Thursday, January 12, 2012

Gettin’ the heck out of Dodge

To balance what will be sad memories tomorrow, we have decided to go to Springfield to play a bit. It seemed like a good idea earlier in the week when the temperatures were hovering near 50.

I got up this morning before "dawn had cracked" and let the cat out at about 5:30. As soon as I opened the back door and felt the blast of frigid air and saw the dusting of snow on the ground, I thought to myself, “you are not going to be out there very long.…” She hesitated a moment on the porch, and I suggested she might want to come back in the house, but as a cat will do, she bolted.

I was right of course. It takes me 19 steps to go from the back door to the computer in my office, and within 10 seconds or so of sitting down and starting to work, she was up on the bird feeder outside the window meowing at me to let her in. I couldn't see her, because it was still very dark, but I could hear the pitiful wail.

I am very glad we no longer have to take care of animals. Shortly after we moved here, we had a lot of chickens and ducks and raised rabbits for a while, and I can remember having to go out on bitter cold mornings and dump the ice out of their frozen bowls. On mornings like this I am also glad I don’t work out of the home. In later years, when I was the janitor at the post office, part of my job was to shovel snow, so both of us would have to go in very early to clear the walks in front of the building and put salt down.

Trying not to remember the details of last January 13 just seems to intensify them. When we got the call at 11:45 that our son had “taken a turn for the worse,” I left the house immediately and drove back to the nursing home. I was there in about 3 minutes. His room was at the end of the hall, right by an entrance with two sets of double doors. They made quite a racket when they were opened. I went through the first set and through the glass of the second set I could see a clot of people standing at the nurses station at the end of the hall. As I opened the second set of doors, they all turned and looked at me.

I knew right then that he had died. The nursing home social worker was with them, and she started moving toward me, surprisingly fast for a large woman. I hesitated for a second outside his door, which was shut, and started to go in and she shook her head at me. I guess she thought they were still trying to revive him. She reached me and put her arms around me, and then at that moment the door opened and the nurse practitioner and the RN and some others came out of room.

I looked at him lying there in the bed. His eyes were half open and his mouth was slightly open. He hadn’t just taken a turn for the worse. He was dead.

I closed his eyes and shut his mouth. I kissed him on the forehead. He was still warm and his skin was pliable, and his hand felt soft when I picked up, but very heavy. His face was very peaceful, and rightly so: newly dead people look so peaceful because all the muscles in their faces have relaxed.

I sat down by the bed and started to make phone calls. A minute or two later, Richard walked in the room. He looked at Nathaniel, and just for a second, he thought Nathaniel was asleep.

Looking back on January 13, 2011, I see details in slow motion and then they speed up almost like time-lapse photography. I continued to make phone calls. The CNAs came in to wash his body. People from hospice came in. The funeral home arrived to take his body. They wheeled him out. Judy and Charlie came.

We don’t know for sure what caused him to die when he did. It happened very quickly: He was working on the laptop and stopped to go to the bathroom. He got pale and clammy, and they helped him get to the bed. He was worried about his cellphone getting knocked on the floor so they put it on the table. As they helped him lay down, his eyes rolled back and his pupils became fixed and dilated and he died. My friend, who is a nurse practitioner, guessed that the massive tumor in his gut compressed the vagus nerve and shut his body down.

And tomorrow we will have Italian food at a good restaurant. We will see a movie that got good reviews, and we will take some time to reflect on our son. One thing that I am most thankful for is that we had almost a year to mend fences with him and bandage over some old wounds, so that we were on good terms when he left his body behind.


Donna said...

I can't even imagine. I'm glad at the end you had all made your peace. But I can't imagine your pain. God bless you.

Paula said...

My heart goes out to you and that is all I can say right now.

Susan said...

I weep as a mother. I weep as o a mother who's daughter drew her last breath on May 19, 2011. I weep because we belong to a club that neither of us ever wanted to be in - parents who buried their children. I weep with you.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Thinking of you today and sending warm thoughts your way..I am so glad you are getting away at least for the day:)

Andora said...

Thinking of you,my heart goes out to you..glad all made peace..may God bless you!!!!

Have Myelin? said...

I'm thinking of you today - I remember how it felt.

I hope you and the Dad found a way to share some good memories together on a painful day. It's always a hard day for us too.

I lit a candle for you in his memory.

Take good care.

Tami Weingartner said...

Thinking of you....XO XO XO