Friday, January 28, 2005

You Are My Sunshine

Things change so fast.

When last I blogged, I was coming to terms with my grandfather's entry into the surreal life in the acute care ward. Apparently his care wasn't acute enough.

When you have a really old fella with cardiovascular problems, you sometimes run into a catch-22. For example, the old guy needs blood thinners, but he's getting feeble. Take him off the blood thinners, he may have a stroke. Leave him on and he may fall and bleed to death internally.

Papa fell. He got a cut on his forehead. His neurological checkup after the fall was clear (though it didn't include a scan.) A day and a half later he'd slipped into a coma, as he'd continued bleeding inside and he'd bled into his brain cavity, eventually causing major brain damage. That was Wednesday morning.

My mother and I met with the doctor, who had taken the scan data and consulted with a brain specialist. There was nothing but to make him comfortable and wait for the end. In his condition he shouldn't last out the night.

These people don't know Papa. Oh, he's no Great American Hero, but after a long stint in WWII (including the Battle of the Bulge) 65 years of marriage, and two quadruple bypasses, one might get the idea that he's a tough old bull.

So it's Friday, nearly evening. I'm at the foot of his bed back at the nursing home where they're just trying to keep him comfortable. He didn't want to be kept alive if this happened to him, but it's difficult to watch as we fulfill his wishes.

Sometimes he goes so still, it's like he's slipped away. Then he drags some oxygen through a thick stream of the fluid that is gradually building in his lungs and keeps on breathing. It's hard to see Papa like this. I hope my family has the strength to let me go, even when it's not pretty. I know we're doing what he asked, but man, it hurts to watch his body fight so hard for what his spirit doesn't want.

We've gone onto shifts now to make sure one of us will be here when he finally departs. Generally you don't want to die, but knowing you will, I think you especially don't want to die alone.

We talk to him and it's very hard not to wish he'd prattle back some nonsense from whatever unreality he'd been living in for the past year or so. I can imagine him slowly waking up, looking around to who's still here, and looking for the TV guide, now weeks out of date, to see what might be on TV.

I had really imagined that the conversations and visits I previously bloggerized would just go on for months and even a few years. I thought he'd drift all the way into his unreality then drift off some night when none of us expected it.

In some ways, when this is finally over, it will be better. Better than waiting until his mind was forever gone, his memory unrecoverable, and his eyes blank like a chalkboard on the day before school begins. His last look at me was one of quiet recognition, a little disoriented, but happy to have some loving company.

I'm going to miss him terribly. But that would be easier to deal with than sitting here and watching him slowly die.

But sometimes that's just what you have to do for the ones that you love.


It's about me, dummy!!!


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