My Summer seems an odd title, as this has very little to do with me and everything to do with my dad.
My dad quit smoking two years ago. Since last fall, my dad had been walking up to five miles a day. He was losing weight and lowering his cholesterol. He regularly took his prescribed medications. He was sixty-five years old and taking great care of himself. When he started experiencing pain in his hip after his walks, he thought little of it except to take a pain-killer and a nap.
On Thursday, May 31st, I learned that my dad had been diagnosed with lung, liver and bone cancer. This was the diagnosis of the ER attending, not the oncologist. However, this diagnosis was confirmed a few days later.
We were told that his cancer could not be cured but progression could be delayed. He was given two months without treatment, up to two years with treatment. My dad was determined to put up a fight and began treatment right away.
However, treatment seemed to be worse than the disease. My dad was confused, hallucinating, in greater pain and often sleeping from the medications. We all agreed that quality of life was more important than prolonging life. Treatment was stopped.
We then learned that my dad also had cancer in his spine. Two of three doctors concluded he would only live a few more weeks.
My birthday was July 13th, and my dad was not expected to see my birthday. Laurie’s birthday was July 20th, and my dad was not expected to see her birthday. My parents’ 40th anniversary was July 31st, and my dad was not expected to see their anniversary.
My dad saw my birthday, Laurie’s birthday, and his 40th wedding anniversary. He was in hospice by the time of his anniversary, and the staff prepared the most wonderful anniversary dinner for my mom and dad.
My dad seemed to be doing so well by this point that he was sent home two days later. We all wondered if the doctors were wrong about his prognosis. Laurie and I had been spending all of our weekends, since the diagnosis, with my parents and even had taken time off from work. The weekend of August 3rd, Laurie and I considered we would take the following weekend off from visiting in order to spend some time with each other. We were tired, both physically and emotionally. On the afternoon of Sunday, August 5th, we left Akron to return to Columbus. My dad stepped to the front door to wave goodbye as we pulled out of the driveway, and we waved back.
The next evening, my dad was re-admitted to hospice for the last time. Laurie and I called off from work Tuesday morning, packed our clothes, and returned to Akron. I would have no more conversations with my dad as he had slipped into a coma. My only prayer was that he would not pass on the 11th, my youngest son’s birthday.
My dad passed at 9:48pm on Friday, August 10th.
Throughout that final week, and every day since his passing, I continue to remember him standing at the door and waving goodbye. A month later, this still does not seem real. I still think about how my dad might answer when I call.
In the time since the memorial service, Laurie and I have caught up on house work and with each other. We also spent Labor Day weekend in the Smoky Mountains.
My mom is doing as well as might be expected. She is getting out of the house, taking time to see friends and family. She has also started walking for exercise and is up to two miles a day.