On my dad’s 90th birthday

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

For starters, he’s not really aware of his age. When I saw him in May, he kept claiming he was 91. Then when I was seeing him last month, he was saying he was 81. Whatever, it’s not like he’s going to be overly excited about reaching this milestone when he’s been waiting and wanting to die for the last eight years.

It was on the 9th of October, 2005 that my mother died, and with that went my dad’s joie de vivre. From that point his body and soul went into very gradual shutdown. After suffering a stroke in August of 2006, it was clear he needed 24-hour care, but that wasn’t going to happen if he stayed at my brother’s house, where he’d been since just before my mom’s death. It turned out that because he was wounded in WWII, he qualified for placement in the Veterans’ Administration Hospital, which is government-funded, hopefully even in the event of government SHUT DOWN, you right-wing assholes, but I digress.

For the last five years or so, he’s been totally disabled, and has not even left the hospital grounds for over two years. He needs assistance doing virtually anything that requires any kind of movement, plus he sleeps on the average 16 hours a day. He has a full time carer who’s been coming in five days a week since he was first admitted, which helps a lot, only because it takes some of the burden off the nurses. It also helps that the guy genuinely likes my dad.

I look at his situation, and wonder, has he done somebody wrong, maybe in a previous life, and is being punished for it? Is there any concrete reason why he’s been consigned to deteriorate ever so gradually, when he’s accomplished all he ever wanted out of life some 15 years ago? Yet he lies there helpless, for the most part stripped of dignity.

It’s sad to look at him now and remember this man has a Ph.D. in geology, and was a highly respected professor at the various universities where he taught. This man used his love and knowledge of science to have three books written and published, and to have a newspaper feature and column that ran for nearly 25 years. He and my late mother were a very prominent couple in their adopted hometown of Redlands, California, where they lived for 39 years. They never had a lot of money, but their vast number of friends and admirers more than compensated for that.

He now speaks in very limited sentences, which are more like sound bites. One day during my last US visit, he kept repeating his desire to go into business with me and open a night club in Las Vegas. This idea among many others is fed by the belief that he’s a millionaire, but I suppose it’s not that different from the various pipe dreams he bought into so many years ago.

It all gets back to, yeah, it’s a great accomplishment reaching 90, but aside from Betty White, I can’t think of anyone older than my dad who’s still out there adding to any kind of legacy. For most people in their 90’s, making it to the toilet unassisted is a cause for celebration.

I don’t want to sound too depressed over the whole thing, but he’s just totally bored and has been wanting to “join my mother” for eight years. There is no legal, humane way to induce the end of his suffering, and despite his many requests to “just shoot me,” well, I hate guns, so that’s not gonna happen.

He will probably just go to sleep and not wake up sometime in the not too distant future, and I hope it’s not interpreted as callous to wish that on him sooner than later, but it’s just the way I feel.

I love my dad for what he’s been to me, and while there were habits I learned from him that I needed to un-learn as soon as I reached adulthood, I am in so many ways my father’s child and fucking proud of it. I send him love and congratulations on his birthday, and hope for myself that I don’t stick around that long.

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