Dad was transferred to Hospice. He’s slipping day by day. I can’t talk to him much. Never could really, but there is something about the end of life that makes all the mistakes and opportunities missed roar to the surface and glare like a parking lot full of pissed off teenagers. Dad can barely hear me. I holler “I love you”, before giving him a dose of morphine, before rolling him over, before walking out of the room to cry so he won’t know. I can’t believe anyone can look so wasted and still draw breath. I can’t tell if his mind is in the room or if mercy lets him wander to a better place. I see fear in his eyes but not recognition. He is no longer capable of helping himself. He told me in a voice so quiet I thought I made it up that he wants to die now. Mom stays beside him and they hold hands for hours. When I leave the room she tries to care for him. Every pillow, blanket and banana in the house is piled on him and he lies there motionless, roasting in fruit. I never catch her doing these things. I don’t know when she managed to pull the flowers out of their pots on the patio. It looked like rage and I understood the sentiment, although I have yet to rip up flowers myself. That is the part about this that is so surprising. I’m furious. Why the hell did Dad go crazy then lie in bed refusing to move? Why does this have to happen? It is too hard to believe. I honestly think I’ll be able to walk in the room and see him vital again, just his usual pissed off, uncommunicative self. He said something a few days ago that made the ground under my feet less solid. I have been feeling selfish for wanting anything from someone in his condition and now I almost want him to take his words back. He looked me in the eye and said “Thank you,” over and over more slowly each time and I understood. He knows. Use words sparingly and their impact will move mountains. His gratitude simply drained the rage out of me, and then grief rushed in to fill the void. I didn’t know that anger functioned as such a powerful shield. Granted I tend to learn the hard way, but next time I think he is listening I’ll thank him too.
Many, many thanks to Ruth and Larry, you are angels.