Sunday, April 01, 2012
Memories of My Father 8
And the final post...
My father always had some April Fools joke. He would get you when you were groggy and just waking up. The only one I remember is when he told my Mom and me that someone had stolen the car in the night.
As we drove back home from Florida these last two days, a number of memories came to mind. There was the final room sweep when we were leaving a hotel, just to make sure we hadn't left anything. There was his writing down the odometer reading each time he filled up with gas and the calculation of gas mileage.
But my final post is about his final days. I consider my father's last year or so as a physical gamble that he ultimately lost. I don't know what the alternative scenario might have looked like. He had some blockage in his carotid, but the memories of my Uncle Maurice's botched catheterization loomed large in my parents' minds. Apparently Maurice's aorta wall wasn't strong enough to stand up to the process.
Last summer was the first time I had a hint that something was up, and when I began grieving. My father has always been a walker. When I was in my teens and twenties at the peek of my physical shape, I could hardly keep up with him when he was walking at full speed. When he visited, we would walk to the gas station to get a coffee and an Indianapolis Star.
This last time was different. Tommy, Dad, and myself were going for a little walk. We had only gone a couple blocks when his back started hurting and we turned back. He put Ben Gay on the "muscle" in his back. Come to find out that he had been doing this for some time. My wife Angela immediately suggested it might be his heart.
It was with great difficulty that we got him to go to a doctor, and he was not even happy about my sister Debbie's insistence that he get a chest x-ray. His chest was clear and the doctor simply pointed out that his heart murmur caused by a leaky valve would only get worse (I guess it's called mitral valve prolapse). He had passed up on fixing it some ten years ago. Since this state can cause an arrhythmia, where the heart gets out of beat, and since my Dad died of V-fib, I suspect this is what ultimately caused his death Monday.
Four weeks ago today, on a Sunday afternoon, my father became violently sick. My sister Debbie called and asked me to pray. I was so grateful that he survived that episode. It allowed me time to talk to him on the phone the last three weeks of his life nearly every day. It allowed my sister Juanita and Sharon to visit with him along with most of their families.
My step-daughter Stefanie and father-in-law both were able to visit him. On the phone, he was so cheerful and optimistic. My family and I were even going to be with him and Mom today in Florida, had he made it one more week.
No one seemed to realize the severity of his situation. You can tell from the pictures that he was weak. We learned subsequently that he was having trouble lifting a gallon of milk. These were all signs. He had some significant sneezing two week ends before his death. He should have gone to a doctor.
But we can't know the other story line. Would he have spent his final days in a hospital and died on an operating table? What a terror that would have been to him. Or would they have fixed the valve and given him another ten years? In the moments when the EMTs were working on him, I hoped that maybe this might turn out to be a blessing in disguise, forcing him to get things fixed.
It was not to be. Although I mourn the loss of my Dad, he lived an incredible life, as I hope I have shown. He knocked life out of the park. He passed all the markers. He finished his course; he kept the faith.
As deaths go, he had a good one. He drank his cup of coffee, sat down with my mother, ate half a McDonald's sausage biscuit and after a few moments of pain, he slipped into eternity.
When the funeral director asked my brother-in-law Dennis for my Dad's address, he said Hallelujah Avenue. We have enjoyed pictures of my father socializing with family and friends in heaven. And if there is such a thing as heavenly coffee, I know my father has already had quite a few.