Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Last Thursday

I spent with my uncle.

Mom called in the afternoon. Said that he wasn’t good enough to go to dialysis and that the staff needed to speak with me to cancel the transportation and appointment. Her phone was passed to the nurse and then handed back. I heard the tears in her voice.

Mom, I’ll be right up. She said okay and hung up the phone.

I needed to see for myself that Uncle Bob wasn’t up to going to dialysis. Because this was a big decision I was making for him. The day before he was lucid and talking. He trusted me to make decisions if we ever got to this point.

And I needed to be there for Mom. I heard it in her voice. This wasn’t her situation to bear alone.

Walking into his room, Uncle Bob was sleeping. I go over and hug Mom and tell her that it’s going to be okay. Donning a mask and gloves, I lean down and talk to Uncle Bob. His eyes flutter, but he doesn’t awaken.

The nurse comes in and administers a breathing treatment. He still doesn’t wake up. Mom and I sit and watch him, the vapors of the medicine escaping from the mask. I stand after a bit and tap it to get all the medicine used. Condensation drips down. Soon it is completed and I gently remove the straps from his head. His glasses are pressing into his cheeks and I tell him that I am taking them off.

Sitting back down, I look at the clock. I’ve been there for 20 minutes and no change. Mom, I’m going to sit here for a while and see if he wakes up.


Pulling my phone out, I began texting family; how Mom said he wasn’t well enough to go and I agreed. Stepping outside into the hallway, I called James; told him that Uncle Bob declined and that I wouldn’t be home after work. Do what you need to do Wendy. Thanks honey. I breathed deep, wiped my eyes and swallowed.

Walking back into the room, my Mom is watching over her brother. She is sad and upset and knowing that this is a big change.

Mom, does your church up here have someone that can come visit? Seeing her in such pain, I wanted her to be comforted as well as have some spiritual words spoken in Uncle Bob’s room. She said yes, I got the number and called. Someone would come over.

After an hour and a half, I couldn’t get Uncle Bob to wake up. Mom said she wasn’t going home; she’d stay until she needed to. I’ll go back to work then and get some things in order in case I am not in on Friday.

En route back to the office, Uncle Bob’s nurse practitioner called. Medicines, options, dialysis was discussed. We made a plan. And when Uncle Bob woke up, we’d talk to him as everything was still his decision.

I called Uncle Don and told him what was going on; asked him to stop by on his way home.

A few hours later, I arrived back at the skilled nursing facility. Mom, Don, Carol, and Sandy sat around Uncle Bob’s bed. No change, he was still sleeping and not very responsive. Uncle Don left and said he’d be back the next night.

I headed out to get dinner. Figured we’d be in for a long night. Upon my return, I see another person sitting by Uncle Bob’s bed. It’s the lady from the church. I placed dinner on the counter and joined the ladies. Quietly reading her spiritual words, Mom is comforted; Sandy, Carol and I respectfully listened. Soon we are sharing stories about Uncle Bob, explaining to the church lady what an amazing man he is, what a fantastic sense of humor he has, and how he accepted with such dignity and finesse the significant health issues in the last months.

I don’t know how much time passed. There were lulls in the conversation; 5 of us staring at him and wondering if we’d talk to him again.

Dinner was getting cold; I invited the church lady to join us. No thanks, I’ll be heading out. More small talk ensued, and I waited. Sandy said something, and I looked over the bed at her.

Uncle Bob opened his eyes, very alert. He stared at Carol sitting at the end of the bed. We all leaned in, waiting to see if he’d talk. Looking over at Sandy, he said, what? Are you waiting for the old fart to die?

Laughter erupted, Uncle Bob chuckled and we saw that sparkle in his eye.

I sat back and wondered, is that going to be his last words on this earth? They weren’t. We got a few more minutes with him before he went back to sleep.

Carol left, I cleaned up the containers from dinner, and Sandy said her goodbyes.
See you tomorrow she said.

Moving the chairs away from Uncle Bob’s bed, I sat down next to Mom and put my arm around her. You better now I asked? Yes, I am better; it was good to have her (the church lady) here. We sat quietly watching him sleep, peaceful and without pain.

You know James stopped by today.

He did? I called him and told him what was going on this afternoon.

Wendy, he is such a sweet man. He walked in and gave me a big hug. I cried and he cried.

And then I cried. And Mom cried.

Getting up, I held Uncle Bob’s hand and told him that I loved him and I’d be back in the morning. Mom said good night and that she’s going home to get some rest. And that she’d see him tomorrow.

Walking down the hallway, we say thank you to the staff for taking care of him. Mom was weary, and I prayed that Uncle Bob would understand our selfishness.

We wanted another day. We needed another day. We weren’t ready to say goodbye.