cancer diary

For now, silence.


August 4, 1945—March 19, 2002.

My mother stood by his left side, stroking his shoulder. My sister held his right hand, and I his left. Dad quietly stopped breathing at 5:31 p.m.

We were not surprised. We'd had several hours of warning.

Dad is no longer in pain. For this, I smile.

My father was a founding member of the Tull fire department, and it was one of the things that he cared about most. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the following:

Comfort care, a matter of time.

It is a matter of time, they say—yours and mine, and someone else's who doesn't even realize it at the moment.

I have been in Arkansas since early Sunday morning. How early, exactly? I don't remember; I don't remember when I crossed the Mississippi River, but I do remember that I was sobbing when I did.

We spent Saturday in Nashville with Dan, who was in from Michigan to help the UMich lacrosse team out (he videotapes their games). We spent an absolutely wonderful day there with him, and drove back in the early evening.

A day spent in Nashville, laughing it up with Dan, who was visiting from Michigan.

It's hard to look at this photo objectively; I look so happy in this photo, but it's colored by the knowledge I have now:  a few hours after this photo was taken, I got a call saying my father was dying, and that I needed to come home immediately.

The smile just doesn't look the same after that.Jeff, Dan, Amy

An oh-so-rare photo op with Dan before the lacrosse game.Flickr What happens when you ask two engineers to get mostly silliness.Flickr What happens when you ask two engineers to pose...Flickr Well, Dan always said I was short.  I'm just trying to make it look really true.Flickr

Lost: two ruby slippers, size 6

I wonder if I just come out and say it, will it make it any easier? My sister called me this evening, not ten minutes before we were supposed to leave for Sean's birthday party.

(Recent lesson, well learned: no call whose caller ID number starts with "501" is a call that brings good news. If a family member has something to say that can't wait until one of my regular calls, it can't be good news.)Today's was the news that Dad did not recognize my sister or my nephew—his grandchild.

My father adores that red-headed grandson of his, and has since the moment he was born. Today he asked my mother who the boy was.

When my sister told me, I cried. Then dried my eyes and went to Sean's birthday party. Because some things have to be done, and friends cannot be walked away from, birthdays left uncelebrated. I cried on the way home. I went to the bathroom and shook out two aspirins for my rapidly-worsening tension headache and just…squalled.

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There's no place like...


Pajamas. Your own shower. No more driving. Kitties. Spouse. Did I mention pajamas? Oh, yes, the worn and faded cotton set I've had since high school, with long sleeves and buttons that I've had to re-sew onto the shirt a couple of times.

I told Eleanor that I was going to get up at 6:30, and that I'd be on my way home within just a few minutes. I'm not entirely certain that she believed me, but she said to tap on her door before I left.I thought about things before I curled up on her couch last night (weighing options like showers and pajamas and drive time and such), and decided to sleep in my clothes. The alarm woke me up at 6:30. I made sure everything was in my bag, transferred everything out to my car, and tapped on her door at 6:35.

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twenty, twenty-two

I'm going to sit here quietly and just stare at the computer screen. Mom and Dad are…well, it might be an argument if Dad was capable of keeping a train of thought going for more than a couple of minutes.

Sometimes morphine is a bit of a blessing.

Dad has gotten a bit of a wild hair this morning, insisting that he and mom should go downstate today or tomorrow to visit his brother, who is a CPA and always does Mom and Dad's taxes for them. Mom is resisting—rightly, I think; Dad can't stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time, and really doesn't have the strength to make such a trip.We've taken turns on things the past few days, Mom and I have. Fixing breakfast for Dad, bringing him drinks when he's thirsty, helping him get to the back porch so he can take in a bit of sunshine and fresh air.

Those are the easy ones.

A letter

When Sis called, I was was keeping an eye on Dad while Mom went to Sheridan to renew her car tags. A few minutes later, I noticed that Dad was becoming quite restless. Shortly thereafter, Sis called, and I told her what was going on.

"If you're the only person there, watching Dad, and you see that he's starting to become restless in his sleep, keep a close eye on him. He's probably having breakthrough pain. Don't feel guilty about this—just go ahead and punch the button on his morphine dispenser to give him a bit of extra pain medication. Right now, rest is the best thing for him."

"So I should go ahead and give him one now?"

"Wouldn't hurt."

I cradled the cordless phone between shoulder and ear, and ever-so-quietly opened the velcro pouch that contained the dispenser for his pain medication. I pressed the "Dose" button, heard the two high beeps, and shortly thereafter Dad settled back down into a more peaceful sleep.