So, the weekend of March 24-25, my dad and my step mom were down in Coffeyville, KS overseeing the auction of my Uncle Joe's property.
They were walking into a restaurant when he fell and broke another vertebrate in his back.
In great pain, they made it back home, consulted their family doctor who advised them to get him to Olathe Medical Center. They checked in on Monday the 26th.
During the week they performed surgery on his back and repaired the broken vertebrate and gave him morphine for the pain.
He had a bad reaction to the morphine and sort of lost touch with reality.
They were in the process of weaning him off the morphine when his heart stopped on Friday morning.
They performed CPR and got his heart started again, breaking some of his fragile ribs in the process. He didn't regain consciousness. They put him on life support and the doctor told my step mom that dad probably wouldn't survive another resuscitation attempt.
She summoned the family. I called into work and spent all day Friday, March 30th sitting with the family, waiting and hoping for the best. My youngest brother started driving in from Los Angeles.
After 10 uneventful hours of sitting in the ICU waiting room it was clear that he was stable and in no immediate danger so I made my excuses and headed for home.
GTO was at a concert that night so I didn't have the opportunity to tell her what was going on.
She didn't even know he had been in the hospital. I hadn't told her because when you are 87 years old, being in and out of the hospital for this and that is pretty much routine.
This would come as a shock to her. She loves her Grandpa more than anyone else in the family. Probably more than me. I think the feeling was mutual on both sides and I’m OK with that.
Dad recently had his 69 year old WWII Merchant Marine Pea Coat overhauled and gave it to GTO, along with his Merchant Marine service ribbons. They were very close.
I once tried to talk to GTO about my wishes around Living Wills, Advance Directives and the fact that I wanted to be cremated. She cut me off and said “I’ve already made up my mind that you and Grandpa are never going to die so we don’t even need to have this discussion.”
I wasn't looking forward to delivering bad news. I actually considered postponing The Talk for at least another day. She was scheduled to have her senior photos taken on Saturday. That's a whole other story for another time.
So I was concerned about delivering such horrible news just hours before she was supposed to be posing for a set of once in a lifetime photos.
Would she be able to NOT look completely sad and devastated? Would I be sabotaging the photo shoot? Shouldn’t I wait until after?
But I also thought about how she would feel if I didn’t tell her and the worst happened. What if she didn’t even know he was sick and he died before she got a chance to say goodbye? Would that forever taint her senior photos? Every time she saw them would she remember “Oh yeah, that was the day my dad knew that Grandpa was dying and he didn’t even tell me so I never got to say goodbye.”
I knew what I had to do.
I woke her up on Saturday morning and told her what was going on. I didn’t tell her the part about how the doctors probably couldn’t resuscitate him again. I didn’t tell her about the doctor saying “I’m concerned”. I didn’t tell her about dad’s Advance Directive instructing the family to pull the plug because he didn’t want to be kept alive by a machine or lose his dignity.
I just told her he didn’t regain consciousness after they resuscitated him and they were still evaluating his condition. She cried. A lot.
I told her if she wanted me to take her to Olathe to see him I would. It was up to her. I assured her that I could get her there and back before the photo shoot.
As I was out running errands that afternoon, she texted me and asked “Are you sure tomorrow won’t be too late?”
Despite my best efforts to sugar coat things, she knew exactly what the situation was. I have a very smart daughter.
I assured her that we could wait until tomorrow. I knew this because my step mom had already decided that no matter what the doctors said, she wasn’t taking dad off of life support until my brother got here from California.
The neurologist ordered a CAT scan and did some tests. There was significant brain damage, but as of Saturday morning the neurologist wanted to give it another 24 hours before passing judgment.
Sunday morning I got the call that he had taken a turn for the worse and we should get to the hospital as soon as possible.
I woke GTO up and said “Get up and get ready. We need to go to the hospital.”
We headed for Olathe Medical Center. One of my brothers was already there. He was sitting in the room ICU room with my step mom holding vigil over our dad. As soon as I entered the room he bolted to the waiting room and I took his place next to my step mom.
My sister and nephew had come in with my brother but they were off grabbing a bite to eat.
A lot of my step mom’s family was already there when I arrived. More trickled in.
Finally, when everyone who was physically able to be present was in attendance, the decision was made.
Family members were asked to step out of the ICU unit while they withdrew the mechanical life support apparatus.
Family members who wished to return to be with him in his final moments were allowed back in. Those who were emotionally unable were excused.
None of my siblings could see it through. They all had emotional meltdowns and couldn’t go back in. One of my brothers had to leave the hospital before it even got to that point. And that’s OK. We all handle these things in our own fashion.
But I felt strongly that at least one of my father’s biological offspring needed to be there at the end. Although he had only been married to my mother for 18 years and he had been married to my step mom for 34 years, I couldn’t just drop all of this in the step families lap. I needed to be there.
I told GTO she didn’t have to go back in. She could go to the waiting room. She wanted to go back in and see it through. She’s as strong as she is smart.
My daughter and I were his only biological offspring to watch him draw his last breath.
My father passed away early in the afternoon of April 1, 2012.
Here are some memories of my dad from this blog. The first one goes all the way back to my very first month as a blogger in January, 2006.
My First Cussword
My Dad's Zippo
My Dad's Zippo Part 2
I love you dad. You done good. Rest in peace.
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