I’ve already written down all my memories from childhood of my dad, and I will share those at a later date. He was the last Southern gentleman I knew of and he was a rare find.
My parents moved to Alabama three and a half years ago. Dad was retired and Mom had just retired. He had by-pass surgeries before he left Florida, but he was good. Three months after my parents moved in with us, my dad goes into the hospital. It was a very scary time. From that moment on, the amount of doctors my dad saw and how many times he went was as if he was employed again.
I shared how my dad was in the hospital before both of my boy’s birthday’s in 2013. Dad sure didn’t want to miss a party, so he was always discharged in time to celebrate. But those hospital visits became more frequent. We could schedule them. Two weeks out of the hospital, two weeks in. My sisters suggested a Home Health Nurse visit him to help monitor him to help keep him out of the hospital.
On January 11, 2014 my dad was admitted to the hospital with a fever. Mom was already mad at the
HomeCare nurse for making her take him to the ER. Mom was tired of always taking him to the hospital for everything. They thought he might have the flu. The H1N1 virus was hitting healthy people hard! I had the pleasure of wearing a mask and gloves around him.
He is already hard of hearing, so not being able to see our mouths behind a mask was frustrating. Dad wouldn’t eat, he’d only drink. And they made him put thickener in his drink. He despised that thickener.
I never made frequent hospital visits before, but I had a tug on my heart that this admission was different. I made a lunch date with my dad every day. It was the highlight of my day. Sometimes he would be sleeping and I would just watch him snooze. When he wasn’t sleeping, we’d talk and I’d fix his food and beg him to eat. He wanted to eat, but he said everything tasted horrible, and he usually likes the hospital food.
By Wednesday January 15th, he was enjoying food! It was such a turn around. His only problem was that he could only take one bite at a time while his mask was off. His oxygen saturation levels were so low, that if he took the mask off to take a bite, the machine started beeping. He would put his mask back on and wait til his levels rose before he took another bite. Dad ended up not having the flu. He had aspirational pneumonia with MRSA. We now added gowns to our fashionista wardrobe.
But that didn’t stop us from visiting him. A nurse that was not my dad’s nurse warned Mr. JCrew not to take our boys into the room. I had kept my boys away all week. I was going to let my dad see his little boys. I was taking pictures and videos to him every day, but that wasn’t the same as them being there.
My cousin, Brett, came from Louisiana to visit my dad. It was a special time. My sister and her three girls drove up from Florida to spend time with my dad. And my other sister had just landed in Hawaii, when she made travel arrangements to fly back to Florida and drive all night to Alabama. (Airlines didn’t have flights from HI into Alabama for two days.) We had the whole family together.
On Saturday , January 18th, I got a call to come up to the hospital. My sister was crying and my mom was crying. I had been at home with all the kiddos. Mr. JCrew watched my sister’s girls and our boys while I visited. I texted my two closest friends to tell them where I was headed.
When I arrived, Dad was asleep. My sister explains that he has not woken up all day and when the nurses have come in to give him new IV lines, he doesn’t wake up. He was now on 100% oxygen and his saturation levels were only in the high 80’s. We were told he was in the end stages of his battle with COPD and Congestive Heart Failure. It was best that he go home with Hospice and be with family.
We woke Dad up and talked with him. We told him the prognosis. He was so brave and wanted to fight. He told the doctor and us that he wanted to wait a week in the hospital before going home. We really wanted him to come home immediately and spend time with us at home.
|pic taken by Little JCrew|
Sunday was an awesome day! Telling Dad the bad news, made him fight! They lowered him to only 40% oxygen and his levels were staying up. He had hope. But we still wanted him home. I knew my sister, Kerry, could convince him. Sure enough, she came in on Monday morning and Dad said he wanted to come home!
We made the arrangements for Dad to come home the next day on a Tuesday. My sisters were on the phone with Hospice and All Star Medical. They ran errands to get prescriptions and supplies. I stayed at the house with the kiddos so someone would be there when the hospital bed arrived and the new oxygen supplies. Mom was on her way to get Dad from the hospital. Kerry and her husband helped rearrange the living room so that Dad’s recliner and bed would be in the living room.
It was the most exciting day! By the way, the hospital bed I imagined was not what I thought.
Dad came home and it was awesome! He was walking with his walker and looking good. He wasn’t too keen on the idea of having his bed in the living room. He said he liked his privacy. We told him we’d see how this works first and then maybe change it.
Wednesday was a great day but Thursday was not. Our thoughts on timeline went from 2-4 months, 2-3 weeks, to a week left with him. On Thursday, my sisters had me calling my parents’ church and asking them to visit. My mom is a private person (I know where I got it from.) She won’t ask for help. She’s one that you need to reach out to. She had turned down visitors before and I told her friends that we did not have time to turn people away. My dad’s spirits were down and so were my mom’s. They needed to see their friends.
I went back to work during the week, but every chance I got, I was over at my parents’ house. Part of me felt guilty not being there, but I didn’t have the leave built up. One morning as I left for work, my dad said he didn’t want to receive a bad report about me. I told him he had me confused with my sisters! My boys loved being with their Poppa. Little JCrew always woke him up. Mr. Brigglesworth would stare. I loved how Little JCrew would crawl up in my dad’s lap. And I know my dad loved it, too.
The following week my parents had many visitors and meals brought. My mom was overwhelmed with the love and compassion. It was just what she needed. My dad appeared “normal” to everyone. I think they were shocked to see him talking with them. Maybe they expected him to not know who they were or not talking at all. But he was great. One couple even brought him a model airplane! He was floored!
I was not there at nights, but thank goodness my sisters were. My dad would wake up and want more social time. He’d get up at 11 or 2 AM wanting to talk with Mom or watch TV with her. Sometimes he’d ask for breakfast. I know he wore them out, but those were special moments we won’t get back.
One night became eerie. Dad woke Mom up asking her if she saw the man in the hallway. This man asked my dad to come into the next room, there was someone waiting on him. When my dad described what the man looked like, my sisters recognized who he was describing… it was my granddaddy (his dad.)
During the day he called Little JCrew “Michael.” He then explained that Little JCrew looked just like Michael from behind. Michael is my brother that died at the age of 7. It was then that we realized Dad had one foot in Heaven.
The nurse visited on Wednesday and immediately noticed changes in him. She prepared us for more changes over the weekend. Dad was confused and agitated. His sentences became random. He didn’t understand what his breathing treatment was for and what we were asking him to do. But even through all his confusion, he still made an effort to make jokes. That’s what my dad did.
Thursday saw more changes. A catheter was put in on Wednesday night because Dad was getting weak. He would not be leaving his bed.
Friday was a quiet day. Dad slept a lot. He never opened his eyes. He started to run a fever. We were prepared. I spent the night at my parents’ house and we all slept in the living room next to Dad. Each one of us slept with one eye open. My mom and my oldest sister got up to check on him. I stayed put and stared to see if his chest was going up and down.
We awoke at 4 in the morning and got Dad to open his eyes! He started talking to us. It was the best conversation we had. We were overjoyed. He said so many things. Some made sense in a quirky way. I started writing them all down. Some things I jotted down go back in time, not just Saturday, but he most definitely said them on Saturday, too.
- When he first woke up on Saturday morning, he made the comment, “I’m ready.” My heart knew what he was referring to.
- When we’d tell him something radical, his response was always, “Mercy.” He said it on Saturday morning, and I remembered how he always said it.
- When he didn’t hear you or understand what you said, he didn’t say “huh” or “what,” he would say, “I’m sorry?”
- Another saying he would say in response to you telling him a story, he’d say, “Well, I’ll be.”
- Every time I told him how handsome he was, he would shake his head at me bashfully.
- Kerry told him it was good to see him. He then asked her, “You’re going?”
- Since he had been asleep for most of Friday, I asked him if he saw Michael. He said, “Yes.” I asked him what Michael said. He said, “Good morning, how are you?”
- I asked him if he wanted a sip of water. He said he wanted more than a sip.
- He was very adamant about wanting to get out of bed. He didn’t know how, so he’d hug me or hold my hand and then say, “OK, thank you.” He was agitated, but so polite about it. I wasn’t helping him get out of bed (too dangerous) but he thanked me for not helping him and kept trying.
- While I was sitting there talking to him, he started yelling for my sister. “Logan?” He looked in the kitchen. “Logan?” He looked at me. “Where is she?” My eyes started to well up. I told him she wasn’t here; that she was still in Florida. Then he asks, “Then why did she hit the red button?”
- My sister, Kendal, was in charge of dressing Dad. He looked down and saw he didn’t have pants on under his blanket. He calls out, “Kendal, where are my clothes?”
- Kerry said to him, “I love you, Dad.” He replied back, “I love you, Dad.” Silly guy.
- He stared off into the distance many times. I always asked him what he saw. On Saturday, he said he saw baseball diamonds; six of them.
Saturday and Sunday were spent making him comfortable. He woke up one more time on Saturday evening and then again on Sunday. When Dad was in the hospital earlier in January, I came to watch the Broncos game and caught the end of the Seahawk game. He was so excited to hear Peyton Manning was going to the Super Bowl. Mr. JCrew promised to throw him a big Super Bowl party once he was home. On February 2, we were beyond the point of visitors, so it was just us at the house. We sat Dad up in his bed, but he didn’t watch. I kept whispering the score in his ear. I told him how happy Mom was to see Percy Harvin do so well. She LOVES Percy (Go Gators!) We left in the third quarter and I told him I didn’t think the Broncos could pull this off. He made it to “hear” the Super Bowl. It was time to pick a new milestone for him to reach.
On Sunday, I had done a couple home-related projects around the house. I was so excited to share with my dad. He really should have been an engineer; he sure thought like one. I told him how I repaired cracked tile. And how I fixed the entry door to the garage. I told him I wish I had done it sooner. He would have thought it was so clever. I know he heard me tell him.
Monday, he never woke up. On Tuesday, he never woke up. His breathing became more labored and his heart felt like it was beating out of his chest. I just sat there and stared at him. My sister had headphones in his ears so he could listen to his hymn music. At this point, I was sure that his spirit was no longer in his body. He could hear everything I was able to say in my mind. But I still did talk to him. At the end of the night, I pulled out a headphone and told him how much I loved him. I told him he was going to LOVE Heaven and to be with Michael. I told him we all loved him so much. I wanted to make him proud. He was so wise and I wish I knew half of what he knew. But I was going to teach my boys what he taught me. I would give him all the credit and let them know this was not my knowledge. I told him he taught us so much and we would never forget it. He opened his eyes and then closed them.
It was Wednesday the 5th of February, and we knew this could be the day. I had taken Little JCrew to school and when I got back, is when my mom told me today was the day. They could tell with how he was breathing. Dad was no longer responsive. His breathing was shallow and spaced out. We all spent the day together. I went home to let the boys nap. They didn’t nap very long. I woke Little JCrew up with my crying. When Mr. JCrew got home, I was still crying. I told him I had been so strong, but I was breaking down. I told him of our day. I told him I was not made to handle this. As soon as I was done briefing him, I get a text from my mom to come back. I did.
We sat and ate Veg-all casserole together. It was a meal I grew up on that Dad loved. We all kept an eye on him. Then we broke out a Ms. Smith’s frozen key-lime pie. I am not a key-lime fan, but I ate it. We had to make jokes to lift our spirits, so we joked that Dad was waiting for us to offer him a slice. Of course, he hadn’t eaten for a week at this point, so we didn’t offer a slice.
We all got in our spots in the living room, but couldn’t keep our eyes open. The last time I saw on the clock was 9:52PM. My sister gave Dad his meds at 10PM. At 10:12PM, I was woken up by my sister to tell me Dad had passed. We had all closed our eyes for a few minutes, and he took that time to slip into Heaven.
We were all up and just kissing him and holding his hands. It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real. Today, I am doing well. I miss him dearly, but I know how happy he is. We can’t be selfish and keep him here to live uncomfortably. I wish so bad for my boys to remember their Poppa, but I am in the midst of making an awesome photobook to be printed so that they know who their Poppa is.
I am so fortunate to have had the dad that I had and am so glad I had him so close to me since he moved to Alabama. I saw him every day. Now, I see his picture every day. I can’t wait to see him again.