(Wednesday night, you will recall, was drama-filled, what with all the wailing and carrying on.) So I entered his living area cautiously, not sure of which version of my dad I'd be visiting.
He was quiet. And cold. And mostly non-responsive.
I managed to get some juice and dessert into him, but that was about it.
He wasn't a fan of our usual tour around the building and by 6 pm he was asking to go to bed. His care aids got him settled almost right away, so I sat beside him and told him he could go to sleep if he wanted - I'd be close by if he needed something.
"Ahm tierd" he said. And then he pointed at the lights.
I turned them off, turned his music down low, and moved my chair close to his bed.
"I can stay for awhile if you want, dad. Maybe I'll just sit here and read?"
So I kissed him and left.
And returned the next morning. (I had weekend plans that wouldn't allow me to stop by in the evening, so I thought I'd have lunch with him on Friday morning.)
When I arrived he was in his wheel chair in the common area just staring.
(Which is marginally better than when I arrived last week and couldn't find him anywhere on the third floor. The new care aid who works in the other neighbourhood on that floor said she remembered putting him in the elevator and sending him down to the main floor earlier, because he seemed to want to go there. So I waited ten hours for the elevator to inch its way up to the third floor and then crawl back down to the main floor, where I found him being screamed at by another dementia resident. Somehow their wheelchairs had connected (his brake cord was wrapped around her brake handle) and she was angry that he was following her everywhere.
She was saying ugly things to his face and he was slouched over, head bent, eyes full of sadness and shame, trying to wheel his chair away from her. My heart broke at what he was enduring. There was no spit or fire in him to defend himself - he just sat there and took was she was dishing out.
I tried to point out to her that 'look, this brake cord is wrapped here. Here, let me separate you two" but she has dementia or something, and was angry. She continued talking crap about my old man, so as I slipped the cord over the handle, I looked her in the eyes and said, "You are talking about my dad. And he is a good man. This? Was an accident; he hasn't done anything wrong. He is the best dad there is and I love him."
She? Wasn't having any of that.
She kept up with her trash talk, so I pushed her chair into the elevator and sent her back up to the third floor.
"Dad? We'll wait til the next elevator comes, OK?"
He doesn't look at me.
"Dad? Did she say some mean things?"
"Where you connected for a long time? Did you go out to the smoking hut with her?" (Smokers have an outdoor smoking room on the patio.)
I put my hand under his chin and tilt his face up so I can look into his eyes, which have tears in them.
"Dad? You did nothing wrong. You are a good person and a good dad. I love you."
ANYWAYS, when I arrived on Friday morning, he was on the third floor, in the common room, by himself, looking lost. And unfocused.
I did my usual big happy face 'hi dad!' but he didn't smile or respond.
And when I pushed his chair up to the table for lunch, he folded in half and put his head on the table. Which was a new location for him to place it.
By the time my mom arrived, he was completely unresponsive. He hadn't said anything to me, and his eyes kept rolling back in his head, so we brought him back to his room, tilted his chair back into a recline position and let him sleep. I sat beside him, holding his hand while mom and I chatted. Half an hour later Belinda offers to put him to bed, so we leave the room.
She calls mom after a few minutes, concerned, because she is unable to wake dad up. The LPN is in there, checking his vitals, but he is comatose. Sleeping. Not interested in being awake. Everything is fine; blood pressure, heart rate, temperature. He just won't wake up.
Which seems like peaceful way to go to me. At least he's not choking and gasping for air, like he does whenever we feed him.
But he is not passing - not on their watch, so after much yelling and jostling, he opens his eyes. Satisfied that he is alive and well, they, two care aids and the nurse, leave the room.
So we offer him food again, which he happily eats. He is bright-eyed and cheerful and opens his mouth like a little bird as I spoonfeed thickened pink stuff to him.
He had simply just needed a nap.
And by the time I left, so did I.
I left his room, far later than I originally intended, got into my truck in the underground parking, and put my head on the steering wheel for 15 minutes.
WHEN WILL THIS GET EASIER?
Emotions are really getting a work out during this season of my life.
I got home at 3:00 pm and had two hours to get ready for a 24 hour retreat at Cultus with my writing group.
By 5:30 we were on the road and twenty four hours later we were back.
What happens at Cultus, stays at Cultus. But I will say this; the 'writers' among us, couldn't join us in the end, so, uh, other creative activities took place.
I pulled into the driveway at 5 pm, and left again at 5:05 pm because my mom had emailed me that she wanted to meet me at church.
I arrived at church at 5:40, just in time for the 'turn around and say hi to the people around you' segment. None of those people around me were my mom, as she had changed her mind about going. Hahaha.
I needed to be there.
Jeff was preaching and he was earnest; asking those in the room who weren't Christians, why not? He was pleading with them to consider it. Today. Right then.
We don't know what tomorrow brings. So repent today. Say you're sorry for the things you've done. Accept Jesus as your savior. Get right with God. Let His peace fill you.
My constant burden for those I love that haven't done this, increased hundred-fold as I got into my truck after the service ended. I prayed quickly, again, for them, then turned my phone back on to see if I had any messages. Like, maybe a request for a showing or something. None.
But two minutes later, just as I was turning onto Downes Road, my phone rang, and it was Clint.
"Mom! Have you heard?"
"He died a few hours ago in a traffic accident."
I pulled over and started to cry.
I felt like throwing up.
I needed to hug my kids.
I wanted to look at their faces.
I called my mom. Then my sister.
I made it home, came into the house and paced.
It's lonely grieving by yourself.
I cried, on and off, for the rest of the evening; for his young wife, his siblings, his cousins, his friends, and of course, his parents (who are my friends.)
At 10, a friend messaged me, wondering if I'd heard. We 'chatted' back and forth and ended our conversation with something her daughter noted and we discussed:
"hey, he's in heaven with his grandpa, and can you even believe what he is actually experiencing right now?
If you look at it from his perspective, what a lucky guy!"
So thankful that he was a Christian. While the ache of his death is so painful, we all can have peace knowing he's hanging out with Johnny Cash, Moses, and Jesus.
It is really kind of fun to imagine what he is experiencing right now. It somehow gives you peace.
And just like that, tonight's message at church was relevant. Again.
You don't know what the day will bring.
Do you know where you're going if this is to be your last day on earth?
Not everyone gets a long slow goodbye/prep time with many second chances.
Some? Only have 23 years, and no warning.
Pray about these things.