It is not easy watching someone die.
I know, with every breath that we take, that we are, in fact, dying.
I know that there is a cycle to life. There is birth, and death.
I know all of this. But experiencing is different than knowing.
My father is 87. By any calculation, he has lived a long life.
I’ve watched the decline. The strong, athletic golfer of my childhood started getting old. I knew that life had changed when he retired his golf clubs. My dad was an exceptional golfer; he almost went pro when he was in the Navy. Even in his 70’s he was playing with scores under his age. But his aches and pains started to interfere with the joy of the game, and one year he didn’t renew his membership at the golf course. The clubs were put in storage.
A broken hip, lung problems, and a litany of other ailments in the last few years further curtailed his activities. He was attached to oxygen and used a walker to get around the house. His trips to Tunica with my mom became an ordeal for all involved, oxygen tanks and scooters had to be arranged at the casinos. He griped and grumbled, and wasn’t really very pleasant to be around. My dad did not like this process of getting old, and he pretty much let everyone around him know it.
Dad was never a smooth communicator. Mom had that talent in the family. He was very direct, if he thought something, it’s was going to be said. He was very authoritarian when I was growing up, but became softer as he aged. So gruff and irascible on the surface, he would get sentimental and tear up over a birthday card.
We fought some battles, my dad and I. There is much of him in me. His stubborness is my perseverance.
I’m the oldest of four. Up until the time I was 8, dad was in the Navy and wasn’t home much. When he retired, we moved to Arkansas. I know that it was a tough adjustment for him after 25 years in the military. It was also a tough adjustment on my parent’s marriage, this living together without the break of three to nine month cruises while dad was away and mom handled the kids and the household. Two strong willed individuals, hey have grown old together, squabbling and loving each other in their 80’s just as they did when they were in their 20’s.
They have been married 65 years.
These last weeks he has been mostly bedridden. Two nights ago, he got up in the middle of the night and fell. Now he can’t get out of bed without help. Yesterday, we made the decision to move him to hospice. Mom, age 84, has been pretty stoic about all of this. The hospice nurse explained about the signs of the end of life, and that we were looking at days, perhaps a week or two. Mom said that she was surprised that this was happening so fast and then the tears came.
I didn’t sleep much last night. Remembering times with my dad. Making a mental list of things to do. Thinking about my mom. Last night might be the last night she spends under the same roof with her husband of 65 years. It’s hard starting a new phase of your life at 84, but that is what will happen. Nothing any of us can do about that, there is no way to protect her, or ourselves, against the reality of death.
Cherish what and who you have because you never know when they will slip away ~ Unknown