These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Friday, November 02, 2007

going home

after the events of this tumultuour week, we're headed to see my dad.

it's been a surreal week. it's gone from knowing he was getting weaker, but a little at a time, to full-on decline. it seems that every day this week he's gotten worse. it's like the cancer, or his body, decided it was time to kick in and be ruthless.

it was still unclear as to us going sooner, as opposed to next week. but i had a few calls thursday that made up my mind and i called dawn to come home to get us tickets. next week might be too late.

my sister called and she didn't know too much more thanthe night before. then mom called and she told me in so many words that i should get there sooner if possible. she said dad was there if i wanted to talk to him, but then the nurse got on the phone and she detailed what was going on with him.

he stopped eating. didn't want anymore food. and he can't drink water. it would come up through his nose. that could be a reason why he isn't urinating, since he isn't taking any liquids. he's so weak that when he walks down the hall, he runs into the walls because he can't keep his balance. they have to be ready with a chair because he might fall. (he'd complained that his backside hurt because all of the meat was gone and it was bony.)

the nurse pretty much said that if he's still alive next weekend, he'd be ambulatory. but she didn't really know if he'd make it that long. she said he really wanted to see me.she asked if i wanted to talk to him. i said yes.

i heard voices and them asking taht it was his son from michigan on the phone. then my mom came on the line. he didn't want to talk to me. i think he felt he couldn't talk to me. he wanted to see me in person. that pretty much did it for me.

after dawn got home we were able to get tickets. i called back and infomred my mom that it was done, for her to tell dad. she said she had already told him, but that he didn't know who she was anymore.

he's had episodes where he's so disoriented that he doesn't know who mom is. a few months ago before a trip to the hospital, she couldn't remember her name and called her something else. he had too much morphine then.

it's so alarming that he's declined so quickly so soon. i guess i'm taken off-guard. i was used to the slow pace the cancer was moving that this is scary.

it's not become a reality. my dad is going to die. and he's going to die very soon. i'd hate to think that he's holding on to see me. but that is probably it. i'm the last person who he loves that he really hasn't seen and needs to see before he dies. i would not want to prolong this illness of his anymore.

i don't know what condition i'll find him when we arrive. i don't know if he'll further slip away or if he'll be somewhat lucid. that fact thathe doesn't recognize my mom scares me a lot. will he recognize me when i arrive at his bedside or chair? i hope so. even if he doesn't, really, i hope he knows it's me, his son. i hope that deep down inside where there is still a part of him that is my dad, will know and will be happy.

and even if i see him for a minute and then he fades, it'll be ok. it'll be a minute i'd treasure forever. it could be something that passes like a millisecond or something that lasts an eternity. but it'll be a memory nonetheless.

just hold on a little longer, pops. we'll be there. and i will hold your hand as you once held mine when i was a child, in times when you comforted me. now let me comfort you, my dear sweet father. i love you.

oh, dad, why did cancer have to come into our lives? why couldn't it have tiptoed around you. and let you be to live the life of an old man, and death would take you after a lifetime of living.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

dad's decline

my dad has taken a turn for the worst. we knew it was coming but within the past two weeks (and especially this week), he's really declined.

there have been so many phone calls this week, updates and catching up with linda and mom. i just don't know where to begin. but here goes.

it started last week with us being told that getting together for christmas was a good idea. so we made tentative plans. then the following day it turned out that thanksgiving was better because hospice was unsure if he'd make it to christmas. so made finalized a plane ride to texas. and that was it. we'd spent our thanksgiving with my family and it would be the last time i'd see my dad.

well, this week things changed. sunday my mom told dawn that my dad misses me. that really hit me hard. thought i didn't tell anyone, i couldn't stop thinking about it. dawn pushed me to try to go earlier. after talking about it, the following day (tuesday), i talked to my boss and told him what was happening. he told me fine, to change plans. dawn found a great deal for tickets for the following weekend. so we were set.

after we did that, there was some sort of relief in me. for weeks i've had this dark cloud over me, a weight on my shoulders that's made life really hard to deal with as of late. but now i'm ok. the weight is off. i can breathe again.

well, wednesday i get a call from mom saying she had a hard night with dad tuesday night. he was confused and was talking about things that either happened a long time ago or never did happen. mostly ranch-related stuff. later, linda called me saying he was seeing little children and thathe was smiling. that made me feel sad but at least he was happy. i wonder who it was he was seeing?

later, still, linda called again. she was crying. apparently dad couldn't urinate much at all. the nurse thought it a bad sign. he's been prone to urinary tract infections over the past few months. she thought that could be it or, worse, that his kidneys were shutting down.

they were going to put a catheter in and help him urinate. if he did, then it was an infection. if he didn't, then it is kidney failure. he urinated alittle.

the catheter was removed. the nurse said if he doesn't urinate in 12-14 hours, then his kidneys are failing. she gave him 24 t0 48 hours to live after that.

words my sister told me rang hard tonight. she said, "you might not get to see your dad alive again." and that could very well be true.

the last time i saw my dad was in june while visiting the ranch. we had a good visit and he was ok. not great but ok. i remember saying in an earlier blog that i could feel his shoulder blades and that was disconcerting. the last time i saw him, though, he was standing on the porch as we pulled away. he cried when we left.

the last time i talked to my dad was oct. 14, a sunday afternoon. i called expecting mom to answer. it was about 4 p.m. edt. when the phone picked up, there was a pause. i knew it was dad because mom would have said hello much quicker. he sounded so weak, almost whispering. we talked fora little bit. i mentioned the weather, lack of cool temperatures and how we'd gotten rain and about the new windows we'd be getting. i mentioned that we'd gone to chicago the day before for laura's baby shower. he said that noel and el compadre were building/finishing up the ramp outside on the porch for a wheelchair. he was nearby watching. i asked for mom but she was at church and hadn't returned. he said he thought it was her who was calling, so he answered the phone. it was a short call, maybe less than 10 minutes. i didn't know what to say, and now i wish i'd said more. i didn't ask much about his condition, as i hate asking that. but he said he was having a not so good day compared to other days. i told him i loved him and we hung up. the previous time we talked, dad ended up crying before he hung up the phone. it makes my heart sink when i hear him cry.

and now it's a waiting game to see what happens with my gentle, patient dad. in some ways, if we don't get to see him before he dies, it's ok. i've accepted it. i don't want him lingering on and suffering any more than he has to. in a letter i sent to him, i told him it was ok if he had to go before we arrived in texas. everything would be fine.

and wherever my dad goes from here, it will be a place with no cancer, perhaps a place where he can meet up with his brothers, elias and zaragocha and his parents, a place where it's calm, where he can be a rancher again, where he will smile and all will be good just like him.