My dad just died. My sister made it there in time to be with him at the end; I didn’t. I was paralyzed by his going and could not make the decision to get on a plane. In the beginning (when he started to seriously go down hill last week) my step-mom said that it could be days or weeks. So I pushed it back to the “weeks” scenario because I wasn’t ready and got a ticket for the middle of next week. I was never going to be ready, but I needed a few days to get my head around it.
He was already “not his old self” for some time; I’d guess that for a little over a year he had a rather pronounced dementia (before it was just a bit of forgetfulness). My favorite story was the summer before last. He found a pudding in the refrigerator and went around asking who had made it, until finally we figured out that he had. It was really kind of sweet. My ex mother-in-law got mean and wanted to throw everyone out of the house with her dementia, while my dad made pudding and forgot about it. There’s worse.
He had prostate cancer, and they found it quite late. There would have not been so much to do about it even if they had wanted to, maybe a chance of extending his life some. However with the dementia, he wasn’t able to do many of the things that gave him joy in the past: talking about the stuff of the universe, writing short stories, practicing French (that’s because I’d moved to a French speaking area and he just thought it was fun to learn something practical).
Here was the average day of my parents, even well into the dementia: they would get up and exercise, him on a rower and my step-mom on a stationary bike. They listened to books on tape there, mostly fiction and mysteries. Then there was breakfast. Then they showered and read. They did their lecture “course” at around 11am; they would buy DVDs from the Great Courses selection and learn about a million different things: art, economy, history, music, science. One of them would make lunch (they took turns each week cooking). Then they would read, nap, work on projects. My step-mom was good at acrostics, which are sort of a weird super hard crossword. My dad would write his short stories or read, or study. Then they would have dessert and play Scrabble, read some more and go to bed. Mix in with that some grocery shopping, some dinners out, and an occasional movie and that was their life for quite a few years. Oh, and they were addicted to Seinfeld. They had the whole series memorized, I think. They’d watch a Seinfeld episode pretty often. (“We’ll stop watching them when we stop laughing,” they said.)