04 September 2010

I want to write this. I don't want to write this.

Sensitivity warning: My family may not want to read this.

I hadn't much thought about how my family views the fact that I live my life in the open, online. During this past week, when everyone was here, it became clear how at least one family member is troubled by my need to take my virtual underpants off in public all the time.

It sucked to learn that, but I suppose it is every writer's dilemma. Hide the truth and be a boring-ass writer, or let the demons out and watch friends and family recoil.

So I started thinking about writing about Dad's death and how it was for me and whether I should expose that nerve or not. If writing a blog has taught me anything, it is that the posts I can barely bring myself to write are exactly the ones that need to be written.

I may have to do this in several parts. I don't know if I have it in me to do it all at once.


Mom called as I was getting out of the shower Wednesday morning and said Dad had had a stroke and that she had called the ambulance. Then she said, in her characteristically mom way "Don't hurry."

I know what she meant. I know she wanted to say "Don't panic and run your stupid head into a tree on the way like people always do," but it still made me shake my head and laugh. Dad is having a stroke, but don't hurry.

When I got to the emergency room, Dad was in distress, eyes open, chest heaving, trying to breathe, moaning "Harrrrrrr ahhhhhh" though his oxygen mask. His eyes were unseeing, though, and the first doc that talked to me let me know, subtly, that there wasn't much hope, something I could also see in the eyes of the nurses as they gazed at me.

The doctor, Dr. Kooros Samadzadeh, started talking to me about options for either "comfort care" or medical care. Meaning was it ok to let dad die, or should we make a foolish attempt to save his life.

Except he didn't put it that way. He had a long, long explanation full of long, long examples about different kinds of patients and their different kinds of needs based on all the variables in their lives. The examples he used were all 40-year-old men, which looked to be about his age.

I finally snapped. "Can you," I said, moving my hands from far apart to close together "Cut to the chase?"

"No, no," he said. "I want to be sure you fully understand what I am talking about. I couldn't sleep at night if I felt I didn't explain this to you." And he launched back in.

After about 3 more minutes, I said "EDIT."

But he refused. He kept talking on and on until plants grew up around my feet and the sun set and the birds took to roost. Ok, not that long, but almost.

I started hyperventilating and tears began squirting from my eyes as they do only when I am really, really angry and frustrated. When I am hurt, I bawl like a baby, but when I am mad, my eyes are wide open, fists clenched, and the tears just fly out of my eyes.

"I don't mean to distress you," he said. "We don't have to have this conversation."

So he was giving me two choices. Either listen to his long-winded doctor-blather or not make decisions about my dad's care.

"No," said. "I know what my dad wanted and what my mom wants. No extraordinary measures. Do not resuscitate. No intubation. Comfort care only."

I felt like a giant marble statue towering over a field of broken glass. I have never felt so alone, or so grown up. I was doing a terrible, adult thing but I knew exactly what it had to be. It was nothing about me. It was about my dad, who could not speak for himself, and for whom I had to make the right choice.

I had to be made of marble. I had to let my heart shatter inside my chest while the outside of me stood strong and the world fell away around me.

Thankfully and right on time, my cousin showed up and hugged me and held my hands, prayed and hung out with me. We got Dad moved up to a room and then the whole family showed up and then it was just waiting and breathing, forgetting to eat, drinking hospital coffee.

At about 10 pm everyone went home to sleep. I was going to stay for a while and then go home and then I knew I couldn't leave my dad alone. In case he died. The thought of him fading away into death alone was terrible to me, unthinkable, and I could not take that chance.

So I sat for that long night and talked to him and sang to him. I sang "Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place" and "El Rey," because the lyrics talk about how sad everyone will be when the guy dies, but also they say something that would make him laugh:
"With money and without money.
I always do what I want.
And my word is law.
I have no throne or queen.
Or anyone who understands me.
But I'm still the king."

If he could hear me, I apologize for my singing.

I also prayed, though Dad isn't much of a pray-er.
I had my 27-bead prayer mala, so I did the Prayer for Protection 108 times. 108 is a magic prayer number, or so they say.
"The light of God surrounds us.
The love of God enfolds us.
The power of God protects us.
Wherever we are, God is,
and all is well."

I'm afraid he may be mad at me about that one.

Then I looked up "The Walrus and the Carpenter," on my phone and read it all the way through, because Dad loved to quote from that poem:
"The time has come, the walrus said,
To talk of many things.
Of shoes, of ships, of sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings."

It was a long long long long night. The mist poured down over the hills and crept about the town. We were on the sixth floor. The hospital was quiet and the half-hours crept by like days. I tried to doze in the uncomfortable chairs and woke up every few minutes.

The worst part, other than the fact that my dad was dying, which was pretty bad indeed, was the fact that I had that stupid Kesha song stuck in my head:
"Before I leave, I brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back"

I guess it was the part about leaving and not coming back that made it relevant, but I was so mad that it kept playing on a loop in my head and I couldn't stop it and I couldn't tell anyone because it seemed awful and sacrilegious for one, and for another none of my family would know what I was talking about because they hate music like that and so do I, but they play it at the gym, so it is embedded in my brain like an evil unstoppable parasite.

At 5:30 a.m., my brother came in to find me nodding off. He jumped visibly at the site of me still sitting there and gave me a hard time about why I didn't tell him I was going to stay all night. I didn't know I was. It just happened, and I'm really glad it did because I'll always have those hours of just me and dad and the night.

Ok. I'm cooked from writing that. Maybe I will write the rest. Maybe I won't. You already know the end.


Laurie said...

This took my breath away, literally. We should all have such a companion on our way out of here.

However others feel about it, I'm selfishly glad that you shared this with us, and unselfishly I truly believe this is what you need to do and that it will help you and that that is what' important.

I love you dearly.

I can't find my blog said...


I would think that your dad would have loved all you did for him that night.

1A said...

I don't know what to say except ... *hugs*

Stimey said...

My father died when I was very young. I didn't get a chance to really talk about his death until I was in college, and even then it was difficult and choked. I wish I could have talked about it sooner. If I had, maybe I could talk about him now, but I almost never can.

Talking about it helps. I'm glad you are. I hope it makes a little part of this more bearable for you.

You are a wonderful daughter for staying with him. I'm sure it was very difficult, but I'm glad you had that time with him.

meno said...

What you did pretty much defines love.

the queen said...

SueBob - Yes, my in-laws expressed their opinion of my blog recently too. Given that they live by the motto "Don't tell them nothing, it's none of their business," they had a firm opinion. I need to remember to follow my own moral code, not theirs. And my moral code is "Shamelessly share everything with everyone." Especially things you know others can benefit from, like DNR requests and so on. Shame and fear and not rocking the boat neevr helped anyone. (And my next two weekend will be weekends will be speant re-building my 'In Which We Mock Our In-laws' category. I'm using the Supreme Court's standard of "Would this post offend a reasonable in-law?")

mames said...

Writing this so so important. And your ability to share it is too. My head knows that the decision you made for/with him was totally right, my heart aches for your loss.

The song lyric loop? It happens to me too. A lot. Glad I am not alone in that. You are not alone either. Hug. Kiss. Hug. a

Elvie said...

My gosh, you write about your feelings so openly and express my feelings better than I ever could. I am glad we both got to have our "me" time with Daddy.
You are a blessed sister and I thank nGod you are mine.

Sharon said...

Ah, geez... Thank you.

Someday if we meet, I will tell you death stories that will make you laugh. I cannot yet write about them, but I can talk,

Live your life the way that feels good on you..I think that's why it's referred to as YOUR life.

Jason, as himself said...

Oh, Suebob. I haven't been reading many blogs the past couple of weeks so I didn't know. This was an incredible post, and I'm glad you wrote it. I'm glad you take your virtual underpants off in public.

This is just so...real. The clincher was the Kesha song. When my mom died I had similar feelings...ones that surprised me, ones I hadn't expected.

I'm so sorry. I'm glad you were there for him during his last night.

mar said...

i don't think there's ever an age where your parent-child dynamic is displaced more than by a parent's death; i know you've been 'parenting' your mom & dad to an extent for a while, but this was so much more powerful a moment.
this is so beautifully written & an amazing testimony of your relationship with your father. i'm so glad you were able to be with him.
and that's how i get when i'm angry too. the rage tears.

Kalyn Denny said...

I was there when my mom died, and I know I'll never forget how that felt. I think it was a wonderful gift for your dad that you stayed to spend that last night with him. What a moving post. Sending love to you and your family.

mayberry said...

I'm glad you wrote it, and posted it. Your dad was awesome and so are you.

Unknown said...

My eyes are tearing up just reading this. You were so strong on Twitter during this -- it is good to hear some of the other emotions going on in your head and heart. Also, making adult decisions is super the hardest.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, beautiful post. I think your choice of media (poems and songs) for your night with your dad were meaningful in a way that will become brighter as the years pass. Being present for somebody's last hours is such a privilege. Thanks so much for telling this part of the story.

Suzanne said...

Thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts and wonderful writing about such a difficult topic. I am really glad that you were with your dad and the two of you are lucky to have had one another.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

Please keep writing about it if you need to and please stop if you need to stop. Both are valid. Doing what you need to do, especially in times like these, is healthy and good.

thordora said...

oh. oh honey. The made me tear up and hope my passing holds as much awe someday.

Mom101 said...

Oh Suebob, I'm so
sorry. This is a beautiful tribute to your love and respect for your dad and also to the kind of daughter he raised. I hope no one will fault you for speaking your truth. Especially when it was done so honestly, respectfully and beautifully.

TZT said...

Thank you for posting this.

It's so humbling, this business of death, so totally unique and utterly common.

This is a beautiful, earth-bound reflection. I hope writing and sharing it are both healing for you. Reading them is healing for me.

Erika Jurney said...

Such a beautiful tribute to your dad. I'm glad you're able to keep writing about what really matters to you.

Barnmaven said...

As my aging father's health deteriorates this post has particular relevance to me. I hope that I have the ability and the opportunity to be there for him in the way that you were for your dad. The process of dying should not have to be a lonely experience for the person making the exit. To have someone at their side, loving them and holding them through the journey is beautiful and blessed.

Nancy said...

I have been away and amm just now getting caught up, so I apologize for being late to express my condolences oon the loss of your father. I am so sorry.

I am sure your dad appreciated your bravery as you advocated for him and your completely unselfish act of love as you stayed with him throughout the night.

Hugs and love to you.

Kim said...

I'm crying now ~ my daddy died last October 20 ~ and my heart breaks for your loss.

(I envy you [a little, and only for] those hours you got to spend with your dad, alone, and wish that I had had that chance....)

I understand why your family might be reticent about your life lived out loud, but I'm so glad you live it that way. You always make me think and often make me laugh aloud. Thank you for continuing to write.

Ericka said...

oh suebob.

this was beautiful.

i'm sorry that you're hurting, and i'm sorry if your family is giving you further grief.

i remember when my dad's mom was sick and in the hospital, and we knew the end was near. i had some stupid song stuck in my head, and something happened that gave me the giggles and i was mortified that i was so inappropriate.

but grief is exhausting, and saps your strength and you (well, I anyway) need the humor and the sense of the ridiculous to shore yourself up for the next horrible thing.

so, whatever gets you thru the day!

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I was holding my breath as I read this.

I don't know why I needed to tell you that, but I did.

nonlineargirl said...

That made me think a lot of things, the only relevant one is: thank you for sharing that experience.

Jess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess said...

Love and light to you, my friend.

Val said...

I somehow found my way to your blog tonight for the first time. You'll be in my prayers. I agree with the reader who wrote that what you did was love. Best wishes to you for the days ahead, and peace for your whole family.

Mir said...

I hope you'll write the rest. It feels wrong to say it's a lovely story, because dying is anything but, but it's so much a story of the love you and your folks share, and THAT is so marvelous.

And I love that your mom told you not to hurry. I'm guessing your dad would've added "I'm fine, don't bother" if he could've. ;)

Lynnea said...

I struggle with hanging out with my pants down. But times like these, when you write even the minimum of the sorrow you endure, the good in people becomes apparent. And I love that. I love the glimpse into the kindness that still lurks in the hearts of the populace.

I'm glad and proud of you for making the choices you knew were right. Though difficult, you will always be able to know it was his wish. I have so often wished that any language held words to truly bolster shattered hearts, but even poetry cannot touch that darkness. Time is the only ally I believe. In lieu of the time I cannot send, I offer love and support. I have long admired you Suebob. You are a rock and wonderful example of someone who lives the life they believe in.

sassymonkey said...

I had a night like that with my grandmother, sort of. I had flown in the night before and stayed with my sister. I had stayed late the nursing home that evening to see if my mother wanted anything. I was waiting for my sister to get off shift (she worked there part time). The weather worsened. I worried that driving home wasn't safe. So I stayed, as did my sister, my mother and my aunt. It was a special night, one that I hold in my heart.

(I've been offline all weekend. Coincidentally you published this on what would have been my grandmother's birthday.)

Carrie (in MN) said...

I like what Meno said: what you did pretty much defines love. We should all be so lucky to have someone be so in the moment with us when we pass.

This part really touched me: "I felt like a giant marble statue towering over a field of broken glass. I have never felt so alone, or so grown up. I was doing a terrible, adult thing but I knew exactly what it had to be." My husband and his siblings had to make these terrible, adult decisions this year for their mother. It is hard...just hard. Carrie

joanne said...

My condolences. It is hard to be the one to make the decisions.... even when your parent has made their wishes clear. It is not easy to be the one signing off.

You dealt with it the best possible way (by not slugging that doctor)....

If it helps you at all to know....
I am proud of you.

Yes, we have never met... but I am still proud of you... as your father would be.

I wish you peace and comfort.

joanne said...

(PS -- I get the same angry tear shooting out of my face when I'm really angry. It is truly anoying to see how alarmed people get at the tears, but not at the anger that starts them.)

Kizz said...

Thanks for writing it. And thanks in advance if you write the rest.

You took me right back to a lot of different hotel rooms and a lot of uncomfortable chairs. But in an important way.


stinkypaw said...

Sorry for your loss. You're right, you will always have that night with your dad, and that is priceless.

Anonymous said...

There's a special thing in sitting with the dying. It's one of the greatest things we ever do. I'm glad you had that time even as I'm sorry you needed it.

I'm sorry for your loss.

dianarepublic said...

So sad and beautiful - that night will be a bittersweet memory for you to treasure as weird as that may sound.

I am truly sorry for your loss.

Pea said...

Oh. I'm sorry to hear about your father. Still trying to catch up with everyone. What a beautiful thing you did. I wish your father and your family peace and comfort.

trinity67 said...

So sorry for your loss.

KD said...

Thank you for sharing...and do do do keep sharing...

lizriz said...

A late comment to say that I have been thinking of you and so sorry for your loss. A beautiful post, and so glad you continue sharing. < hugs >

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