A Journey’s End – Day 5

Posted by: on Apr 16, 2020 | No Comments

A Journey’s End – Day 5

They made a dashing couple!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

My wish has been granted…my father does not pass away on April 15th. That’s the good news, if you can call it that. The bad news is that sometime around 4:30 in the morning Blanca (my father’s caretaker and constant companion for the past couple of years), wakes me to let me know that his breathing pattern has changed. Did I mention that Blanca was an angel and was sleeping in the same room as my dad so she could watch over him? We were told that this was coming and that meant he was nearing his end.

I call hospice care to arrange transportation to Bethesda East Hospital. As I have mentioned before, we did not want him dying in the house he and mother had lived in for all their years in Florida. At around 6:30AM, the ambulance arrives and my father is removed from his home for the very last time.

Phone calls and more phone calls. To my sisters, to my family, to Keith and others. Carol will be arriving later this afternoon, Marsha will fly down tomorrow.

Back to Bethesda East, a place I’m all too familiar with having spent several days there just a few weeks ago, when my father spent several days there trying to recover from his various ailments, just prior to being moved to the rehab. This day is notable for a couple of moments, both of which are intended to make you smile, maybe even laugh.

Back at Bethesda East, my father actually had roommate. While my father was in hospice care, this man was in palliative care, recuperating from I don’t know what. He was awake and watching TV. With the curtain between them drawn, I could only hear the TV.

Before I go on, a few words about dad’s political views. In 1968 he voted for Nixon. Caused a tad of friction between him and mom, a NYC teacher, so she was a union woman, liberal and voted for Humphrey.

My father took 9/11 very hard. A member of the greatest generation, he fought for our country so that nothing like that day should ever happen on American soil. Later in life, dad became very liberal. So much so, that he really enjoyed the lefty leaning political TV pundits, especially Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow. To say he disliked the current president, would be an understatement.

Having lost a a good chunk of his hearing over the years and being too stubborn to let anyone install a sound assist system connected to his hearing aids, he would watch the TV on with the sound so loud I swear I could hear it hear in NJ. When I’d make my nightly phone calls to him, at some point I’d have to tell him to turn the TV down so I could hear him and not the TV, which was usually tuned to MSNBC or CNN (when he was not watching reruns of Blue Bloods!). As I said, he became a lefty.

So back to the hospital room and the TV the other guy was watching. In listening, I realized that it was the strangest version of the news I had ever heard. I peeked around the curtain to discover it was FOX News. At this point I got up from my chair and strolled out into the hallway. One of the nurses who was attending to my dad came up to me and asked if anything was wrong. “The guy next to my dad is watching FOX News…that’s going to kill my dad!” I said with a wry smile. She laughed and I got the feeling she knew exactly what I was getting at.

The real interesting part of the day came shortly thereafter. The world is small, I think it gets smaller every day and you just never know when one of those small world moments is about to hit you over the head. At some point during the afternoon, the hospice social worker asks me to spend a few minutes speaking with her.

We do the usual round of questions, which brings us to where did you grown up? Her response “Great Neck.”
I ask “North or South?”
She replies “North.”
Next question…”What year?”
“’78” she replies and I go into total WTF mode!
“You mean you and I graduated from high school together! Did I know you?” is my shocked response.
Turns out her name is Gayle Weinstein, moved to Great Neck for only the last 3 years of school, basically knew only one or two people I knew, and we had no common friends but it’s your typically Ira small world moment because this kind of stuff happens to me all the time.

Later that day, Carol arrives and I drive her to the hospital. It is a surreal moment when my sister sits with my dad. Outside of Blanca, I have basically spent the last 5 days alone with my dad. As much as these 5 days still sadden me, I would not trade them for anything. To be there with and for my dad. To move him from rehab to the hospital to home and now to another hospital in 4 days time. During the last conversation I had with my mother over 6 years ago, while she lay in hospice care just 2 days before her own passing, she told me it was going to be me to be there when this time came. How she knew is beyond me but she knew.

As we leave the hospital I tell the night nurse to please call me at any time if my father’s breathing pattern changes or if there are any other indications suggesting that that his passing his imminent. I’m thinking that call will be coming very soon and a part was thinking I should have just slept in the chair in the hospital room next to my dad. There are times I wish I had.