Saturday, October 11, 2008

The anniversaries don't get easier...

though I had always thought they would!

The memories are never far from the surface...the months of being sick while he fooled around with the family doctor that had delivered my sister, myself, and my Mom; the one who had never told a patient they had cancer (including my Grandma who had 3 colostomies and went through radiation each time before there wasn't anything left to reconnect) since the first one he told killed himself in his parking lot. Being told we'll try this test; a week later that it hadn't shown anything, so next week we'll try something else- this went on for over two months!

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer when he finally went to someone else that only took a day; the news that in something that didn't have a high survival rate even then that this had gone on much too long; probably less than 6 months, no more than a year...

The man who had never taken a sick day from work in 35 years finally having to take a terminal leave; getting to take a few chemo treatments that left him so weak that the man who could pick up a hindquarter or foreleg of beef to butcher it was left at the mercy of strangers when he had a flat tire and a trucker stopped to help him.

The final 5 months spent in a hospital that began with him in ICU trying to get my pocketknife out of my pocket while I stood there alone with him; when I asked "why" he wrote on his little "Mickey Mouse" slate (because he was on a ventilator and couldn't speak) "End this bullshit!". My guilt at telling him I couldn't do that because my Mom would have filed charges on me.

Mom telling me it was all my fault he got the cancer because he was so stressed out worrying about me. Her telling everyone else in the family that he wouldn't give up and die because he knew how badly I'd fuck up my life if he wasn't around.

Dad telling me the last time he was off the ventilator that if there was anything in his garage I wanted I should probably go get it and take it home, because he wasn't sure what was going to happen after he died; then asking my wife and I to look after Mom when he was gone.

The doctors asking my sister and I to please talk to her and let them disconnect some of the pumps and things that were prolonging his agony; her telling us that we didn't have enough faith, that he was strong and he was going to get better.

Watching for 5 months as he went from 260 to 80 pounds...his veins so "shot" that the IV pumps would balloon his arm and leg on one side 'til the moved them to the other. The cancer eating his spine until his arms moved uncontrollably and his legs not at all.

Watching his eyes change as his brothers told stories from when they were boys, about him and each other, when everyone knew he was in a coma and that he couldn't hear anything.

The final hours watching his heart slide down out of his chest because there was nothing left to hold it, until his aorta burst.

My mother trying to legally change the conditions of his will after he died and threatening to take me to court if I didn't go along...

Finding out when she wanted the carpet in their bedroom pulled up that while he was sick she had moved into my sister's old bedroom and that the purple place on the gold carpet that bothered her was where the chemo had made him throw up and "he hadn't cleaned it up"...

Sometimes it's so hard to remember the happy times...the good times...

Especially today!



Anji said...

I know it's hard. My mum thought she could sit dad out in the garden in the sunshine and get him better. The ambulance men who took him home the day before he died were upset because really he was too ill to move.

We have to remember the strong dad who could sweep us up and swing us round to make us laugh. As you say it doesn't get easier.

von Krankipantzen said...

Oh, Alan. I am so sorry. What a tragedy in so many ways. Hugs to you.

Shinigami Liz said...

Saying that was a harsh and difficult story to read is a definite understatement. And as hard as it was to read I can not imagine how painful it was to write it. Whether it ever does get easier I think depends on the person. My father died about 2 years ago (and sadly I'm not even sure when the anniversary of that is) and although I do miss him I don't feel the loss very often either. Perhaps I am just a bad person for that, or else I am able to deal with it in a different way. But it is often hard to remember the good times when things end on such a severe note.

robin andrea said...

I hope there is some relief (a deliverance from sorrow) in the retelling of this. The thing I know, when my father was dying from liver cancer, is that he knew who dearly loved him and wished an end to his suffering. It is a very hard thing to watch someone you love exit the world in this way. That will always be true.

In the Jewish tradition, we put a stone on the grave. So here (0) is a stone for your father's grave.

zilla said...

I can not imagine what trauma your mother must have suffered during her formative years that could have made any of this seem "okay" to her. There must be something, Alan. I'm guessing she was severely emotionally abused. Not that anything would be an excuse, but sometimes an explanation helps us to begin to forgive.

Grief for a parent is difficult enough when it's not complicated by anger and resentment toward the other parent.

My mom, in a weak moment during a smoke-break from Myrt's wedding festivities tonight, wanted to "start" about my step-dad. Three words out of her mouth in "that tone," and I interrupted, "He was smart and funny as hell, and he helped me out when I needed help even though he wasn't obliged to, and THAT is what I choose to remember, because THAT gives me joy."

Good thing she didn't start about my dad. His absence tonight was palpable -- he loved Myrt so much, and he died when she was only ... not quite four years old.

Big squeezy hugs, Alan. Try to focus on the good stuff.

Carolyn Ann said...

I'm so sorry, Alan.

I can only echo Shinigami Liz and commend your courage in writing what must have been a difficult piece.

Your humanity is inspiring.

Carolyn Ann

Anonymous said...

my tears...for u....for me....

u have a place in my heart alan.....


*Ange* Life in the PS said...

Very sorry for your loss.
This story is a heart breaker, but you survive to even out the grief inflicted upon you by making others feel special (myself included).
You're a very good man.
Your father knew.

God bless you for surviving with so much goodness in your heart. You're truly a remarkable human being.

Doris said...

Oh dear God, that is just too heartbreaking and awful. What a heavy weight of guilt that should not have been heaped upon you; what madness there is out there and fro those nearest to us; and what tragedy that lives that were once one thing become unrecognisable.

Alan, you are amazing for surviving, and being so kind and gentle to us in the blog world.

Hugs xxx

ryssee said...

Oh, man, that's so rough. I'm so sorry it was such a tough time. Stuff like that never leaves your mind, and when it comes back it comes back in a big way.
I think you know my dad passed away a couple years ago. It was nothing like this but my mom and my brother weren't speaking at the time and she had been separated from my dad for a couple years and was still (with good reason) coming to terms with that decision. Which meant what he did and how she felt about it all. The worst part about that time (mercifully short, only 10 days at the very end), was that I loved them all so much but I found I couldn't talk to her about what was going on (all at my end of the state) and that sucked. It took a long time to get it all out to her. My brother was great through it all, he was closest to my dad. But anyway, your post, and your excellent writing of it, brought tears to my eyes, and empathy for you in having to relive the feelings from time to time.

ryssee said...

PS I need to start a secret blog myself, I think.

Green tea said...

I know how you feel Alan, I was pregnant with my youngest son when my Dada died at the age of 56 from Hodgkins disease
It was 10 days before Christmas, and
to this day I don't enjoy Christmas anymore..

Samantha said...

While I wasn't there when my Earl left this plane of existence, I unfortunately knew, to the last detail, what he went through. Why? Because having been an MD after a fashion for more years than I care to admit, I knew more about his condition than the doctors did. It was not at all a good way to die.

My brother John on the other hand, well he went very fast, a look of surprise and he was gone. My sister, she was lost to a super bug in a hospital, but only while being treated for having her other leg amputated. Both my parents, long, protracted battles with illness that were less than glorious in the time they fought. My friend Jody, who had several strokes over time that took her from my life, and of course the countless sea of people I fought to keep alive on my watch when I was still in that business. Not all of them made it.

I've had, quite frankly, an astonishing amount of loss in my life for someone who only turns 44 this year. Then again, everyone tells me I've fit several lifetimes worth of living into this one alone.

I guess this is all my longish way of saying "I grieve whit thee" Alan. It's hard losing folks regardless of when or why. The only consolation I have really is that I know I'll see them again. Not because any religion tells me so, but because this is neither my first, nor my last life, and during many incarnations, and between them, I've kept up with friends and family along the way. No, not religion that tells me I'll see them all again, but direct, measurable experience.

So I focus as I can, on limiting other people's suffering, by giving them love, compassion, empathy, kindness and knowledge of what's to come, and sharing with them the past, focusing on the good. It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best I can do with what I have to work.

You too my friend can only give, do, and be, the best at any given time you're able, and you should rest easy in the knowledge that all things happen for a reason. No worries, you'll see them all again, and they will be better than ever.

Two, and only two things last beyond the mortal coil. Feelings and Memories, those are yours to keep and they go with you when it's time to leave. How you feel about folks, what you remember about folks, will be there for you both to treasure many years, even lifetimes in the future!

I'm sorry for your loss, I know how that feels too...



chosha said...

What an awful way to die. I'm so sorry your mother couldn't find it in her to let him have things the way he wanted them. Even after 25 years, I can understand why you still have pain over it all. I hope one day you can let it go, because that kind of hurt is too heavy to bear forever.

One day I hope you'll tell us a happy story about your dad. I like the description of him hefting beef. I remember when my dad was that strong. Recently he had a minor stroke. I find that so scary because my grandfather (mum's dad) was also a strong man (built a porch on his house when he was 70) until he had two strokes and then he seems so frail. As mum and dad get older I do wonder how much longer they'll be around. I'm grateful I have the means to go home a few times a year. I wish you'd gotten more good, healthy time with your dad.