Living 91 years is living a good long life.
But the tricky thing: I only got my dad for 34 years. So the pain and loss is as raw as if he was 60. His age matters in the big picture. In my picture, I feel cheated of 30 years.
This week we made the decision to bring my Dad home from the hospital, on hospice. I never thought he would die this week. In fact, I thought maybe, at some point, he would no longer qualify for hospice. And while, I knew his life was coming to an end, I just could not grasp how quickly the end would come.
Since I decided his end was just as important as his beginning--I cannot forget a moment.
Thursday, he came home in an ambulance. A hospice nurse settled him into home. We learned all his heart medications, minus aspirin, had been stopped. She ordered morphine and handed us a packet of information that included a pamphlet of information about the process of dying.
I realized this was really happening.
My dad was alert, talkative and himself on Thursday. He wanted to get out of bed. We talked about where he was. I told him I loved him and for the last time, he told me that he loved me too--so much. He was happy to see Chloe; happy to get a kiss from his youngest granddaughter.
I held his hand all day. He let me lay on him and hug him--this level of cuddling, is not something that comes easily to my Dad or I. Affection in words and deeds always flowed freely between us--but both of us liked our own space. On Thursday, we shared space.
Mike and Lily came after dinner. Again, my Dad brightened at Lily, he said his classic: "who is that cute little girl?" to her. Then he said, "look at her," beaming with pride. My Dad knows that Lily is a miracle--a sign of hope and the ultimate underdog.
Then Mike sat with him--my husband who is as much my Father's son as I am his daughter. They talked Temple PSU football and my dad laughed. He asked Mike where his harem was--referring to high school when Mike was often surrounded by me and my girlfriends. My Dad loved to tease--in his limey, sarcastic, brilliant way.
I made him butternut squash soup--he tried it, but said too much ginger. He apologized with a shrug--and now I know he only tried it to humor me. His appetite was leaving--chocolate pudding and yogurt were his choices.
Thursday night, the moaning and talking in his sleep began. It was horrible. I held his hand and place one hand on the crown of his head--trying to give him comfort. He was still with us, but slowly slipping away. Henry, my dog, snuggled with him. The signs were there--detachment, periods of apnea and blotchy skin.
I don't know when it happened, but at some point Thursday night into Friday, he became nearly unconscious, still gripping my hand and squeezing in response to my voice and questions. His eyes were glassy. He moaned and called to something unseen with every breath. Hospice came and went Friday morning. I came home to Jersey to grab some things and take a break. The four of us returned that evening.
My Dad was still completely unsettled. He would be calm during short periods of apnea, only to resume breathing and speaking into thin air. I wish I knew what he was saying. There was blood in his mouth, so our private caregiver Deanna called Hospice. The nurse came. She noted new changes in his breath. We opened the hospice emergency kit--another sign. I asked Wendy, the nurse, as she was leaving when, when would my father die?
Her answer: a day or tonight.
And I broke.
Deanna got my dad comfortable. I stayed upstairs while he was sleeping working on favors for a friend's bridal shower, that I would never go to. At 2 a.m., I went downstairs, held his warm hands and kissed his cheek and said: "Goodnight Daddy, I love you."
Upstairs, Mike and I joked as we cuddled on a couch that we were "making a love nest," referring to a statement my Dad made to us in high school. I told Mike that my Dad had given him an end of life zinger--when he teased him about his harem. I fell asleep.
Twenty minutes later, my Dad took his last breath. I woke up to Deanna telling us that he was gone.
I still don't believe it. He looked asleep. I kept watching, waiting for him to be breathing. His hands were already cold. His head still warm. I said goodbye, but he was already gone--off to where his soul goes next--heaven, I suppose. Lily believes he is playing fetch with our dog Lexus, who died last year. I have not begun to believe anything, yet. I still hear his voice. I still looked for him in his chair in the rec room.
I write it, so I believe it.
William Hunter Carrington
May 16, 1920- Sept. 17, 2011
My dad. My hero. My first best friend.
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