Dad is now in inpatient hospice. We moved just down the hall from his rehab room at the nursing home. Hospice has a small wing here, so the move was only minimally stressful.
Yesterday, before the hospice room was ready, Dad had lots of visitors. My favorite visitor was Freddie, my niece’s 7-month miniature long-hair Dachshund. Freddie got in bed with Dad, and Dad and he cuddled. Dad loves animals more than any man I’ve ever known. He passed that love on to me.
When we got the news that inpatient hospice had accepted Dad, my sister cried for the first time. Death is imminent. Her husband comforted her, and in that moment I remembered the man I knew before my niece told me what he’d done to her. I understand the conflicting feelings everyone has about him. I didn’t want to, but it was there. Things were easier when all I saw was the man who’d hurt his daughter, my niece. But this is not about him. This is about my father.
I walked next to him in his bed as the orderly wheeled him down the hall from rehab to hospice, and I felt that the nurses I passed knew I was walking toward the end. “Dead man rolling,” I thought. And then, “What a horrible thought to have.” I held back the tears until we got situated in the room and the orderly left. My mom came shortly thereafter with most of his things. I went down the hall and picked up the rest. The man who was sharing the room with us has a wonderful private nurse that we’ve gotten to know over the past few days. She was instrumental in giving my mom the straight scoop on the feeding tube. Because she’s a private nurse, she could speak frankly. I was so grateful she did not equivocate, like everyone else is required to do. As I left with the last of my father’s things, she said, “Good luck.” It struck me as an odd thing to say when you’re on your way to be with your loved one while he leaves this earth. But what is right in these situations? There are no rules.
I stayed with my father last night while my mom went home to get some rest. Being the youngest, I’ve always loved those moments with my father when it was just the two of us. Last night was no different. I held his hand and told him about my kitties’ new mouse toy, How Sadie gets upset when I stop playing mouse. How she carries mouse in her mouth, upstairs into bed. I told him of the mocking birds outside the window in trees, of the wind blowing through the leaves, the storm clouds rolling in. As we talked, I held his hand and stroked his face. The nurses are taking very good care of him, making him comfortable with morphine and Ativan. I’m learning how to read his signals, when he’s in pain, when he’s anxious. And then the nurse comes in and gives him what he needs. Hospice is a godsend.
Visitors are beginning to arrive. My niece is bringing her puppy again.