My Katie Calls

The morning after my father died, I was on my way to church. I needed to spend some time in the Adoration Chapel to pray, and to get myself centered again. Bill’s daughter, Katie, asked if she could go with me. As we were pulling out of the driveway of my mother’s house, my phone rang and it was my daughter, Katie. I hadn’t seen, or heard, from her since she was in the hospital cafeteria with the man she met the day my father had his stroke. She had a surprised tone to her voice on the phone, as she asked me “Mom, where is grandpa”? She said she called the hospital and they told her he had been moved to the Hospice Center but when she got to hospice he wasn’t there. I said “he’s dead, Katie, that’s where he is”. She became angry and asked why no one bothered to let her know. I told her she seemed more interested in being with the man she met up with at the hospital than she was with what was happening to her grandfather or her family. I told her if she really wanted to know what was going on, she would have been there with us. She started stumbling for words and said “no, that’s not… it, I’m sorry”. I just said “yes, you are sorry” and I hung up.

I had been through so much with my parents, and my father in particular, over the past few years, and the events surrounding my father’s death had drained me of the stamina I needed to deal with my daughter, Katie, who required constant intervention and attention. I just didn’t have anymore in me to give to her, and I was hurt that she never seemed to be there for me or my family. I love my daughter, Katie, but I don’t know how to get through to her, I keep thinking she will outgrow her immaturity, but at thirty-nine years old I don’t see it happening. I believe she is into drugs and I know for sure she drinks way too much. I’ve asked, pleaded, and begged her to get help but she doesn’t seem to think she has a problem. I decided I can’t help someone who doesn’t want help and I can’t continue to exhaust myself trying. I won’t play into or support her addictions and  I am not equipped to manage her addictions. I pray for her, but I had to love her enough to let go, let her hit the bottom she needs to hit, before she will hopefully seek the professional help she needs.

When I returned from church, friends, family and neighbors were gathering at my mother’s house again. People were bringing in food and just wanting to be with us to show their love and support which was very much appreciated. As will happen when someone dies, family and friend who knew the person will often begin taking trips down memory lane. There were many trips down memory lane to take in reference to my father.  I will share a few of them with you here:

One of my brother’s brought up how he remembered the BBQ’s/Swim Parties mom and dad had at our home when we were growing up. It became a tradition, that my dad started, to gather up all the beer cans and trash, sneak out from the party unnoticed, and put it in someone’s car before they left the party. He did this once to my brother, Tommy, who was married and had his own home. When Tommy found the trash in his car the next day, he took it back and dumped it in my father’s front yard. Well, no one could EVER get one up on dad. So, dad stuffed all the trash into a pair of jeans and a plaid shirt creating a scare crow like dummy, tied a rope around its neck and hid it. Then, at the next party, when it got good and dark, dad slipped out from the party, tied the dummy to Tommy’s car and pushed it up under the car so Tommy wouldn’t see it. When Tommy and his wife left the party, the dummy was dragging behind the car and looked just like a real person. People were honking and screaming at Tommy to stop because they thought it was a real person. When Tommy saw the dummy, he was furious! Tommy waited until he knew mom and dad weren’t home, then he nailed the dummy to mom and dad’s brand new front door! Now, dad wasn’t going to just let that go, so he hid the dummy somewhere, I never knew where, but when Tommy left to go to Vietnam a few months later, he wrote home saying how he missed everyone, even the dummy…and yep, you guessed it…dad sent the dummy in the mail to Tommy in Vietnam! We never saw or heard about the trash dummy again.

Next: More Memories

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Calling The Family

After dad was pronounced dead at the Hospice Center, I asked if I could just sit in the room with him for a while before I called my family. It had been such an emotional and exhausting past few days, and I felt exhilarated and thankful that dad passed so quickly so my mother and brother’s wouldn’t have to spend any nights with dad like I had just been through. But, at the same time, I was completely exhausted and drained. I knew when I called my mother, she would want to come immediately to see dad before his body was taken to the mortuary, and I just needed some quiet time alone to absorb what had just happened and prepare myself for the days ahead.

As I sat quietly beside my father’s body, I started praying and thanked my brother Tommy for coming to my aid and helping me pray for dad to let go. I thanked Jesus and the Blessed Mother for taking my father home so quickly. I remember thinking dad is in the presence of God now so I need to pull my focus towards how I am going to help my mother live without dad, her husband and best friend of fifty-seven years. After about an hour of quiet prayer and reflection, I called Bill and told him dad passed and asked him to wake up Shantel and let her know dad died, and I asked Bill to go to mom’s house to help bring her to the Hospice Center. I told Bill I would call mom and let her know dad passed and that Bill was on his way over to her house. I also said I would call my brother’s Danny, and Stephen.

When I called my mother, I simply said, “mom, it’s time to come back to the Hospice Center now because dad passed and is now with Jesus”. To my complete shock, my mother very calmly said “O.K.” I thought she might not have been completely awake or not have completely understood what I said, so I asked to speak with her sister who was staying with mom. Mom put her sister on the phone and I told her dad passed and asked her to make sure mom took her pills and to please bring her up to the Hospice Center so she could see dad before the mortuary arrived to get his body. Then, I called Danny and Stephen.

When the family arrived, I was again shocked at how calm mom remained. She went over to dad, kissed him and told him she loved him. She told him what a good husband he had been to her. Then, she told him not to forget he is to wait just beyond the moon for her. My parents always told each other which ever one of them passed first was to wait just beyond the moon so that the last one to pass would know where to find them. In that moment, even though my mother was calm, she looked so very lost and broken to me. I could see her heart was breaking and it was clear she never thought in a million years she would be the one left behind.

When the mortuary arrived to get dad, we all said our good-byes to him and left to go back to my mother’s house. Arrangements needed to be made and extended family members needed to be notified. Bill was the one who took the lead in helping to ensure all the paperwork was ready, appointments were set and everyone that we could locate knew about dad’s passing. As the hours passed, friends, neighbors, and family members began arriving to pay their respects to our family. It was a very long day and by late evening, when things started to settle down, everyone was exhausted. I told Bill I wanted to stay with mom and asked him to take Shantel home. Mom was sitting quietly in her chair and I knew she was wondering how she could go on without dad. So, I took her hand and said “let’s go to bed mom” and that night, I slept in bed with my mother, holding her hand, because I didn’t want her to be alone on the first night my father, her husband and best friend of fifty-seven years, was no longer on this earth.

Next: My Katie Calls

The Night My Father Died – Continued

After Bill and Shantel had gone home from the hospice center where dad laid dying following his massive stroke, I dimmed the lights in dad’s room, turned the TV on low to animal planted because that was one of dad’s favorite shows,  arranged a recliner chair next to his bed, and held dad’s hand just as I had promised my mother I would do. My father always said the rosary everyday and so do I so I took my rosary out of my purse and began to pray while keeping constant skin to skin contact with my father’s arm or hand.

At around 9:oo p.m. my brother, Stephen’s, son Stephen Jr and his wife came from out-of-town to see my dad. They sat with me in dad’s room for over an hour. We talked about lots of things including how difficult it is to lose a parent or grandparent. Stephen Jr loved my dad, his grandfather, very much. He told me how much he always admired dad and what a great grandfather he had been to Stephen Jr. As I listened to Stephen Jr speak about my father, I was thinking about how dad was many different things to many different people and how everyone that knew dad thought very highly of him and loved him. Dad was always smiling, he always tipped his hat to ladies, picked up neighbors news papers and laid them on their front door steps and even took neighbor’s trash cans back into their yards after they were empty. Mom and dad lived on a street where many woman had already lost their husbands and they appreciated these little things dad would do for them.

When Stephen Jr and his wife left, I sat looking at my father and I remember trying to figure out where it all went so wrong for dad and I. I kept thinking I forgave him for the hurt he caused me and my family, but I just couldn’t get past the constant ache in my heart that I thought should go away if forgiveness had really taken place. I wanted to know why dad did the things he did and why he never said he was sorry. But, now, I knew I would never know the answers. All through my life, my father would tell me he loved me from time to time and I believed he did somewhere deep inside. But, I never felt that he, or my mother, were proud of me. I wanted to know that they were proud of me, I needed to know that, but I don’t know why I felt that need so strongly.

The hospice nurses came in every few hours to check dad and to see if I needed anything. Dad was getting morphine every four hours. One of the nurses gave me a sponge on a stick that looked like a lollipop and told me I could dip the sponge in water and wipe the inside of dad’s mouth with it thirty minutes after they gave him the morphine. Dad’s breathing was still very, very labored. His chest would rise and fall, rise and fall very hard with each breath he took.

At 12:30 a.m. dad took a huge breath in and didn’t exhale for almost 10 minutes. I thought he passed. I went out and got the nurses and told them I thought my father passed. Two nurses came in to check dad. They turned the lights up and as they were checking dad, he took a huge breath that scared the hell out of me. I had never been in the room with anyone who was dying and I really thought he was dead. The nurses told me sometimes people will do this and it might appear like they have passed. They said dad still had very strong vital signs and it would most likely be several days before he passed. They gave dad his morphine, asked me if I needed anything, I said no, and they left the room. I sat back in the recliner and continued to  pray for my father. When thirty minutes passed, I wiped the inside of dad’s mouth with the sponge and prayed over him.

At about 2:00 a.m I stood beside my father and began talking to him. I told dad I knew he was a marine and had fought in many wars but this was one battle he couldn’t win. I told dad he needed to stop fighting and just let go. I promised him I would make sure mom, and their dog, Beau would be taken care of so he didn’t have to worry about them. I held his hand, cried,  told him I loved him, I forgive him, and that I was sorry things were so strained between us. I called upon the Blessed Mother and told her dad believed in her and prayed to her everyday and now he needed her to come and take him home. I called upon my brother, Tommy, who had passed of cancer, and asked him to pray with me to help dad let go. Then, I asked Jesus himself to please come and take my father so he wouldn’t suffer and so my mother and brother’s  wouldn’t have to see dad like this.  As I prayed, I looked at my father’s face and one tear rolled out of his right eye and down his cheek. Then he took in one long, deep breath, and as he did, I whispered in his ear, let go dad, just let go and go to Jesus. At that moment, I knew my father was gone. I remember thinking, he took his last breath in front of me and his next breath in front of Jesus and how honored I was to have witnessed that happening.

I waited thirty minutes this time before I went out to get the nurses. They came in, turned up the lights and when they looked at dad they turned to me and said, your right, he’s gone. They said they have never seen anyone with such strong vital signs pass that quickly. I thought to myself, well, you must not know the power of prayer.

Next: Calling The Family

 

The Night My Father Died

While we were waiting for the hospital Social Worker to come and help us decide on a Hospice Care Center to take dad to after he suffered his stroke, my mother told me I should let my Katie know  her grandfather was dying and invite her to come to the hospital. I called Katie at work and she asked if I could come and get her because she didn’t have her car that day. Bill, Shantel and I left the hospital and drove across town to get Katie. When she got in the car, I told her what happened to dad and she immediately started telling me she knew all about strokes, because her grandmother on her father’s side had a stroke before she died. Then, Katie spent the rest of the drive to the hospital texting someone on her phone. When we got to the hospital, Katie never even went inside dad’s room. She stood at the door and said hello to my mother but nothing else. My mother was sitting beside dad, holding his hand, and Katie didn’t even go over to mom and hug her, say she was sorry about what happened or anything. The next thing Katie did shocked me. She asked Shantel if she would like to go to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Shantel asked if she could go and because Bill’s daughter, Katie, was there too, I asked her to go with them and she did. Within a few minutes Bill’s daughter ,Katie, called me and said my Katie was in the cafeteria with some man. I told Bill’s Katie to get Shantel and bring her back up to dad’s room.

The hospital Case Worker arrived and told us a very nice Hospice Care Center was  just a few blocks from the hospital and they could take dad by 3:00 p.m. that afternoon. My brother’s, Danny and Stephen, and  Bill and I, took mom over to see the place and sign the papers. When we returned to the hospital my brother, Danny and his wife, and Bill and I, all went to the cafeteria to get something to eat for ourselves and for mom. When I walked in I saw my Katie sitting and laughing with a man I had never seen before. It appeared my Katie had only asked us for a ride to the hospital to meet up with this man, but she denied that later. By this time nothing Katie said mattered to me. I was beyond furious with her. However, I decided this was not the time or place to approach Katie about her actions. We just got our food and left. My Katie never returned to dad’s room. I assume she left with the man she was with in the cafeteria.

The doctors at the hospital said dad most likely would pass in about a week or so. They said now that he had his heart valve repaired, his heart was not going to just give up until all his other organs shut down. They said his vital signs were still strong, and he was still putting out urine, so we should not expect him to pass within the next two or three days.

At 3:00 p.m. the people from the Hospice Care Center came to get dad. The hospice workers told us we could follow them to the Hospice Center and asked us to wait in the lobby until they got dad settled in his room. The facility was beautiful and the workers were very kind. As we sat in the lobby waiting to see dad, discussions began about who would stay the night with dad. I said I would take the first night and was surprised that no one disagreed.

When we were called into dad’s room we were shocked at how peaceful dad looked. The hospice workers put a shirt on dad that looked exactly like one of his own shirts he wore at home. They had the head of his bed elevated and he just looked like he was sleeping except for the heavy, labored, breathing. After everyone had been in dad’s room for a couple of hours, I made the suggestion that my mom’s sister and her boyfriend take mom home. Mom didn’t want to leave dad, but I promised her I would sit right by his side holding his hand all through the night. I told her I  would call her if anything happened. Mom finally agreed and went home. Then, my brother’s did the same, kissing me good-bye and telling me they would see me tomorrow. After mom and my brothers were gone, Bill went to get some dinner ,and Bill, Shantel and I ate together. Then, I asked Bill to take Shantel home leaving me there alone with dad.

Next: The Night My Father Died continues with unbelievable events!

Dad Goes Back To The Hospital

Dad’s heart surgery was the first week of July. My mom and dad’s anniversary was September 1st, and my mom’s birthday is September 7th. I planned a surprise party to celebrate both occasions. I told dad the party was just for mom’s birthday and asked if he would get her out of the house for a few hours so I could decorate, get the food ready and have time for the guests to arrive. He agreed and took mom shopping at the mall which always took several hours.

By the time mom and dad returned to their home, family members and all their neighborhood friends were there. We surprised both mom and dad and everyone had a really nice time. Dad ate, drank, laughed and seemed to have a lot of fun. He had been making great progress with his recovery. Everything seemed pretty much back to normal for him except he complained of being cold all the time.

A few weeks after the party, dad started having flu-like symptoms but he wouldn’t go to the doctor because he was afraid they would want him to go back to the hospital. Mom and dad had a spare room dad called his “war room” because he kept all his military pictures in there and he would go there to watch old war movies. Dad was a marine and served in World War II. He loved talking about the marines and watching anything to do with what the marines did. He would sit in his “war room” all day wrapped up in a blanket shivering, but refused to go to the doctor. At night, if he couldn’t sleep, he would go back to the “war room” and continue watching his war movies. This went on for days and dad was getting weaker and weaker with each passing day. I called my brother’s to ask them to come over and try to talk dad into going to the doctor. They tried but still dad refused.

Then, one night, mom called me in a panic asking me to come over right away because dad was having a hard time breathing. I told her I was on my way and to call the paramedics. When I arrived, the paramedics were ready to load dad on the stretcher to take him to the hospital and mom was about ready to have another stroke. I told mom to get in my car and we would follow the ambulance to the hospital which we did. When we arrived dad was immediately admitted and tests were started. Of course, mom and I stayed the night sitting with dad as often as we were allowed to be in the room. I called my brother’s and told them dad was in very bad shape and said they might want to come to the hospital.

The next day, we were told dad had staff infection throughout his sternum and it would need to be removed. The doctors wanted dad to be on massive amounts of antibiotics for at least a day before they did the surgery to reduce the risk of any further infections as a result of the upcoming surgery to remove his sternum. Mom and I stayed around the clock with dad. My mom’s sister and her boyfriend came out from Pennsylvania to help in any way they could. Shantel was still in school but Bill was able to change his work hours to get her on the bus and I would run home long enough to get her off the bus when she got home and bring he back to the hospital with me until Bill could come up and take her back home in the evening.

The more antibiotics dad received the more confused and disoriented he became. He was already on a blood thinner because of the heart surgery and we thought that because prior to the heart surgery, dad hadn’t ever taken any medications, now his body just couldn’t handle the amounts he was getting. Little did we know it was much more serious than that.

Dad started saying planes were landing on the battle field and we needed to be careful not to get in the way so we wouldn’t get hurt. He would say things like that for a while, then he would talk perfectly normal. When it came time for me to leave to pick-up Shantel. I told dad I needed to leave but would be right back.  He told me to drive carefully. I said I would and I left.

When I walked into my house the phone was ringing. It was the hospital. They said I needed to get back to the hospital right away. They said dad had just had a massive stroke and my mom needed me to get back there now. I grabbed Shantel and off we went. When we arrived at the hospital, dad had been moved into a private room.  He was not responding at all and his breathing was very, very heavy and labored. Almost as if air was being forced into his lungs then just rushing out on its own. He was not on any machines because mom wouldn’t let that happen. Mom and dad had living wills stating very clearly they didn’t ever want to be kept alive with machines. I called my brothers and within the hour everyone was at dad’s bedside. Mom was beside herself and we were all very worried she might have another stroke too.

The doctors said dad was basically brain-dead and there was no more they could do for him. They said a Social Worker would be in soon to help us make arrangements to take dad to a Hospice Center if that is what we wanted to do.

Next: The Night My Father Died!

Dad Needs Surgery

My father was very physically fit. Even in his late seventies, he lifted weights, took long walks and did kick boxing almost everyday. He wasn’t on any kind of medications and appeared to be in perfect health. If ever he didn’t feel well, no one knew because he wasn’t one to complain. But mom began to notice dad was experiencing shortness of breath after just minor exertion and insisted he go to the doctor. After several tests were completed, the doctor said dad had a problem with a heart valve and it needed to be replaced. Dad was scheduled for heart surgery.

The morning of dad’s surgery, I drove my parents to the hospital. The rest of the family met us there a short while later. Dad appeared calm, but mom was a nervous wreck. She tried to stay calm in front of dad, but kept telling me she just didn’t feel right about this surgery.

Once dad had been taken into surgery, mom really let down and cried. The surgery took a couple of hours and the more time that passed the more nervous and upset mom became. Finally, the doctor came out and said the surgery was a success and that dad was now in intensive care. Only two visitors were allowed in at a time for five minutes on the hour. I took mom in to see dad and was amazed at how well she held up when she saw him. He looked very pale and very, very frail. Mom sat by his side and held his hand until the nurse told us we had to leave.

The hospital had six rooms they rented out on the sixth floor on a first come first serve basis to family members that wanted to stay the night. Mom wouldn’t leave dad, so my brother, Danny, rented one of the rooms so mom, Shantel and I could stay. As it turned out, we ended up staying five nights. It was a sight to see mom with her walker, and me walking sighted guide with Shantel all through the halls and it wasn’t long before we knew our way around all over the hospital. We passed the time, between visits with dad, laughing about how we could probably just buy a nurse scrub suit, make up a badge, and we would have access to everything we need because we knew where the break rooms were that always seemed to have potlucks going on, we knew where the showers were and we were sure we could all find an empty bed to sleep in. Shantel said she thought she could write a book about how to live homeless in a hospital for free.

When dad was well enough to come home, he needed physical therapy which was scheduled three-times a week in their home. Since mom didn’t cook or  drive, I would do the cooking, shopping, get dad’s prescriptions, clean the house and drive dad to his follow-up doctor’s appointments. Everything seemed to be under control and dad was making progress on his road to recovery. And then, it all went real bad, real fast!

Next Post: Dad Goes Back To The Hospital!

Dad Needs Help

In June of 2002, my mother suffered  a second stroke that was much worse than the first one she had in 1995. My dad called to tell me mom was being taken to the hospital in really bad shape and asked if I could meet him at the emergency room. When I arrived, mom was not responding and her vital signs were very weak. Her doctor said if she made it through at all, she most likely would have problems walking or speaking. Family members were called, and over the next few days we all took turns sitting at my mother’s bed side so she was never alone.

Finally, mom slowly started to show signs of life but she was very confused and disoriented. She thought soldiers were being propelled down the side of the hospital and were trying to come into her room. She would ask us to go tell them to go away because she was scared they were going to try to break-in and do something to hurt her. She wouldn’t believe us when we told her no one was out there. She would become very upset because she thought we didn’t believe her. So, in order to keep her calm, we would all act like we were telling imaginary soldiers to go away and leave our mother alone.

After about a week and a half in the hospital, mom was moved to a skilled nursing facility for physical therapy designed to help her regain her strength so she could walk. She hated every minute of it and said she wasn’t going to do it. My dad told her if she didn’t do the therapy she would have to live in that  nursing facility for the rest of her life. That scared mom into action and she threw herself into trying to get well.

While mom was in the nursing facility I did all I could to help keep mom and dad’s house running. I would clean their house, do the laundry and cook food so dad would have something to eat when he got home from visiting mom. I could tell dad appreciated what I did to help out, and I was glad to do it, but there was still a tension between dad and I that we both tried hard to ignore.

Dad stayed with mom during the day. Shantel and I would stay the night with mom three nights a week. My brothers, Danny and Stephen, would split the remaining nights to sit with mom. Bill was working graveyard shifts at the time, but he would sit with mom on the weekends as often as he could.

When mom was finally well enough to come home she still required a lot of help. She also had to continue to have physical therapy at home which was arranged for her five days a week. She still hated doing the therapy but knew she had no choice. Even after mom was declared well, she had to use a walker to get around. Bill and I bought her one that had a basket to carry her things and a seat so she could sit down when she got tired. We told her we thought she might like to have it so she could go shopping at the mall. Mom loved shopping, and as soon as she was able, that was her very first outing.

Mom never fully recovered to where she was prior to the second stroke, but for what she had been through, she managed to get around pretty good.

Next up: Dad Needs Surgery!

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