Thursday, June 19, 2008


I had hoped to get this post ready for Fathers' Day, but it was more than a bit hectic around here lately.

I haven't had the time - or the heart - to post much lately. I have been in the Midwest being the primary care-giver to my father. It is a harder job than I ever imagined.

His only wish is to die at home, and so I am doing everything I can to keep him comfortable and as healthy as possible. The folks from Hospice have been a great help on that score. Between their medical care and my cooking he is healthier than he was, but in the end it is only to keep him comfortable.

I would love to tell you what it is, but at 90-years-old, it is age as much as anything. Cancer? Yes, but it was in remission at his last checkup. Heart? Perhaps. His circulation and breathing is certainly impacted. Just age.

I am glad I am able to do this for him, but it is very, very difficult. In part because we are so much alike - both strong personalities - and because I hate this little town. I said I would never come back here on more than one occasion. (Too many bad memories.) "Never say never."

At this point, my view of the medical profession is better than it was, all because of Hospice.

An uncle's life was cut short when (at 80 years) was subjected to 3 major surgeries in 4 months because a young doctor didn't believe that old men die. Not on his watch, anyway. (They were preparing for the fourth surgery when he died as a result of complications from surgery 3.) He would have lived longer had they just treated his pain, and let him be at home.

My mother spent the last 8 weeks of her life in intensive care. The heart operation that was supposed to "save" her, destroyed her quality of life and directly lead to her death. Quantity does not substitute for quality. And oxygen and other non-invasive treatments probably could have let her live for 1 month, and maybe more. Spending all your time tied to a respirator, unable to talk, in the environment of an ICU - where they don't even like family to visit - is not the way you want to live the last days of your life. Or at least that's how my dad feels.

So he's at home, where my sister and her son can visit, and his friends can stop in and say hello, surrounded by the memories of his life - he has lived here since 1962. And I can do something for him. It never feels like it's enough, but I am glad I have the opportunity to help give him his last wish.

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