Friday, July 13, 2007

I've used one of these things at least 1,000 times. They fit perfectly in your hand and have a little thumb-depressor button, and are connected by a long wire to another machine. All the other times I've used them, I've been playing quiz-bowl, holding your standard issue buzzer.

The one I've been holding over the last three days is exactly the same, except that instead of operating a lockout system, it operates Dad's morphine pump. They installed the pump on Monday, and this is one of the last precursors to what I'll euphemistically call "endgame". We can press the button as often as every 15 minutes if we interpret his mostly involuntary twitches and shudders as pain.

On Tuesday Mom called and didn't exactly tell me to come home, but didn't argue with me when I asked if that's what I should do. I was supposed to come home on Wednesday, but it looked like that might be too late.

Of course, my dad is one tough, stubborn sonofabitch, so he's still holding on tonight.

It is amazing to me what the human body (or at least his) can withstand. There is no way he weighs as much as 90 pounds right now; 30 months ago he was at 285. He has no muscle fiber left at all; his eyes are open all the time now, and when we asked why, the nurse explained to us that some patients get so weak that they can't exert the effort it takes to keep their eyes closed.

Ponder that for a moment--not having the physical strength to keep your eyelids closed, yet still being able to fight for extra hours and days of life.

He also hasn't been able to swallow since Monday. At some point in the next few days that will probably become the immediate cause of death, because he's getting no food or water now. Because it's hospice, they don't use IVs or anything of the sort. Literally the only fluid he's taking in right now is the morphine.

We are taking all of this about as well as can be expected. The long, boring hours at the hospice facility play into my needs, as I can slip off to the quiet room and practice multiple choice or essay questions for a while. I don't get in a lot of hours of study right now, but let me tell you those are some focused hours, because having anything else to think about is such a luxury.

Food habits always take a turn for the worse when I'm at home, but "fuck it" mode has totally gone into overdrive--Chinese buffet for lunch, milkshakes, baked goods that aunts and cousins send over, you name it. I'll sweat it off later, cursing every last calorie all the while. But for now, hey, whatever gets you through the night, as they say.

People have been super-thoughtful, and it is much appreciated.

Mostly, though, I just want it all to be over: I want to be able to grieve properly without being in this halfway-stage, I want dad's pain to be over, and I want to get back to my life. Yes, it's true, I have found something less enjoyable to do with my July than cramming for the bar.


Julie said...

Hugs, Joe.

-- J.

Rebecca said...

If I can be of any help to you at all, let me know.

Bill said...

You know we're around for anything you might need.

Kristan said...


If I can do anything to help, please let me know.