
This will probably be my Dad’s last Christmas with us.
This is the considered opinion of all the folks involved in my dad’s care at the retirement community to which he and my stepmother moved this past May, in an effort to consolidate their living situation and finances. Their finances are fine, and he’s getting the very best of care, and now my stepmother Debbie doesn’t have to deal with the upkeep of their home all by herself. Also she’s part of a larger community now on the independent living wing, and not living in a big house all by herself - and she’s always just down the hall and around the corner from Dad and she doesn’t have to go outside and drive somewhere to visit him. So things are good.
But he’s 90 (91 in February, if he’s still with us), and his body’s just tired. He’s not really eating. He’s losing weight. He still has his hearing and eyesight for the most part, and there are stretches of the early part of the day where he’s still pretty focused. He still remembers who we all are. There are some behavioral issues that have started to manifest recently but they’re managing as best they can. He’s not in pain. He’s not scared. Honestly, he’s in a very good place this close to the exit.
There will be no feeding tube. There will be no “heroic measures.” They both decided that for themselves as a couple a long time ago, because they worked in long term care and saw the story play out for countless other people. When it’s time, it’s time.
The hospice nurses giving him extra attention right now have a checklist of things they watch out for. Once enough of those boxes get checked, they alert the family - then it’s normally about a week to two weeks after that. It’s not a science. He could go faster, he could take longer. He could just go in his sleep when no one was expecting it.
It’s a minor miracle he made it this far, given the collection of things that are wrong with him and all the counter-medications that have to be calibrated “just so” in order to help and not harm him. Six years on from the stroke, and he’s still here. But we’re on the glide path now.
He said out of the blue to the music therapist who visits with her guitar the other day, “I think I’m going to die soon.” Not depressed, not “oh well, I’ve had a good life.” At base, humans are animals. And on some level, animals know.
He loves Christmas. He loves my visit right before Christmas. We all think he’s hanging on for that. Hopefully that’ll happen. After that, my stepsister said that if we’re still having these discussions in March, she’ll be surprised. My stepmother isn’t talking about his 91st birthday in February. Instead she’s talking about proofreading the obituary, cremation, and plans to have a nice ceremony in the spring, rather than right away in the winter, so travel’s easier and everyone has time to plan. She wants the service to be as positive and life-affirming as possible, for the nine grandchildren. And the rest of us, of course.
Dad was a minister for part of his career, and most of his life. So he appreciates prayers, if that’s a thing you do. Keep him, and the rest of us, in your thoughts, if you would. It’s gonna be a weird holiday.
Hug your loved ones. Tell them you care. Most days, that’s the best we can do. And most days, it’s enough.