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The worst bet of all23 December 2012
The last five years my father was crazy; certifiably crazy, hospitalized for awhile in a psychiatric unit crazy. This happened when my mother took ill with Alzheimer’s and he refused to leave her side; he’d be with her all 24 hours and he tried to take care of her as best he could.
He refused to eat properly. (“When you are in your eighties, you don’t have to eat.”) He refused to drink liquids (“A couple of cups of decaf are all I need.”) And he started his swift mental and physical decline. We even took him to the hospital to have them put an IV in him so he’d get hydrated. But we couldn’t drive in every day from where we lived to force him to drink some water.
He barely slept.
Finally, he decided he couldn’t change twelve diapers a night and he put my mom in a nursing home. He couldn’t stand the thought that he did this, so he spun it, “You forced me to put her in a nursing home.” If you knew my father you’d know I couldn’t force him to do anything.
I took his car with the busted front window away from him. You could say I actually stole it from him. He was blind in one eye, had poor vision in the other eye, and the motor vehicle department had taken his license away. (“I don’t need a license, I am a veteran.”) On the road, he was a hazard. “I am very careful,” he said on the day after he had slammed into the porch, denting the metal railing. By now my mother was dead and the house had to be sold so he’d have some money. My wife and I had supported my parents for several years but the time had come for him to get out of the house.
My lovely niece Melanie and I cleaned the house from top to bottom. There was dried feces everywhere. My mother had little control at the end and my father couldn’t see what she was doing. I didn’t want cleaners to come in and see this, so I spent several days on my hands and knees chipping away and scrubbing.
In the nursing home, two days before my mother died, Dad decided the two of them should take a walk. He lifted her semi-comatose body from the bed and she just slammed to the floor, as did he, and he was out cold. When he revived he denied he tried to get her to take a walk with him. The next day, the day before she died, he tried to get her to take another walk. They both went to the floor again. That day he told me she was looking better and they would be going on a cruise.
I said goodbye to my mother less than half a day before she died and my wife held her hand and gave mom permission to pass away. In fact, if you saw my mother, you would know that her soul or spirit had already left her weeks before. She was a dead person breathing.
After mom died, from the wake to her burial, my father was in a blind fury. He even made the funeral director cry with his verbal attacks. My wife and I had arranged for mom to be buried in a military cemetery where my father would join her when he died. They would be buried together.
Dad would have none of that. He wanted her buried in the plot where his mother was. I did as he desired, more to calm his fierce temper than for any other reason.
Nothing calmed him.
Day after day he would call me and scream about how horrible I was for taking his car away, for wanting to bury my mother in a grave that did not have his mother in it, about how veterans didn’t have to follow the driving laws. He was convinced that thousands of people would want to visit my mother in the cemetery. He lashed out at my wife, calling her horrible names and telling her his real daughter-in-law was my ex-wife, who never liked him because she knew he had told me on the day I was to marry her, “Don’t marry that girl; it won’t work.”
Finally, the house was sold and he moved into an apartment. He started wandering the streets trying to get hit by a car. It was then he went into the psychiatric hospital. After several months of care and five different medications, he was released and my niece arranged for him to go into a wonderful nursing home. And in three years, I visited him three times.
And he had been a terrific father.
When I was a young boy, he had taught me how to hit a baseball and how to play basketball. I excelled at those sports and got a full scholarship to a private high school. He came to every game that I played. He treated my friends and me to Yankee baseball games and pizza parties. He was funny; he was kind, and though he had a temper he would always say, “Frankie, I love you.” Every day that I lived in my parents’ home both of them at some point in that day would say, “Frankie, I love you.”
He worked hard. He helped dozens of people with good counsel and money. He gave away money as if there were no tomorrow. His generosity was well known and many people took advantage of him. When his parents got old, he supported them. He made money and spent money.
I was in awe of him. I loved him.
I got the call from the nursing home on Sunday. “Your father has pneumonia. We are giving him antibiotics. He has other infections.”
I knew the code. He was near death.
My wife and I arrived at the nursing home on Tuesday morning. I was the health-care proxy. I saw him in his bed; a shriveled, wrinkled, ancient 88-year-old man with no teeth, breathing laboriously. He had Alzheimer’s by now and his fingers were constantly fiddling with the sheets. He couldn’t talk. One eye was dead; the other could still see somewhat. He went in and out of consciousness. The staff of the nursing home tried to give me encouragement, “He might spring back.” And I thought, Spring back to what? I had visited three weeks before and he was slumped in the wheelchair, mostly oblivious to the world around him.
This was the man whose anger could shake the world and I thought at that moment, “Behold the man.”
We had a private nursing group taking care of him and I told his nurse, “I don’t want him taken to a hospital; I don’t want any invasive procedures; no feeding tubes, none of that. I want him to have as much morphine as he needs; even if it is a very large dose. I do not want him to experience any pain at all.” I was telling her, in code, that I wanted Dad to die, peacefully in his sleep.
Then my wife the beautiful AP and I sat by his bedside and talked to him. AP told him everyone in the family was fine. They had jobs; the kids were doing well in school; marriages had taken place. Everything was fine. He didn’t have to worry about anyone.
I told him that he had done a wonderful job as a father and grandfather and great-grandfather. AP and I told him how much we loved him.
Once he turned and seemingly woke up and turned his head to look directly at me.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked. “You don’t have to talk; just blink.” He didn’t blink but went back to fiddling with the sheet that covered him. He was far, far away.
The nurse told me that he had been seeing people, perhaps hallucinating. I know that some dying people see dead relatives and friends. Whether these are real events or just hallucinations was irrelevant to me; they signaled that the dying person was being called to pass away.
“Are you seeing your mother and father?” I asked. “How about mommy? What about Dorothy? And Frank, your brother? And what about Annie and Rocco and Mary and Tess and Phil and Robert and all your friends? Do you see them?” I listed as many people as I could remember. When I finished my wife listed them once again. At times he seemed to respond to some of the names.
It was time to go. My wife kissed him and moved away. I then moved closer. His good eye opened; he reached out his arm directly at me and I took his hand. He squeezed my hand – an extremely strong squeeze – and even lifted his head towards me. He was, at that moment, fully conscious and he whispered, “Frankie, I love you.”
His head went back onto the pillow; he closed his eyes, his fingers fiddled with the sheets and he died several hours later.
It is Christmas. I am 65 years old. I miss my parents.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
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