A Walk with Dad: The Last Visit


It is about this time that the exact days get a little fuzzy.  I was so exhausted and sleep deprived that is it hard to remember.  What I do know is that one day of that last weekend was my last visit with Dad. I went either Friday of Saturday. I never in a million years that that would be the last time I would see him, talk to him, hug him while he was strong enough to be up and around.

The last day we spent together was good.  He had been getting stronger, but was still tired easily. He had already eaten but I did roll him around the to get him outside of his apartment.

I had been keeping a close eye on his health and any issues he had been having.  Hospice had informed me about symptoms to look out for and let them know about immediately. They had also said to make sure any visitors were aware of what to watch out for and to tell me about how he was doing during any visits.

Dad had a few visitors and they all told me how Dad was during each visit – if he seemed stronger or weaker, if he had trouble speaking, swallowing or moving or breathing.  Also if his cognitive abilities seemed OK or worse. If he complained about about pain. The creepy cheating ex kept up his super controlling behavior up by refusing to share any information about how Dad’s health seemed during his few visits, or if Dad  displayed any of the symptoms Hospice warned about.

Dad was in a good mood that day, but he wanted desperately to go home.  His missed being home.  Right before I left for the night, he talked to me about what he wanted to do once he was well enough to get out and go home.  I had to tell him that this was his home now, and that is why all of his favorite things were there in the apartment.  I explained to him that it was not safe to be “home” anymore, because he fell a lot and I could not keep him safe because I did not have the medical training that was needed to keep him safe. And Dad’s face fell.  It was like telling a child they could not have candy any more.  I told him that as soon as he was strong enough I would take him home for dinner several tomes a week.  And keep him there over night even when he was able.  It broke my heart to tell him that.

Dad slumped over in his chair, his disappointment physically visible. It broke my heart.  And he said softly, but matter of factly, almost as if he was talking out loud to himself, “If that is true then I have to change the way I think about a few things.” Even then the way he said it seemed a bit ominous.

I said goodbye, hugged him tight and told him I loved him. He said it back.  But that was the last conversation I had with my father.  The next day I was so exhausted that I slept most of the day.  I didn’t go to see him.  I needed the rest and I figured he was in good hands with the staff.  I wish I had gone that day. Later the staff told me that Dad had a burst of energy.  He got up, walked with the walker, he joked with the staff, he ate meals in the dining room, with one of the staff members (staff would eat with new members to help them meet and integrate with the other members). The lady he ate with said he told her about all the projects he worked on, all the ballistic missiles, the designs for the white house and presidents, all about his amazing career.

As much as I wish I had gone to see him that day, I wonder if he needed to tell his stories to someone who had never heard them before. I was so proud of him, but I knew all the stories, new all the projects he worked on.  He had the opportunity that day to share his life stories with others.  He got to make people, the girls who spent time with him that day, laugh and smile with all the projects and the amazing things he worked on.  All the ways he, his designs and his ideas changed the history of technology. And maybe he needed to know that others would think he was special too, and understand his contribution, when they were not related to him and somewhat obligated. All of them told me how charming and adorable he as. And how so incredibly smart, how they loved hearing what he had done and worked on. and how they wanted to talk to him more.  How they loved spending that time with him.

I do know Dad enjoyed the last day he was out of bed and moving around.  I know that he had a great day, that he laughed, enjoyed good food, good company and charmed the staff.  And I suppose we should all pray to be that lucky.

Speak to me

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