At the end of my visit to my dad in the hospital last Saturday, I said, “Mom and I are going home so I can make her a belated Mothers’ Day dinner.” (We had spent Mothers’ Day with him at the hospital.) He seemed okay when we left but about an hour into cooking, he called Mom with confused and misplaced recriminations. He did not understand why she was not with him at the hospital. Mom is with Dad every day, regardless of his location. She felt badly but we finished dinner.

On the way home, I stopped by the hospital to check on Dad. A staff member was in the room with him, trying to help him use the T.V. remote. He didn’t seem to know what he was supposed to do with it except that it was supposed to do SOMETHING. She left when I entered the room.  I said, “Dad, would you like the t.v. off (turning the t.v. off) or on (turning the t.v. on)? He told me that he wanted it off. I pushed the button and then showed the button to him, giving another off-on demonstration. He seemed satisfied.

“This guy (the nurse) that’s supposed to be helping me is not able to do anything for me.”

“Dad, what would you want him to do for you?” (Expecting an answer such as, “Tell my wife to come to the hospital and not leave me here to die,” or something else related to the diatribe I’d heard him give my mom on the phone only an hour earlier.)

“I’m cold. I want another blanket.”

“Okay, Dad. I will look for a blanket.” Not finding one, I said, “Okay, let’s ring the nurse and find another blanket.”

The nurse brought another blanket. He was cozy. I asked Dad if he wanted some milk, as he has not been eating much. He said that he wanted some so I gave him a carton of milk. I looked away briefly out the window. The cottonwood seeds were falling from the trees like snow. When I looked back at Dad, I saw him attempting to drink the milk but missing his mouth. He couldn’t aim the straw. Parkinson’s! You are so cruel. I helped him do the simple act of drinking milk with a straw. “Thank you, Sweetheart.” Good God, the bitter and the sweet.

The next day, I received an email from Mom informing me that the parish priest, Pastor White had performed Anointing of the Sick for Dad. “Wait a minute”, I thought, “isn’t that the new name for last rites?”

The short answer is that it is and even though one can receive the sacrament earlier than in the past, I was not ready for this. I thought I was ready but I wasn’t.

I tried to make myself ready. I examined whether there were any unresolved issues I needed to address with my dad. I decided that there were not. Dad knows that I love him and vice versa.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of my phone. I didn’t answer in time and no message was left. It rung again about 30 minutes later. It was Dad. “You’re home,” he said. He sounded different. He sounded like Dad, albeit a little prone to confusion. He wanted to see me. Luckily, I was planning to see him that morning. He was not happy with hospital food. I offered to stop at the store to buy snacks. To my surprise (he had not been eating), he thought this was a good idea.

This continued for a couple of days. Dad still needs two people to get him out of bed but he has been able to stand, with the assistance of his walker, at least one time. This is a great improvement.

Today, he was well enough to move to a rehab facility from the hospital. I visited him this evening. The staff were very nice but the room was full of blank wall. A whole new adjustment to a new place. Dad was less oriented and more quiet. He was, however, pleased that I was there.

I am happy for Dad but also full of other emotions. A whiplash of emotions. I want Dad to live but I don’t want him to suffer. What does that mean, precisely? I recently met a lovely woman in pottery class, a retired hospice nurse. As she put it, “It is hard to know what to hope for”.

I hope for the most peaceful passing for my dad. But what would that look like? I looked at the walls of his room. They were clean, but blank. No answers.

What do I hope for? I had hoped for a peaceful passing but there has been suffering and pain already.

What can I hope for? I hope for walls full of memories, of family photos. I reached out to my brother, John, who has a print shop. He is making memories for Dad’s wall.