Had I written this post yesterday, it would have started something like this.
“Stubborn, pig-headed, ornery, inconsiderate, foolish old bugger!”
And if you had guessed that I had started to get smatterings of the “Anger” phase of grief… you wouldn’t be far off the mark… but not for the reasons you might think.
Yesterday (and please read that as the 19th as I am writing this after midnight), Mum and I went in to see Dad. We knew that Monday and Tuesday was going to be taken up with ringing around trying to source accommodation placements for Dad and that the three hours an average visit takes out of the day is quite a substantial chunk.
We arrived at the hospital around 11.30am. We found Dad sitting up in his chair with the ABC morning news on. On the table in front of him was what I thought at first to be the leftovers from his breakfast (there were items there, but no tray). Mum asked Dad had he had breakfast… Dad said yes… but from what we could see, the only thing he seemed to have ‘eaten’ was a glass of apple juice. Mum asked Dad why he hadn’t had breakfast and he responded with a statement that at first Mum and I shrugged off to misspeaking.
“I’ve trained myself to eat less than what they require of me.”
I think the statement caught Mum by surprise and we both seemed to have the same thought that perhaps making the choices by himself were getting confusing for Dad, so Mum went off to speak to his nurse and Dad and I chatted as best we could… in other words I spoke he zoned in and out while he ate about half a wholemeal bread roll.
While Mum was gone the orderly came to deliver the menu for the next day, and I was just about to go through it with Dad when Mum came back with a little sign to stick on Dad’s table to help people with Dad’s food choices (aka a list of things he preferred etc). We asked Dad what he might like and he became quite evasive… When Mum asked did he want something hot or cold for lunch, he replied
“It doesn’t matter, whatever they send is just going to be sent back.”
Mum and I looked at each other. Mum said to Dad that he had to eat to keep his strength up; which was when he repeated what he said earlier. “I’ve trained myself to eat less than what they require of me.”
If Mum had not been sitting on her walker I think she would have fallen over. After a moment, Mum moved so that she was sitting right in front of Dad and told him he had to eat something and asked if he didn’t want to eat
During the course of this illness I have seen Dad shoot several pugnaciously belligerent glares at Mum and I… something akin to a child just before they let fly with a tantrum… Dad had that look at that moment. “No.” was the reply.
This really did a number on Mum and I could see that she was hanging on very tenuously to her calm.
“You’ve given up haven’t you?” Mum asked.
From my angle in the chair I didn’t see Dad’s response, but Mum said he nodded. That was the end of Mum, she covered her face and started to cry and I knew it was time for us to go. Mum said later that she wanted to shout at him how there were hundreds of other people in that hospital many of them in agonizing pain who wanted to live, and here he was in very little pain letting himself slip away.
Mum didn’t say it… but she did express a little of her anger at Dad’s response just as the Nurse arrived. Mum let the nurse know what was going on and we left. All I could do was hold Mum at that point… I think it really shattered her to see Dad like that.
For me personally I found myself shutting out any emotion at that moment, my job then and there was to be there for Mum and to drive us home… I know driving calms me when I AM upset, but it’s not a great place to start a car trip from. My frustration and emotion came out last night in the shower… again….
I think the hardest thing for me in all this is the fact that in a very true sense, I have already sort of lost part of Dad. Since this all blew up I think I have heard Dad laugh probably twice. Dad has always had a good sense of humour and often we would watch something on TV and he would have a chuckle… If this was Star Trek I would say something has removed his emotion chip. He is so…. bland… so…. toneless…. all the nuance and timbre of his personality seems to have been leeched away. I wish I could understand what he is going through and somehow link into him and help, but I am really powerless.
Mum has to see her Dr either tomorrow if there is a cancellation or Wednesday. Mum’s wheezing is getting more pronounced and I have noticed that on days when we are going in to see Dad that Mum is being physically ill in the mornings a churning stomach. I am going with her and I’m going to see if the Dr’s can a) do a referral for her to get her own ACAT and b) if we can get a referral to speak to someone in a counseling role so that she can have an independent, yet sympathetic person to vent to. And don’t worry… I will be probably doing the same… however, I think I will use the services of the group through work and/or the University offered counselors too.
Anyway… bed calls.