It's been a long, long time, hasn't it? Although much has been happening (or maybe because much has been happening), I haven't had too much time to put pen to paper lately.
My husband's father passed away at the end of May.
He had been struggling with ALS (that's Lou Gehrig's Disease) for a little over a year. Before he died, he was unable to speak and was communicating via a little yellow notepad upon which he would write things like, "Is the hospice person coming today?" and "Wine" (yes, wine. That's a whole other story). He couldn't go anywhere without the assistance of a walker, and during the last weeks, he couldn't even manage that. The first day that his wife, my mother-in-law, could convince him to use the wheelchair was the day that he died in it. At the end, he could only eat a few things. His throat muscles stopped working, so he would suddenly start violently choking and gasping for breath even when he wasn't eating. He was a man who had survived prostate cancer. He had been a long-distance runner and a biker. He was a fisherman. He owned his own business that he'd bought from his father in the late 60s. And he loved a party.
Back before he was diagnosed, we all noticed some small things, like his slurred speech and his occasionally falling down for no apparent reason. Since he had been known to enjoy a drink or two on a regular basis, we kind of chalked it up to an increased alcohol intake. Concerning, but not immediately dangerous. So everyone was kind of annoyed with him and worried that he seemed to be getting so drunk so often. Over time, though, as we paid closer attention, we realized that the slurred speech was there even when he hadn't had anything to drink; and that he was falling down in the middle of the day at work. His fingers started to feel tingly, and he was short of breath. He and my mother-in-law went to several doctors and finally drove up to the Mayo Clinic and parked there until they could see a specialist. They diagnosed him with ALS, which is a degenerative neural disease with no cure.
That was more than a year ago; and up until the day he passed, he was going to work for at least a few hours a day (he was a local business owner). He came home, sat down in the wheelchair so they could move him into the den/bedroom, and died before he could get to his brown leather easy chair.
I have mixed feelings. I'm struggling with some guilt, because I'm still angry with him over a broken promise that he made to me about 2 1/2 years ago. But, he also once called my husband's ex-wife a shithead, so that was pretty okay in my book.
We're all trying to get back to normal. Maybe this transition is easier for us because for a long time, he was kind of there-but-not-there. He couldn't really participate in any of the family stuff going on around him. "You treat me like I'm already dead!" he once wrote to my mother-in-law.
The wake was attended by a few hundred people, and it was exhausting for everyone - my mother-in-law, my husband, and his brother and sister. But it was kind of cool to see how many people came out to say goodbye.