Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I’ll see you on the Dark Side of the Moon, Dad.

On July 8th, the first man I ever loved, my dad, passed away. As I have mentioned on this blog, he suffered from dementia, and it left him unable to talk, walk or eat.  Because of that, his death was somewhat of a relief. In death, he is not trapped in his body.

Still,  a huge hole remains. No longer will I hear the music he played and taught me to like in my childhood.  He was all about music, from classic rock, to classical. My earliest memory is of him playing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” and him quizzing me on the artist and song.Thanks to him, I became a huge fan, and still am.  I learned to love Pink Floyd(Dark Side of the Moon) because he played the band’s albums for company.When I hear music he played, back in the day, a smile and a tear comes.

His loud voice could halt a room of hundreds. I wonder to whom  he’s speaking now, whom is he honoring with a backhanded compliment, or insulting to tears.


I found out about the bad turn in dad’s health, when we came home from a family trip to the UK to and my mom informed me that my dad was in the care of a hospice team.  That was July 2nd. I went to visit him, and watched my father, in a t-shirt and an adult diaper, struggle to swallow.

On the night he left this world, appropriately enough, blues music played in his room, from Junior Wells to Mississippi Fred McDowell to Muddy Waters. A nurse had told us that he probably wouldn’t live though the night, so I stayed with him.  I needed to assure myself that his death was peaceful. I would keep looking over at him to see if he was still breathing.  At about 8:45 pm, I called nurses in, as it appeared  he had stopped(breathing). confirmed he was gone, and called my mom, while I called my sister.  My mom, sister, and her husband gathered around him, and wished he had never had to live with the terrible disease of dementia, trapped in a body he could not control. I was in shock that this force of nature in my life had left, albeit in his sleep.

It turns out, my sister had composed an obituary, and arranged for a celebration of life at one of my dad’s favorite places, the Rogue Distillery and Brewery in Northwest Portland. Like me, dad was born and raised here. Unlike me, he had a gift for computers, and worked in that field most of his life.The picture accompanying the obituary was taken on one of dad’s better days, while he was enjoying a game of basketball with his grandson, Simon.

My contribution to dad’s celebration was to put together a playlist of music dad liked. To do this, I cast my mind back to what dad would play on his custom-made stereo. That brought to mind, Pink Floyd, Michael Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Also included:  Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Cat Stevens, the Beatles, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and John Coltrane. My sister added to the list, and it played while dad’s family and friends poured into the room reserved for the event.

My sister had made an alter around the vase with dad’s ashes. On one side, she placed a recent picture of dad, on the other, a picture of dad as a young man.  She also adorned at the alter with models of CF trucks. CF stands for Consolidated  Freightways, the place dad worked for 30 years.  Dad smoked a pipe for years, so one was proudly displayed with the photos and artifacts.

At dad’s celebration, I saw many of my parents’ old friends, some I haven’t seen since high school graduation, like the owner of Hillsboro Auto Wrecking. Dad had a way of pissing people off, even sometimes his friends, but I was pleased that a friend, whom dad had alienated, managed to come pay his respects.

My brother-in-law made a speech, the gist of which was that he was happy when my husband  came along, and became dad’s new whipping boy.

Then I spoke about how I would miss all of the music dad blared in the house. Then I told the “toast story”. I went through a period where I would only eat toast. During this time, I had to go to the hospital to get my adenoids removed. A nurse came to take my dinner order, and informed me that toast was not an option. My dad made sure I got toast, just like I liked it, with spongy bread, and NOT CUT ON THE DIAGONAL.

My dad could be an asshole, but he also had a heart and he was my advocate.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On Being “of use”.

I just finished reading John Irving’s  The Cider House Rules. In the book, one of the main characters, Wilbur Larch, speaks about being “of use”.  It got me to thinking if, or how, I am of use.  Unemployed with a brain tumor, I  currently do not feel of use. I’m not sure I was of use, before I was diagnosed. I am trying to find new ways to be of use, specifically being a good wife, daughter, mother and friend.

I fail sometimes on the mother front, I can’t and shouldn’t drive, so I can’t pick my son up after school, take him to doctor appointments, and I sleep a lot, especially when I am on chemotherapy.


I fail on other fronts for the same reasons, I can’t help a friend, or visit my lonely father, without someone driving me. And it is to my husband’s credit, that he accepts a wife with a disability, though I don’t think I can ever ask him to be more of a caregiver than he already is, and I am not the person he married.

Maybe I felt of use when I was working. I worked long hours, and eagerly helped co-workers. Even if I can’t boast about the quality of my work back then, I had a strong work ethic.

When one is of use, one is not always aware of being of use. It is always good to strive to be useful.

As for me, I do the best I can.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dad’s Greatest Hits!

As my dad’s health is declining, I’m remembering what a funny/strange man he was. He would say and do things, that are now the stuff of family legend.

For example,  I had a friend over for a sleepover. We were all eating breakfast when my dad started humming the tune to “My Favorite Things”.  He started softly, then got progressively louder.  I was used to goofiness like this, but my friend was not.

She never came over again.

He had nicknames for my sister’s boyfriends.  TJ became RV,  Bob became DooBob, and so on.

I was not immune, though I had no boyfriends until college. A male friend of mine from Junior High, who would buy me snow cones, was dubbed, “Snow Cone Fellah”. Another friend  became known as a “young Richard Nixon”.

When dad found out I was going to a friend’s apartment community to swim, I wore a bikini and my mom’s cover up. This prompted dad to admonish, “ Don’t let him play with your ass.”

My jaw dropped.


He was fumbling for a utensil in the kitchen, but said utensil got stuck in the drawer, and this immediately became my fault. “You should go to dishwasher unloading school!” he barked.  WTF!?

My cousin remembers a time dad asked me to get something, and I hesitated, making my dad yell, “Dammit Eden, don’t pull a Scotty on me!” I knew what he meant. He was comparing me to the Scotty the can’t do it engineer from Star Trek. My cousin just thought he was overreacting, which is also true.


These are all incidents we laugh about now, though I don’t think we did at the time.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

October, a hard month


I am 46 years old, but I still feel Iike a kid sometimes. Lately I've been seeing people I knew as kids, die and/or be near death. I think, how can this be? And why isn't it me? Mid month, my friend and classmate, Paula Jones Stover, passed away from bile duct cancer. This as she was achieving some of her happiest moments. She met a man who loved her, and was by her side through her battle with cancer. Although she got to go some of the places she wanted, before she  died, she was very weak and uncomfortable at the end, so much so she couldn't communicate.

Meanwhile, for the last year, another classmate, Rich Basick, has been in and out of hospitals since receiving a bone marrow transplant to keep his leukemia at bay. His biggest enemy right now is his his diabetes. He has sustained injuries to his toes that have become gangrenous. His feet look like someone burned him, yet pain management has  been difficult. He gets loopy, and doesn't breathe prolerly. So far, surgeons have amputated half of   Rich's right foot, and may need to take more.

I am lucky, because my cancer has not caused me pain, just insanity,

Photos:  above, Rich and his family at our house this summer, below that one, Rich as a teen. At the bottom of this post, Paula and her husband John.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Things are much better.

Almost two months ago I fell down during a one-mile walk, and it prompted concern that my tumor was growing again, as it is near my motor strip. An MRI ruled out growth (for the moment), an ENT looked in my ears, and didn't think my falling was the result of an inner ear disturbance.

Since the episode, a physical therapist has worked with me to get back my strength and confidence. At the start of our sessions, I needed trekking poles to go on walks.

Today I walked without them.


Despite this progress, I still need to build up enough strength to pick myself up from a falling position, should the need arise, but my physical therapist has confidence that I can meet that goal.

In more positive news, my dad seems to be adjusting to memory care, though the day he moved brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the family.

I should make clear that my mom and dad live in the same retirement center, just in different parts, so she can go to his room to visit, or she can bring him over to her pace, so dad can see their dog, and watch movies with. Recently, he has even resumed swimming laps! 

Granted, he sometimes thinks he's the coach of the Timbers, or a paid employee of the retirement center, but I'm happy about the positive changes I'm seeing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Falling down

I love walking. On a good day, I can enjoy fresh air, sun, and maybe fitness.

The Friday before the Fourth of July was not one of those days.  I fell twice during my one-mile-plus walk.  What's worse is that I couldn't get up!

About a block from my house, came the first fall. I attempted to get off the sidewalk to dodge a prickly bush, and went boom. A Good Samaritan helped me up. I continued my trek home, and didn't feel right. The temperature was hot, somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees; thus, I became tired, and unintentionally dragged my feet.

I finally reach my steep driveway, and loose my footing again, causing me to careen into the garage door. I land on my hands and knees, and bloody my left one. The concrete is too hot, and my knee is too banged up to crawl on it, so I call my son, who is in the house.

Six times I try and he doesn't pick up. Apparently, the phones aren't charged downstairs. Eventually, I make the decision to call my mom, as she lives relatively close by. When she reaches me, she can't help me up, as she has a bad back, so my son, Austin, is brought out to help her. They succeed, and I get a water bottle and l call my primary care physician, whose assistant asks me a few questions. He thinks I just got dehydrated. The incident is still under investigation. It could be tumor related, as the thing is near my motor strip.

Needless to say, I hope it isn't, and I can get back to enjoying the benefits of walking.





Monday, April 29, 2013

Moving day

I've written in this blog about my dad's dementia. About a year ago, mom and dad moved to a retirement community so dad could get extra care when the time came.

That time came today. He moved from independent living with my mom to a room by himself, where a nurse will bathe him, help him dress, and dispense his medication, instead of my
mom.

No one rejoiced at this event, and, in fact, dad shed tears. For now, he seems to feel abandoned, worried he won't see his family again.

But I'm happy to report that mom will still live at the facility, visit and share meals with them, but they won't share a room.

As for me, I can walk there to see him, and my sister can take a short drive to see him.

The move just happened. Next comes adjusting to the new normal.