The Last Big Hurdle

Wednesday evening, I got a response on an application I had submitted to a medical transcription service and I replied indicating my interest.  The recruiter had wanted to set up an interview, and I told her I would be home all day on both Thursday and Friday and that whenever suited her schedule would be fine with me.  I had just sent the email when my mom called, wanting me to go by IH on Thursday at noon to try to feed my dad his lunch.  Needless to say, when I was trying to boot up my computer Thursday morning to check when the recruiter wanted to call, it wanted to download humpty gazillion windows updates, which took all of ten minutes, and then took another ten minutes to “clean up” afterword.  When It finally got booted up and had downloaded email, the recruiter’s email said that her Thursday schedule was all full, but that Friday would work, and wanted to know if she could call around 11 a.m.  I replied that that would be fine with me.

When I got to IH Thursday at noon, my dad was in the common room in one of their recliners, where they could keep an eye on him.  He was lying there without his blankie and he was scooted down pretty far in his chair.  They had not put his teeth in.  He was talking but it was unrelated to anything going on around him.  He did know who I was, though.  I had brought the flower arrangement and a “double” picture frame with two photos, one of mom and dad on their wedding day, and one of them on their 60th wedding anniversary and put them in his room on top of the chifforobe.  I switched out the plug strip for one with an 8 foot cord, which worked much better.  The cord was long enough that the plug strip could rest on the bottom shelf of his table.

I got them to pull him up in the chair as he had scooted down so far that his knees were at the end of the foot rest. I got his blankie and covered him up, then tried to get him to eat some pudding.  He wouldn’t eat any more than one spoonful.  He did, however, drink all the iced tea in his sippy cup and then was drinking a cup of his coffee mix with half a packet of Breakfast Essentials in it.  I sat with him a while and then mom came.  We got the attendants to transfer him back to his own lift chair back in his room, where he was much more comfortable as the lift chair had a “gel” cushion in it.  He had finished the cup of hot coffee mix by the time I left.

Mom had talked with the home health service on Wednesday about getting dad on hospice, and when she came Thursday afternoon, she was waiting for someone from the hospice service to come by to see my dad either that afternoon or Friday afternoon.  He was approved for hospice Thursday afternoon, and by Friday, they had sent out a hospital bed with an air flotation mattress and gotten him settled in it.  A hospice nurse would call on him.

Friday, he was not gotten up into his chair at all, but left in his bed.  Mom got him to eat a little.  Saturday was the same.  The hospice attendant was to come by on Sunday as friends of my mom were throwing her a 90th birthday party at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. (Her actual birthday is Tuesday) She went to church Sunday morning; then as the time for the party neared, the heavens opened up and we had a good ol’ fashioned gullywasher.

Typically in this part of the country, when we get rain, we get a lot of it in a short amount of time.  Our city streets are “sculpted” in such a way as to funnel the water into the storm drains; the storm drain system disgorges into a series of playa lakes that the city has set up in parks about town.  The “downhill” streets (or the mild inclines that pass for hills in this part of the country) have troughs at the intersections to lead the water past the cross streets and into the storm drains/playa lakes, and keep the water from pooling at the intersections. (These troughs have the added benefit of slowing down traffic in the residential neighborhoods.) During the actual storm and for about an hour after it, the runoff in the gutters and the troughs across the intersections can get quite deep and one must approach them with caution so as not to stall out one’s car.  Needless to say, pickups with high ground clearance are always tearing through the runoff and sending great rooster tails of spray onto the cars in other lanes as they pass — not just rude, but dangerous as it momentarily obscures a driver’s vision.  (Since my car engine’s distributor is up on top of a wheel well, I was not as worried about stalling in deep water as I was about getting doused by the rude pickups.)

I made it to the party without stalling out, and dashed inside.  The hostess had provided a beautiful two-tier cake with red roses made of icing decorating it, as well as a lovely bouquet with, among other flowers, lovely red roses.  The party was a great deal of fun, and my mom was in her element schmoozing with her friends.  My brother brought his violin, and played “Happy Birthday” while we all sang.  It was a lovely party, and a good opportunity for my mom to be “rallied round” by her friends, who provided her with some much needed moral support.  She had remarked more than once that the past week of having my dad in care had been more difficult for her than actually caring for my dad, a remark I totally understand.  It is very hard to let go.

After the party, I helped my mom load up the top tier of the cake, her lovely flowers, and the mound of birthday cards people had brought and I followed her over to IH to see my dad.  We cut a small piece of cake for my dad and left the rest of it for his caregivers to share.  My mom stood at his bedside and fed him the piece of cake and got him to drink most of a sippy cup of Ensure.  He knew her, but he wasn’t quite sure who I was.  As he always did, he told my mom how much he loved her.  He also mentioned his friend. “She doesn’t have a name so I gave her one, ‘Tallulah,'”  and talked briefly about her — we have no idea whether he was confabulating a real experience with a caregiver, or whether it was a delusion born of his dementia.  We stayed at IH for about an hour, then I followed mom home and helped her carry her cards and gifts inside.

My mom had a doctor’s appointment Monday morning, and I had one that afternoon, both routine well checks.  At about 10:45, my mom called on her cell asking me to come to IH, as there had been “an emergency.”  I hurriedly made sure the cats had ample food and water, got dressed to go out, and drove over as quickly as I could.  When I arrived at IH, a woman was about to ring the doorbell, and I let her in, since I knew the door code.  When I got to my dad’s room, there was a nurse I didn’t recognize standing at my dad’s bedside, and mother greeted me with, “He’s gone.”  A family friend had visited him earlier at about 9 o’clock and found him sleeping.  She didn’t try to rouse him.  About an hour later, one of his caregivers had checked on him and had found that he wasn’t breathing. She had called the hospice nurse and my mom.  By the time I got there, the hospice nurse had already determined that my dad had passed, pronounced him and was preparing to sign the necessary papers.  They also called the ministerial counselor,  who turned out to be the woman I had let in the front door.

My mom had been at her appointment waiting to be seen by her doctor when they called her.  As she went out to her car to go to IH, she got out her little list of phone numbers (like my brother’s home and cellphone numbers), only to have the wind snatch it away from her.  None of the numbers had been put in her cellphone (she doesn’t know how to do it, and never asked me to although I would gladly have done so).  Fortunately, I had some of the same numbers in my cellphone and was able to call my brother, EL, one of my dad’s nieces, and CK, who had given her the birthday party. My brother’s shop is closed on Mondays, and fortunately he was at home.  He quickly joined us.

The hospice ministerial counselor contacted the funeral home for us, and two very personable men from the funeral home eventually came out.  We left at that point as my mom didn’t want to see him being taken out.  I followed her to her house, and we began the task of notifying the family and making the arrangements.  I made my mom drink a bottle of Ensure, and later I insisted that she eat something, so she microwaved a chicken pot pie to eat.

It just so happened that one of my mother’s nephews, JP, who is her oldest sister’s son, had called last week and had wanted to come over from New Mexico to take her out to lunch for her birthday.  The day they had agreed upon was this Thursday.  Unfortunately, that is the day when my dad’s funeral will be held.  We tried calling him, but according to the message my mom got, the phone lines were being worked on and the call couldn’t go through.  In the meantime, the associate pastor of our church came by, as well as a dear family friend (who was born on the day my parents got married).

After the big rain Sunday, I had noticed something dragging underneath my car, and thought it might be a tree branch or a piece of trash, but while it was parked in the driveway Monday, my mother’s neighbor J, who is always so good to her, rang the doorbell and asked to speak to me.  Her husband had seen something stuck under my car and pulled it out.  It was, unfortunately, attached to my car.   I had planned to get my oil changed — I really needed to get it done before cold weather set in — so I put the piece of plastic in my car.  By then it was nearly 4 p.m.  I went on to get my oil changed — only to be informed there would be a 45 minute wait, so I went home and saw to the kitties, fixed myself a sandwich, called my friend JT, who had helped me take the table to IH for my dad, and told him the sad news.  The recruiter of the medical transcription service had sent me a job offer, which I went ahead and accepted.  (I’ll be working Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 3 p.m. to midnight — starting this weekend! — and hope to work more hours later.)

When I went back to the ExpressCare, I was ushered right into the bay and got my oil changed and my car serviced.  The piece of plastic proved to be from the back of my bumper and was a very noncritical bit.  The Crayola is 27 years old.  So long as no important bits fall off, I’m happy.

Once I got home, I took refuge in housework, changing my bed and washing two loads of clothes.  Now I’m going to take my bath and try to get some sleep.  I’m meeting mom at her house at 8 o’clock in the morning.  We will go to IHOP for breakfast and then meet my brother at the funeral home to finalize arrangements.  My mom will have to take clothes for my dad to be laid out in, as well as provide information for the obituary (She already has one prepared for him and one for herself, with the pictures she wants of each of them, and has had them on file for a number of years.  My mom is very organized — and tries to be as prepared as she can be for any eventuality.)  The viewing will be Wednesday evening and the burial and memorial service will be Thursday morning.

Both mom and I managed to keep it together today.  I’m afraid if I lose it, mom will lose it (and vice-versa, no doubt).  I’m bracing myself for Wednesday and Thursday.  I don’t do well at funerals — even if it’s for somebody I barely know.  Thankfully, my weather widget shows no rain in the forecast for either day.  I have no idea what I’m going to wear.


10 thoughts on “The Last Big Hurdle

  1. I send you condolences to you and your mom. I am so very sorry.
    I will email you later this week, as I have had another encounter with the nursing home with my mom and Medicaid. I cannot go on with this much more.
    Later and please take care

  2. Sending virtual hugs across the world to you. I’m so glad that your Dad recognised your Mum and was able to tell her that he loved her on Sunday. He always sounded like a wonderful and devoted man when you wrote about him.
    May you and your Mum find the strength to get through this difficult time, and may your Dad rest in peace.
    Scarlet xx

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about your beloved Daddy. I had this feeling that he would go quickly once he had been transferred. I’m glad you had so many, many happy years with him.

  4. Wol, I’m so sorry for your loss. My mom passed away in March in a similar manner; she was in the hospital (I’m not sure why to this day) and she was supposed to be moved to rehab to get her strength back the next day. The nurse went in to the room and found she had stopped breathing. It was unexpected, but she had been failing and becoming more and more frail (she had heart valve problems and wouldn’t have survived surgery to repair the problems). It is a big hurdle.

    At least congratulations are in order for the new job. May you and your mom be each others strength during this difficult time. And I hope she doesn’t beat herself up because she had moved him to assisted living.

  5. Condolences on the loss of your father. Hugs to both you and your mom, infused with some extra strength to get through the service and its aftermath. Your deep love for your dad is evident in your entries here, and there is no finer memorial than love.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear of your dad’s passing, and yet there is much to be grateful for — not only his life, and his love for you and your mother, but also that last “party” with him. Cake, recognition, and an expression of love will make for good memories, once some time has passed.

    It sounds as though you’ve had good support all around, and that it will continue. My best to you and your mother.

  7. Dear WOL, I am so sorry to read your news, I only just came by this morning. How comforting for your lovely Mum that he knew her and was still able to tell her he loved her. I know it will be so hard for her now and for you . Sending strength and a hug to you.
    Do take care.

    Love Jane x

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