Friday, January 22, 2016

A Death in the Family

This past Monday evening, my father died after three-year, on-and-off battle with lymphoma. When he entered hospice on January 8th, my immediate family assumed that he would stick around until February. When I visited him the day before his passing, he was weak and breathing heavily but it didn't seem like his demise was imminent. Early the next morning, the hospice service called to let us know he was on an oxygen machine, and our mental prognosis shrank from weeks to days. I went to work, and about an hour or so after lunch I received a text from my sister. I called her back, and she told me it was now a matter of hours. I ended up leaving work early --it was a temp job, and the likely need for bereavement leave ended the assignment a few days early-- so I could be by my father's side. We all said our last words, and since I was the latecomer I opted to go last. I remained at the nursing home hospice from 3:15pm to about 8 o'clock, and somewhere around 5 a family friend picked up dinner for me. I went home that evening to get some tasks done; when my family got the inevitable phone call around 11:20 that night, we ran back to his room to watch my father's corpse be carried and wheeled away to the mortician.

In the end, the father's mind remained relatively sharp; it was his body that ultimately failed him. This was a man who was prone to making assumptions, partially because he had a slippery-slope mindset and partially because my sister and I hated having to explain things to him. I visited my father the day before he entered hospice, and he seemed to think he was going home. I was keenly aware that he wasn't going back to our house; he was more or less confined to a wheelchair, and we weren't going to retrofit his home with ramps. My mother was doing most of the heavy lifting figuratively and literally, even after having bypass surgery last February; she was exhausted, and was ready and willing to let someone else handle my increasingly feeble father. When he was moved from the third floor of the facility to the second, he was livid; either he was annoyed that his family had completely deferred his care to the nursing home, or he had transitioned from denial to anger in Kubler-Ross' five stages of death. Yes, it was more cost-effective, but there was only so much we could do at that point.

Even though I've talked extensively about my family health issues on this blog, I really hadn't said much on social media; just a handful of allusions and that's it. A select handful of friends knew the whole story about my parents' respective medical woes, and I only explained what was going on when it became too unwieldy to circumvent the truth. On the day my father died, I folded my hand; I summarized everything that had transpired since March 2013, and explained to friends and acquaintances why I had been so elusive and under the radar in the last couple of years. What I didn't expect, however was the unconditional love and support I received from my peers; people I had seen in almost a decade offered heartfelt condolences, and I was overwhelmed with texts, emails, and messages. I was, and still am, at a complete loss for words, and I can't begin to describe how grateful I was for everyone's kindness.

Even though my father passed away four days before I wrote this blog post, the wake and burial have not been held yet. My Aunt Kay, my father's last remaining immediate family member, was in Oklahoma over the holidays to visit her long-distance boyfriend near Tulsa. My mother, sister, and I are still confused as to why she didn't get back to Illinois in time to say goodbye to her older brother; her excuse for now was that her boyfriend has health issues and doesn't have any family, an alibi that we only partially believe. Hopefully the drama will subside when my father is memorialized this weekend.

Miss you, Dad.

KEN DEWITT ALLARD - 10/22/37-1/18/16


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