I made it through half my workday on Monday, June 13th, then I made up a schedule to get through the rest of the week, allowing me to be present for appointments, meetings, etc., with my dad's doctor, making plans, as we often do, so innocently sometimes.
I got through all my emails and did two reports, sort of on automatic when I look back on it, one part of my mind still on my mother's phone call, one part on my aunt and cousin's intrusion, the other keeping an eye on the clock, reminding myself that I'd promised my mother I'd be at their house by mid-day, late-lunchtime.
I ate my lunch at my desk, slowly, not really hungry, but needing some source of energy.
The drive to Ajax had no traffic, even though it was Monday, and the sky began to cloud over, from what had been a sunny, bright day. By the time I arrived at my parents house and had parked the car in the driveway and gotten out, a misty rain was falling, and the cloud cover had thickened.
I walked up the driveway, on the porch my mother was sitting, having her illicit cigarette, I have a comfort too, xanax is a small relaxtion. I don't smoke it, but it's my adult 'blankie'. We all need one. Or maybe not. I do. Especially now.
It is my exhausted mother's first break all day, I can see it in her flitting expression, her tired eyes alighting first on a peony bush, not yet bloomed, the cement of the porch, then finally, to me. We go inside.
Up to my father's room. He is lying, on his back, oxygen mask on his trach, eyes to the ceiling, and he seems to be sleeping, almost--but with his eyes open. He barely registers I'm there, but at last he brightens his expression and swivels his eyes toward me, recognition to the end. I smile.
I am wearing a green patterened dress, and it is 1:30 in the afternoon. My mom and I each take up a chair at my dad's bedside. Like yesterday, and the day before that, he's having a tough day. But there have been lots of those, so I don't over-analyze my place there, at his bedside. I hold his hand, he motions for the blanket to be taken off his legs, I move it out of the way, mentally thinking "I don't want you to be cold Dad..." but I don't say it aloud. At this point, my eyes are doing the talking, my face is stringing the sentences together.
I call my sister briefly in this stage.
She answers immediately. "What's happening?"
Me: "Nothing. Same old, same of the same.. Listen. I can work my schedule so I can be here to meet with the doctor tomorrow at 11 am and deal with what needs to happen re; drugs; Can you get here for 2:30 pm, meet with the Social Worker, and get some advice of how we're going to deal with Aunt K and Tam going forward?" She agrees to adjust her schedule and I exhale. We have a plan. A plan is part-way to a solution.
I go back upstairs.
As I sit, holding his hand, phrases, song lyrics, unbidden, float into my head.
One is "holding the hand of the dying"...this phrase comes from somewhere, as I look at my father's eyes, heaven-watching, rolling to look at the ceiling, seeing something that my mother and I cannot. Then a lyric; "the world, slows down, and my heart beat fasts right now"....and my heart does. His doesn't beat in the same powerful rhythm. A half hour goes by. The last real coherent sentence I read from my father's lips; "What time is it?" Me; "Two o'clock." The clock is near his bedside. My father is agitated. We offer his Ativan, I ask him to squeeze my hand if he wants it. Squeeze. I get the Ativan and try to put it under his tongue, but twice I do this and he spits it out. My mother is leaning forward in her chair, she is doing her worrying; it's swirling around us, and there is alot in the room right now. I mean, people wise, just me, my dad and mom, but the air is heavy, not with humidity, rain, or weather. Just...energy. I talk to my Dad about our family dog Shadow and seeing her. This provokes a genuine grin, meeting his eyes, but not like before. He's there, but...not.
We ask my dad in a soft voice if he wants to have a rest. He doesn't answer. He is trying to get his hand to his dry lips, the skin cracked. I realize his hand doesn't know where his mouth is. My mom gets a washcloth, wet with cool water, and we apply it to his mouth, helping with the dryness. I hold the washcloth there to his lips, my mom says he likes that; I do it for a short time, and he then tires of it, and pushes it away. I tell him my mom is going to have a cup of tea, is he ok if we both go downstairs? He doesn't answer, doesn't even try to form words to lip read; and at this point, when he does, I can't understand them. It's like he's not talking to me.
We go downstairs, my mom gets her tea, and cigarette number two, and I go to the kitchen and call my sister again. "Do you think you'll get here maybe a bit later in the day?" She says she can. I am interrupted by the ringing of my dad's bell, that stays beside his bed, his means of calling for help. Not one single ding of the bell but a few short rings. "Lisa, Dad's ringing, I'm going upstairs, call in a bit". She's says ok, I run upstairs, two at a time, to make sure he hasn't pulled his trach out, or anything is amiss.
He is lying, still, blanket still aside, and now he's taken the oxygen off.
"Dad? Dad? Are you ok?" No response, his eyes lolling, the ceiling, the unfocussed open-eyed look. I talk to him about meeting our family dog, Shadow. His breaths, if possible, become more ragged than before. My mom comes up from her tea break as I am leaning over him, helping him turn onto his side, his frail arm reaching for the bar of the hospital bed.
Then his eyes go wide, wide, and I am a daughter, not a doctor, and all those "end of life" pamphlets that we got from the hospital are gone from my mind, and I'm rubbing his shoulder and he's gasping, and my mother is in slow motion of facial expression. She needs a job. "Call the nurse, Mom, call her now, right now". I am talking to my Dad, slowly, softly, while he gasps, half on his side.
"It's me, Carolyn, it's me, Dad, I'm here, your daughter. It's me....you're going somewhere very safe.." I tell him to not be afraid, to do so is to minimize my own abject terror. "It's me Daddy." I can't even say 'Daddy'. I haven't said that in at least 25 years. I dial it down. Back to Dad. "Dad, I'm here." My mom wraps up her phone call. We are saying the Lord's Prayer as his eyes lose focus for a final time. I'm holding my Dad's grandfather's cruicifix, as I have been for the past two hours, a talisman, a wish from God; you helped your son, can you help this one too? I rubbed the crucifix as I thought this. He is not breathing anymore and his eyes are half closed. My mother's face is registering an expression I've never seen. She needs another job to do. "Call Lisa. Call her right now". She rushes out of the room. I'm still talking, still murmuring "Our Father" and saying that it's safe, it's alright. My mother gets my sister's voice mail. I tell her it's okay. We sit beside him, still re-assuring. Maybe he can hear us, somewhere.
He's gone; white as marble almost immediately, cold, but calm.
I am like marble too. Cold.