I am originally from Long Island, New York but in 2002 I moved to Seattle, Washington. When I turned 36 I met a man and knew I had finally found the “ONE”. But first we shared something in 2006 that made our relationship stronger. I began caring his terminally Father.
I had the rewarding experience of taking care of him in his final months with his body so riddled with cancer the only option was to make him as comfortable as possible. I do regret however, that I never knew him before he got sick because the strength he showed even in his final days would put most healthy people to shame,but he never once complained, not even on his worst days.
He had a bell collection that was quite vast so I thought it only fitting that for his final months that he should be able to ring one of his bells whenever he needed my service. I had hoped that this small act would make one man feel like a king, even if only for a day.
I spent countless, sleepless nights because “Joe” had his internal time clock mixed up, he thought day was night and night was day. He was on a pain management program that consisted of liquid morphine as necessary for pain and a whole other host of medications. The time travel switched happened one weekend. Joe stayed up late to watch one of his favorite horror films. In doing so he spent the most of the next day sleeping. We had thought there was something more serious going on and I was constantly checking on him most of the day and into the evening.
I finally dragged myself off to bed around ten pm. that night. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow I heard the pleasant dinging of his little bell. I rubbed my eyes and looked at my bedside clock. It said 4:30 AM. I rushed to Joe’s room and there he was sitting up all smiles. “Hey sweetie could I get a steak, medium rare and a baked potato?” he said. I was still half asleep as I said “sure” and wandered off to the kitchen. That was the first of many 4:00 am dinners we ate together.
My husband helped me care for his dad and believe you and me the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Both of them had and have a very twisted sense of humor. I found this out one evening late when we were headed in to change and bathe Joe and give him clean sheets. I had been wearing a satin pair of pajamas with buttons running down the front. I don’t know if you have had the pleasure of caring for someone who basically can’t move their lower body but the clean up process should be labeled ‘requires 2 people’. Well this night was no different than any other except that apparently some of my shirt buttons had come un-done. I could hear the giggling coming from the man in the bed and then him and his son talking some kind of code as I leaned over to put Joe’s t-shirt on him. Finally , as my hubby and I headed off to bed I asked him what was all the laughing about? He said “look down”. I did and noticed that I was exposing myself to the world and then I realized that I gave Joe the show of a lifetime and he never said a thing except “thank you, I really needed that”.
As I look back now, I’m glad I could be there for him. Good Home Health Aides are hard to find and so my husband has been taking care of different terminal family members since he was 17 years old. The experience of taking care of his father brought us both closer together and I wish it could be that way for everyone.
Don’t get me wrong it isn’t always a bed of roses.
We are currently caring for his 92 year old grandmother who recently had a stroke. This new care giving situation is much different because she is not an easy person to begin with. She loves to complain. It isn’t a good day for her if she has nothing to complain about. She was difficult to please even before the stroke, but now that her brain functions have some what depleted (she acts like a spoiled 3 year old).
It is taking its toll on me and my husband. He promised her he would never put her in a nursing so I guess we are in it for the long haul. I just pray that my marriage is strong enough to survive this new care giving experience.