Over the last five years I’ve had a lot of time to sit alone with my dad with each of us in the hospital so much and four years ago daddy accompanying me to my radiation treatments two days a week for more than six weeks so he and I have had lots of time to sit and pass the time together in hospital rooms and oncology waiting rooms. It’s hard to be grateful for sickness, but I’m so grateful for all the time we got to spend together over the last five years.
Dear Old Dad is gone, he passed away just before one o’clock Tuesday afternoon. Rest in peace Dad, maybe the Phillies play better in heaven.
Brooke Gladstone wrote in beginning pages of her book, “The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media,” that she writes and reports to help herself understand things so she can help others understand them as well. Five years ago I wrote to help myself comprehend my cancer and all of the surgeries and treatments that went along with it and maybe also others on the same journey understand their own journey; so here I am again writing to make sense of what is going on in my life and work my way through what I’ve read described as anticipatory grief or grieving before death. I feel lost, and afraid, and helpless because I have no control over the inevitable.
Dad’s dying, there’s no two ways about it; last fall we learned he has stage 3 heart failure and stage 3 kidney failure and that there is nothing more to be done surgically or medically; basically, it is what is until it isn’t. During the same time period Dad’s primary care doc told my mother and brother, Dad could live five days or five years. Lately what is has been less and what isn’t has been more pronounced and it’s terrifying and sad and all too real.
Nine days ago in my last blog post I wrote about fearing that Dear Old Dad wouldn’t make it through the night. Well he made it through the night and went in to the hospital the next morning. He spent seven days there having blood transfusions to get his hemoglobin up to nine from a low of seven point five, receiving IV Lasix to reduce the fluid in his body that the oral meds just weren’t strong enough to remove, and being put on two liters of oxygen to keep his oxygen levels above ninety as opposed to the eighty-five they’ve been hovering around.
Because of the anemia the cardiology team took Dad off of his Effient, which is basically a blood thinner that helps keep plaque and blood clots from forming around the six or nine (I don’t remember the exact number) stents in Dad’s heart; so it’s a trade off to I suppose give him a little bit better quality of life and a little more strength and in all honesty he’s not much stronger after seven days in the hospital. We had him moved to the rehab he was in last September to hopefully get him stronger, but he had a bad day today with nausea and vomiting and confusion. I hope once he gets in the swing of the daily routine and gets a few days of therapy going he’ll feel better and more like himself and be able to come home feeling stronger.
The term the nurses in the hospital use to explain the confusion is sundown, which basically is exactly what is sounds like, elderly people get more confused as the day winds down; no one’s sure why. Dad is definitely better during the earlier part of the day although maybe not right as he’s waking up. I swore up and down that if Dear Old Dad would take his head out of his ass and just allow the heart failure monitoring service to put him on oxygen at home (he’s a stubborn one) he wouldn’t wake up so confused but he’s been on the oxygen for more than a week now and he still gets confused. I don’t think the confusion is going away.
So there it is, what is and what isn’t, and my attempt to wrap my head around the knowledge that Dad’s dying and me trying to come to terms with that fact. I honestly believe it’s harder to watch someone get old and die than it is when they finally pass from this mortal coil. Long, sad endings suck, you can quote me on that.
I’m tired. This has been a really long and humbling semester. It has been a very long time since I’ve had to struggle through learning something. The last time I took a math or science class it was 1988 and my sophomore year in high school. I’m an insane perfectionist and I often choose to not tackle anything I don’t think I can excel at or intimidates me.
When I first started at MK it was intimidating to be the only one who wasn’t college educated and I was asking for and actually doing a job I wasn’t trained for, but as time went on I got good at my job and gained confidence. So it’s been at least 12 or 13 years since I’ve had to jump in with both feet and either sink or swim and I was a lot younger back then. I’d forgotten how intimidating and humbling it is to not know how to do something or to not just be intrinsically good at something.
I’ve felt small and stupid and less than since this semester began. The professor hasn’t exactly been prompt in grading our work so Id not’ have any of my grades for the second section labs nor do I have the grades for the labs I’ve turned in for this section so there’s a great deal of uncertainty, which if you know anything about me you know totally unhinges me. The perfectionist in me wants and needs an A, the realist in me knows that I need a C so I’ll be able to transfer the credits to a four-year college, the hopeful part of my soul hopes for a B but there are are 60 lab points and 50 assignment points sitting out there unassigned and ungraded. 110 points are the difference between passing easily and failing miserably.
I’ll take the last test and last quiz tomorrow and that’s another 125 points out there.
I’m really at my stress limit. I can’t wait for this class to be over.
I am participating in Writing 101 on WordPress.com
This started out as the reply to exercise three, which was supposed to be about three of my favorite songs. The exercise directed to just empty my head and write about the emotions connected to these songs. I was sort of stumped because at the time I couldn’t think of three favorite songs. I have so many and I love music so much I wasn’t sure I could pick three. And so I started with “Name” by Goo Goo Dolls and wrote about how the words of this mournful tune whispered in my ear while listening to my headphones on a SEPTA bus on my way to work. The words seeped in to my soul and have remained there. I thought perhaps I would stick with just writing about this one song and call it a day. Because really it just resonates with me to this day. It still makes me cry every time I hear it.
I still had time on the clock and I searched my heart and mind and then it happened, “Galileo” by Indigo Girls popped in to my mind. And I remembered it was the lyrics to this song I posted the day after finding out that the possibility existed that after the first round of 32 radiation treatments there was still cancer there. (FYI: Blessedly, a follow up MRI in October confirmed all the cancer was in fact gone.) Here is where all the emotions connected to that song and that moment came rushing to the top. And it was here where I walked away from this exercise. I thought to myself, how did I get through the day and the days and weeks that followed? How did I wake up every morning and live my life? How did I make it to October?
I was suddenly anxious and upset and I just shut down. I’m not sure the person I am today could be the person I was four years ago. I went back and reread a few of the blog entries that followed and I can’t imagine how I was that strong and resilient. Truth be told, I haven’t read back on many of the 365 Days of Carol Anne posts, but I do believe they are my best writing ever. I freely, openly, and fearlessly wrote my truth on a daily basis for an entire year: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the even uglier. It’s been almost four years since that day, but in that instant, while working on this exercise, I was transported back to that August morning in the neurosurgeon’s examining room, and all the fear and sorrow and loss that I felt came rushing back at me like a tsunami and ran me over like a steamroller.
I know this was supposed to be about our three favorite songs and the emotions connected to them but this writing exercise, which is now two days late, became so much more and took on a life of its own so it took me a few days to actually work through the emotions and put pen to paper and commit this to the web.
Oh, and for the record and to actually complete the exercise, I’ll add “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison as the third favorite song. I heard it during a lovely scene in the movie “Immediate Family” and fell instantly in love with this beautiful song.