Unfortunately, today, we began hospice for my dad. After the last year and half with dad battling dementia, I thought I was prepared for this moment. I thought I would be okay. And when the nurses pulled me out into the hall today to tell me what I already knew - that Dad's time is running short, they believe - I burst into tears.
I've seen him wage a war against this disease since late 2015. We've seen the ups and downs and ins and outs of what it does to him and what it did to us. And after watching it wreak havoc on his mind for so long you start to think, him finding peace will be a good thing. Until that peace grows so close you can see it waving in the distance. Then you want to freeze time and savor every moment you have together.
Dad's been pretty out of it for quite a few days now. He mostly sleeps, and when he isn't sleeping, he's pretty groggy and out of it. Today, when I arrived, he could barely open his eyes. He'd turn his head towards my voice but it was almost as if he couldn't remember how to actually raise his eyelids. After a nap of about 40 minutes or so he woke up, and for the first time in months, he was clear. There was no confusion. No asking me why we were "riding the rail cars" or where he was, no asking me if I'd gotten married or what my name was (on the bad days). There was just Dad. The man I grew up with, for the next 50 minutes, was there next to me - albeit with a weaker body.
So we talked. Real conversation for the first time in months. We talked about some good memories. We talked about my kids. We talked about how he knows his time is getting shorter and he isn't scared; how he's had a good life and he hopes we have, too. I was blessed to hear him say that he was grateful that I was there to take care of him, that I have been a great daughter - words I needed to hear after the chaos that has been this disease. He talked about how my younger brother was a good dad, and how he knew he'd be okay. Then I called my husband and asked him to bring my kids up while my dad was doing better. They were there within 15 minutes, and Dad talked to them, watched his granddaughter perform her recital dance, and listened to his grandson talk about his latest feats in baseball. There was no anger, no agitation, no anxiety, no curse words. It was just Dad/Grandpa, and it was magnificent.
It was strange, honestly, to talk so candidly about the fact that he knows his time is short. But it was also such a blessing. I mean, we said things we never would have said. I reminded him that he was free to go, because we would take care of everyone and everything, and he just said he knew we'd be okay. I can't imagine anything about this is easy for him, but today, he showed a wisdom and dignity and calm I don't know that I could possess if I were in his shoes.
I'm not sure what the next few days or weeks or months will hold. That 50 or so minutes of clarity today were an anomaly of sorts. However I know that no matter what, we've said all we need to say and there are no more words needed to share how we feel. Which makes a difficult situation just a little easier to bear.