Last nursing home days?   6 comments


Last Sunday, September 18th, my sister pushed my dad in his wheelchair through the doors of the nursing home and out into the sunshine. Maybe the last sunshine he will ever feel on his face. They wheeled around the grounds, but he could barely keep his eyes open and he told her the sun was making him sleepy, so they returned to his room where he could rest. She asked if anything sounded tasty like maybe a chocolate malt. My dad loved his ice cream, and even when we had little money, he would send me several times a week to the A&W Drive-in near our home in Chadron to get him and me a malt. I’m the middle child, with two older and two younger siblings. My next older sibling, Becky, the one who offered Dad a malt, is four years older, and the brother after me is eight years younger. The times when I was fetching malts for dad, I remember it often being just the two of us at home. He would always wait until it was nearly dark to send me the few blocks to pick up the drinks, and the route took me by a very tall hedge that covered a half a block. I never told dad, but it frightened me to walk by that hedge at night, and if I ran it was worse, because running increased the feeling that someone was after me or might grab me from inside or behind the hedge, so I walked quickly but apprehensively.  At the time, I had a large black Labrador named T-Bone, who also loved ice cream. I brought dad’s malt in one night after a particularly harrowing walk by the hedges, and of course, as I walked back with the drinks, I had to take it even slower, so not to spill. This was before the time of plastic lids. I brought dad’s malt in and he set it on the table, and stepped out of the room for second. T-Bone placed a couple of big front paws on a chair, and stood up for easy access to dad’s malt. We found out that a big dog’s tongue can take in about half a malt in two big licks. T-Bone probably knew he had better make quick work of it.  I heard dad yell, “You son of a bitching dog.”  I don’t remember that I had to pick up another malt that night, but I do remember biting my lip, so dad wouldn’t notice me trying not to laugh.

Becky brought dad a malt in last Sunday and he enjoyed a bit of it. On Tuesday, she saw him again and he had a fever and was chilled and not feeling well. On Wednesday I phoned the nursing home around noon, and he was much worse. They could not reduce the fever and I was told that he was septic. I phoned my sister and one brother who phoned the other two brothers, and I drove to see him. Dad was in a recliner with a cool cloth covering his forehead. I spoke to him, but wasn’t sure he was aware it was me. The fever caused him to be delirious and he gazed at the ceiling and reached for things that weren’t there. The staff tried to push fluids and he resisted calling the Gatorade, poison. Finally, his fever broke and his skin was sweaty. The staff came in, gave him a sponge bath and a clean shirt and got him in bed. My sister arrived and we sat with him. The skin on his arms and legs was mottled, and he did not respond coherently to us. I think he was dying, so did my sister. His fever continued to stay down, and the nurse told us he was not actively dying.  “Actively dying” seems a sort of oxymoron, but people also inactively live, so maybe it all makes sense. The hospice nurse would meet with us the next day.  I discovered that actively dying people can become inactively living people again.

The hospice nurse provided us with information. My brother Dan seemed unsure of the idea, but when questioned he said that he just didn’t see how we got to this point so quickly when a doctor had not seen dad. I explained to him that I had told the nursing home yesterday that we wanted no aggressive measures taken, which is why dad was not taken to the emergency room or to a doctor when his fever was up all day and he was so ill. We were all on the same page about letting nature take its course and not prolonging a life that was ready to go.

My oldest sibling, Ted, was working, but the other four of us, along with Dan’s girlfriend, Sheila, sat together in the nursing home dining room and talked about various things such as my parent’s house, my uncle’s medals in a drawer and when we should clean out the house. Most of my mother’s clothes are still there. I can take care of them, now. Her smell is gone. It went so quickly from her things. I hoped that if I didn’t wash her nightgown, shirts and jackets that I brought home after she died, that I could inhale her scent for a long while but found out otherwise.  My youngest brother, Bill, promised that when he put me in a home, I would be adequately dressed and would receive a malt a day. I told my children a nice, big slathered-with-icing homemade cinnamon roll everyday in my old age would be great, too.

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Posted September 24, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair

6 responses to “Last nursing home days?

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  1. Hope all is well with you. It is so tough to see my Dad ill, because I always knew that he would keep the boogey man away. It apparently is my time to keep the boogey man at bay. My experience with Hospice has been all incredibly positive. You are in my prayers.

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  2. It reminds me to let Mom have her treats. . . what the heck – – – Thanks for the old fashioned malt too. Love your sharing.

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  3. Thanks, Janell. There must be a point at some age, where we can say, “Hell with it. ” I’m eating and drinking and smoking whatever I want.

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    Mary Strong Jackson
  4. this makes me want to cry.. be strong..

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