I have been dreading writing this for weeks now, but the time has come now. Dad will start hospice this week, which is simultaneously a relief and a weight. The relief is this will bring in trained care-givers to relieve his pain and make Dad as comfortable as possible. The weight is obvious, I’m going to be losing my Dad and it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process compared to the sudden death of my Mother in 2004. I have been preparing myself for this day ever since I saw how little he was eating last summer. I knew that nobody could live long on what he was eating then, and after the wreck he ate even less.
My father has lived a long life, with a 22 year military career that is still mostly classified “Need to Know” from what he did during the Vietnam conflict. All I know now is that he was working for Naval Intelligence in their communication section Supplementary Radio. This was before they had high-security satellite communications between distant points on the globe so everything had to be done via HF and short wave, with highly encrypted communications that used methods that dated back to the second World War. We won the Big One that way, surely we could beat Charlie the same way. Well I can say that Charlie never got anything useful out of Naval Intelligence radio traffic from the Vietnam conflict, so my Dad did his job, it was what other people did with that information that caused us to lose Vietnam. Some day the world will know what he did, I hope I live long enough to find out.
After he retired from the Navy he went on to teach school for a year as the junior instructor in a NJROTC unit in Salt Lake City UT. When he lost that job because someone whose career he derailed was certifying instructors and pulled his certificate, he went to a job cleaning toilets. He made more money cleaning toilets than he did teaching high school. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that.
Dad had the toilet cleaning gig with the local Lien Chemical franchise for 4 years until the owner decided he was getting too old (the owner, not Dad) and closed the shop. Dad had a wild hair up his butt and decided to move everything again out of Utah. So we moved back to TN, where Dad got a job as a floor manager for a company that packed store brand beans, rice, and paper plates (in that shop, they also did a bunch of other things in other shops. He kept that job until he retired in 1995. Since then he has been keeping busy going fishing, traveling the world, building jigsaw puzzles, and aggravating doctors by recovering from illnesses and injuries that should have killed him several times over. He has COPD, and was on O2 at one time back when my daughter graduated from college and got married on the same weekend (so that everybody would only have to make the one trip to Scotland), but recovered from that to have normal blood O2 saturation even today. That is the kind of thing that drives doctors crazy.
Even now his body is showing incredible powers of recovery. The arm that he broke back in April appears to be fully healed in spite of his barely eating enough to stay alive. That’s the kind of stuff that drives doctors crazy, too. The thing is he is just tired now, tired of just existing and not living, so he wants to quit, on his terms. It is not quite like his previous claim of wanting to get shot by a jealous husband at age 100, but it’s still better than a bunch of other ways he could go.
And the irony of this is I wrote my father’s obituary while interviewing him about his life. It’s good that I could get this last talk with him while he was still mostly coherent. It’s bad that I know what I’m doing on this…