Dad’s dying. He “doesn’t feel good” but doesn’t appear to be in pain. Instead he is a man once flunked by a physics professor who told him he should leave college. Instead he graduated and did seminal research that was fundamental to fiber optics, was one of the scientists chosen to study the Apollo moon rocks, and led an expedition into the Libyan dessert to figure out the source of the inexplicable chunks of green glass found strewn over thousands of miles.
A typical Saturday morning with the kids was laying fence line, or chopping wood, or weeding the garden. At 87 he played tennis with (with slightly younger friends) last spring.
But now his body is weak and mind is not clear. And he knows it. No wonder he doesn’t feel good. He may be foggy, but he knows who he is and he is no longer that person. His sense of self has been taken away leaving only his identity.
I sit by his bed with no idea what to say – and mostly he sleeps. I joke that I’m the most boring son in the world, but sleep is his only escape. He always feared Alzheimers, and asked me over the years to help him commit suicide if it happened. I always told him I would, but that I wouldn’t go to jail for him. This purgatory he exists in is perhaps worse than Alzheimers.
He is dying. I hope it comes quickly, but the vaunted human “indomitable will to survive” can be overcome far more easily than the cellular urge to continue. And last night I cried for him for the first time.
And on a lighter note, the reason men shouldn’t cry is we’re not good at it. We can’t simply shed tears, we rip our lungs and throats out. It’s physically painful and then we have to drink some cold milk.
Thank you all for giving me a place to share my thoughts on death and dying. I know they're a downer. But on the positive side, I get to expose my negative side.