It was a lovely day today. We went over to my mother-in-law’s today, it was a sort of short notice thing. Don has been falling a lot and it sounds like he’s on the downward climb. We got there, and true enough, you can see it. His blue eyes are still bright, but sunken, and his skull is more prominent. And he’s in a wheelchair. This man, this proud man, a farmer’s son and practical beyond all–he is finally old. More than old, he is dying. He barely said a word the whole time, but he did a lot of coughing.
Towards the end, I went into the bedroom where Rowan was playing and told her to make sure to give Poppa a big hug on our way out. He’s ill, I told her, and I don’t know how long he’ll be with us. “I know,” she said, “He’s in the wheelchair and,” here she shook her head, “he can’t take care of us anymore.” I went back into the room, and when it was just Don and I, I asked him if he was in a lot of pain. He closed his eyes and nodded wearily. Sandy (my mother-in-law) had said he had refused any more scans of his head, and had refused any drugs, chemo or otherwise, and no radiation either.
I am sad that Nova will have absolutely no memories of him, but I don’t want him to suffer. On our way out, Rowan gave him a heartfelt hug. I hugged him in his chair. I could feel the sharp collar bones through his shirt. I wanted to tell him that we would be okay, that he didn’t have to linger for us. I didn’t manage that. But I clasped his forearm and told him that I loved him. I don’t know, he might make it to Thanksgiving, he might not, it’s hard to tell. But at least I told him.
So, we’ll see. Don’s mother is coming down tomorrow, which I think is good. He was pretty blunt about it being a final farewell. As he said, “Well, Mother’s not doing too well, and I’m doing worse.” Hospice is coming to check on him every week too, but if he won’t take any painkillers–well, then I guess I hope he passes soon. I think there are things worse than death. Our culture really isn’t very comfortable with it, but it happens to everyone at some point. And frankly, I’m grateful to see the writing on the wall rather than it coming out of nowhere.
But here is my public service announcement. Don’s mother is somewhere around 94. Don started smoking when he was 13. So basically he lost an entire generation of life because of a bad habit. Nova won’t know him, and even Rowan will barely remember him. It’s just a waste, a preventable waste of life. And he doesn’t need to live on for us, we’ll be okay, but poor Sandy. They’ve been together a long time and how strange it will be for her to be alone.