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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Change of Plans


This post is a hard one. I haven't published one since May 31, 2016.A whole year. Even though I sat down to write one August 26, 2016. I started it, and then clicked "save" instead of "publish". I just couldn't do it. I couldn't finish it. I have been gearing myself up for sometime to complete it.

And then I thought, "Well, I'll just write a different post to keep my blog active." But I couldn't do that either. Everytime I logged in, the draft was there and I felt like if I just skipped over it to write something else that I was leaving something undone. Not really for the readers, but for myself. And there was no way that I could delete it.

Below is the draft. Untouched and unedited from August 26th. I don't know what I am going to add. I don't know what else to say. But I know that today I am ready to say it.

CHANGE OF PLANS Aug 26, 2016
This summer was going to be a very productive one.
I had a list a mile long of all the things we were going to declutter. And right after the end of school, the boys and I got started.
I started in our bedroom and got our closet cleaned out. It was pretty awful.
The next thing on the list was to get that garage cleaned out. There hasn't been a car parked in there in 5 or 6 years. It seemed like anything anyone ever didn't want was getting stacked in there with the claim that "one day it was going to go to the dump or to Goodwill". Well, it didn't.

The boys and I were making great progress on the garage. We actually took NINE trips to our local transfer station. There were some larger pieces of furniture, old decorations, and boxes of stuff that had not been opened since we moved here in 2003.
It was all going to go. The goal was to get the garage finished, take our yearly beach vacation, and then when we returned we were going to attack the attic. That was going to mean a lot more trips to the transfer station, but it was going to get done!

At least that is what we thought. Except we had a change of plans.

Instead of gutting out the top floor of the house, I was walking to my father's garden and taking pictures of it to bring back inside to show him. I had to show him the picures of the blooms on the cucumber plants and tiny cabbages that were growing out there because he couldn't go outside. The garden that he had labored over in the same spot for almost 30 years could now only be seen from the kitchen window. Maybe. If he was able to get up and walk in there.

Instead of sitting on the floor with the kids and going through old albums and yearbooks and toys that everyone thought they needed to save up there, I was sitting in his living room with my sister watching 3-hour westerns. The ones he had seen a million times before, but because he wanted to watch them again, we did.

Instead of waking up early to beat the heat up there, I was waking up on his couch. We asked the Hospice home health care people to put his hospital bed in the dining room. That way he could see out of his favorite window all day long if he wanted. The couch was only a few feet away and from there and I could hear him when he needed me.

And instead of making plans to lighten our load of all the things we had at one time declared a necessity, I was sitting in the funeral home helping my mother choose the urn that his ashes would be placed in before they were interred in the Veteran's Cemetery wall.

Six weeks. Just six very short weeks.

He was already sick when we left for the beach. We had mulled it over and over, trying to decide if we should still go. My sister had the same dilemma the week before. She had an out of town trip and had contemplated staying home because he was in the hospital at that time. I told her to go- I would be here to take care of him. And when it was my turn for our trip, she would be here. It was all planned out.

He was out of the hospital when we left for the beach but about half way through our trip my sister called. She didn't want to, but had figured that she would have wanted to know the latest news. He had to go back in and the pulmonary specialist had deteremined that it was not just pnemonia or COPD like they had thought, but instead it was pulmonary fibrosis. And there is no cure. And it's worse than they thought. And medicine is just going to "keep him comfortable". And we need to have the "family talk".

Devestated. I was 1,000 miles away from him and there was nothing I could do.
By the time we got back home I was down to just 3 weeks. Three even shorter weeks.

We started cooking whatever it was that he wanted to eat. His medicines had taken away most of his appetite and even more of his taste buds. He said everything had that same bland flavor. However, ice cream, puddings, and pies seemed to all still taste amazing. So if that was what he wanted, that was what I was going to make. Meatloaf and Salisbury Steak sounded good, too- so they immediately went on our family's menu so that we could take some to him. 

He was in and out of the hospital for the next two weeks. I was so thankful to be off for the summer and to be able to be there for him when he needed something. I was trying to plan out in my head how I was going to balance that when school started back. How was I going to be able to be at work all day and take care of the kids, the house, and help my mom and sister care for him? But his need for more oxygen was increasing. His ability to be mobile was decreasing. He was so thin and tired. And scared and angry. He just couldn't believe that he was THAT sick THAT fast. He was worried that he wouldn't make it to his birthday. He started talking about his advance directive. He said he didn't want to stay on machines. When I went to visit him the day before he got released from the hospital, he showed me his "new bracelet". It said DNR.

One week. There was no way to know that I only had one week. 

The call was made and hospice started. They brought him a hospital bed and walkers and larger oxygen concentrators. She said there wasn't any need for him to take all those medications that were making his stomach hurt and his food taste bad anymore. She gave us a folder full of booklets and pamphlets to read about what to expect. To be prepared. Nothing could have prepared us. 

I stayed every night after he went into the hospital bed. I bought a huge bag of yarn, thinking I could make him a special blanket while we watched tv together. I started a new series on Netflix, thinking I could get through it while he was sleeping. I never finished either. 

The evening of July 15th he had an "episode", which caused lots of coughing and required him to have more oxygen. More than the two concentrators could give. The hospice nurse came to evaluate him. She was concerned and was very candid when we walked her out. She said she wasn't always comfortable with giving time frames but she was pretty sure that we were looking at just a couple of weeks left with him. 

The next morning, the morning of his 69th birthday, he was gone.



And that is where I stopped. I have come back to that sentence over and over for the last nine months and I just could not think of what to say after that. What do you say? And why? I thought again and again, "what is my motivation for finishing this blog post"?
I still haven't  completely figured that out. I just know that writing about it felt right at the time, and there is something theraputic about coming back to complete it.

These next couple of months are going to be hard ones. They are going to be full of sentences that start " it's been a year since..." and all those sentences are going to end with something sad. I am dreading all of those sentences, whether they are spoken or just stay with me as thoughts.

There isn't a day, or a half a day for that matter, that I am not thinking about him. It could be his picture, a song he liked, a saying he was famous for, a joke that he would think is hilarious, or a moment that he's missing because he isn't here, whatever it is, it takes me a second to regroup my thoughts.

I am grateful that I have this outlet for myself to share my thoughts. I am thankful for the family and friends who will read them and know that this was something that I needed to finish.
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