This didn't hit me as hard as my mother's passing. First, I was a whole lot closer to my mother than my father. Second, I was actually in the hospital when my mom died, not 750 miles away. Third, before my mom went in for surgery, prognosis was pretty good that she'd get out of it alive.
As stated, my father was diganosed with cancer in his throat in late 2002, and was undergoing chemo and radiation when I found out about it. (Our family has a history of not telling relations about medical events, as they don't want to trouble other people with information that they can't do anything about.) By 2006, he was declared 'Cancer Free'.
However, the chemo and radiation also aggrivated a condition that runs in our family (especially his side of the family) - dementia. So, while we got Dad back, he pretty much needed constant supervision after he finished with his treatment back in 2003.
My dad was never an 'open' person, so on good days he was just like old Dad. On bad days... One event sticks in my mind. One time, when driving into town to get the mail, he didn't return for six hours. The highway patrol found him 100 miles north of home, crying, saying he couldn't remember where home was. I think this is what convenced him that, even if he could still drive, he should have a co-pilot. Before that, while I was visiting, he took the truck and disappeared for 20 minutes (he just went to get gas for the truck) without telling anyone. Mom yelled at him, and he yelled at me that he could drive whenever he wanted, and that I should give him the keys. "I put the keys where you found them last time. If you can remember that, you can drive the goddamn truck." He couldn't remember.
When Mom died in 2008, my father opted to move to Oklahoma to live with Good Sister. He still got the care he needed, and I tried to make sure that whenever they needed to go on vacation, that I would be available to 'house-sit' (which, in reality, meant Dog-and-Dad-Sitting).
I was doing just that the week or so before he died. Now, in July, my father complained about pain in his jaw. Tests revealed that there was a different cancer in his jaw, so I made a point to come down (Bringing Bad Sister and a family friend 'sister' that was close to my father) in August for a visit. His mental state was bad. He had even slowed down his casino visits (He loved slot machines) substantially. My sister and brother-in-law had a international vacation lined up Dec. 2nd-9th, so I came down, heading back on Dec. 11th.
His state during that week was bad. The day before I drove down, his surgery to remove the cancer in his jaw was cancelled. It has spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, and they even thought they might have found a trace in his spinal column. So, at that stage, it went from 'Looking for a cure' to 'Making him comfortable. We got liquid-dose morphine for his pain.
There were many things that happened during my custodial week that would have been flippin' hilarious in a comedy movie that about killed me because I knew that this wasn't some weird 'Punk'd' style show - This was my father's new reality. I also had the joy of seeing my father naked far too much, as some mornings I had to stand in his bedroom and walk him through getting dressed.
Driving home from Oklahoma on the 11th. Driving back on the 16th.
I didn't have to go, really. Most of my dad's 'assets' were already distrubuted when my mother passed, and we had a pretty clear idea about what his final wishes where. But I wanted to be there for Good Sister. She had found him, and because he died at home, her house was actually a 'crime scene' until the Medical Examiner contacted my dad's doctor to confirm that, yes, he was a terminal cancer patient.
Good Sister was always 'Daddy's Girl' (just as I was always 'Mama's Boy'), and they were very close. Her husband, who is a good guy that loves her very much, is a clueless schmuck when it comes to dealing with things like this (even though he lost both of his parents already.) We spent a lot of time talking.
I'll be going back down in late January for another vacation. This time, I can do whatever I want as long as the dogs are taken care of.
In so many ways, my father's death was a blessing, between the cancer and the dementia. My sister can now have her life (and her upstairs game room) back. I can have my vacations back.
But, it doesn't feel like a blessing.
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