Thursday, October 16, 2008

A story about Dad

I apologize for not writing for so long. For all I know some of you appreciate the peace and quiet. It's been three months and 12 days since my Mom died, and we still haven't gotten around to setting a date for a memorial service. I don't think that was all that kind, considering the memorial's not just for us, but for all the people who loved and cared for Patio. I find myself thinking about Mom most days, and I still have the impulse to call her when something's going on that I want to share. Today I have the impulse to call Mom, but I'm almost glad that she's not here to take the call.

My brother Mike and I went to Arizona last weekend to visit our dad. Mike had seen Bud about six months ago, but I'd canceled that trip at the last minute because Mom wasn't doing well, and ended up taking her to the hospital that same weekend. So it was a year since I'd seen my Dad. He was getting some kind of dementia, likely Alzheimer's, and it was noticeably worse since I saw him last. Mike and I spent two exhausting days trying to get his bills and finances in order, but we still had time for some good meals and we enjoyed the time together. The best part of the trip, no doubt, was a drive into a nature reserve around dusk, where we meandered on unpaved roads and managed to not get lost. Bud was in great spirits on that drive, and loved being out in nature - especially when viewed out of the window of a pickup truck.

We were frustrated that Bud refused any kind of help from anyone but us, even though he so clearly needed it. The night before we left he agreed to let our cousin Julie help with his bills and medications, and we thought we'd turned a corner. Today, though, Julie called to say that Dad wasn't answering his phone or his door, and his truck was parked in the garage - so he didn't seem to be gone anywhere. Fearing the worst and hoping it was just an overactive imagination, Julie and her husband Rocky went over to the house, found an open window, and climbed in to find Dad passed away in his bed, apparently from natural causes.

Our Dad was a cantankerous old coot. But he was also one of the smartest people I know, and could be downright charming when he wanted to be. And Mike and I never questioned whether he had our best interest at heart. I remember when Dad and I were tuning up a car when I was in high school, when you had to hold the timing light near the spinning fan belt. He said, "Let me do that. It'd be better for me to lose a finger than for you." I wished he'd been able to enjoy himself more than he did, but part of his "charm" was that he lived by his own rules, and he wasn't all that interested in what anyone else thought about it. Just three weeks ago he came to a red light. After the cars had gone and no one else was coming, he slowly drove on his way, through the red light, until a policeman pulled him over and gave him a ticket. We can't blame that one on Alzheimer's, because he'd been doing that for many years. He'd plug in an electric skillet and place it in the freezer to speed up the defrosting, and he'd stick a hot dog in one side of the toaster and bread in the other - before they sold them that way. When our dog Tigre got old, he took him out into the foothills of Mt. Diablo and shot him in the head. And he LOVED that dog. He was his own man, for sure.

I always figured it would be relatively easy when Dad died. But since Mom died, I just recently realized that I'm not ready for my Dad to be gone, too. Not yet. But I didn't get a vote, apparently, and it happened as it did. This too isn't just about me. Bud made it crystal clear that he wouldn't ever live in a retirement home, and hated the thought of being incapacitated, as he would have been with his disease. So he went out on his own terms, and I hope he's in a better place.

Much love,



Maybe 1960-ish?

Mike and Dave's last weekend with Dad, 10/11/08


Friday, July 04, 2008

Patricia Johnson Adair, March 31, 1932 - July 3, 2008

Our dear mother Patio passed away this evening, at 11:48 p.m. on Thursday, July 3. After lots of interaction these last eight days in hospice, she started to withdraw yesterday, but she did manage a clear smile for her granddaughter Courtney just hours before she died. Her breath became more and more shallow, until Mike and I could barely tell if she was breathing. We could see the pulse in her neck, and then that, too, faded and stopped. It made me wonder where she went. After a lifetime of identifying her as being in this body, now that the body remains but Mom is nowhere to be found, it just makes me wonder.

I have so many powerful "Mom" memories, of course, but one that always stuck with me goes back to when I was 13. I was sure that I was a young man, by that point, having stepped out from under Mom's wing, and I was going to face the world like a man should - resolute and strong. I was swimming at our neighbor's pool, and when I went down the slide I tried to grab my friend underneath the slide, which drove my head hard into the bottom of the pool. (Yes, that does explain a lot, thanks for noticing.) I stumbled out of the pool and mom was there, with a towel, clutching me to her breast. I was mortified and astounded by how unbelievably comforting that was. The warmth of that embrace washed over me, and for the young stud that I aspired to be (and never achieved) it revealed a powerful truth: there's something special about Mom, and your relationship doesn't just change because you decide it should.

My relationship with Mom has deepened so much over these last months of caring for her, and I'm so glad that I was able to. It made it easier that she was so appreciative. My love for her grew by the day, and I didn't need to turn her into some kind of faultless saint for that to happen. (She happens to be one, but that's a coincidence!)

I'd like to ask you for a favor - write a comment at the bottom of this blog entry (here), if you want, about Mom. Share some stories or thoughts or just wish her well. It would mean a lot to Mike and I, but also, I think, to others who cared about her.

Mom is going to be cremated, and we'll have a memorial service, but not immediately. Keep an eye on this blog for more information. Thank you to everyone who loved our mother. We learned a lot this last week about how many people had deep feelings for her.

Much love,
Dave (and Mike)

Posted By Dave Adair to for Pat Adair, and the people who love her... at 7/04/2008 02:02:00 AM

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Defying the odds

Patio has defied the odds once again. They said Mike and I would never make it out of high school, but she proved them wrong, and a week ago today we brought her to Bruns House hospice, where she was sure to live for only a day or two - yet she breathes on. We haven't stopped guessing how long Mom will live, but we now accept what a folly it is to believe what we come up with. If we had enough time, we might even come to really surrender, and stop guessing all together. Or not.

When I travel in India, I'm frequently confronted with great poverty and suffering, often in the form of beggars. They range from the irritating nuisance to the unmitigated tragedy, with everything in between, where you're tempted, for your conscience sake, to think that they're not really as bad off as they seem (and sometimes that's true.) In my first travels there I thought had the perfect response: pretend like they're invisible. Don't acknowledge their presence, act like you can't see them, and never respond, because as soon as you say "No" they think you're negotiating. That wasn't very satisfying somehow, and I've made it a practice in recent years to not look away. I try to look them in the eye, engage them in some way, maybe only with eye contact, and then choose to give them some coins or not - usually not. It can make travel a little harder in some ways, but much richer as well. It's tempting to not want to see the suffering, to distance yourself from it, because when you see it and allow yourself to engage with it emotionally, it can be painful.

That practice seems helpful but like little league compared to this: look into your mother's eyes as she's gasping, laying on her deathbed, and appearing like she's suffering and aware of her suffering. (Is it still suffering if you're not aware of it?) She's better right this minute, so it's easier, but last night Mom was agitated and not breathing very easily, and it is so hard to see and be with. Like seeing the beggars, it's tempting to step back a bit emotionally, and not really engage. It's a challenge, but I'm making the effort to not look away.

I've heard a saying, "The thought of your mother is not your mother." I would add, "The thought of your mother dying is not the same as watching your mother dying."

Today is Wednesday, and on Monday afternoon we had more family arrive. Mom's sister Geri came with her husband-the-saint Gordon, daugher Patty, and daughter-in-law Marilyn. They drove up from the L.A. area, and with Geri in a wheelchair and in ill-health, it was a monumental effort. Also, Mom's brother Daniel drove with his wife Bonnie the 720 miles from Salt Lake City. Bonnie was just in the hospital for a week only a couple of weeks ago, so they made a huge effort as well. It was some minor miracle that Mom was still here, after what we originally expected. So we had, if I can count, 18 family members at Mom's bedside to say goodbye to her. And since they averaged about 100 times each saying "I love you," I figure Mom's heard it about 2,000 times this week! I think she's starting to really believe it. I joked about faking my own deathbed/hospice experience so I could find out how many people love me. The more I think about it the better it sounds. (Now when I AM on my deathbed, you may not come, but you won't know if it's real. Shoot, that may have backfired...)

The whole family surrounded Mom's bed and sang a church hymn that Mom likes, "How Great Thou Art," and it was very touching. I told the "crowd" that Mike and I had expected to be facing this just on our own, since it happened so suddenly, so it was such a special treat to be with so many people brimming with warmth and love for Mom.

Yesterday Geri and the gang drove back to L.A., and Dan and Bonnie drove back to Salt Lake City - less than 24 hours after arriving. It was a beautiful and selfless act for them to come. Char's large family needed to go back as well, and after an afternoon trip to North Beach in San Francisco for the day (which I went on, too!), they made the long haul back, only three days after they arrived. My arms are open wide with gratitude.

I will try to post daily to let you know how Mom is doing. Thank you all for your love and support, and I apologize to everyone whose messages I haven't replied to. We really can feel the love for our dear Mums, and she can, too. We don't have to wonder about that - she's told us.

Too much love,

p.s. As I've been writing this, Mom has been sleeping really soundly, and breathing smoothly and easily. It's such a relief.

Photos (and more are here):

Many more photos are here.

Posted By Dave Adair to for Pat Adair, and the people who love her... at 7/02/2008 01:57:00 PM

Friday, June 27, 2008

A too-brief update

Hello all,

I'm sending this message out on my newsletter group, which I haven't posted to since my manhood was getting unwelcome attention in Delhi, India, back in September, 2006. (You can find that story here:

I really apologize for not writing sooner, because so many important things have happened since then. I don't really have the bandwidth right now to summarize them, because I'm in a hospice center with lots of family as my mother dies from pancreatic cancer. Forgive me for not telling you sooner, if you think I should have.

I'll write more when I come up for air, but it's been an incredible and frustrating rollercoaster, followed soon thereafter by our current experience: a peaceful, moving, moshpit-of-love, where I can actually say that I wouldn't have it any other way. How did it go from being so painful to being so beautiful and serene? Here's a hint: the Buddha's Second Noble Truth: "The cause of suffering is clinging desire." More on that, I hope, later.

In the meantime, please read the blog that I created for Mom on January 1st, the day she was diagnosed with cancer. The latest entry, probably the best of the bunch, was written by my beautiful 15 year-old niece Brooke. You can find the blog, including some photos of my Mom and family, here:

Much love,