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Monday, October 12, 2009

SHUTTING DOWN

riflerange road 12oct09



I won't be a prophet and make a prediction. I'll tell you what I have to go by. Jr has not eaten a bite of any kind of food in 9 days. He had 1 ensure each of those days, and for the last 3 days refuses ensures. Had a little apple juice yesterday and a little today with a sugar cookie. Today he was up walking around with the walker. Yesterday and the day before when I offered him an ensure he'd say there's no point in it. I get the impression he is shutting down.




Saturday morning when I left the house for 2 hours to do the radio show, I left him in the bed, as is always the case every week. He is in the bed when I get back and all is well. This time I returned to an ambulance backed up to the front door. Ross's car was there. This is what I mean when I say I never go in the house with expectations. Always a surprise. It turns out girlfriend called while I was gone and he didn't hear the phone. So she called 911. When I arrived at the house they were saying his vital signs are all right, there's nothing wrong. When Ross told me what happened I had to let go a stream of mild cussing, the language I learned from my grandpa.




Then Sunday his rectal area was in severe pain. He kept on digging at it telling me he's constipated and I tell him it's impossible. His pain was so intense and so relentless I called Hospice and the weekend nurse on duty came out and gave him a mineral oil enema; out popped the plug and he was all right and has been ever since. He still won't take anything in. Both yesterday and the day before when he said What's the point, he also said he was dying. He sees he's not coming back from this one, so I think he's shutting down. Yesterday he said, Everybody else does it. Resigning himself to the inconceivable.
All of us around him are being prepared daily for him to slip away. None of us want it to be, but he's at a place now where sooner is better. We all dislike seeing him suffer as he does, though I'm the one seeing it most, so I dislike seeing it most of all. All I can do is pet him like a baby and pay attention to his every move and movement. The way he's starving himself, it looks like it can't be long. I see it a legitimate decision on his part. At a certain point, a man has to let go.
I often remember the scene at the end of the Dustin Hoffman movie, Little Big Man, the Indian elder goes to the mountain to lay down and die. He stretches out on the ground, lies there awhile, then raindrops start hitting his face and clothes. He opens his eyes, gets up, takes off walking slowly down the mountain saying, 'The old lady cooks a pretty good dog.'
There were times in the past I could not picture Jr a feeble old man. It didn't fit as a possibility. Now it's hard to picture him like he was 5 years ago, alert and just beginning to slow down. I didn't foresee Jr's mind slipping away. It was such a strange thing to see happen. In one week. It just drained. Since he has lost so much control, and since I'm with him every day and see the changes step by step, I can fairly well translate his meaning when he says something now from the subconscious.
Yesterday, sitting in his wheelchair, head hanging down, weak, ready to get back in the bed, he said, like to the air, 'I am a myth.' I didn't have any idea what to do with that. Myth is not a word he would use. Too abstract. Jr doesn't speak or think in abstractions. I can only think he said something else and it sounded like myth. It wouldn't do to ask him what he said, because he wouldn't know. Unless he might have meant myth by it's popular meaning, which would be his, a lie. I can see him saying he is a lie. He doesn't mind lying to maintain his privacy.
Somebody asking questions too close to home gets told what he wants them to believe. I think the lies told to keep one's privacy are white lies, therefore ok. Lying is as natural to humans as talking. I've seen dogs lie. Its basic in us. Jr is one you don't ever ask personal questions. He will never answer one. I've always known him to offer to tell a lot of the memorable moments of his life of every variety, openly, but if I ask a question, that's the end of it.
Curiously, I've caught myself doing the same thing. Something else I've picked up from him is, Lord Have Mercy. I say it probably a hundred or more times a day now. It's like a little prayer. Lord Have Mercy. Subtle different ways of saying it carry subtle different meanings. Like if you're at a pro baseball game and some guy takes off his clothes and runs across the field, you say, Lord Have Mercy, meaning this poor fellow is too dumb to take care of himself in this world, have mercy on him, his ignorance is the same as innocence. It's an expression of awe, like seeing Agnes Joines at the Hillbilly Show mimicking the Blues Brothers, Lord Have Mercy. This time it's not in the face of painful ignorance, but painful hilarity. Like when I step into Jr's room after he's been up in the night a few hours going through things, Lord Have Mercy.
It's one of those good ones that fits so many circumstances, like the word whatever. Sometimes if I get frustrated by Jr refusing to eat, I'll say, Whatever. The frustration cranked up a notch turns to Lord Have Mercy.
It doesn't feel right saying things in frustration. I want to be able to understand the innocence behind everything he does so I don't go about huffing and puffing when he gets me going.
I'm thinking now of calling his friends that live elsewhere to give them a tip that the time is drawing nigh. I can't see him lasting more than a few more days. He's not going to start drinking the ensures. I don't see him doing anything, just shutting down and waiting.

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