Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jonah's Dad

Yesterday started out like any other day.  Jonah and I woke up late like we have the past few weeks.  We wrote a couple of letters together; one to our HOA which is driving us mad with its rules, and another to the Parole Board regarding our friend who is in prison.

We were in the middle of our second letter when Jonah received a frantic call from his mom: Jonah's Dad was having trouble breathing and had become unresponsive.  We rushed to meet her and then discovered halfway there that Jonah's dad had been rushed to the hospital and Jonah's mom was with him.

Jonah and I got the the hospital about the same time as his brother and sister and their families.  We wandered the maze of halls until we found the emergency room.

Here's what had happened: Jonah's mom and dad had been on the way to the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions.  They were at a stop light when Jonah's dad started having problems.  Jonah's mom tried to call 911, but in her panic (and because she had just recently gotten a brand new phone which she wasn't quite familiar with), she couldn't, so she called Jonah's sister, who called 911, and also called Jonah.

Jonah had a dream about two days ago about his deceased grandfather coming to visit his dad.  He was a bit troubled by it because Jonah's dreams often have great significance and he had wondered if it meant his dad, who has had many health issues, would pass soon.  But he didn't dwell on it...until yesterday.

Jonah felt very strongly that his dad would not make it, and I felt the same.

The medical team did all they could, but it was clear that Jonah's dad had suffered a massive heart attack and was beyond saving.  In the end, the doctors kept him alive on a machine that was doing 95% of the work, but there was no brain activity.

Some, like Jonah and his older brother and sister, knew it was time to let Dad go.  Others, like the middle siblings, had a much harder time and wanted to try and save him.  Jonah's second oldest brother and his youngest sister (older than him, but the youngest female sibling) had a particularly difficult time letting go.

It was clear to me that it was his time to go, and Jonah and his older brother helped the others realize that what was best in the long run was to let Dad go.

The hospital kept him alive so that everyone had a chance to say goodbye, and happily, nearly everybody in the immediate family, including their spouses and children, were able to do so.

Jonah spent so much time making sure everyone else was okay and taken care of that I worried he wasn't giving time to himself.  But such is the way with Jonah.  Everyone else always seems to come first.

While he was still alive, Jonah's dad was having small seizures which caused his eyes to involuntarily open, so it seemed that there was more life in him than there really was.  He was quite cold to the touch, though, and of course, completely unresponsive.  I'm sure his spirit could hear what each of us said, though.

I looked at him for a long time and then simply told him I loved him and left the room to give closer family members a chance to say their goodbyes.  Jonah sent me and another friend to McDonald's to get some food for people because, by this time, we had been at the hospital for quite some time.

By the time we returned, it was official: he was gone.

I went in one more time.  Jonah's sister was clinging to the body and stroking it and wailing, "We need to take him home!  We need to take him home!"  Jonah's mom was saying, "They need to take the body."  She was obviously sad, but pretty calm.  She's not one who likes big scenes.

Jonah's mom asked me to let the staff know we were ready for the mortuary to come and get the body.  Then we all went down to the cafeteria.

Jonah's brother told me what a good man I was and what a blessing I was in Jonah's life.  He also said his dad thought very highly of me.  That made me feel good.

I liked Jonah's dad a lot.  He made me laugh and we said some good talks.  Jonah said whenever he would go to the house without me, the first question Jonah's dad would always ask was, "How are the kitties?" and the second one was always, "How's Cody?"  He would ask if I was still working and what I was up to.  He would always ask me if I had brought snow from Utah with me.  I know he liked me, and I liked him.

I will miss him.  Looking at his body was a surreal experience; it was the same face and body, but none of the spirit and personality.  I will miss that.

We worry about Jonah's mom.  On one hand, she has spent pretty much her entire life serving her husband and tending to his needs, and particularly the last twenty years or so, she has been burdened with much of his medical care.  But she loved him and was with him for 50+ years.  I also worry that without him her life will lose purpose and that she won't know what to do with herself.

There are also financial concerns.  Jonah's dad's income was what was keeping them afloat, and his death will cut that in half.  It's a sad situation.

After we left the hospital, Jonah bought some snacks for a gathering at his mom and dad's house, and he and I took much needed showers at home.

We spent most of the night at his parents' house, and it felt weird to be there without him being there.  I feel sad for his dog, who he adored and who adored him.

Jonah's sister said her grand-niece had said she saw her great-grandpa out back in the garden, and the sister replied, "No, he's gone home to live with Jesus," but I went out back in case his spirit was hanging around.  I think children are much more perceptive than we give them credit for.

The garden, which Jonah's dad loved and tended, was very peaceful.  I was the only one out there.  I spoke out loud and said, "I don't know if you can hear me or not, and I'm sure if you can, you can hear me much better than you used to [Jonah's dad was hard of hearing].  I just want you to know that I'm happy I got the chance to know you.  I love you, and I love your son; I hope you know how much.  I know you're in a better place now, free from any health issues you had, and I'm sure you're feeling a lot of love right now.  Oh, and if you ever meet my dad, tell him hi for me."

I'd like to think that Jonah's dad was there and heard it.  I just sat in one of the chairs Jonah's dad used to sit in.  The weather was cool with a light breeze, and there was a full moon.  The garden seemed wrong without Jonah's dad tooling around back there (as Jonah's sister later said, "Dad was always back here doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing."  I sat back there for probably twenty minutes to a half hour before anyone ever came back there.  It was very nice.

I visited with family members.  Jonah's sister told me some pretty intimate things about her and her relationship with her dad.  She said that 42 years earlier she had been very sick, and Jonah's dad, who had been living a fairly rough, raucous life up until then, had talked with a minister in the elevator, who asked if he was willing to give up his life for Jesus in order to save his daughter's.  He was and he did.  He never looked back, and she, of course, lived.

She talked about how just yesterday she was thinking about asking Jonah and I if she could have her 25th anniversary party in our backyard and how excited she had been at the thought of her dad walking her down the aisle to "recreate" her wedding and how sad it was that he couldn't.  I told her, "Just because his body and spirit are separated doesn't mean he's not still with you."

I was there when Jonah's sister and sister-in-law were talking about funeral arrangements, and I thought, "This is going to be challenging with so many siblings and family members with so many different opinions about what needs to be done."

At one point I was in the house and Dad's chair was empty.  I'd like to think his spirit was occupying it.

Jonah's mom nor his dad would have wanted a lot of hoopla and will have wanted the funeral to be short.  I hope they get their wish.

Jonah and I said goodbye to his mom.  She finally broke down as Jonah hugged her.  She had broken down one other time that I saw at the hospital when her grand-nephew hugged her.

Jonah and I got home late.  We talked on the way about the things we would miss about his dad like his talking over people about random things because he was hard of hearing and couldn't follow the conversation at hand; the little tunes he would hum; the jokes he would make; how he would drive his family crazy sometimes; him sitting on the front porch or working on a car or sleeping with his dog, Batman, in the easy chair.

I will miss this man:

I wish his great-grandson would have had more time to get to know him.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A New Perspective On Dad

I've mentioned that I've been transcribing Mom's journals.  I've been taking a break from that to transcribe my dad's love letters that he wrote Mom while he was in the Navy, and which she saved.  (I only wish Dad had saved her letters as well.)

These letters were written from November 1958 to June 1959, and Dad wrote Mom nearly every day during much of that time.  I knew these letters existed and even made every effort to find and preserve them when Mom's house was being cleaned out, but I have never actually started reading them until now.

They are a treasure trove indeed, and I will tell you why.  Not only do they capture what Mom and Dad were going through in the infancy of their love (which later led to their marriage in October of 1959), but they capture the thoughts of a man who never talked much about himself, his history, or what he was feeling.  They also capture a time he never talked about: his time in the Navy.

I've written before that Dad disliked the Navy a lot.  My great aunt said when he came home from the Navy, he threw away his uniform, and I believe Mom confirmed that story as well.  I think Dad probably didn't like the rigidity of service life nor did he care for the atmosphere; I also think he just plain hated being away from Mom, which is very evident in his letters.

The dad I knew was very loving and a wonderful provider to his family, but he was not very demonstrative or open with his emotions.  He was very quiet and kept a lot inside.

The 19 year-old boy who writes these letters I'm currently reading is funny, poetic, and madly in love with my mom.  I've always been a mama's boy and always considered my interests closer to Mom's than Dad's, but I see from my dad's letters that I probably inherited my writing skills, my love for music, and my singing ability from him.

The dad I knew tended to be serious, but the guy in these letters is goofy, intelligent, and poetic.  It's so great to see this side of my dad.  He was a great man who I admired a lot, but these letters bring out a whole other side of him.  I can see why my mom fell for him (and vice-versa).

Some of my favorite passages so far:

"Tell me, if a person talks to a picture, does it mean he’d better see a...head-shrinker ...I’ve found myself talking to your picture two or three times since I put it on my dresser-drawers – It is the large picture of both of us.  By the way, I sleep facing the dresser so you’re the last person I see before going to bed and the first one I see in the morning."

"I guess about all there is left to say is I Love You and imagine by now you’ve already guessed that.  So I’ll sign off now with this little thought: Confucious say, 'Boy and Girl who get caught in revolving door go around together'
"P.S. I do love you...more than words can tell and Confucious was right ‘cause we’re both caught in the revolving door of love"

"While I’m downtown today I must remember to pick up some more writing paper or my next letter to you is liable to be written on Kleenex tissues.  Do you realize that since I’ve started writing you, I’ve used up what would ordinarily be a two months supply of stationary for me.  I don’t care, though, ‘cause it’s worth every sheet of paper, every envelope, and every stamp I use just to hear from you and know that you still love me."
 "I hope to see you in a week and I’ll meet your plane no matter what time of day or night it comes in.  In the meantime I’ll keep sending my love to you by mail."

"It is now 11:05 A.M.  That...means in exactly 5,163 minutes, providing the plane is on time, we’ll be in each others arms.  Actually I haven’t started counting the minutes, yet.  I just figured it out.  I have started counting the hours, however.  I started counting them last night just before I went to bed.  If you get this letter at 6:00 PM Monday we’ll only be 31 hours apart as you read this.  I can hardly wait..
"You know, several times during the last two nights I’ve awakened from my sleep and just laid there thinking of you for about 45 minutes or an hour before I would fall asleep again."

"I’ve never loved or missed anyone so in my whole life.  All I can think about anymore in my spare time is you and the good times we’ve had together and dream of...good times yet to come.  Oh, my darling, I miss you so, and your letters mean very much to me so write often."

"I was singing the song, “Linger Awhile” to myself today.  The reason I tell you this is because the song has taken on a new meaning for me.  One verse starts out 'and when you are gone away, each hour will seem a day.'  Each hour away from you...does seem like a day and these past four days...have seemed like an eternity.  Oh, my darling, I love you so, and I miss you so and wish you were here with me, but I know this cannot be so all I can do now is send my love by mail and save the love in my heart until I am with you again."

Dad was a "smitten kitten."  I'm glad it worked out.

On another note, most days I feel I've adjusted well to Mom's declining mental health.  I'm able to see the humor in it and appreciate who Mom is.  And the fact is, she's healthy and seems happy.  But every once in a while I do have a melancholy or angry day where I just miss the woman I grew up with.  Of course, she's the same person, but her personality and mental capacity have altered a great deal.  I never would have imagined nine or ten years ago that we would be where we are now.

I call Mom every single day.  Most of the time we have the same exact conversation, but I'm grateful she's still in a stage where she can still create new memories (although sometimes she's not so successful at hanging on to them) and that she's able to communicate; that she still knows who I am and remembers much about my life.

But I do miss the woman I once had deep conversations with; who was an excellent Trivial Pursuit player; who read (and retained) a lot; who was very independent; who knew her history the way it happened; who I would go to lunch with; etc.  I just miss the old times.  

But I'm adjusting to the new.  It's all you can do, right? 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Mom Has A Boyfriend

Sorry I haven't written in a while.  Life gets busy.

The sale of Mom's house is supposed to close tomorrow.  I wish selling and buying houses didn't have to be so complicated.  But really, Mom's house sold much faster than I expected.  We're getting $183,365 for it, which is about what we had hoped to get, so that's great.

I'm sad to see the house go.  Jonah and I were in Utah this past week doing a lot of legal and trust stuff for my mom.  Very stressful stuff.  Anyway, at one point we visited our friend who have lived across the street from Mom just a couple of weeks less than lived in her home.  They've literally been lifelong friends to me, but it sure was weird seeing someone else living in the place I've long considered home (we let them move in and pay rent before the house officially closes).  I'm actually going to send them a letter welcoming them to their new home.  I only hope their family loves living there as much as mine did.

It was good to see Mom, and her brother who she hasn't seen for about seven years came to visit.  I think it was hard for him to see her like she is; I'm used to it now.  It was really good to see him.

And yes, it looks like Mom has become very good friends with a male resident.  It all seems very innocent, although one of the nurses called him (Harold his name is) the "resident Casanova."  I'm glad Mom has a friend, and I think it's good for both of them, but part of me feels like an overprotective parent saying, "Who is this boy?  What are his intentions?"

Mom seems to be adjusting well to her new home.  She didn't even have time to talk to me today because they were going on some outing.  I called later and found out she and Harold had sat together.  I saw them holding hands the other day.  My older sister saw Harold give Mom a kiss.

The other day Harold and Mom were talking in her room until 9:00 PM, at which point Mom said she and Harold should retire to their separate rooms and go to bed.

Mom is making friends.  She has told me about Harold, of course, as well as Helene (who's losing it, apparently), Libby, and Myrna.

The staff says she's a delight to have.  She still regressing, but seems somewhat stable.  She's still able to develop new memories and hold on to them, which is a good phase to be in.  Eventually, that stops as does the ability to communicate and eventually, the ability to feed and toilet oneself.

I don't know when all that will happen.  I look at Mom nine years ago, for example, and there were no signs of dementia whatsoever.  Here we are nine years later, and her short term memory is completely shot, she has imaginary memories, and she's very confused.  But she at least seems happy, which I am grateful for.

My brother and sister-in-law tried to have her over for dinner last night, but she was agitated and very confused about things.  She wanted to go home.  When they took her back, she didn't recognize the assisted living facility at all.  My brother was a bit disturbed by it.

Yet today, without any coaxing from me, she was able to relay some of what she did last night, so stuff is still getting through.

She has forgotten her home of 51 years.  It's good.  It makes it easier on her and us.  But it is bizarre.

Jonah and I met with Mom's lawyer this week and we were a bit taken aback that he had charged us $4,500 for a service we thought was included in the flat fee we had originally been quoted.  It turns out it wasn't.  We expressed our displeasure and said that in the future communication about such matters must be better.  $4,500 may be chump change to the law firm, but that's a month and a half's worth of care for Mom.

I'll be glad when the house money is in the trust.  Then we know with that and the other money Mom has that her care can be paid for for 6 or 7 years by which time Medicaid will be covering some of that.

I'm not looking forward to tax time next year.  I'm in charge of getting all that done, and I think this first year, especially, will be a bit of a headache.

Jonah and I had a good time visiting my family.  I do hope the next time I'm in town it will be a little more relaxing.