There aren't enough drugs to make me feel better.
My Dad died.
Duane Frank Dean. Wednesday, April 25th. I've talked about this too many times in the past several days. Told and retold the story. Standing like an idiot in my living room, trying to do ten things at once. Stupified by my mother's call. Going home. Memorial service. Spending time with my mother and brother and sisters. My daughter, my cousins, aunts, uncle. Looking at the house he made his own. Crying. His words bouncing in my head. My mother sad. Everyone miserable. Coping.
I can't numb myself to this. Wine. Friends. Movies. Sleep.
When I got back to L.A., my back was really fucked up. I could barely walk. At the acupuncturist's office, he applied heat and put on soothing Japanese flute music I'd heard dozens of times. And in the dark, I saw my father on a boat, silhouetted against a wide golden river. I couldn't stand to think where he was going. Wondering if he was scared, or maybe telling us not to worry. I don't believe in the soul, I don't believe in God, I don't believe in much of anything. Except family. The ones you love. That's all that matters.
He was a good guy. He drank too much. He smoked too much. But he loved his wife and his family. And fortunately, I was part of that family. He would sometimes growl, "I'm a real son of a bitch." And he was opinionated. He was loud. But he wasn't really a son of a bitch. He was a nice guy. He was smart. He was funny. He was really clever. He was my Dad. And I miss him.
The following is from a letter I sent to a friend of mine a couple of months later. It is one of the many times I tried to sum up what had happened...
Hi. My Dad died last april 25th. Fortunately, on a whim, I decided to get away and go see him on his birthday in late March. I told my sibs and Charlotte what i was doing, and everyone showed up Chicago. Even Charlotte, who said she'd "drive down" to be there. Drive down from Bard. She walked into her dining hall and addressed the group, "Does anyone want to go to Chicago?" A young woman she didn't really know said yes. So, they drove out in 12 hours.
My dad was in a lot of pain at the time. Very quiet, moving with a lot of
difficulty. He even went to be around 8 or 9 at night. Usually when were there he'd stay up until one or two talking to us.
He had been having back and neck pains since January. Nothing helped. He couldn't sleep at night because he couldn't lie on his back. Plus, he had been changing HMOs and doctors. So, doctors were catching up on his history, and finding a guy who didn't want to stop smoking or drinking. He was told that the pains were arthritis and that he was just getting old. Some doctor had suggested exercise to relieve the pain, but my dad could barely walk.
I wrote him a letter, telling him that we all loved him and that he and his health were our business. I told him that if walking or swimming would make him feel better, he should do it.
He was taking Viox for the arthritis (I think) and he was taking Vicodin for the pain. I don't know if you've taken Vicodin, but two of them weren't doing
anything to stop the pain.
He finally agreed to a chest x-ray and some heart test (an EKG maybe). He had no cancer in his lungs and his heart was in good shape. He couldn't believe it. He'd smoked for sixty years and didn't get cancer from it.
But the pain remained. So, on a thursday he went into the hospital for a bone scan and some other scan. They found bone cancer. Aggressive. But they couldn't find the source. So they kept him on friday for more tests. He didn't want any invasive surgery, though. They finished tests on friday, but the labs were closed over the weekend, so they wouldn't have any further results until Monday.
Saturday morning they sent him home. With a hospice nurse, a patch (some opiate) and liquid morphine. I called him and he sounded great. He was eating again, joking with the nurse, playing along with Wheel of Fortune. My sisters were ready to drive up, but my mom said they wanted to spend a couple of days alone, trying to figure out how they were going to proceed. My dad felt a hundred percent better, but now knew that he had cancer.
My sisters and my brother and I decided to go out there the following weekend. The frustrating thing was that we had no sense of time. Weeks? Months? years? We had to wait until monday.
Afterwards, my mom said that that weekend was like a second honeymoon. She dropped everything else she had been doing and just spent the time with him. Talking. About their good fortune, their children, their lives together. They held hands, went for walks, kissed. (And writing this part brings up tears I haven't cried in a couple of weeks...) We checked in a few times with my mom, but mostly left them alone. The doctors couldn't find the source of the primary cancer. They wanted to do invasive surgery to find out. My dad said no. He didn't want radiation or chemo. He had watched his dad die a long colon cancer death and didn't want to inflict that on anyone.
Wednesday morning, I heard someone leaving a message on my machine. I picked up the phone. I didn't recognize my mother's voice. She was sobbing. My dad was dead. He had slept late. And then she had trouble getting him up. Even the enticement of "All My Children" couldn't get him up. She realized that something was really wrong. she called the hospice people three times, begging them to come out. She held my dad for an hour, trying to wake him, telling him she loved him, pleading with him not to die. At some point, my father's body suddenly stiffened and he started falling off the bed. My mother tried to get him back up. She called the neighbors across the street -- the only one home was a woman who is partially paralyzed, but she said she'd come over to help. And at some point during this, Charlotte called to see how they were doing. The hospice nurse finally arrived, and then the neighbor. The nurse said my dad was in a coma. He died a few minutes later.
My mother sounded like she was in terrible shape. I was in shock. I said I'd fly right out there. I had a million things to do. Make reservations. make
reservations for charlotte, write up my lesson plans for my class and get them and slides and work to a friend who i knew could cover for me. i was supposed to turn in a movie poster job the next day. i had to pass off the job to another guy and get him files. i had no cash. i had no clean clothes. i couldn't find my glasses. i had to pack. i had bought a laptop the day before and had only begun to load it, thinking that I would be flying back and forth to Chicago over the next few months, at least. I tried to finish that so I could bring some work. I had no idea how long my mom would need me there. a friend came over and pretty much slapped me into my senses. he helped with a couple of the things i had to do. and got me focused. i had a three thirty flight and finally left the house about two thirty. By the time i got to the plane, I was sweating and shaking. I done as much as I could. and now all i could do was sit there and play back my mother's call in my head. i started sobbing. i kept trying to unthink about my father.
We all got out there as quickly as we could. My dad hadn't wanted a service or wake or funeral. But we decided that we wanted a memorial service. My mom had to call his friends, relatives and neighbors to let them know. We put together pictures, an album, and whatever else we could do. The service was great. People flew in from all over the country. One of my dad's best friends, who had recently had a massive stroke, even showed up. He couldn't speak, but kept gesturing in frustration. Susan spoke, I spoke, and a few others. It was really nice - very supportive. All of the things a service should be.
The next day we all went out for dinner (mom & kids). we talked and told stories and drank beer and ate pizza. When then went back home and sat out on the porch and talked for hours. Smoked and drank. All of us. (Several of whom had quit both.)
My mom later said she felt as though she were one of the kids. It was tremendous. To have each other.
Everyone else left on monday and I stayed until wednesday. I flew back with my portion of my dad's ashes in a baggy in my carry-on.
We've kept in steady contact since then. it has been unbelievably rough on all of us. No one could go back to work. Susan and Joe left early on their first days back. And then skipped several days. I barely got anything done here. months pass... on father's day, charlotte and i surreptitiously spread some of my dad's ashes at the beach and a couple of other places he liked in LA.
it has been devastating. i can get through the story of it now. (even though it probably sounds a bit robotic) but small things set me off sobbing. it really hurts. susan said the word that affects her the most now is "never." my two sisters are on prozac and my brother wishes he could stop drinking. i, unfortunately, have started drinking again. not too often. but any is bad. and suddenly everyone around my mother is dying or sick.
we all try to stay supportive.
i guess i've been dealing with it by writing. and talking to my family.
and eating and drinking. hmm, some good, and some not so good.
anyway, i know you've gone through your own crisis. i hope you and your husband are doing well. i wish you both the best.