A Walk with Dad: The News

I think this was the morning of Sunday the 26th, but again I was so exhausted it is hard to keep the days straight. I had slept most of the day before and felt better but was still just weary. It was truly bone tired. I received a call from the assisted living place.  They were a bit concerned because Dad had been so active the day before, but was not able to get out of bed that morning.  He had not wanted to eat breakfast and was too weak to get out of bed.

I immediately went over and saw him.  He was talking, but his speech was slow and a little slurred.  For the first time he did not want the news on, which he always wanted to watch the news, or the Discovery Channel, or the History Channel, or anything on WWI or WWII. He just wanted it quiet so he could rest.  I asked how he was and he said he was OK.  But his sentences were short 1-3 three words and very basic.

One of the two Hospice nurses taking care of him was already there, the other was coming in even though it was her day off.  I knew that it had to be bad to have two of them there. I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and told them that whatever the truth was, I could take it, so please shoot straight. I said that they did not have to sugar coat anything.

They both examined him and told me the news:  It was one of two things, either he had really over done it the day before and it would take a day or so to recover, or he was in the beginning stage of the dying process. They next 24 hours would tell a lot, and within 48 hours we would definitely know.

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach, but smiled and told them thank you.  I stayed with him all that day.  I made sure he was OK, had whatever he needed.  The staff were great, checking in on him, even checking in on me and asking me if I needed anything. The Hospice nurses we great, checking on Dad, taking his vitals, making sure that he was not in pain and could breathe fine.

I prayed and prayed, but deep down I knew,  I kept thinking about that last conversation he said…”If I am stying here then I am going to have to change how I think about a few things.”  He had lost Mom, the love of his life, he had left his home and friends, to move in with his daughter, and now he had been relocated to a very lovely assisted living facility.  I think he tried, but decided he didn’t want to continue.

He was lying there, and he looked so small.  A few times he rolled over on his side, with a grimace because of Pain. Dying of liver cancer is painful as the liver and kidneys shut down. But the Hospice nurses were wonderful in making sure that was not in pain long. They tended to him so lovingly and better than I could have.

By the afternoon he had the “death rattle” when breathing.  I remembered it from when Mom was dying and I knew what it was.  I knew that Dad wasn’t suffering or in any discomfort.  It sounds worse than it actually is. And I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I prayed that Dad would pull through somehow.  That a miracle would happen and that next morning he would wake up and smile, and tell me he was hungry. Prayed for grace and strength.

I sat there in the room with him as he slept and wondered who I could call.  I couldn’t find my older sister.  I had been keeping the other siblings updated, but they were not terribly bothered.  I called a few of my best friends…but I couldn’t get the words out…I think my Dad is dying, but I am not sure? They are not sure. We will know something in 24-48 hours? What was I to do in the meantime?  Was I going to have to go through this alone? The other four siblings probably wouldn’t be there.  Could I even handle being alone when Dad died? Again, I felt so alone.  That is the thing about death, it is usually worse for the loved ones than the patient.

The Hospice nurses, Trey and Julie, had explained to me that if this was the beginning process for Dad, that he would not suffer at all.  Not only because they would take care of him, but because dying of liver cancer is actually one of the most peaceful ways to go.  They said that the ammonia would build up in his brain and he would become delirious and almost happy.  And so it was.


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.


We are all the sum of the choices we make – that goes for a business as much as an individual – Richard Branson

We may not be the sum or all of our parts but we are the sum of our choices. I have a friend, she has been on of my best friends over the years. We have known each other almost 20 years and I love her dearly.  But she is making some very bad decisions, against all of us trying to help her.

No matter who we are, what we do, or where we are in life, we cannot escape our decisions. We answer for the decisions we make. And many times those decisions affect others as well. So where do good decisions start?

There is a saying that says we are what we think.  And I think that is true.  What ever it is we think, or think about, is where I decisions come from.  If our thoughts are aligned with positive things, our decision will be a reflection and a positive out =come will result.  But if we focus our thoughts on the negative or dysfunctional, then our decisions will be a reflection of that too. If we have a mind, and there for thoughts, that are sick, then so too will be the decisions we make.

We cannot escape the outcome of our decision, good or bad.  In that respect we create our own Karma.

My friend is not well, so I try not to judge her. Her decisions are not well right now either.  And she is reaping the outcome and that is furthering the downward spiral.  And many times all you can do is pray for the person making those bad choices, and be there for them when they decide they want to do better. Because you cannot help anyone until they want to be helped, until they make that choice for themselves.

And so I do both for my friend.  I pray and I will be there for her when she makes a decision to get out of the spiral she is in. And I pray that I make good decisions as well.


When the weather changes and gets warmer, we seem to get Spring Fever.  And indeed I have it.  I want to be outside, want to sit out on the deck, I want to enjoy the warm air.  I want to walk and hike and see and be active.  TV holds no special place for me and it is hard to be still.

There is an optimism in the air as well. I feel good about life, even if I am still overwhelmed at times.  But I know life will be OK, that I am Ok.  That life, and the world, renews and blooms during this time.  We all need fresh starts. We all need to step out of the old and walk into the new.  The New Normal is not one that I would have chosen, but it is what was given to me. And you work with life hand you re dealt,

In that instance, life is what you make it. So you find a way to make life work for you. Build the life you want, because life is what you make it, and where you start doesn’t really matter.  It is where you want to be.  And I want to be happy. I want to see the sun and feel warmth on my face.  I want a full, good, fulfilled, wonderful life.

And this Spring, this time, is the start. I will take this new normal and make it mine.  I will take this new normal and make it amazing. I will build the life I have always wanted. I will pray and have faith, and work hard, and stay on course.  And with God’s guidance, I will succeed.

Yes, this is Spring. And this is the beginning.

A Walk with Dad: The Phantom

This day, Thursday, was a good day with Dad, though he was tired from all the activity from the day before.  Eating in the dining room, socializing and moving around so much just wore him out.  I went to see Dad around lunch and he had already eaten in his room.  The staff were wonderful about making sure he had what he needed.

The staff also made me aware that the first Hospice that we used was good, but was not doing everything needed.  So I had another Hospice assigned.  And they were amazing. They gave a thorough examination and made sure I had their numbers.  They had chaplain who came while I was there.  Dad, who was a man of few words, immediately trusted him and opened up.  Dad smiled and talked easily.

The chaplain had a way about him that put people at ease, myself in included.  And he said he would come back, when it could be just the two of them, and really talk to Dad and make sure that he did not have any emotional or spiritual issues with the situation.  He said he would talk to Dad about loosing Mom, about his children and family, about God and make sure Dad was a Peace. He said that he was there for Dad, in whatever he may need in that capacity. Dad smiled and said he was looking forward to seeing the chaplain again.

Dad was in good spirits that day, though tired. He was still also in a bit of pain from the fall earlier.  He also fell at the assisted living place, and that jared him a bit, so he was sore from that as well.  Dad was having trouble balancing and walking.  He would shuffle his feet and sometimes would not lift them up quite enough when stepping.

Dad was still able to eat by himself and wasn’t shaking as much.  When he first went into rehab back in December, he was so weak and shaking so badly that he could barely hold a fork or spoon to get food to his mouth.  It was heartbreaking and I took video of it him if I was accused of exaggerating Dad’s condition. But he was doing well in assisted living. He was easily fatigued but doing much better. And that day he was in good spirits, so that made me feel much better too.

I was excited because I was going to see Phantom of the Opera with some friends.  I had bought 3 tickets a month before, originally for my then boyfriend and father.  Dad had not seen a stage production in a long time, and this was a great one to take him to – the amazing costumes, the effects, the music…it would be perfect.  But he was too tired and the then boyfriend was now the ex. So my friends and I went instead.

We had a great time that night and it was a needed break.  Sometimes when dealing with difficult emotional situations, you need to be reminded that life exists outside of your current experience.  That life does exist, period.


A Walk with Dad

As I sit back enjoying a quiet evening after a hectic and long day, the memories flood back. This time last year with my father.  The thing about memories is that they are often not chronological.  They just come in sometimes random order, leaving you to figure out which ones came first and on what days.

I remember visiting my Dad every day while he was at the Hospice House.  The rooms there were set up to look like real bedrooms in real homes.  They even had a sliding glass door with a wonderful patio.  I remember looking out and wishing that it was warm so Dad could enjoy the warmer temperatures.  But this time last year, it was still freezing.  Looking back it seems like last winter started in October and lasted until mid April.  Dad was miserable when it was cold.

I would stay and talk with him until he was tired and wanted to go to sleep.  Only then would I leave.  And we laughed and just talked. I would tell him about my day, about work, about things in general. And sometimes we didn’t way anything, we were just silent. He was tired often, and talking, thinking and keeping up with the conversation would take all of his energy. I went to leave, and I hugged him and told him I loved him like I always did.  And he looked at me and thanked me for everything that I had done for him…because I was the only child that would be there for him and do these things.  It broke my heart.  He was so sad when he said it.

I know he wanted so bad for my other sister to be there, but no one could fine her or get a hold of her. She had refused to help, then just disappeared, and no one knew why or how to reach  her. So we just thought she changed her number, since all we got was a recording when we tried to call.  I didn’t know what to tell Dad…what do you say when a number is disconnected and no one hears from that person?  What do you say when emails, phone calls, text messages, get bounced back when they have said they have no time or interest in helping?

And I desperately wanted my sister too.  I didn’t know what to do, or how.  We had lost Mom so soon before, how could I handle loosing Dad? But we are often stronger than we realize. There was no way to even tell her that Dad was in Hospice, or that his treatments had stopped and we did not know how long he had left.  And even if I did tell her, would she dismiss it like she had before and just told me that I was exaggerating, like she said about when I told her mom was sick?

The creepy ex had left, and I was devastated. Then trying to be there for Dad, talking to nurses, Hospice staff, making arrangements and getting all the legal things in order for the assisted living facility. And all the medical records and coordinations between the assisted living and Hospice. Trying to keep all the family – Dad’s siblings, cousins, my siblings and his childhood, high school, college and other friends updated. Oh, yes and still working a regular job,, though they were being incredibly understanding of my situation. I was crying all the time.  I wasn’t eating or sleeping. I was exhausted and distraught.  There was no one to help and I desperately needed help and advice, I needed a shoulder.  My friends called and did what they could. But I was just lost.  And I felt so very alone

And that had to be nothing compared to what Dad was feeling and going through. I can’t even imagine. He was a good and honorable man, he worked hard, he loved my mother and was a wonderful husband. He was my hero.

And so I loved sitting with him, talking with him, eating those boiled peanuts, fixing up his room. And when he got to the assisted living place, his room was lovely, with all of his favorite things.  And I left a little not on his pillow, letting him know that I had to be at work, but that I would there later…and in the meantime, there were boiled peanuts and his favorite beer in the fridge.

And I made sure he was Ok there, and almost spent the night with him that first night.  But I was exhausted, and needed to try to sleep.  Plus, the staff was checking on him every hour at night.  I kissed him goodnight and hugged him so tight that first night as assisted living. I was both relieved and scared.  I prayed he would be OK, and not feel lonely.

The next day I was there and he was still very tired as the moved the day before had taken a lot out of him.  But I went and talked to him and laughed and made sure he was OK.  I talked with the staff and nurses, they were looking after him well.  They we checking on him, making sure he ate, helping him shower and get around, as he was still unsteady.  That was on Tuesday.

Wednesday the 22nd I went and we had dinner or lunch together (can’t remember which).  But I remember wheeling him down to the dining area and we ate. The food was good, and we enjoyed the conversation. Afterward we listened as a few of the other members who stayed there played the piano. He loved it, and for the first time in a while, I saw him smile and his eyes dance.

It was a warmish day and so I took him outside for a little while.  The grounds were lovely, and there was a little patio with chairs and a little garden at the end of the hall, which was one door down, from his apartment. We sat out there are talked a bit before I wheeled him around the grounds.  Everyone was do friendly, and I think that maybe for a brief minute, he wanted to feel better so he could enjoy where he was living. There was a cool breeze that felt c=good to me, but gave him a chill.  So we went back to his room and sat and talked for a bit.  He was soon tired and ready for a nap. I hugged him tight and left for the evening. And as always, told him I loved him so very much before I left.

I still love you so much Dad. I know you wanted to be to home, but you were trying to enjoy where you were.  They took such great care of you, better than I could have honestly.  I am thankful for that day and that time together.




The Last Miles

There are times in all of our lives, when we feel like we have finally turned a corner when it comes to having dealt with trauma. And when it happens it is almost tangible, it can be felt so strongly. And yet, there is no evidence to the outsiders that anything has changed.

I turned that corner on Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day last year marked the final last miles I walked with my father.  The creepy ex who cheated on me with prostitutes and strippers left the house, leaving my father and I to enjoy the house.

My father and I were eating breakfast on the 16th when he made the comment that the house was so much more peaceful and pleasant. That said a lot coming from a man of few words.  We had a good time together, just being father and daughter.

And then Dad fell out of bed in the early morning hours of the 17th.  It was a Friday and he was to move into the assisted living the next day.  Instead he went into a Hospice Care facility for the next 5 days. He was in quite a bit of pain and they could take care of him, keep him comfortable and well looked after.

One night I took him boiled peanuts, and we had the best time eating them together, watching some TV and just talking about life.  Then while cleaning up, I slipped on a bag of boiled peanut juice and fell on my bum. I’ll never forget how my Dad laughed and called me the Pinktank, a nickname I have had for almost 30 years.  But his favorite nickname for me was simply PJ.  He had called me PJ since I was a little girl, about 4 years old.

All that weekend I moved Dad’s things into his assisted living apartment, set up his new place, hung pictures, got a shower curtain and other decorative things just for him. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I had enough love to make the place shine. I even had boiled peanuts, and his favorite beer in the fridge.  No detail was overlooked.  His favorite coffee cup, his favorite beer koozie, his favorite clothes and furniture.  I even got him new soft sheets for him to sleep on. I was exhausted, but I knew he would like it. AN I just wanted him to feel good and warm there.

He moved into his new place that Monday, the 21st.  And those were the last days we would spend together.  He passed away on March 1st. As the anniversary approaches, I am thoughtful and very aware of all the memories.  I spent as much time with him as possible, going at lunch or after work, sometimes both.  Such a wonderful, kind, gentle man.

And I finally feel like I have my life back together.  I finally have me peace, my groove and my heart back.  It is no longer shattered in a million pieces and my soul is once again whole.  So his anniversary now is so much different than Mom’s, when I was a certifiable mess. I have turned the corner in the grief neighborhood. Every day I am a little happier, even as I miss both of my parents so very much.

It is surreal that is has been a year.  And even longer than that for my mother. It is surreal that I have existed this long without them.  And that there is a lifetime ahead without them still. But the corner has been turned.  And I will never have to go back to that place of heartbreak again, even as I remember the last miles Dad and I walked together.

I love you Dad.  I miss your voice, and your hands, and your smile and you, It was my honor to walk those last miles with you, and a privilege to be there for you in your last moments.  To hold your hand as God took you in His arms. I know Mom was there to meet you, I saw your smile as you left. Please visit me in my dreams.