Friday, March 20, 2009

Flying East

Thanks for all of your kind comments and well wishes this week. Just wanted to let you know that I'm going to be out of town again, and I'm flying back to Olcott on Saturday. My father's health has taken a turn but he is resting comfortably.

A funny thing happened on Friday, according to my Mom. My father was acting as if he had a cigarette in his fingers, flicking invisible ashes into a non-existent ashtray. He was quite content.

Be well and I'll check back with you later on.

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No Smoking At The Funeral Home

“When You Are Engulfed In Flames” is a book by David Sedaris that I love. It is about inappropriate, brilliant things including cigarettes and the way a smoker’s life revolves around this habit. It is also about quitting. As Sedaris put it, he “finished smoking” some time after his mother died of lung cancer. I reread this book while my father was in the hospital, winding down after his four pack a day habit that began when he was 9 years old.

As a smoker, I can tell you exactly why they are bad for me because I can read the Surgeon General’s vigorous warning every time I unravel a fresh, neat pack of magically delicious smoky treats. Oh my dear, cigarettes will steal your pride and kill you dead, but I am not finished with them yet.

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I was going over Dad’s hospice information this evening and talking with my Mom on the phone. She said, “Someone from hospice could care for Dad at home, but I told them I don’t want them around here unless they can rake my yard and plant my garden.” Ok, so we will move Dad into the hospice facility by April because Mom has no use for a harp-player in scrubs. No problem.

My mother isn’t an unsentimental woman. Let me explain: First, Mom doesn’t want to have a stranger in the house eyeballing the bear lamps and coveting her Lladros. Second, for all Mom knows, this hospice person might be unable to resist the siren call of Darvocet in her medicine cabinet and she will not tolerate that kind of behavior. Third and last, what can anyone tell her about grieving a husband of 59 years that she doesn’t already know? Right or wrong, it is that simple. “Also, you can’t be seen smoking at the funeral home,” she said.

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I haven’t talked to my sisters and brothers about our smoking yet, or the politics of funeral home behavior. I was thinking about this subject the day Mom and I went shopping to buy Dad a new shirt and tie for when he passes on (his suit is fine), to make sure he won’t look like a greeter at Applebee’s. Regardless, I was at Bon Ton thinking about how not to smoke when Dad dies. I don’t see me bringing this up with my siblings any time soon, so I will pack nicotine lozenges and patches in my handbag when the times comes and figure it out later.

If my father were in his right mind, and just to make Mom crazy, he would distribute cartons of cigarettes to everyone at the funeral home. I know because when I saw him last July he told me he would give anything to smoke one more time.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

What I Hate Most About Hospitals

Dear Sally:

I’ve spent the last seven weeks inside of a hospital and a nursing home while visiting my sick father. And that is why you are going to read about those places and my experiences there until I get it out of my system. Can you believe your luck?

Speaking of hospitals, I was trying to decide what I hated most about them one day when Dad called from his room to ask me to get a bedpan. That’s right – he had to call me. He said he had been trying to get a bedpan for two hours but no one came. When I arrived in his room 10 minutes later, Dad was sitting on a loaded bedpan full to the brim. Worse, someone came by and delivered his meal even though the room was as fragrant as a Port-A-Potty in August.

My area of expertise doesn’t cover bedpans, but when Dad asked me to get that thing out from under him I did. Quickly. Then I carried it the nurse’s station myself, taking extra large, indignant steps down the hall. “Can someone please do something with THIS?” I said to a lady in scrubs. She asked me where it came from and why I had it. “It was under my father while he was trying to eat his dinner!” As I recall, I was yelling. In retrospect, I doubt I was yelling loud enough. That crazy lady carried it back down the hall to my Dad’s room, rinsed it out in his bathroom sink and left. The night before, no one rinsed anything and they just left the used bedpan on the damn floor. I guess I should be grateful?

How disgusting was that episode? Beyond my measuring! I can’t believe they expected an elderly man in stage 4 of lung disease, with his heart ticking at 25% capacity, to eat his lousy Jell-O with a mound of loose stool under his deflated, emaciated ass. That’s the definition of heartless, man. I really, really hated that about Eastern Niagara Hospital (in Newfane).

I still see the bedpan in my mind. In fact, it was worse than the time there was no barf pan in Dad’s room, so I let him puke in my hands. I used to think his phlegm was bad, but not anymore!

I’m so glad I got my Dad out of that hospital.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So Good To See You

Chicago has never looked so good, even through the prism of toilet water overflow on my bathroom floor. As far as I can tell toilets will misbehave when they haven't been used for seven weeks or so, but that hardly matters. I'm home!

My father is still alive (thanks for thinking of him). Mostly he is alive because he was refusing to sign a DNR order until last week. Dad has had last minute angioplasty, an eleventh-hour feeding tube surgery, stopped breathing at least three times (that I can remember), leaked blood from his pores for an entire Sunday one time and now he is comfortably resting in nursing home (also termed a "rehabilitation facility"). Since then my Mom officially became Dad's proxy and she signed his DNR paperwork.

Pop has all kinds of interesting things to say these days. "Don't forget to mop the ceiling," and "Ask the nurse when she's going to take that big rock off my back." I play along with him. "Yes, I'll buy a mop tomorrow," I said, and "The nurses will move the rock when they change shifts." There is no mop and no rock, as you may have guessed. We think he lost his mind after the last time he stopped breathing.

I am home for a while to catch up on my life while my father has daily rounds of physical and occupational therapy at this place. It's actually quite nice there - very clean and not even a whiff of pee. They have cable, therapy animals and cake.

Plenty of stories to tell you this week. First, I really need to get to that bathroom floor in the morning and (sadly) launder some towels. I intend to get a hair-do if possible, for cathartic reasons. Maybe I'll try to sleep, because I stopped trying to sleep seven weeks ago in case I got a call in the middle of the night. Mom can't pick up the phone if that happens. I miss Mom.

I am happy to see you.