I spent Father's Day with my Dad yesterday. I'm under no illusions that I'll have any left after this one. I didn't bother to buy him anything or get him a card, everyone has told me the best thing I can give him right now is my time, and he wouldn't be able to read a card now anyway. His deterioration from lung cancer is nearly complete. What used to be vibrant brown eyes have undergone a strange change to a hazy unfocused blue that you nearly have to yell to break through whatever fog the cancer is causing to get his attention.
I'm not much of a yeller so I typically just sit with my hand in his.
His skin has become an inferno. I helped my Mom change him out of his signature long sleeve Harley Davidson shirt because it was soaked through with sweat. We turned a fan on and put him in a soft short sleeve scrubs shirt I bought for him months ago so he'd have something to wear that would give him back some of his dignity in the hospital while still allowing the nurses to gain access to his IV line. He doesn't talk anymore. Moving him is a physical agony for him and an emotional one for us. Knowing that we’re causing him pain, and not knowing if our explanation for why we have to shift him is getting through makes us feel terrible. Mom feeding him is an automatic body response to having something pressed against his lips. We're still fighting the clock to try to get him to hang on for one more day by keeping him hydrated and keeping his calories up as much as we can but it's becoming a race against time.
She called me at 8:01PM last night. I'd gone home with my husband to try to get the daily stuff done before another work week started. Of course I thought the worst. He's gone. But I was also grateful I'd at least seen him that day. She started the call by apologizing to me for calling after what would normally be the beginning of us settling down for bed. We both get up at outrageous hours, so I've viciously guarded my sleep for years now. For the first time in my adult life, I keep the ringer on at night so I can be reached no matter what time it is in case something changes with his condition or there’s an emergency. She was calling to let me know that he had a fever so she'd finally called the CNA and the nurse told her it was the cancer burning its way through his body. She said once that starts it's usually only a matter of days, at most weeks, before his systems will shut down completely.
I feel like I’m in a weird “in between” place in my grief. When all this first started, every time there was a change, or a worsening in his prognosis I would cry. I’d begin the grief all over again. Since I found out about the brain metastases though, I feel like I’ve said goodbye every time I’ve seen him. I don’t know how long a human body can hang on to the tension of losing someone, of letting that person go, while you’re still watching what’s left of their body go through the ravages of a disease and still retain that fresh anguish. I feel almost guilty for not being more public in my displays of grief. Relatives come over to say goodbye and they break down in tears after seeing him and I feel like I’m in a bubble outside of it. I know it’s going to hit like a freight train when his hand isn’t warm in mine anymore, but right now I’m a little numb.
When I peek in on him, when his eyes aren’t closed, he’s still lifting those two fingers to his lips in a constant repetitive motion. Even when nearly everything else is gone, and he’s lost nearly everything, he’s still trying to smoke.
He mostly groans now. Words are almost gone. When I said goodbye yesterday I got loud enough for him to focus on me and for me to be able to say I love you. His mumbled response sounded more like those viral videos they post of Huskies aroo-ing in an approximation of I ruv you (we always hear what we want to don’t we?) but I choose to believe that he was responding to me and that he said I love you too.