Monday, 03 December 2012
A Friend Passed Away
By Chuck Nyren of Advertising to Baby Boomers. This story was written before the November election.
He was 90 years old, the patriarch of a large family of many generations. Recently, he’d become a great-great-grandfather.
He fought in WWII, was instrumental in developing commercial ground-to-air radio communications through the years, built a house from the ground up and sharpened my lawnmower blades.
In death, he was home and surrounded by family.
Two weeks before he passed, he visited his doctor accompanied by his wife, a daughter and yours truly. I didn’t go into the doctor’s office but when they were finished, I drove him home. His wife and daughter were in another car heading to the pharmacy.
“So what did the doctor say?” I said.
“I’m going to live until I die, or sooner.”
We chatted about a few other things and I helped him into his house. It was a slow walk with a walker.
Later on I found out what the doctor had actually said. “It would be a lot easier for you and everybody else if you had dementia or Alzheimer’s but your mind is sharp. If I try to fix your heart, you’ll probably have kidney failure. If I try to fix your kidneys, you’ll probably have a heart attack. I am putting you in touch with hospice.”
While reading the above, you might think that the doctor was a bit blunt. But he wasn’t. He was truthful. He’d been my friend’s doctor for many years.
I won’t pretend to know what was going through my friend’s mind during his last few weeks but it appeared to me that he was striving to keep chin up, for himself and everybody else.
He gently joked around when having enough energy to do so – knowing his family was worried, heartbroken and going through as much hell as he was. One day he was in his living room chair and wanted his feet on the ottoman. He needed help. A granddaughter rushed over and kneeled down. “Tell me if I hurt you, Grandpa,” she said.
He immediately began screaming, “Ouch! Ouch!” even before she touched him.
A few days later, he was in a rented hospital bed, for good. Hospice folks popped in now and then. He was cared for by his wife mostly, with help from his daughters.
We knew it was ending when his mind began to drift. There were hallucinations and nonsensical talk – not something anybody was used to from him.
What made it more confusing for everybody was that he would slip in and out of these hallucinations and would just as often be surprisingly lucid. Often it was hard to tell which was which from one moment to the next.
I’d love to play loose with the facts and say “his last words were” – but actually the following episode happened the day before he died.
He wanted to get out of bed. Of course, he couldn’t. “I want to get out of bed! Help me get out of bed!” Exasperated, he quietly said, “If you don’t help me, I’ll vote Republican.”
Goodbye, my friend.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]