86. Building Bridges

BridgePops has been in hospital for a couple of weeks. He was having some pains in his shoulder, so they operated on him.

While they fixed the problem with his shoulder, they also discovered that he had a blood clot in his bowel. The clot could dislodge itself or get worse. Now, because he also has an internal bleed somewhere they cannot give him blood thinners. Currently they are giving him a pint of blood a day.

His list of ailments would make a couple of good episodes of ‘Gray’s Anatomy’….

He has congestive heart disease, stage 4 liver cancer, prostate cancer, he is on dialysis three times a week and needs two new hips. He is in constant pain, in a number of areas, and can only be given paracetamol. When he has dialysis, he complains of pain across his chest.

The American health care system is something else. If you cannot pay or don’t have good insurance, you are pretty much stuffed. It is both a blessing and a curse, but the American health service would keep a cheese sandwich alive if it had the right insurance.

It was the beginning of August that pops told his wife, Adella, that he didn’t want to continue with dialysis, really the only thing keeping him alive. A few days later he repeated the same statement, and he didn’t attend dialysis, so it all stopped. He also had an internal bleed and was losing a pint of blood a day. He would normally get the extra blood at dialysis.

According to Uncle Google someone on dialysis who then stops treatment has between one and three weeks before succumbing. It usually depends on the health of the person beforehand and their kidney function. Seeing as pops only had 4% kidney function before he went into dialysis and the shopping list of ailments, I described above, I didn’t expect more than a week.

For the last couple of years, we both repeated the same couple of sentences in our conversations,

“How are you doing pops?”

“I’m hanging in there son, I’m hanging in there”

Today was different.

“How are you doing pops?”

“To tell you the truth Son, not so good”

Just over two weeks later and incidentally on his 88th birthday, Sunday 22nd August, pops went into the hospice.

‘All of us are proud to be able to make our parents and their families as physically, spiritually and emotionally comfortable as possible. We appreciate of caring for those most in need of our care, at a most difficult time of their lives.’

That would be the sugary description on the website of the Calvary hospital, where pops will receive palliative care.

I didn’t get to talk to him on the day because of the time that he went in and then he was asleep. I called again later and I had a short conversation with him. We told each other we loved each other.

I spoke to my sister and told her about his condition in detail. She didn’t realise how little time he had left. However, she was steadfast, she was not going to see him until the end of the month. She had endured a lot of mental anguish and from him and his first wife. Her words were ‘the love is just not there’. I could not do much more to convince her to go and see him. I worried that she might regret it later that she didn’t see him for the last time.

She called me on Monday from the hospice, she had gone to see him. He didn’t wake up but that didn’t matter. I was overjoyed and she admitted that she probably would have regretted it had she not gone to see him.

Adella visited him later and set up a video call. Pops didn’t recognise me in the video or my voice.

He managed to conk her in the head on Thursday when she dared to visit him ad fall asleep. We both had a good chuckle out of that.

It was his decision to stop dialysis and then he promised to fight to the end. A paradox to the end.

At 2.05am GMT on the 29th August 2021, pops took his last breath.

He didn’t build bridges. He could actually have been a very good demolition expert.

He was proper old school. He was stubborn, cantankerous, never wrong, never apologetic. He never bothered with children. His grandchildren never liked to go and see him as he was ‘too moany’. He wanted them to sit still and not touch his stuff or make any noise.

I made it easy and peaceful for him by letting the hurt and unanswered questions go.

He didn’t mend fences, but he planted two good trees in his children – my sister and me. We would go on the plant even better trees. As children we try to outdo our parents, especially if they didn’t do that great a job themselves.

Got to love him.

RIP Pops, you old stubborn fool.

Love you dad.

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