Posted by: wrmcnutt | December 23, 2010

First Holiday Season Without Dad

This Thanksgiving marked a new chapter in my life.  It will be the first holiday season now that both of my parents have passed.  Last Christmas was a horrible nightmare.  Dad was very, very sick, and hospitalized.  He was the color of old photocopy paper, and so thin that he resembled a concentration camp survivor.  When I put my hand down on his thigh to pat him good-bye, my fingers went around his leg. He couldn’t eat normal food; he was on aspiration precautions, but something I said made him think I was going to get him out of the Recovery Center and bring him home to his house for Thanksgiving Dinner.

What I’d mentioned was that my Sister was coming up from Atlanta, and we were going to cook Thanksgiving dinner at his house, and bring it to the Recovery Center to share with him.  He chose to hear something different, and told all and sundry that he was going home for Thanksgiving.

Under stand, the man was emaciated.  He had so little energy that he sitting up for two hours would exhaust him.

Worse that that, three weeks before, he tripped and fell, breaking his hip so badly he had to have re-constructive surgery.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want him home for dinner – I was afraid to transport him; I thought I might break him, and I couldn’t face the responsibility if he were injured.  I was carrying all the emotional load that I could.  The month before, he’d fallen and required reconstructive orthopedic surgery just to be able to walk again.  I was terrified of trying to transport him by myself, so I’d been hiring transport services to take him to all his doctor’s appointments.  When I refused to come and get him, he talked his sister and niece into bringing him to the house.  If they were willing to move him, I was willing to try to feed him.

He mostly just sat there.  After all that effort to manipulate us into bringing him home, he no longer had the energy to interact.  But we did our best to serve our Grandmother’s traditional Thanksgiving Dinner.  Turkey, dressing, fried okra, cranberry sauce, iced tea, etc.  He ate tiny portions of all of it, but eat it he did.  I think it may have been the last decent meal he ate, as he aspirated some of it, and was back on aspiration precautions as soon as he got back to the Recovery Center.  In fact, I think the consequences of his little binge may have been mild pneumonia.

Then came Christmas.

By this point, he had almost no energy, and his cognition was very low. Now, my extended family normally holds a large gathering at Cousin L’s house.  I days gone by it was at my Grandmother’s place, but she’s long since passed, and L’ and J, his wife, took over the responsibility.  L simply didn’t have the heart for it with Dad too sick to attend.  He figured the never-ending stream of bad medical news would throw a pall over the celebration and canceled it. Christmas Dinner was out of the question. Dad was hospitalized.  My wife, my sister, and I attempted to have our gift exchange in his hospital room.  It was wretched.  We brought all of the gifts into that tiny, sterile room and took turns unwrapping them. He was able to unwrap his gifts and he seemed appreciative of them, but at the same time, he had no energy.  The exertion of human contact and opening four packages exhausted him.  He was so worn down we were able to leave with clear consciences after only ten minutes, so he could sleep.

He was stable enough for them to transfer him back to the Recovery Center after a few days, but he died just a few days after that.

He died on January 3rd, less than a week short of his seventy-sixth birthday.

This is our first Christmas without him.  We’re having to come up with all new customs.

Have I mentioned that death sucks?

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  1. No platitudes from me, Will — I hear ya. The end seems to be as similarly ungraceful as the beginning of our lives. Merry Christmas, hon… in every likelihood, this year’s will be better. 🙂

    • Thanks – It’s going to be a great year.

  2. My dad died the day after Christmas, a half hour before Ken and I got back from visiting his parents in Arkansas. He had seemed okay when I called to say we would be over shortly, but there were two ambulances and police in front of the house when we drove up. [My mom worked in the ER at the time and was a favorite with all the EMTs and cops.] It was my grandfather’s death all over again. (he died 12/23, when I was five).

    As hard as it is to create new traditions, it will happen. And the pain will lessen each year. May this Christmas be blessed for you and yours.

    • I know – and it’s going about as well as can be expected. It’s odd, you know – the first Christmas without my Mom sort of blew past. Dad was dying at the time, and in the midst of his passing, we didn’t really notice that Mom was gone at the Holidays.

      I’m sure my sister did – she was the one who actually spent the special days with her. The ER kept my wife and in Knoxville on Christmas, so we had an offset Christmas with my mother before or after, according to schedules.

  3. yes, it does. *hugs*

  4. Yep, it sucks. Love you –

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