I’ve been thinking about my Dad over the last few days, probably because I have a horrible cold, and I was similarly ill just after he died in March. It’s interesting how many memories have come back to me at this time.
Dad died on 18th March 2011, and would have been 95 had he managed 3 more days. As it stands, he didn’t want to stay for his 95th birthday. He’d been admitted to hospital about 10 days before, and been diagnosed with an aortic stenosis. Unsurprisingly, he should have been far more symptomatic than he was, and as usual had managed to hide how ill he was until he was very ill. For nearly a year, he and mum had been living in a local nursing home and after a few months of recuperation from his decline in health, was organising their life again, making plans and bossing friends around. Life was picking up after the shock of being admitted to a nursing home, he was feeling freer and had ordered several large WW2 books to read. For the last 3 months he’d been walking across to the local shops unaided, although taking his Zimmer with wheels to carry the shopping back. He got back some of the control of his life that was so important to him.
He was discharged from hospital, but with the knowledge that he would be far less active and would be more or less room/home bound, he was not happy with this. However, as was his norm, he appeared to rally, and seemed determined to fight this new setback. I remember arriving at the nursing home and standing at the nurses desk discussing him. He walked up with his walking stick, shaved, washed and dressed and thinking, he’s going to beat this, as he has done in the past. There is a photo of him sitting in his room, in his chair, dressed but looking like a shadow of himself, eyes closed and frail. This is the last time he was dressed before he died.
This rally was short lived and I am trying to remember what came first, his anger at being so restricted, or his illness restricting him. Either way, he became very frustrated and angry and told Mark that he didn’t want to go on like this. It was around this time I recall he began to show signs of being in an altered reality.
Most likely caused by his organs beginning to break down. At one point after he’d drifted off for a few seconds, he asked who’d ordered the firing squad. This not only was distressing for him, but for us too. We didn’t want him to be dreaming/hallucinating such horrible and frightening images.
He wasn’t getting much sleep, my sister and I sat with him all night, and he was constantly pulling at the bed sheet to help him sit up as he needed to use the toilet. Eventually he’s given a sleeping tablet and this knocks him out for 16 hours! When he finally wakes, at around 05h30, he whispers to my sister that he wants “red”. She manages to work out that he means red wine. So, despite the sun and yard arm being some way off, we open a bottle of red and pour him some. He takes the smallest of sips and screws up his face. He continues to be restless on and off now, and a prescription for a short acting sedative is ordered. I had been checking with him frequently whether he was in pain, as he frequently screwed up his face, but his reply each time was, “No, no pain”.
Over the next 48 hours Dad is sedated, the sedation wears off after about 3 hours and he can have another injection at that point. I have been concerned that we had taken steps to help his passing, and often reflect on this last 48 hours. However, I am assured that he was already very ill, it had been his desire to let go now, and his GP would not have ordered the meds unless this was appropriate. Between us, me, my sister and Mark we spent the last 3 days and nights at his bedside, and on the morning of 18th March, my mum and sister were with him as he died.
Since his death, Jo my daughter and I have retyped his book between us which for me was an incredibly cathartic experience, despite having read the book at least twice before. I have also been blogging his letters home as a POW also a cathartic and revealing experience for me. I’m not sure how I will feel when I come to the end of the blog. I have some way to go yet, but it will end.
My sister and her husband bought mum and dad’s bungalow and are currently rebuilding it and turning it into a house. I have/had no desire to live here, so am pleased that she is. My only slight blip came when she told me, out of the blue (she is not a sensitive type) that she scattered dad’s ashes there, beneath a tree he’d planted. This information took me by surprise and I was began to cry as she told me. She completely missed that I was crying and carried on talking, c’est la vie!
I am surprised it’s nearly 10 months ago and that it won’t be long before it is the anniversary of his death.
His younger sister is all who remain of that generation of his family, she’s made of strong stuff. Mum still lives in the nursing home, she managed quite well when he was dying and when he died (she has dementia) and appeared to act appropriately for much of that time. However, without him there to prompt and guide her and fill in the gaps, she’s become far more confused and disjointed. She seems to have forgotten he died and often wonders where he is. She doesn’t appear distressed, but just thinks he’s gone away somewhere.