Friday, April 14, 2023

Death of a legend

It is some nineteen years later and grandpa is dying. I don't write much about my darling husband. There isn't that much to write, thank god. He's a good man. A great husband set against my pathetic atempt at wife-ing. I have retired. He still goes to work and secretly likes it, I think. He'll retire soon. He's four years and one month younger than I am--a fact he be-labours to exhaustion. As Bob Lay Dying. I've known Bob since I was seventeen or nineteen. Not sure. He brought his family to the Applegate River Valley from Sacramento--though I think it was then by way of either Carson City, Nevada or New York. He was, I think, married to Cooky then, a woman who deserves, and may have somewhere in these volumes, her own post. I loved her. She was a best friend, as were her daughters. Both of us came from a long history of battering, so there was that. Let's not get bogged down. Cooky died two years ago, or four. The brain bleed I had in 2020 had its way with me, as will be clear eventually. I claim all sorts of lenience for anything loosely construed to be factual. So Bob. Kurt and I have been married these nineteen years. We live about 300 miles from Bob and his wife Patricia. They live up above Applegate Lake at JoBar, a small settlement on which Bob fancies himself King. There is no electricity, no potable water, though years of water wars with Luke, his neighbor and environmental pirate, have determined what was what. The water is Bob's. In the early years of our marriage I did the whole 'stand by your man' thing and always, without fail, traveled with Kurt and stayed up at Bob's. In those days a few things were different: I didn't have three dogs to care for, the water flowed mostly uninterrupted, the cabin we stayed in was beautiful and fairly clean. (could I have cleaned it? you might ask. But you shouldn't. If you've been reading, you know about me and housework.) As the years went by, so did the upkeep on the cabin, the number of dogs requiring supervision and the water, both quality and quantity. As well as my relationship with Bob's wife. Patricia and I were born on the same day. June 15th. Seven or so years apart. For her, a hippie-earthmother-sometimes-astrologer, this is profoundly significant. To me, it is not. If we were talking about, say, Anais Nin or something, I'd say it carried great weight, but we aren't. And she won't can't doesn't let it go. Anyhow, she annoys me. After the first six or eight years of accompanying my husband down to the Applegate Valley and doing the dutiful stay, I quit. It was so much easier to just stay home with the pups and watch HGTV. Now, however, leaving Kurt to manage his father's passing alone seems unkind--not a part of the vows. So I go. Now, however, we usually stay at his mother's which is infinitely more comfortable, physically anyway, but has its own long story. There have been a few trips so far since her new cancer diagnosis in February, maybe. The first couple times happened too quickly for me to get all the animals and myself together, but I went along this last time when it seemed like he might not make it. Bob--not Kurt. What I learned--and I do still learn--is that the family that is prone to drama, copes with drama. There is no plan. Now, I am retired from nearly fifty (count 'em) years of work among the dying, as you've clearly seen if you've read these pages. I understand the process from a dispassionate point of view--the cheap seats--if you will. I know what is happening, what needs to be done, by whom, and mostly, when and how. During the first two months of the back and forth that is characteristic of early diagnostic flailing, Bob and Patricia stayed with Kurt's mother a couple days at a time between appointments. At first it was cardiology, a stint, a pig-valve. Wrong. During the stay with Kurt's very tidy mother, very very tidy, it became clear that Bob wasn't the only one with issues. Patricia was--and is--having problems with urinary incontinence. She is peeing all over Ramona's house. The doc needs to hear him say he wants to die in order to initiate hospice. Patricia keeps speaking for him and over him. (nothing new) Finally, he gets it out. "I want to die. Can you speed it up?" The hospice nurse, upon entering the room, says, "I can see from all the people in the room that you are loved." Bob growls, "I'm a bad boy." As Kurt would say, "A legend in his own mind." Patricia is concerned that Bob isn't eating. Truth is, he has lost the ability to swallow, a normal stage of dying. The doctor asks, "Are you on a hunger strike?" to which Bob replies, "Would it work?" Laughter in the background. He wants out so bad it hangs like a curtain between all the rest of us, all except Patricia, who, it seems, just wants to fight. With us. I try to understand her, the loss, the change in her life and status, but jeesus. She is cruel to try to keep him alive to sustain her material needs. We left Wednesday morning for home. Hospice is in place. We've done what we came to do. Hospice will handle it from here on out--transport to the end. It is now Thursday and David and Megan have agreed to have grandpa die in their home. In their living room. With all the kids and all the dogs, and there is so much more to this. Such as Patricia would not consent to pay for a caregiver and quite literally will not participate, will not touch her husband. Will. Not. Care. I understand her lack of professional trainning, but its not like that. He has a catheter, nothing in, nothing out. Aarrgghh. But hospice is finally finally finally in place, and from my point of view, as dysfunctional as this family is, things are finally beginning to go fairly well. Now, once all of the superfluous (i.e. life preserving) treatments have been withhdrawn (insulin, steroids, anything non-comfort related) his poor little body is more than ready to check out. The nursing staff at the hospital are concerned that he won't even survive the transport to David's. Thank the good lord for David and Megan. What open-hearted souls. In the recent past, Bob wanted to use the Death With Dignity act, the easy-peasy-get-out-of-jail-free-pill, but he's only got about a week to live. Maybe. And it takes a good couple of months to make that complex process happen. I'm not against it. Not at all. Its just too late. To make DWD happen he must: have the signature of two physicians, write a little paragraph about why he desires this outcome, sign his name and be able to self-administer the medication. At this point he is no longer able to swallow, couldn't write a paragraph if his--excuse the obvious--life depended on it, and the DWD spokesperson told Patricia that he'd have to eat a little something every day to retain his ability to swallow. That ship has sailed. He's not eating. So, what does Patricia concentrate on? Feeding him. DWD. The one thing he cannot have. She wants the fight. She does not see that if she would only get out of the way, DWD is happening right now. Bring on the morphine. Bob is finally okay but she cannot will not does not recognize that fact. So, Bob passed at 6:10, Thursday evening, June 8. Kurt is heartbroken but so relieved that we got hospice going so his father could die peacefully. And he did. Hopefully, once Patricia gets to the other side, she'll be able to go home and rest.

1 comment:

raindrops on lashes said...

Judy. My heart is so struck by your words, you captured all that I began reading this to learn or maybe know, not just about Bob's passing and how it's been for you and Kurt and everyone, but - and this is a gift Bob happens to give me on his way, now; the knowledge that while you have gone through some brain stuff, your writing is still a gorgeously-shot, straight-and-fast arrow that gets right to the heart of things, Judy; so poignantly and eloquently, your elegant mind is still so very intact. I may have to dance about that, today; and not a lot has made me want to get up and dance, lately. (And yes, I trust Patricia WILL be able to finally rest, I do. . . I hate to admit how much I can relate to the awful inability to let go when it's time; to cling too long.) Thank you for your sharing this, I even laughed - in the middle of such a lot of other emotion (Bob asking if a hunger strike would work) - the irony, insight, and sincerity yof you. Always one of my favorite brains. Love you. I hope Kurt can do alright with all this. I know how heavy it can get.