This is something that cropped up last week and kind of petered out. I haven’t heard anything else, at the very least.
My dad’s got friends, some with their own health issues. I was startled last Tuesday when one of dad’s friends (I’ll call him Adam for privacy) called my cell phone out of the blue. He’d just been calling my dad and talking to him, and thought dad sounded terrible.
There was 20 minutes worth of talking going on, about 50/50, before I hung up, but the result was the same: Adam told me that if I didn’t do something, dad was just going to stay in his lazy chair and die.
And that really messed me up.
It messed me up because dad doesn’t tell me much (heaven knows I’ve brought up this care-giving issue a few times before now) until things have really progressed. It’s a strange dance we do regarding his health and our sanity in this house (at least, that’s the best way I can describe it).
But more than that, I wonder if that’s exactly what dad wants. If he just wants to fade away in his chair, painless as possible and not stuck in a hospital where they can’t do much (if anything) for him.I was crying a bit during the conversation with Adam because he was reflecting my own anxieties back at me. I understand Adam’s fear somewhat: Adam’s had health issue on health issue for decades, and doesn’t want dad to go before he goes. He probably thinks it’s not fair that uber-healthy dad could depart this Earth first.
But the troubling thing was I started to really question myself, and wonder if I’d missed something big.
Other than going to bed later and later for a few nights there, I hadn’t noticed anything odd with dad. Sometimes he’s too comfortable and tired and he’ll sleep in his lazy chair for a bit til he feels he has to get up and then he’ll go to bed. I know that’s what happens because I can see the light from the kitchen under the door, and that tells me dad hasn’t gone to bed yet.
There were some nights where I kept waking up (partially because of that light) and it didn’t go out til 2 or 3 in the morning. That alarmed me a bit, but I was working all day and left early in the a.m., so I had no idea what time he actually got up in the day. For all I know he slept til after noon those days.
I started wondering about it more and more, thinking that maybe I missed something because I’d been gone so often. I called my aunt and uncle and spent 10 minutes on the line with them, telling them about Adam’s concerns and how I didn’t want to make dad worried by telling him to talk to them. They said they’d give him a call out of the blue and text me back.
I was okay with that, because I figured they could cut through the b.s. (if there was any) and get the gist of how he was. They texted me back that they thought he was okay and could stop by to say hi on Thursday. I said if they felt like it, sure, and hung up.
I lost sleep in the next few days because Adam texted me, telling me he was gonna drive down and get dad in the hospital, or get me to do it. But dad didn’t seem that bad, just probably some acid reflux and couldn’t get comfortable sleeping, hence the reason he was in his chair. He’s done it before.
Eventually, I called my aunt and uncle again to see if they were coming out Thursday, but they called him and said he sounded normal, so I let it be unless they still wanted to show up for the hell of it. They answered the question I had, because I was afraid I was getting paranoid. So, dad’s been okay the past few days.
But what started to worry me is the idea that I couldn’t trust myself, that I’d missed something big and dad might be getting worse. More than that, I wondered if I should be in charge of helping him out and wanted other people around. I panicked for a bit there, then had to calm myself down.
My trust in myself–what little I have–was shot because there’s something about this whole care-giving thing that I need to make clear. Dad still has choices. I don’t want to take them away from him.
And as long as dad can articulate his wishes, then I’ll be there to support him. The day he can’t articulate them vocally, or make himself clear any other way… that’ll probably be the day he signs a DNR order.
I don’t want to take his choices away; they’re about all he’s got left since he’s losing his mobility. I don’t want to go behind his back again.
And that’s what made me mad, too. I felt silly and paranoid and ashamed that I’d consider such a thing. Then I had to remember all the times everybody else knew what was going on with dad and I didn’t hear a thing til he had to go into the hospital for pneumonia… that made me ease off the shame wagon (at least a little).
I think it was an exercise in learning to step back and trust in myself a bit, trust that I can do right by dad, even if doing right by me is a little tougher right now.
So, in the meantime, I’ll calm down and just try to take each day as it comes, rather than expecting the worst behind the door each time I walk back in from work. And trust that I will do what I can when things come up, whether it’s calling an ambulance, or family, or taking him to the hospital… or set his food out for the next day and leave post it notes if something needs taking care of.