Tuesday, December 11, 2007

not terribly cheerful, but not too depressing.

I belong to several online groups based around dealing with the health issues of elderly people. I know exactly how much worse things could be on that front. We have been spared dementia, Altzheimers, diabetes and cancer. What is killing my father in law, the Playboy of the Western World, is the long, slow decline of arterioclerosis that DaVinci described as a 'sweet death'..no pain, just a lingering and deepening need to rest. Which he refuses to do. Gaah.

Still, the slow trudge towards the inevitable is wearing me down. Now that I have anything particularly onerous to do...mostly it involves a lot of driving. It's simply knowing that it's all ultimately futile and that I'm falling short of the demand. Like right now, here I am writing, and something is telling me that what I'm really doing is avoiding the man. I should be there with him. Doing what I have no idea.

Nobody teaches a course on how to do endings. I'd like to do this right for my father in law, instead of feeling resentful, guilty, confused and overwhelmed. The part where I deal with my own feelings, I can do. I'm doing it here. I can manage that part. I just don't know how to help someone die pleasantly.

Well, really...what do you do? What I wish you could do is simply ask 'So listen, you're old, it's time, you're dying. What would make this process more pleasant for you?' Of course nobody comes back from that place and writes any books...'Dying Doesn't Have To Suck' or 'More Class 'A' Narcotics Next Time' or whatever. And it's not exactly coming naturally to me. I want to fight, and that isn't appropriate at this point.

What I think I may do is go to the AIDS hospice and pick the brains of one of the people who work there. Do you know how bad this sucks, now that I stop and think of it? I'm going there because they deal with dying gay people. If there's so little out there for dying straight people, how much worse it must be for people who most folks think shouldn't even exist in the first place???
Anyway, that's the plan. To see it written down it looks kind of ignorant, but I'm not a gay man and I want to be able to advocate responsibly and in a sensitive manner on behalf of a gay man and help him through this, so that's where I'm going. You can make who you are a blessing and I'm going to try and do that; make my actions be a blessing instead of a burden.

This is the one and only thing I've ever take away from Native culture...if shit aint going to change, you better. It works, too.

Kids, don't feel all sorry for me here. I'm doing fine. This really is turning out to be a great holiday season for me! Really! Honestly! It's just that this is what's been going through my mind to work out lately so this is what I'm writing about.


  1. I'm waiting for the day they distribute chewable morphine to anyone who wants it.

  2. hey, write about whatever you want; we're here to listen.

    i think going to the AIDS hospice is a great idea. the very fact that you are actively trying to improve what's left of this man's life is a small miracle in itself. most people, no matter how much they love their loved ones, would never think to do that.

    furthermore, what's wrong with saying to someone "so listen; you're dying. what would make this more pleasant (or perhaps less unpleasant) for you?" i bet there are bazillions of old people out there who would LOVE to be asked that very question. They're not stupid; they know they're on the way out. But how often do the doctors and families actually stop and say "what do YOU want?" In my experience (buried 2 grandparents), almost NEVER.

  3. I too think going to the aids hospice people is a great idea , if anyone knows how to approach this , I would think they will.

    I wish I could clearly lay out the issues that conflict me in life , the way you have here.It takes courage and emotional honesty.

    You got soul girl

  4. Any hospice group will do - those people are a gift. Most hospitals now have a hospice program. If the Playboy has health insurance you could find out who their hospice group is. You can't really use them until the end is neigh but I'm sure you could talk to someone. And people have written books - you don't have to wade these dark waters alone.

    Hospice people are very clear that we all die, that there is no hiding from death and that it is a gift. Death is what you get for living. Not they way most of us are raised, right?

    I could not have endured my mother's death without those hospice people. I even spoke with the Chaplain and I usually avoid religion as best I can. He was a non-demoninational, non-affilliated guy who had some nice beliefs around spirituality. It helped immensely.

    Hang out. Play cards, watch movies - whatever. Stay cheerful and realistic. It's all you can do. And I agree that actually discussing the reality of being at the end of his life is an okay thing to do. Just ask the hospice people - they can help.

  5. I think the only thing that a dying person could have that would make it any better for them is some inkling of whether it's the end, or a beginning. But there's only one way to know for certain.

    Whoa! Word Verification! So you got the Brazilian spam too! We should find ways of spamming spammers instead of making life harder for ourselves. Such as bombarding the company that has employed the spammer with emails complaining about their support of it. rant rant rant mutter mutter mutter. Goes off to chew table leg in fury.

  6. Speaking personally, if I was in the Playboy's situation (and thank God I'm not), I would really appreciate my daughter-in-law saying the "So you're dying, what would you really like" line. Bullshit at times like this is an additional poison the system just cannot take.
    You know him better than I. I know it wouldn't work for everyone. Take care of YOURSELF, as well as the old guy.

  7. I don't think it's a bad idea to get an idea from some people who deal with death all the time for some guidance.

    Maybe you could write, "Dying, it doesn't have to suck," based on this. If it's written with a quarter of the humor I see here, I would read it. (See, I said "read" not "buy" since this holiday season is characterized by how broke I am. But I would so encourage someone else to buy it, so I could steal it.)

  8. mudlark12:23 AM

    Gay or straight, young or old, it's the indignities as well as the pain that make dying such fun. Not. Whatever you can do as a non-institutional person will be a great gift, acknowledged or not - even just being there!

    Though I gather TPOTWW is not likely to be embarrassed by much the medical system can throw at him, it's infinitely more pleasant to be cared for sometimes by someone for whom it's a labour of love rather than an eight hour shift.

    I think at times my dad just wanted to be left alone when he was dying, but I know he appreciated what we did for him.

    At the end, the greatest gift we could give him was - not exactly permission - but our blessing to go.

    In some ways I'd guess your father-in-law is wilfully hastening the end - better to go out with a bang than a whimper sort of thing. Many bangs. With many bangable young things, most likely. I'd also say he's exercising some choice while he can, because he can. No fun for you, but from his point of view it probably beats waiting passively.

    As we say here in Oz, Onya! He's lucky he's got you & TYB.

  9. said it before, he's lucky to have you.

  10. Ziggi's right. And you are smart to go to the right place for help.

    (Not the post for wine talk so go back to my place for an update.)

    What have I just said...maybe this IS the post for wine talk! Well, if it helps, you might consider buying the old fella some!

  11. I don't think seeing it written down looks ignorant. I think it looks compassionate. And compassion is NEVER out of place.

  12. Good luck there my friend and do share whatever you learn. I had the chance to be with my family as my dad passed. It was the best and worst of my entire life. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

  13. im with reg on this one.. if he is the type of man who would prefer a little honesty, ask him!

    "id like some young female dancers for an hour on fridays! and some yeager..."

    im thats sounds like fun and good advise to me! and i like your thought about going and talking with folks in the, well, um, bussiness. hospice is a crazy world and have seen them work a few times... its not easy ever, but if the man would like a lap dance to send him on his way, why not???

  14. In the UK there are Macmillan nurses who can help a lot - when my sister in law was dying of breast cancer they were a fantastic boon. They deserve a Nobel Prize - is there anything like that over there.

  15. i agree with cb. asking questions about what a loved one wants and needs is the best way to go. that way everyone will be sure.

    personally, i want to die in my sleep. and since i'm borderline narcoleptic (i promise i could sleep just about anywhere and often), i can only hope that's how i'll go. oooh, i wonder if it's possible to sleep through childbirth? cause that epidural is gonna send me straight to never neverland, i tell ya. shoot, cough medicine makes me sleepy.

  16. hendrix4:42 AM

    What a beautiful and brave post FN. We all try to shove death under the carpet, pretend it doesn't exist even when we can see it standing right in front of us. Do we do that to save our pain at the thought of the people we love dying? or to try to forget our own mortality? Probably a bit of both.

    For what it's worth, I agree with the comments so far. I think that asking the advice of a hospice is a brilliant idea, we'd ask advice from other knowledgeable sources if we didn't know how deal with an illness (for example) so why should asking how to deal with approaching death be any different? It shows respect and love for the person.

    I agree too that there isn't any reason why you shouldn't ask the playboy what you can do to make things more pleasant for him. I know from my own experience that often the people who are dying don't talk about it because they don't want to hurt the people they love, like I said above - death is a big taboo in our society. I don't think that it should be, but it is.

    From what you've written in the past it sounds like you have a good relationship with your father in law and so it might actually be a relief for him to have someone around he can be honest with. Only you will know how to approach this - whether come straight out and say 'So listen, you're old, it's time, you're dying. What would make this process more pleasant for you?' or maybe just taking his hand and saying "What can I do to make things more pleasant for you?"

    Whatever you do and however you do it, the very fact that you haven't already written off the playboy as a non-person (as we often do when faced with the thought of a lingering death of a person) suggests that whatever way you find will be the right way.

  17. There is a family in my city legally fighting to stop hospital staff from pulling the life support system from their brain dead 90 year old father so that he can die naturally as the good lord intended...
    except that he is on life support and would have died 'naturally' months ago.

    I am going to tattoo
    DO NOT f*cking RESUSCITATE on my chest to subtly remind emergent caregivers of my wishes.

    I have no doubt that the 11th Commandment is
    "Thou shal't not Linger"

  18. I have that need to rest also. People go on about being there for a person who is dying to say goodbye etc and so they don't die alone, thats bollocks no matter how many people you have gurning at yer bed you always die alone as no one else is sharing yer experience. It might be an idea to ask what he wants, no one talks about this shit like writing wills, no one does it then a family fights over the wide screen TV and doesn't speak to each other for 5 years.

  19. Do you know what? If you think it will help then by all means go and talk to the carers at any hospice but it sounds to me like you feel you need reassurance. I do not doubt for one millisecond that there could be more that you could do than you are already doing Firstness because you so obviously care so much - so much so that you are worried whether you could care more you silly pickle! I would bet my life that you are giving first rate and very special care and it is a HUGE unspoken comfort to the Playboy. In my extremely humble experience of nursing my dying friend I soon came to realise that all you can do is just 'be there' and let them be them not what people think they should be 'because they are dying'. I witnessed nothing worse than people suddenly wanting to come round and be nice because they knew my friend was going to die at some point within the next two weeks - and I have to say she took great relish in telling some of them they couldn't come in! In saying that it was hard. So hard. But most of all I felt privileged to be able to do it. Look after yourself. It sounds and is exhausting but be most sure you are doing Playboy a great honour and one I am sure he is only too aware of and very grateful for. xx

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  21. redneckarts7:50 PM

    Hey you
    This is the first xmas in years I haven't been sitting by a sickbed such as you describe and I'd say with the rest... He's lucky to have you. The "so listen; you're dying. what would make this more pleasant (or perhaps less unpleasant) for you?" line is in my never very humble opinion the one to take. At least if you're sure. I tried it on a healthy room mate today and it came off as a threat. sigh.
    I've always done the wrong thing and I seem happier than the people around me who do right all the time but that's the drugs likely. I used to slap a quarter morphine patch on my ass with hockey tape just to get through another day of health care and day job too and I'm told I never missed a beat. I did, I missed many. But. Kicked in a chat room designed for just that online, with a doctor and others who were using the same drugs. When I could get the time off work. But that was another christmas.

    Here's to you and yours, and this new year. The cranes and the cookies and the eagles and the flying babies and they paintings and the rest of it. Magic babe.