A few people have mentioned here and elsewhere how my dad lived life on his own terms. He lived that way, and then he died that way. Dad passed away last Thursday, February 6. He was stuck in the ICU for five weeks. No doubt it was torture for him. Before going into the hospital even, he hated going for dialysis a few hours a week because he hated being around all the “sick” people. But there was hope. For five weeks he had hope that he would get out of the ICU, eventually be moved to the recuperative floor, to a convalescent facility, and then home. He had plans to spend some healing time at the beach house over the next few months. He and my step mom had booked their time share for the month of August and invited each of the kids and grandkids to join them there for a few days at a time. My dad had no plans to die.
Over the past month I did get a chance to talk with Dad. One Sunday afternoon we watched golf (his favorite). When the nurse asked who he would be rooting for in the Super Bowl, he asked me who was in it. It was a good news/bad news situation. First, good news, the Patriots weren’t in it. But, I also had to tell him the bad news that while he was asleep, the Packers beat the Seahawks (being from Portland–no football team, and living in the Seattle area since 1992, he’s a natural Seahawks fan) and the 49ers beat the Packers. I told him it was the Chiefs and the 49ers in the Super Bowl. He then replied to her “not rooting for anyone and not watching.” He was pretty darn lucid. At one point he begged me to break him out of the hospital and take him to the beach house. I would have, if I could have.
While we were in Japan, the doctors and surgeons gave my dad a choice: 1) continue with surgery and attempt to get the abdominal wound to heal (chances of success were low, but there was a chance and there was also a chance he would die in surgery), or 2) be moved to a hospice facility and proceed slowly on the path of a peaceful death. He chose to fight. He said “don’t even ask me this again. I want you to keep fighting until you have exhausted everything. I want to live.”
We were worried he wouldn’t make it through the surgeries, and our older son was clamoring to get out to see his Papa, so we flew the Pragmatist out from Brooklyn and the Peacemaker drove up from Portland. They met up at the hospital and converged on their Papa’s room. They got hugs and laughs and, as it turns out, it was a very good thing that they made the effort. They sat with their aunts and uncles and waited through one of Dad’s surgeries, and then they went back home. They were there for mere hours, but they were some very important hours.
Dad had three surgeries between Friday, January 31st and Wednesday, February 5th. He had a fungal infection in the wound. He had staph, and pneumonia. They dosed him with antibiotics and they continued to clean the fungus out of the wound. In the end though, there was nothing more they could do. His wound wasn’t healing because the diabetes had rendered his body too weak to heal. It wasn’t ever going to heal. Last Thursday morning, while Blue Eyes and I were in Los Angeles on our way back from Japan, and heavily jet lagged, the surgeons and doctors spoke with Dad. They told him they had in fact exhausted his options. That he was going to die and it was his choice how long that process would take. About an hour later the dialysis nurse arrived. He refused dialysis. About two hours later, he passed.
I’m envisioning my dad here with me these past few days. It’s the glue that is holding my heart together. He’s sitting in the chair across the room telling me what he thinks of silly things. He’s cracking his jokes. Yesterday I went through all the photos I could find, pulling out memory after memory. It helped my soul. I was posting them to a family text message. Some of my most favorite photos are the ones taken when he was in his teens and 20’s, ones with me and my mom. I couldn’t post those though because the only one who holds those photos dear, is me. My mom doesn’t care about them anymore (50+ years post divorce), and my step mom certainly doesn’t want to see them, but I love them. They are mine to cherish.
Life will be different now, really different. My Dad was the patriarch, the ring leader, the master of ceremonies. He kept us all, all nine of us and our families, together. He pushed for family reunions and made an effort to see all of his kids and grandkids regularly. When we all get together for his funeral/memorial in a couple weeks, there will no doubt be lots and lots of Papa stories. Other than my mom and his adopted siblings, I knew him the longest. I have five+ decades of memories of Dad. As previously discussed, not all of them are soft and fuzzy, but they are real.
Like the time we took a road trip to Yellowstone Park before my dad and step mom had any kids. My dad loved loved loved road trips and exploring the United States. He especially loved the west. There were some cars pulled over outside the park by the side of the road so Dad pulled over too. A buffalo was minding his own business and my Dad just had to get a picture. That is not my Dad in the hat. That is some idiot who decides he wants to walk right up to a 2,000 lb. buffalo and give him a little nudge. By the time that happened though, we were safely back in the car. All I remember is Dad saying, “just a little closer, just a little closer”… and my step mom finally saying, “no! Take the picture now or never.” She was always the practical one. I think she’s praying in the photo below, lol.
Dad loved to drive fast and far. He followed me on Instagram and he would say that the only time he was envious of me was when I posted pics from road trips we were on, like our road trip through Idaho, Wyoming (Grand Tetons), Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah (Arches). Or our trip to Yosemite. He loved the west. He had a favorite restaurant in every town, some going back to his traveling salesman days, and he loved drive-in movies, ice cream sodas, and Elvis Presley. So many things will remind me of Dad, and that’s a good thing. Blue Eyes posted a nice tribute as well, Goodbye Papa, and it is so true. He lived a good life, on his own terms, and we are all going to miss that man so much.