Monday, June 06, 2005

RIP Carl Mitchell 1930-2005


My father died about three hours ago.

It's now six in the morning and I have to be at work at 8, so I'm trying to do anything, like, say, blogging, to take my mind off of things.

We have a major event happening on Thursday, and I have to go in this morning to put the finishing touches on things and get everything I was supposed to do that day parceled out to three (!) other people. Then, I can get into funeral planning mode, once I figure out what that's supposed to be.

In the meantime, I am blogging.

It's kind of fitting, since it's been caring for and dealing with my father that has kept me away from blogging for the last couple of months. (Yes, I finally had a good reason!) I have scads of half posts and notes all over the place, but all I've really been of the mindset to do online lately is surf. Spectating was about I could do. Participating took too much energy.

I'll blog in more detail later about the course of Dad's illness later on. For now, let me just say that he took ill (seriously) with heart/brain problems as I was coming back from San Francisco and had been in three different hospitals since April 12. The capitalist bastards at the last hospital were preparing to discharge him one day this week, citing "guidelines." Medicare guidelines, that is. Meaning, of course, "We can't get any more money off your father's illness, so go find a nursing home." My father decided to draw up his own discharge plan.

Keith and I spent Saturday visiting nursing homes and I was trying to mentally and emotionally prepare to juggle my work event, getting Dad assessed by a nursing home and then moved.

We visited him last night for a couple of hours and he was agitated and breathing roughly. The nurses said he had tried to get up and had fallen. He had not been upright since April 12. He kept telling us that he had to get ready to go. He wanted socks, because he couldn't go bare foot. He asked what time he was supposed to be there.

Ever since he had started talking again a couple of weeks ago, he had been increasingly disoriented. A neurologist at the hospital had started to suspect Alzheimer's, aggravated perhaps by the other conditions he had. He was never sure where he was, and we could not explain it to him so that he understood. The confusion made him anxious and he had been given some sedatives to calm him down.

Because of his recent history of confusion and agitation, we didn't think anything about it when we left. We were concerned, yes--I always hated to see him upset and not be able to comfort him in a way he could understand--but certainly not worried about him lasting the night.

Then at 2:47 this morning the call came. He had completely coded and was in the process of dying. When we got there, his heart had stopped and he was taking his last gasps of breath. I held his hand, called my brother, and then watched him go. He took one last big gasp, and then didn't move any more.

I've never seen anyone die before. Never thought I would either, much less my own father.

Right now, I'm a jumble of confused feelings and thoughts. I need to get through today, and then I can be with family and start our collective grief.

I am glad that, despite several heart attacks and strokes, he was able to live on his own for the past seven years, until this April 12, where he wanted and how he wanted. No one in the family approved and we all worried, but it was what he wanted to do. I am glad now that we did not force him into assisted living or some other facility.

I am glad that we did not have to put him through the confusion and stress of moving to the nursing home, where he would have forever been mentally and emotionally lost, confused and miserable.

I am glad that I do not have to go through the court hearing that was scheduled for July 11 to become his guardian. To do that, he would have to be declared incompetent by the court. I was dreading having to do that when he was not in a state to contest or fight back.

I am glad that we all got to have these last two months with him, that we all got to talk with him (even if he didn't always make sense), and that, in the end, he was the one who picked how and when he left the hospital. (I called the discharge planner and left a message on her voice mail that she didn't have to worry about her guidelines any more.)

I don't know what I believe any more about what happens to you when you die, but I do hope he's somewhere with his parents and siblings (he was the last survivor), and that he is at peace.

I sat with him for a long time. Keith said good-bye to him and left us alone. I told him how sorry I was for all the stupid shit that kept us apart for so many years. I told him that I hoped we had made up for that over the last decade or so. I apologized for being a bad son and forgave for the times I felt he was a bad parent. I told him that, in the end, we were what we got, and it really wasn't that bad after all. I told him I was glad that he lived long enough for me to realize that.

I thanked him for loving Keith the way he did, because I love him too. I thanked him for the miracle of a man with no high school diploma, who came from a working-class, Depression-era, Catholic family and had spent a lifetime in the army who didn't bat an eye when his oldest son finally said, "Dad, I'm gay." And then proceeded to make that son's male partner feel welcome every time they were together. In his more coherent moments, if I was there alone, Dad always asked about Keith. As he started to slip a bit, he asked me if Keith was "ever" going to come see him again. (Even though, usually, Keith had been there the day before.)

Then I took the little monitor thing off his finger. It had always bothered him, but he could never figure out how to get it off. I put his arms under the cover, tucked him in, kissed him on the forehead, turned out the light, and said good-bye.

The hospital that he was at used to be a Catholic hospital, and the private company that bought it out has left the chapel intact. I had taken my mother there a while ago, and she had filled out a prayer card for him and left it on an altar. (They provide them in the chapel for this purpose.) There is a banner in the chapel placed there by a local parish that provides some services there. It reads "Spend time with the Eucharistic Jesus." My dad was born and raised Catholic and then later baptized into the Baptist church (which was Mom's faith). I looked at the Eucharistic Jesus and said, "I don't know if you get him or if the Baptist Jesus gets him, but take care of him, whichever it is." Then I filled out a new prayer card requesting prayers for his soul and left it in the altar beside the one Mom filled out.

After we left the hospital, Keith and I went to Waffle House to eat. It was Dad's favorite place to eat and the place we always went whenever we visited. I wanted some coffee, and it seemed like the only fitting place to get it.

Now, it's seven, and it's time to try and get Keith up. He laid back down a while ago. I've cried and typed my way through the past hour and now it's time to get ready for work. God, I hope that I am ready for this week, but I don't know how I can be.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

One of the things that helped me get through my mother's death in 2011 was blogging. Blogging about going to Charlotte, NC after her stroke. Blogging about her death, where I was present. Blogging about writing the obbt. Blogging the obit. Blogging about putting the service. Blogging about the service. Blogging about my feelings after the service.

It can be therapeutic.