On Thursday, December 15, 2016, I received the news my father had passed away. He had spent the previous week and a half on a respirator, after being found unconscious on the floor of his home by his wife, Carolyn. It was determined he suffered a diabetic coma, along with some cardiac arrest. CPR didn’t revive him, only a defibrillator did. Still, with all of that, he couldn’t breathe on his own, which meant the respirator was the only thing keeping him alive.
So, with no real quality of life left, the decision was made to let dad move on from this life. He passed away at approximately 10:40 AM. He was 71.
Initially, I felt the jolt of the news. The hardest part then and now is knowing I’ll never get to have a conversation with him again. Most of our talks focused on the happenings on his land, just outside of Robertsdale, Alabama, about 20 minutes from Pensacola, Florida. He would talk about the wildlife that would pass through his property, mostly deer, but would sometimes mention a passing bobcat or hearing the calls from the quail, which hang out in the woods surrounding his property.
More recently, talk of the additions to his home to accompany his disabilities grew with frequency to the conversation. In the summer of 2015, he had his left leg amputated below the knee, since he was no longer getting proper blood flow due to the complications of being diabetic. So, there was talks about rails and ramps being added to the home.
I had paid him a visit following that amputation that following September, after having that little voice in my head telling me I needed to go. I flew into Pensacola with the idea I would be able to hang out with my father at home and just talk with him. I wanted to hear stories about his life, things I could keep with me after his time here. I never had that opportunity.
Instead, I found the day I flew down, he began suffering from Clostridium difficile, better known as C. diff, a fairly nasty bacterial infection. This infection kept him hospitalized the entire week I was down there, and many times after this. He lost a lot of weight and strength during this time. This delayed him going through the physical therapy he needed after the amputation and from being properly fitted for a prosthetic.
Then came last winter, when he was again hospitalized with an infection. This was the point I got really concerned, because the idea of him passing on started sounding real. After having complications drawing fluids from him during dialysis, doctors gave the condition he would go on hospice if they were unsuccessful with the next round of dialysis.
That next round, they were successful. With this, the world was reminded of how stubborn my father can be. He wasn’t ready to die yet, so, damn it, he’s not dying yet. It got to the point where I refused to hear updates on his health unless something was definite. By spring, my father kicked the infections and, soon after, began walking with a prosthetic.
My father was always one to want to do things his way. He was also a type two diabetic. The American Diabetes Association has a diet with specific guidelines for those with diabetes to follow to ensure quality of life. My father found every way he could to cheat this so he could eat how he wanted to. He loved buffets, especially Chinese food and Golden Coral. He would take his phosphate blockers so he could partake in these things without too much trouble. Still, phosphate blockers didn’t eliminate the other things which make eating out unhealthy.
That was only the tip of the iceberg for my father’s eating habits. He loved to snack, and was always looking for something new to snack on. There’s speculation he would sneak out of bed at night to eat cookies. Bottom line, he wasn’t going to eat healthy or strictly to the guidelines a diabetic should follow. He had to bend the rules a little, so he could be happy. I have a feeling this made the pain he was dealing with in his final years a little more tolerable. With that, I can’t really be mad at him. We all should have some happiness. Still, I fear his eating habits shortened his life more than anything else.
So, how am I doing?
For the most part, I don’t feel like the gravity of everything has sunk in yet. Due to the geographical separation I have had since moving to Nebraska, I really don’t expect it to sink in until I go down for his memorial sometime in the spring. The thing which jolts me the most right now is when I think about never having a conversation with him again. That’s what gets me choked up.
What I feel I need from my friends and family is simply signs of love. For the most part, I feel as if I’ve received that from those who know about this. My girlfriend, Kat, has been especially wonderful, as she sent me a batch of warm cookies. That especially touched me and I love her and her heart so much.
I’m not really much for the words many share when someone passes away. The “sorry for your loss” type comments get lost on me, as I’m so much more about the action. So, if you see me, give me dap or a hug. That’ll mean more.
My relationship with my father wasn’t always the best, but as the years went on, it got better. I can say over the last decade, I’ve had a friend in my father. I do wish I had called more. I also wish he had the chance to see me graduate with the degree I’m currently working on now. That said, I’m not going to disappoint him. I hope to take the lessons from his life and apply them to mine so I can live a better one. Still, I’ll miss him greatly.
Rest well, dad. I love you.