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