Dad will never go home again. He has a lung disease that'll finish him. For the last couple of weeks I've found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of the night, then going to work and pretending nothing's wrong. I've also seen more of my sister and nieces than I ever have, and I've seen Dad virtually every night too so that's been lovely, apart from his daily decline.
When my stepmother first called me, tearfully, to say he'd been readmitted, I was petrified. I asked to leave work a little earlier and raced to the hospital where I found him sat up in bed wearing an oxygen mask. He was in good spirits despite the circumstances, through he struggled to speak as he told me about how breathless he'd been. I told him not to talk.
Dad slowly, clumsily pulled the mask up onto his forehead and asked me to hand him the cup of hot chocolate cooling on the table. In slow motion he leaned in with puckered lips and slurped on the drink he then began to choke on. Then he sat the cup back down and dropped back into the pillows, gasping.
'Don't get old,' he said. It's been the closest thing to an acknowledgement of how frail he's got.
I spent the rest of that night with my hand on his bare shoulder, rubbing his skin with my thumb as antibiotics were pumped into his arms. He was panting like a tired dog in the sun. I tried not to cry but I couldn't stop myself, and broke down, sobbing. Dad squeezed my hand and from behind the clear plastic mask, he looked over at me and gave me a cheeky grin.
The next day my sister and I visited him after work. Dad had me calling AmEx's automated service so he could pay off his bill but his other card kept being declined. He insisted on me connecting him to an operator to get it sorted but his speech was slurred and lazy, so I got my card out and paid the £300 myself.
Within a couple of days, he was no longer talking in whole sentences and wound up in a horrible ward with uncaring night nurses. Apparently he asked one of them to hold the pee-bottle for him. She told him to do it himself, but Dad has carpal tunnel syndrome in his right hand and has no grip.
'I can't,' he told her, and she simply walked off.
Dad wet himself.
He deteriorated in that ward, and was asleep most times we visited. Occasionally he'd wake up and slur hellos, and even give us toothless grins. But they were trying small doses of oral morphine and it was making him sleepy. Then last week his specialist asked to see us. My stepmum couldn't deal with it so my sister and I went. He told us that Dad has perhaps a few months left.
We continued to see my father every night after that, but the nurses were pissing us off. We'd tried to give them the benefit of the doubt but some gave us an attitude and withering looks if we dared ask for a blanket, or a new bottle for Dad to pee in as they weren't emptying the old ones. Then Dad was moved to an adjacent ward without anyone being notified - including the new ward - and he was found by my sister in a wheelchair shivering with cold next to a chart with another man's name and medical requirements on it. That was when we went medieval and launched an all-out campaign of complaint that went right to the Chief Executive of the hospital, who is doing all he can to keep us sweet.
I took Tuesday and yesterday off work to see my Dad. I also spent last night with my stepmum going through Dad's papers which I couldn't do as it all felt "too soon." I did discover though that Dad has several bank accounts which are maxed out and hellishly overdrawn, explaining why he couldn't pay his AmEx card a few days earlier. This means I get the pleasure of telling a bunch of banks that they will never get back the money they're owed, although I also discovered that the reason my father worked well into his eightieth year was because he hadn't saved a bean; no life insurance, no will, just a metric fuckton of debt.
Having said that, he did have a pot to piss in. I know because I had to hold the fucking thing three times last week between his legs, scarred and slightly terrified at having seen the paternal penis in all its greying, octogenarian glory. Dad simply looked into my terrified eyes, and smiled.
Yesterday, I found an amazing hospice for him to move in to, although they called me this morning to say Dad didn't make today's admission as they had an emergency case. Hopefully he'll get in tomorrow, particularly as he's now an emergency himself. When I saw Dad tonight, he was almost perpetually asleep. He's been switched to intravenous morphine and when my sister spoke to a nurse a few hours ago to say we've found a hospice for him to see out his last few months, she took her aside to explain that Dad's got more like five days left. She knows what it looks like, she said, to see someone fall into death, and my father was exhibiting everything.
We tried talking to Dad tonight. Occasionally we roused him enough to get him to squeeze our hands. We also managed to get him to open his sleepy eyes to tell him how much we both loved him. My sister did this with surprising calm, but I couldn't suppress the utter devastation in my voice. Dad looked at us both in turn and slowly closed his eyes. The effort was immense.
'Love you,' he sighed.
Edit - Five days turned out to be optimistic. My Daddy died at 7:20am this morning, about ten minutes before I got there. If your parents are around, go say hello to them.