Posts Tagged ‘Taking care of parents’

My Story – Part 3

Shirley was a 55-year-old woman with 2 sons who, I later learned, spent more time in jail than out. She was proficient in her caregiving duties and she ingratiated herself into our family. We were grateful she was coming to help and I was just happy mom seemed to finally accept that I needed help. Things went along swimmingly until the spring of 1994 and then it all goes awry. Shirley left the well-established company she worked for and moved to a new start-up agency. Since she and mom were friends, she asked mom to “move” with her. I was not in favor of the move because the agency had proven to be solid and reliable but mother insisted we go with Shirley. Sooner than later the home health agency went under and we moved with Shirley yet again. At that time, my nana who was 91-years-old needed home health and Shirley stepped right in to assist.

In August of 1994 mother’s sister, Betty, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was my mom’s closest friend and my nana’s oldest child. There was nothing to do but wait. On Labor Day weekend, mom went to stay with Aunt Betty so they could reminisce and spend one last full weekend together. During that weekend I got a little sick and slept soundly on Saturday night. When I got up about 6 AM and went into the hallway I heard my dad’s voice, raspy and tired, calling my name. Dad always said that when he was asleep he forgot he couldn’t walk anymore. He forgot again. Sometime during the night he got up to go to the bathroom and fell two steps away from the hospital bed we had set up for him. He laid on his right side for hours calling my name but I never woke up. I got him back into bed but saw that the toes on his right foot were turning dark. I called the home health nurse right away and asked him to come over. We called an ambulance and he was taken to the hospital at noon. Mother arrived at about the same time as Shirley showed up. When dad’s physician asked to speak with us, Shirley (the aide) came in with us. It was offensive to me but I was too upset at the time to say anything. The doctor said dad would not make it through the surgery but gangrene was setting in due to his diabetes and lying on the hip for so long.

Dad had not enjoyed living for a long time. He had me call his preacher once and visited with him about suicide. It was the preacher’s opinion that dad would go to hell if he committed such an act and so he did not, but he made it clear to me, mother and anyone else who asked that he wanted no heroics administered or even started to save his life. His physician knew this and so he mentioned it. I immediately agreed. Mother did not. Even though she knew dad’s wishes, there were no Advanced Directives back then; she still felt his life should be maintained at any cost. When I protested, Shirley stepped between mother and I and told me it was not my decision. That’s when I got all ghetto on her and threatened to kick her “barefoot, backwoods, cousin-marrying, country ass” out the window if she didn’t leave the room immediately. She left as mom protested but in the end it was decided that no surgery or heroics would be done and dad would stay in the hospital until he either got better or passed on.

Dad slowly declined as the gangrene moved up his leg. About a month later, still in the hospital, dad and I had our annual get-together. It always came once per year generally around my birthday and this time, it was on my birthday. It was the OU/Texas game. Dad had played college ball for Oklahoma A & M which later became Oklahoma State. He never liked OU football much so he always rooted for Texas. I always rooted for OU. We had watched the game together either at Texas Stadium or at home since I was a little girl. I went to the hospital the morning of the game. Dad had not spoken in weeks but oddly when I came into the room dad said, “Happy Birthday”. The respiratory therapist and nurse who were in his room nearly passed out it startled them so. He kissed me and then fell back silent.

Half-time came when dad turned to me and asked me who that nurse was standing over by the door. There was no one by the door. He was adamant that a nurse “all in white” was standing by the door staring at him. As he spoke to me, he kept glancing that way so I know he saw something – I suppose it was the grim reaper or angel of death or whatever entity the mind conjures up in these situations. Dad asked me to take care of mother because although she was difficult, she was a good woman and mother. He also told me I needed to so into social services instead of private industry when I returned to the outside world of work because that’s what I was called to do and for me to deny it was like denying the color of my eyes.

He closed his eyes as the game resumed. At the end of the game, mother and daughter came so we could all have birthday cake. It was in the car and I had to walk from the room to the car and back to get it. When I passed the nurses’ station on my way back I told the nurses to come to dad’s room later and have a piece of cake. None of them looked at me and mumbled something illegible. I stood there, cake in hand knowing that dad was gone.

I wish I could say this was the end of the story, but it is not. The rest is very nearly what a person might say is calamitous. It certainly felt like it anyway. As I tell this story, it feels like it happened just yesterday so I will be glad when it is completed. But I feel a responsibility to let others know there are others out there who feel the way they do and who have experienced bad things like them – and still have productive lives after it is all over. Part 4 soon….

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