Friday, January 25, 2008


I was supposed to go to Ontario this week for Vipassana. But I canceled at the last minute, because my dad had another serious TIA (transient ischemic attack) on Monday. When they went to wake him for breakfast, he was unresponsive and having trouble breathing. The doctor was there and put him on oxygen. By that evening, he was awake but weak, and did not want anything to eat, though he took some fluids. By the next night he was much better but still in bed, and the next day they were able to get him up. I did not feel comfortable to go off and be out of communication for ten days, even though it's only about 5 or 6 hours away. Then, I got a 24 hour flu --so it looks like Vipassana is meant for another time.

Dad has lost a lot of weight in the last six weeks, and is down to under 130 lbs. He does not feed himself--though on a good day he can still pick up his coffee cup-- and is on pureed food. When he came back to more or less normal consciousness, it almost seemed that he had had some out of body or near death experience--he was quite agitated and kept saying that couldn't "get in" and "I had to come back." He was also very sad, and kept looking at Marty and me and wanting to say something that he couldn't quite articulate. Years ago, a few months before my grandfather passed away, he talked in a similar way--that he could "not turn the corner" and needed help. I don't know how long my dad has to live, but on some level I think he is making his peace with it.

It is often said that hearing is the last sense to go, and that it is important to keep talking even to those who are in a coma or otherwise unable to respond. Although my dad's mental faculty is probably down to 5 or 10%, he still reacts to things from long ago-- typical of the pattern of dementia where people lose near term but retain long term memory. Two things that still get through the immense fog in his brain are music and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. The music I play for him on my iPod includes selections from albums he used on a radio program the family store sponsored for several years for a local radio station---such as 101 Strings "The Soul of Spain." His hearing seems pretty unimpaired, as I don't have to turn it up even close to full volume for him to tap his feet to the castanets. The other night while he was still in bed I read him several of Emily's poems, and although he was unable to speak much, his facial expression and movements told me that the words were getting through--he even laughed at "I'm Nobody--Who are You?"

So transitions for me turn out to be more than leaving India, and leaving my job...these days are bittersweet, for although I long to keep my dad in this world, I also can't help but wish him free of all the limitations imposed by his dementia and age. He is in no apparent pain (not that he would tell us if he were--he has always been overly stoic that way) and that is a I the best I can hope is that the tide will continue to go out gently.

No comments: