Most of you who have been reading here for awhile know how my husband died. Mike had a heart attack in his sleep at age 59. It was the most devastating shock I've ever lived through and I will spend the rest of my life recovering from it. The pain of that grief, I know now, will always be there.
But you readers also know, if you have been following, the twists and turns my life has taken since that horrific day over three and a half years ago. I have a boyfriend, I've met lots of new friends, many of them also widows and widowers. I've had two jobs that got me back into the world (one of which I had to leave to come here to Virginia to help take care of my dad), and I started school with the hopes of a new career. I'm also losing my house in Kona to foreclosure. Baby steps and big steps. Bad moments and good.
But what I'm going through now with my dad really, truly sucks. The high note is that he lived a long, full, prosperous, generous and successful life on every level. He is 83. My dad was the kindest, gentlest man you'd ever know. He and my incredible mother both came from very little, worked very hard, lived the quintessential American Dream which is now sadly dying, and gave me a wonderful life. So to see this man now, reduced to what he is, breaks my heart...a heart already broken, finds new ways to break.
A lot of the heartache is not just for him, but for my mom. To see the agony of helplessness, the not knowing what to do...the man she has been married to for 55 years disintegrating before our eyes...it's a new depth of pain.
We are splitting time with him during the days at the nursing home where he is, temporarily. Recently we've had to hire a night care sitter, because on top of everything he now apparently has this sundowners syndrome which makes it all go crazy with him at night, and we just can't do it all. Not even the wonderful staff there can do it all for him. We're exhausted and simply don't know what else to do. God bless all the sweet and doting caregivers. They will most certainly have a special place in heaven.
Anyway, Medicare will pay for a certain number of days there, which ends in about a week, and then we need to figure out what to do. Talks of selling their home of 42 years, relocating dad, and mom, to a good place they can afford...and relocating myself to be near them. This is all happening, but the difficulty of knowing where to turn for advice, which place will be best, where we will end up...seriously aren't there people out there whose job it is to advise in times like this? There are organizations out there that will give you lists of facilities. But we don't need lists. We need someone with real estate and financial acumen and a little thinking outside the box to help this giant move we need to do. We have a pretty good idea of the state and cities we are considering, for quality of life, taxes, and affordability. But meanwhile, since apparently there are no such magical services out there, my brother and I have been online researching cities, facilities, condos...neighborhoods...it's so hard. I just wish there were a little help fairy to come down and say, ok, this would be good, you can afford this for your parents, they'd be happy there, and you'd be happy living in that city too. To have to do all of this when you are really just wanting to grieve, truly sucks.
And I remind myself that my life is not at its end yet. I have plenty of living to do, I even have a new career to start. At my age, that's a lot...I feel old...yes, I do, living through Mike's death aged me, living through this with my parents feels like its aging me...but I'm not 78. I'm 48. Though the clock keeps ticking.
I know the clock is ticking on my dad too. But in the most horrible way I wish his clock would tick faster. He is not the man we all knew anymore. I think a lot about how his death will make my mom another widow. Kind of weird I went through that before she did. But his mind is gone...his body is broken down, he is miserable, he is inconsolable. Mom is so sad, so in agony, to see him like this.
I read a great book this week, in between the care giving, recommended by a friend. It's called Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. It was hard to read in places. But it contained so much wisdom. We should all, as humans, read this book.
Mike never wanted this to happen to him...he used to joke with us to put him on a surfboard and push him out to sea, or leave him under a tree on the mountain. Fortunately God took him quickly and painlessly. This is not what is happening to my dad. My elder stepdaughter, after hearing what's going on with my dad, in her usual direct but poignant wisdom, said, and mind you this is after years of intense suffering on her part finding a way to live without her own dear dad, I think we dodged a bullet with dad. Thank God he didn't go through this.
Yes. Mike hated doctors, and hospitals. He went exactly the way he would have wanted to, and it's not until now that I really, finally understand that deep in my soul. Before I might have agreed out loud, yes, wasn't he fortunate to go so easily, but it was always accompanied by a certain tacit resentment that I had no last moments with him. No longer. Watching my dad suffer like this, being part of the chaos of not knowing what to do, has led to, ironically, another level of healing for me about Mike. Something I could never bring myself to fully accept is now glowing brightly in front of me.
I'm glad, Mike, for your sake, that you escaped your earthly bonds so easily. I miss you so much. But I'm so happy you didn't suffer like this. God bless you, and from wherever you are, please put a good word in to ease my dad's transition.
Because I just don't know what else to do.