So the time my dad was in the hospital was a lot of back and forth. Most days, we didn’t go out because he slept almost constantly. A friend of his from high school popped in one evening–Scott, our wedding DJ, matter of fact–and my dad was awake for a little bit to see him, and Scott said it wasn’t the Brian he knew. It was the Brian any of us knew, and when he was first diagnosed, my fear was basically seeing him exactly the way we did, weak and thin and barely eating. It felt like being with a little kid some days. If one of us was there, my mom would usually go home for a bit with instructions to pay attention to what he ate and try to get him to eat a little more. We’d use Eliana to manipulate him, essentially. If he said he was full after a few bites of yogurt, we’d say, “Take another bite for Eliana,” and that generally worked.
The goal was to get him well enough to travel to Philadelphia for a new kind of treatment, but it just wasn’t working. There were a lot of emotional ups and downs while he was in the hospital–one day, he’d be doing well and looking at going home soon, the next he’d say he was ready to give up. Ultimately, when he was weak and things were just not looking good, he decided on hospice care.
I remember thinking sometimes about how while we weren’t exactly trying to get pregnant, part of me felt like being more deliberate about it, essentially rushing things to cram in as much as possible while he was still here. And now, having passed the frustrating, nausea-filled first trimester, I can’t imagine if it actually would’ve happened and how difficult it would’ve been to be pregnant with a terminally ill parent and ultimately going through a funeral. Sometimes, I’m the type who believes that things work out the way they’re supposed to, and this was one of those times. Because between Brandon and I, I have the more flexible job in terms of getting time off and at the time, he had a new baby and I did not. I could count on Paul to handle things like the house and cats while I did things like dog-sit…
…and help my mom with hospice care. The joys of being the elder child with fewer responsibilities, sort of.
So they brought him in, and I mostly wrangled the dog while he got settled. He was transported by ambulance, and I remember my mom worrying about the little girl across the street getting upset if she saw. She loves their dog, and she always said hi to my dad while he was out.
And then my mom, Uncle Eric, and I sat around the dining-room table while the nurse went over all of the care information. Uncle Eric was a medic in the military and worked as an EMT for a while in the last several years, so he was there both as an older brother and as a good go-between who understood more of the medical side than we did. I’ve mentioned some of these details before, but I remember thinking it was really bizarre to be talking about all this right down the hall from someone who was essentially dying. But I was also grateful, in a weird way, that when the subject of things like a Do Not Resuscitate Order came up, we were all on the same page and level-headed–not that it was’t a difficult conversation, but that we were realistic about what we knew he would want and what we thought made sense. At least from my perspective, why keep someone hanging on when the cancer is going to win eventually anyway? It felt selfish. It would’ve been for us, not him.
Also, for the record, although he was ultimately only home a few days until he died and I only interacted with two hospice nurses myself, they were both angels–nice, sympathetic, and as far as I can tell, great at their jobs. It has to be really hard work, but at far as my interactions went, they were supportive and helpful.
He was set up in my former bedroom. I popped in before I left and gave him a hug, exchanged a few words since he was awake, and headed home. It was the last time I saw him awake and talked to him.
On my way home while I was listening to the radio, a live version of “Landslide” came on that starts with Stevie Nicks dedicating it to her dad. I cried. Thanks, universe, you dick.