Thursday, March 06, 2008


Talking to the priest at my church to decide when he would come over for the annointing with oil. He asked me, "What's your gut feeling on when it will be?"

"Tonight," I said.

I hadn't thought about the timing before. That's in my dad's hands and in God's hands.

Yesterday afternoon and evening, my father had energy. There was always something he wanted wanted wanted. He was frustrated at not being able to communicate to me what the wanted thing was. Some water. Some ice cream. To put the urinal in place because he had to pee. At one point, after he exasperatedly told me for the fourth time, I got what he was saying: he wanted to go sit in his smoking room and have a cigar.

"Daddy," I said, "Remember you had an operation on your hip? You're still too weak for that."

He sank back.

I realized that what he wanted was for it all to be like it was.

I had to go down to Philadelphia to pick up my brother at the airport last night. A woman from church, who before she retired was a home health aide, agreed to come and sit with my father while I was away. Before I left, he wanted some ice cream, and so I had to leave a little later than planned as I fed him spoonful after spoonful.

When we got back, the house was still and quiet. The woman from church was reading her book, my father was sleeping. He came to a little to greet my brother, but he wasn't as animated as he had been earlier that day.

I slept out here on the sofa, waking a few times when he called out, but each time finding him still apparently sleeping.

This morning, I saw that what he's doing isn't quite sleeping. His glassy eyes stare out under half closed lids. Every now and then, a pause in his breathing.

It's coming soon.

I have a new hobby: laundry. So much laundry to do. Sheets and towels. The hospice nurse showed me a trick: cut the back of a tshirt up to the collar. The collar goes over his head and so won't slip down, and his arms can go through the sleeves. Yesterday, my father's tshirt read, "Vote Democrat!". Today, we're loving the Phillies.

But thank God for laundry. Giving me something to do. Although today there's been plenty. Closing down my father's safe deposit box at the bank, calling the funeral home, getting the priest out here. But of those, only laundry doesn't require me offering the explanation, "My father is dying."

I keep waiting for those damn telemarketers to call. All of those charities I've never heard of. "Hi! I'm calling from the Pennsylvania Police Captain's Association Children's Fund. Is Howard Kramer there?"

I'm looking forward to telling them the news: "Mr. Kramer can't come to the phone right now because he's dying."

That's mean. That's awful. Those poor people are just doing their jobs. And I don't know for sure that their jobs entail preying on the elderly. Some of those alleged charities might actually do good work.

While changing my father's diaper this morning--it's probably a fairly small group of people on the planet who could say or write that statement, huh?--I remembered the euphemism we used for my stepmother: the "pad." Everyone's heart sinks with the news that "Oh guess what! You're wearing a diaper!". So my stepmother's hospice nurses referred to it as "the pad," as in, "I'll need to change your pad now." So when my father makes his noise, this sort of growl, and his fingers sort of claw at his crotch, I reassure him saying, "That's fine, Daddy. Just let it come. I'll just change the pad and clean you up." Lucky for me, nine times out of ten it's a false alarm.

Oh my poor Daddy.

Oh my poor Daddy.

I feel like Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, on Trefalmador, becoming unstuck in time. Because I'm remembering, vividly, not only experiences with my father, but also I'm catching glimpses of the future, what it will be like for me to be in the world and not having him there. His birthday, May 7th, rolling around in the calendar, year after year. With all of the stories my father told me, I'm sure there are so many more that he hasn't. So much more locked inside there. A man who, in some respects, I'll never know.

But I sure know this: my father has always loved me. Always always always. With a love that hurt sometimes.

Oh my poor Daddy.

This gurgle has sort of started now. I was expecting this. I moved him onto his side, looking out the big window facing the back yard. Yesterday, I pointed out the spikes of daffodils coming up. Years ago, my father planted daffodils all over the property. In a few weeks, every where you look will be daffodils. Even off in the woods are a few clumps.

I'm talking to him now. In a way I've never spoken to him. Comforting him, telling him it's alright.

Over the past four-and-a-half years, even though I've been in a parental role, I haven't challenged my father, I haven't pressed him, I haven't insisted. Part of me has needed to cling to him still being my father. So if he never brought it up, we didn't talk about it.

But now I'm letting go of that. Telling him things. Things it would make him shy to hear. About how much I love him. How I've always looked up to him, how his approval of me has always been the pearl I sought.

It won't be long now.


kiturgy said...

Easter is coming. Perhaps sooner for your father than the rest of us. Perhaps not. But it does sound as though it is impending, nearer rather than farther. Many prayers and blessings.

Becky said...

Hi--are you doing okay? I went through this with my father in 1985. I'll be going through it with my mother very soon. I just wanted you to know somebody out here understands.

You're a loving son, and he knows that.

Lolita said...

Oh, Drew! I have been following your posts. I am feeling for you and your Daddy. I am still fresh from losing my Mom. Hang in there! And let me know if there is anything I can do. Really!

Anonymous said...

God be with you, and with your dad.

Anonymous said...

Prayers and hugs for you both.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your dad, Drew.