This entire week has been challenging, to say the least, on many, many levels. Not the least of which was family-involved.
Those reading my blog for a period of time know that my father has been traumatized by a number of medical conditions over the years. He has had five major open-thoracic operations within about a three year span. He had colon cancer twice yielding two huge tumors, two colostomies, then two resections. Followed by an operation for an aneurism. He has a stint in one of his arteries. Recently, he was diagnosed with leukemia.
But he’s a man of The Greatest Generation and he was tougher than tough. Yes, we were forced to place him into a skilled nursing facility on three prior occasions, but he managed to fight his way out every time by sheer determination. He became mobile and was able to go back home, despite having lost his wife and my mother in 2002 to COPD linked with smoking. He has reached the age of 88 by sheer force of will.
In seeking his independence, however, he became increasingly less stable. A few falls and, recently, I determined he couldn’t even walk. He essentially stopped eating and couldn’t take care of himself personally. I saw this, spoke to my brothers, and decided that I couldn’t trust Dad to be in the house all by himself without very close monitoring, 24/7.
Yesterday, I had to place him in a nursing home. And it cuts me to the quick. I feel like the worst possible betrayer, a bad son, and it literally tears my heart.
Unfortunately, it is the same nursing home from which my grandmother passed away in 1979, but it’s close to the house and “in the community” so to speak, and they remembered him from his past association there.
It killed me to see my father prostrated in bed at home, in huge amounts of pain, unable to move or gain a bathroom. He was self-medicating and no one could assure that he wasn’t under- or over-medicating himself. And it pained me further to see the look on his face when I broke the news of his having to lose his home, his car, his neighborhood, his independence.
So it was that on a cool, clear day, yesterday, that my brother and I had to lift him bodily on the seat of his walker, out to my car.
He sat quietly in my idling car, parked in the driveway of his first and only home, where he and his wife had lived since 1947, where my two brothers and I had been raised, where he was a leader in the military and had attained the rank of full bird Colonel in the United States Air Force, where he was able to retire, where he and his wife enjoyed friends, family, Thanksgivings, Christmases, seen their grandchildren grow and attend college . . .
He turned and, in a small voice, looked through the window and said: “Goodbye, house.”
My heart is about to burst.