Monday, November 24, 2008

T.J. Maxx & Milton

Many years ago, a chain of discount clothing stores called T.J. Maxx had a commercial jingle which went like this: “...never, ever the same place twice...”. Since we have been out here visiting Chuck’s 94 year old Dad, Milton, that song keeps running through my mind. You see, every visit with Chuck’s Dad is a little different from the one before. We last saw Dad back in the spring. In the intervening seven plus months he has declined a great deal. On this trip we visit him twice a day, as was our custom in the spring. But whereas last March and April there seemed to be a certain rhythm to Dad’s condition and his energy level and comfort throughout the day, as well as day to day, this time it feels random and unpredictable.

Visiting and attending someone who has lived a full, long life as he nears the unknowable end, leads to a welter of emotions and thoughts. I can’t help but think back on my Dad’s final months with Alzheimer’s Disease. Chuck thinks about his Mom in her last months, succumbing to the same cruel illness. Chuck and I find ourselves discussing difficult practical matters such as ordinary vs. extraordinary means, as well as philosophical questions about the meaning and purpose of life. The practical matters were addressed and resolved earlier this evening in Chuck’s sister Carol’s and her husband’s living room, when we weighed the pros and cons of all sorts of comfort care vs. active intervention care.

The philosophical questions still hang in the air, awaiting further conversations. But one thing became clear to me this afternoon: even as Dad’s capacity to interact and his abilities and health diminish, he is still influencing and driving this family. Without the prompt of his circumstances, Chuck and I wouldn’t have moved reviewing our health care proxy and medical directive forms and letters to the top of our to do list when we get home. Without Dad’s current condition, Chuck and I would not be back out here so soon, spending time with Dad as well as Carol and her family. Without Dad’s health, well being and quality of life constantly on our minds, Chuck and I wouldn’t be wrestling with issues of mortality and love enduring.

Even though Dad is no longer able to instruct us directly, he is still guiding us; he is still leading us; he is still teaching us. Thank you Dad.


Wendy said...

Lee I wish you and Chuck and indeed your whole family strength at this time. Its such an emotional thing what you are going through. stay strong

dancingmorganmouse said...

It's a terrible time, Mr Brown's mum is slowly declining and it's sad to watch. Still, there's an amazing life that's been lived, just like Chuck's dad. And there are people caring about what happens, that can't be a bad thing.
Thinking of you.

Pink Granite said...

Hi Wendy -
Chuck and I both appreciate your support and good wishes. We are trying to balance reminiscing with being in the moment and both places feel very positive.
Thank you...
- Lee

Hi Morgan -
You're right that because an interesting, productive and full life has been lived it helps to put this time in perspective. And having Dad in such an exceptionally good living situation lifts a weight off all our shoulders.
Thank you...
- Lee

purpleronnie said...

Sorry I've been so quiet. Thinking of you and your family and especially Milton at such a difficult time. Sending him lots of love and hope for comfort and dignity xx

Pink Granite said...

Hi Ronnie -
Thank you for the perfect wish for Chuck's Dad: comfort and dignity.
It's lovely to know you are thinking of us all.
Thank you...
- Lee

Sue said...

I'm so behind on my blogging, I just haven't had the chance to read through any of these posts properly. Sorry!!

While there's never a good time for these things to happen, they are inevitable. Chuck's dad's had a fantastic innings - 94 is no small feat! Still, it's never nice to be waiting for a loved one to let go, or to see them suffering in any way. I'm sure that this has been emotionally draining on you all. Hang in there.

Much love,
Sue x

Pink Granite said...

Hi Sue -
Thank you for summing up the situation so accurately and sensitively.
We remain very grateful for all the time we spent with Dad.
- Lee