Monday, September 28, 2009

My New Heroes

Six weeks since my last blog post. And that post was so full of hope for my father, hope that he just had a broken hip and would get better.

But then he acquired pneumonia in hospital and has been home in hospice care ever since. We have had days where there was much hope. Days when he has walked, used the toilet, spoken coherently. We've also had many days when he did nothing but lie in bed, hallucinating, agitated or just sleeping. It's been a roller coaster.

The worst days were when he first came home from the hospital, terribly sick with pneumonia. The hospice nurses only thought he would last a few days. My sisters flew in. We made plans, he dictated notes to all of us, repeatedly begged us to take care of our mother. We all prepared for him to die. But he didn't, he got over the pneumonia and regained some of his strength.

But now we are back to thinking he only has a short time left. Kidney failure is likely now, his body may be shutting down. He's had hallucinations, anxiety, lack of elimination. I had thought myself better prepared to deal with his death, but it still hits me like a blow to the head. Have I really had my last conversation with him? Will he only be unintelligible from now on? No one can say.

These hospice nurses are unbelievable. Our whole family has received wonderful care, advice, concern, attention. Taking on that job is a true calling. They are my new heroes. Without them we would all be somewhat adrift, relying on doctors or nurses in a hospital. Uncomfortable and unknowing. With them, my father is able to rest in the house he built on top of the tallest sand dune, look out the window at the tree tops and the lake, be as comfortable as possible in his waning days.

Today is another day when the schedule was shifted in order to take care of my parents. No registration for Girl Scouts, no grueling trip to the north side. Instead we have a trip - equally as grueling - to Indiana. I hope my kids don't resent me for this time, and don't think they do. They are sad to give up their activities, but continue with their life learning wherever we are.