Thursday, November 10, 2016
Quality of Life
Yes, he has tremors, is agitated, has lost the ability to walk, is hooked up to a catheter, lives by a complicated regimen of meds, and has lost most of his muscle to atrophy. It is possible that this day or the next will be his last here in this life. He is hard to be around, needs constant monitoring, is a bit of a jerk sometimes. He still knows how to sling a profanity or two when he doesn't get his way, even if that way is the result of a delusion or a desire to escape the hoses and weaknesses binding him to a failing body. But he still loves to have his hair washed, his feet rubbed, sleep next to the current love of his life. He still likes to wake up at home, hear the birds that sing from the corner of the room. He still likes home-cooked food, the comfort of his chair, the yellow leaves in the back yard, the cat on his lap. When we sit on the back porch, leaves hop and roll across the yard, caterwauling like so many paper stars, or drunk marathoners after the report of a starting pistol. The trees, leaf by leaf, undress, getting ready for the long, naked sleep of winter. A raised fireplace holds burning leaves, downed oak branches. The smoke mixes with the scent of rot and slime from leaves left too long in piles. He says he is warmed by the sound of the fire. My father's head droops over his lap. We drink way too much, eat too much ice cream. No matter how much we feed the flames, the fire stays hungry. We tell stories. When it is time, we go inside to tend to the necessary indignities of aging. It is hard work, this gift of a last few days of life in his home, but his wife, Linda,her sister, Cathy, and her daughter, Laura, carry out the task with love and care, never neglecting to ask, "Dear, What is it that you want?" before listening, their eyes on his, a waiting smile when he answers.