Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Letting go

My papa is in the hospital. We were told on Monday that he had a week, at most, left with us. I cannot express to you the number of tears that have fallen since we found out this news. There is a whole family of mostly liberal Democrats (maybe a Republican or two, but I'm not saying who that might be) who have shed many a tear in the last few days.

The kids and I went up to see him Sunday afternoon. He had been in the hospital a week I think by then and I hadn't been up to see him yet. I figured the kids might cheer him up. Up until a month ago, Papa worked full time at the Farm and Home. He had developed a rather cute gambling affection. Since he found out that the cancer was back, he's pretty much given up. He's lost weight - weight he didn't have to lose. But the man I saw sitting in that hospital bed on Sunday, sitting in the dark with his head bowed down to his chest was not that Papa. He was a sick man. Surely not my Papa.

The kids did their best to talk to him, to get him to talk back to them, as distressed as they were seeing him like that. They love their Papa Leo and think he pretty much hung the moon. Sam told him about school, they all three talked about the carnival that Grammy and Uncle David had taken them to the night before. He would hardly raise his head. We didn't stay long, but the kids - of their own volition - hugged him and told him they loved him. While I'm glad they saw him, I'm also saddened that that may very well be the picture of him they keep in their heads. Abby asked me on the way home if Papa was going to die. I replied, "Honey, no one lives forever." The kid is so much more intuitive than I give her credit for. She read right through that one, saw past my, what I thought was, a clever question-dodge. She said, "Mom. He's dying.... isn't he?"

Yes, he's dying. And I'm not ready for him to go.

I cried continually all morning Monday from when Mom called and told me what the doctor had said - that we only had a few more days to say good-bye. I wasn't planning on saying good-bye any time soon and now I'm told I have to do it in a week? To quote my children - It's not fair. I thought that my tears were all gone by afternoon. But when I told Tammy, I sobbed on her shoulder like a child. (My gosh, what would I do without her?) I cried a little more when Paul got home from work. I cried on the way to the hospital. But when Papa took Tater's hand and said he wasn't gonna make it through the night and Tater lost it - that's when my tears took a break. It's like Tater and I can't cry together, as strange as it sounds. One of us has to stay strong while the other loses it. We're a team that way. Of course, I can't see my mom cry without crying. I've been that way since I was a kid. I want to be strong for her, but at the same time I want to lay my head in her lap and have her tell me it's going to be okay.

We called in my uncle who lives an hour away. We called in my cousin who lives 2 1/2 hours away. The whole family was there at one point. We spilled out of his room into the hall. All of us grandkids were lined up down the hall, some sitting, some standing. The staff has been amazing. One nurse felt sorry for Tater and I sitting on the floor and brought us pillows. She'd check on us every half hour or so. Cousin Courtney's husband entertained us all by making Hamburger Helper's cousin, Ground Turkey Helper, out of a rubber glove and an empty DaSani water bottle. We cousins sat in the hall and recalled the moments that make us wonder to this day how we survived our childhood on Papa's farm. From setting fire to egg cartons, jumping out of the hay loft, playing in the grainery, and hanging out in the milk barn (all of us knowing exactly what Keith meant when he said "I'll never forget the sound of the milkers - donk chhh....donk chhhh") to watching Papa's cigarette dangle from his hand or lip and waiting for the ash to eventually fall onto the arm of the recliner and rushing to make sure it didn't catch us all on fire, watching endless episodes of The Lawrence Welk Show and Hee Haw, daring each other to go into the cellar and getting flogged by that very nasty rooster - we sat in that hall and recounted our childhood experiences on that farm. Papa has given us so much and he probably doesn't even realize he's done it.

During one of the times that I found myself sitting in his room, I took the time to look around at my family sitting there with me. I have never seen my mom and uncles look so tired in my whole life. I consider my mom a very strong woman, but I saw her looking very vulnerable and so incredibly small and sad Monday night. Uncle Larry looked like he could drop at any second. He looked tired and sad and concerned. Uncle David is one of the most Godly men you could ever meet and he always has such a peace about him. In times of mourning and sadness, Uncle David can find peace and comfort in his faith and in God, but I watched him sit next to Papa's bed and cry that night and I felt so helpless. Cousin Courtney was the one who said it best - "There has never been a time that I thought Papa wouldn't be there. He's just supposed to always be here."

Tater and I stayed until 3:30am Tuesday morning. By that point Papa was breathing just a little better and was trying to rest. We knew Uncle Larry needed some sleep, too. Mom was coming up at 5, so we felt like we could go. We had kids to get up for school, husbands to get off to work, I had daycare kids arriving by 7. We left, both of us cried out and exhausted. I caught a few hours of sleep, got up and showered and began my day. Every time the phone rang, I jumped. No call came during the day and I tried to focus my attention on the sick babies crawling and toddling about my toyroom, praying that no germs were attaching themselves to me, obsessively washing and Germ-Xing my hands throughout the day. This is not a real great time for me to get sick.

Monday night the lights in Papa's room stayed off. The TV stayed off. His head remained down. He didn't speak, he didn't do anything more than struggle for every breath. We didn't do more than sit and watch him and pray and cry. When we got to the hospital last night, we noticed that from the parking lot his room looked completely dark again. They had moved him to a double room so the family could have more room to gather and not spill out into the hall so much. I'm telling you, the staff has been incredible. The lights were on, the TV was on - I breathed a sigh of relief. We stopped at the waiting area before going into his room and the cousins said he had drank some V8 and had even toasted them with it. He was listening to the election results and I thought, Okay, so the doctor was wrong.

But when Tater took his hand, we noticed his fingers were blue. It was a stark reminder that he's really not going to get better, no matter how much we want him to. His body is slowly giving out. They hooked him up to a morphine pump yesterday as well, to sedate him and help him breathe. He's not in any pain at all, though. For that, I am so grateful.

Every adult loses a close relative or two. Since getting married, I've lost a grandmother, two first cousins, a great-grandmother and a great-uncle. I mourned every one of them - some more intensely than others. Some were such a relief, knowing they were no longer suffering. I'm trying to look at it like that with Papa - when he goes Home, he'll be able to breathe again, that tumor will be gone and won't be squeezing his lung, he'll be with Memaw once again, he'll get to see his parents and Uncle Homer. I'm trying to look at it that way, but the selfish part of me wants to go in there and tell him that I am just not ready for him to go. None of us are. We still have gambling to do out at the "Bison Run" as he calls it. His great-grandkids want to go to his house so they can obliterate the can of cashews on his end table in 2 minutes flat. I want to hear him tell just a few more stories about growing up in a time when it took a whole day to get from Edmond to Oklahoma City in a wagon. I want to just know that he's in that house on G Street and that he's there if I need him.

But maybe he's tired and just wants some rest. I have a feeling that Mamaw's been working extra hard up there in Heaven's kitchen these last few days. She's probably made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, a few dozen custard pies and some of her hot rolls. Maybe it's time for him to rest and catch up with her. Maybe it really is time to let him go.




Please keep us in your prayers and thoughts, friends.

18 comments:

Jennifer said...

Hugs and prayers for everyone.. call me if you need anything....

CISSY said...

Dang it Diva. I'm never reading your blog at work again. I'm crying, and had to shut the door to my office. My receptionist came in and asked me if I was ok. You wrote so profoundly about some of the same fears I have when I see my dad these days. He's supposed to always be there.

But sometimes you do have to let go. Our prayers are with you.

St. John's in Joplin was absolutely awesome when Ray's aunt died. And the staff is absolutely awesome every time his mom is there - which lately is a lot. Take care.

The Real Kidd said...

Aw honey I am just setting here crying like a baby. You have such a way with words. I am so sorry that you and your family and your Papa have to go through this. Cancer sucks in a major way. ((hug)) You all have my thoughts and prayers.

MrsCoach2U said...

I went through losing my Papa 11 years ago. I still walk through the door of his shop expecting him to turn from his work table and grin.....
If you need me I'll be here. Remind me to grab my Germ-X and Kleenex though!

Melessa said...

Oh honey, I'm so sorry.

Hillbilly Mom said...

Sorry to hear about your Papa. I went through the cancer thing with my dad the year I was pregnant with my second son. Dad was told he had about a year. The last month, he went downhill fast. I was relieved when he was finally at rest.

The worst part for me was telling Dad's mother that he had been put on hospice care. Nobody else would tell her, and I thought it was her right to know. She had already lost a daughter in infancy, and a son in his 30s to a motorcycle accident.

My thoughts will be with you, Diva.

Betty said...

Losing a parent is always hard. I'm so sorry for what you're going through. It's good that you have family around you.

Shannon said...

Alyssa has been keeping me updated. I'm sorry to hear about him, he is such a kind and great man, he has always made me laugh and I think he is so cute!!!
It is so hard to go through things like this. We lost my grandpa about 7 yrs ago, plus it has been almost a year since Trey. It is still so hard.
((((HUGS)))) TO YOU ALL!

Cap'n Neurotic said...

So many things I want to say, but they all sound so trite or cliched in my head, so I'll settle for the trite, cliched, but true: you and your family will be in my prayers.

Cazzie!!! said...

Huggs to you from abroad, I see this everyday at work and I have also experienced this personaly. You will all be stronger for it. Cherish the good times with your pa, and hugg your kids even more...you have done well to blog this here and share it with us all. Huggs again :)

Anonymous said...

All I can say as I'm sitting here bawling is {hug} When I see you I'll give you a real one. Going thru what my family is right now makes you realize how much it hurts!
C.

sally axhandle said...

You will always miss him but remembering and laughing with those who love him will help. Of course, you will be in our prayers. What else are we here for?

Incurable Insomniac said...

I understand how you feel, and I'm sending all my best thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

In 1992 I moved to Denver to take care of my father who was dying of cancer. It was so, so hard, and letting go is something I'm not sure we ever really accomplish. Not completely.

It has been 13 years for me, and just last night I found myself crying because a wave of missing him hit me.

Just know that you are loved by many people and that we're all here for you.

Anonymous said...

Kristen,

I am so sorry to hear about this. Just know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I am sorry I am not there to give you a hug in person. ((((((hug)))))))

Jeri

Carrie said...

Kristin,
I hate that your family (that I love dearly) is having to go through this right now! I am so thankful that you have so many wonderful memories, though! Steve and I both lost our only living grandmothers within 3 weeks of one another this summer, but we have really cool memories and share them often!

Mrs. E said...

It is never easy to lose someone you love. I watched my Granddad Dareing waste away for years in a nursing home. Going to visit him was quite traumatic for all of us but especially for the Cap'n. The memories are what sustain us all. If when you get together with cousins, aunts and uncles, you are able to laugh and recall all of the good times, you are truly blessed. Some families only remember the bad stuff. You know you are truly blessed when the whole family shows up and the memories are able to sustain all of you. All of you are in our prayers.

Prissy said...

OMG, I am so sorry. I hate that your family is going through this. As a nurse, I know that sometimes it is their time to go. But we love them so much we don't want to let them. Stay strong for each other. And know that we are all thinking about you and praying for you, your family, and Papa tonite.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I've written a post like this this year. I know how absolutely beseiged by sorrow this can be. God bless you and your mom and Papa.