I have been absent from blogging for a few days.
Those of you who follow my little blog know that my father, Pop-pop, is terminally ill. Hospice has been called in and, as they say, “Now we wait.” It is a heart-breaking time and, frankly, it sucks. A lot. My siblings and I are taking turns staying with Dad now – he cannot be alone.
My father, once a robust, contrary guy with an opinion about anything and everything, now spends his waking hours – which are getting fewer and fewer – in an adjustable bed in the living room, watching TV for a few minutes at a time, sometimes with the sound blasting and other times with the sound muted, the closed captioning scrolling across the bottom of the screen. And all the while, my sister, brother or myself sit across the room in a recliner, or even closer on the nearby sofa, talking with Pop-pop when he feels like talking, making sure he has a drink or the daily paper (which he never reads, he just likes to “have it”), adjusting pillows and blankets and helping him with the TV remote. Increasingly, he just surrenders the remote and tells us to “Watch what we want.”
Did I mention that this really sucks?
I love my Pop-pop, and am angry that he is so sick. I am angry that doctors took so long to finally “figure out” WTF was wrong with him (why do we have to rule out everything before we arrive at diagnosis?). I am angry a bit with my Dad; seems he may have suspected he was sick over a year ago but, like all men I guess, we think he avoided seeking treatment or even a diagnosis, maybe because he was afraid of what he would find out. I get it, I do, but I am mad. And selfish, in a childish way – I don’t want Pop-pop “going anywhere…”
But now we are faced with the reality that is, well, reality. This past weekend, I went to my Dad’s house and spent the night, Sunday through late Monday evening. Pop-pop lives an existence without wi-fi, computers or internet anything – I mean, he really does still have a rotary phone at his house. So, no blog posts. Plus, I had more important things to do.
We had a nice overnight, my Dad and me. We just kinda’ hung out, had a bite together and then he mostly slept. I slept on the couch right beside his bed. It was a beautiful time for me, sad as the situation is, but I am thankful Pop-pop and I had that time alone together. It was a bit surreal, though – I mean, I have always heard all the expressions, you know the ones: “Life is one giant circle. Parents become your children. In the beginning, parents give you life and, at the end, you help them exit theirs.” They are all true.
As the evening progressed, I helped my Dad eat – he wanted a Bacon Junior Cheeseburger, a few fries and a Frosty from Wendy’s. At this point, we are all worried less with nutrition and more with making Dad happy. He ate half the burger, about a half dozen fries and maybe half his small Frosty. As I pulled his bed tray away, I looked at him and told him how “good” he had done, much as he had done to me as a child when I ate my dinner. I wrapped the burger and fries (I ate the Frosty!) and put them in the fridge. Inside the fridge, I saw other recent left-overs – three McNuggets here, one KFC chicken strip and a barely-touched mashed potatoes on the top shelf, two-thirds of a Burger King something and a few onion rings on another shelf. As I nestled the most recent left-overs into the fridge, I stood crying silently in the kitchen, out of my father’s sight.
The fridge that had burst with food when my Mom was alive was now all but empty, save for half-eaten fast food meals. a bottle of apple juice and goat cheese.
Yes, goat cheese. Pop-pop recently mentioned that he had always wondered what the heck goat cheese tasted like. So, on my visit, I brought him some to try. I spread goat cheese on three crackers and brought them to him on a small plate. He ate one, said it tasted “all right” and now he would be able to say he had tasted goat cheese…
My sister is staying with Pop-pop the next few days. I wonder what she will think, looking past packets of honey mustard dipping sauces and shriveling French fries, when she sees the goat cheese. I hope maybe she gets the chance to share some with Pop-pop, too…