Dad’s Denouement, Part 3: Gradually and Then Suddenly

Author’s Note: I have 5 siblings, so to keep some clarity while maintaining some anonymity, we are (in order) CatSis, PoliMath, CombatBro, ChemSis, NeuroBro, and SkinnyBro.

‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked.
‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’
Ernest Hemingway,The Sun Also Rises (1926).

I started writing this series during the beginning of a week visiting my ailing dad. I flew in Saturday, helped mom and dad move out of their house Sunday and Monday. I had hoped to spend a week with dad and, once I recognized his health was deteriorating, I would fly back for a week every month.

But for Dad, dying is like going bankrupt. It happened gradually and then suddenly. UPDATED: Dad died a few hours after I published this.

After I published my last piece on Dad, I went to sleep. It was around 11:00 PM on Monday night. This is about my Tuesday.

12:30 AM

Mom burst in the guest room I’m staying in and tells me we need to get Dad to the hospital because he can’t breathe.

When I came out, Dad seems… mostly ok. No worse than when I went to sleep. But he asks me to call 911. So I do.

“9–1–1 what is you emergency”

“My dad is having trouble breathing, we need to get him to the ER”

“OK sir, what is your location”

I have no idea. This was CombatBro’s house and he just moved in 2 weeks ago. It’s on my phone but I’m worried I would accidentally hang up if I tried to find it. It’s like that nightmare where you haven’t studied for the test except the test is about how many fingers you have and getting the answer wrong kills someone.

My mom saves me and gives me the address and we go through other questions. I kneel beside dad to watch him and be close while I answer.

“How old is he?”

“61”

“Is he conscious?”

“Yes”

“Can he speak in complete sentences?”

Dad’s speech is slow, slurred, and labored and has been getting worse over the last 2 months. So I answer “Yes, but he’s really hard to understand”

This answer doesn’t amuse Dad, who snort-laughs at me and gives me a dirty look. I’m annoyed. “Well now he’s laughing at me so maybe it *isn’t* an emergency.” Immediately horrified at my sarcasm, I push my head against his shoulder “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say that”.

And he laughed at me again.

When I get off the phone, I go downstairs to watch for the ambulance. The fire truck comes first and three firemen enter into the house. They introduce themselves with thick southern accents and we go upstairs to get Dad. They ask him more questions about medications and recent medial procedures. My Dad tries to answer for himself and mentions his recent paracentesis, focusing hard to push out every syllable. The fireman smiles, makes a note, and reassures my Dad “Yeah, I have trouble saying that too.”

These are definitely Dad’s sort of people.

They bring a sort of dolly for carrying people down stairs, explain how they were going to get him down, slowly lift him into the chair and bring him down to the now-waiting ambulance.

Mom insists on riding with him and I follow along in the car.

2:00 AM

We arrive at the hospital. I had followed the ambulance for about 30–40 minutes, their lights blinking but without a siren. Dad had asked to be taken to the hospital where his oncologist was supposed to see him that morning so he wouldn’t be late for the appointment. The idea was they could stabilize him and then maybe he would be OK to attend the final sale of his house later that day. I followed along a little delirious but mostly just worried about Dad. He didn’t seem any worse than the day before but I definitely needed to be there for Mom at least.

We get to the hospital. They bring him into a room, lift him into his bed, and the nurses began attending to him.

“What brings you in here today?” asks a kind young nurse.

With effort, my dad answers “To see… all… the cute… ladies.”

She smiles, even laughs a little bit. I laugh, look at the floor and shake my head.

They start taking his vitals, drawing blood, doing all the things that are done in the ER. Dad is tired, out of it. By the time the doctor came in, Dad is completely non-responsive… to such a point that they are blinking his eyes for him.

They take him away for a CAT scan (I think) and mom and I sit in the room alone.

2:45 AM

Dad comes back from his scan, having regained consciousness. He’s still tired though. Mom and I are freezing due to the “always winter and never Christmas” air conditioning policy that seems to control most hospitals. We didn’t pack anything for this, just jumped in the ambulance and car and came to the hospital with Dad.

I text CombatBro and ask if he can bring us something warm.

Mom holds Dad’s hand on the right and I walk to the other side and hold his left hand. His hand is cold. I lean on him, he’s cold all over. He’s about half-aware. Mom is stroking his shoulder on her side and I started touching his arm and shoulder. I’m almost petting him, just giving him physical touch and trying to give him a sense of presence. It seems weird, but this is the way we let him know we are here. We don’t know if he can hear us, we don’t want to lean on the bed and glower at him, we just want to… be there with him. And we do that by holding his hands and touching his arms.

Dad wakes up a bit, clearly exhausted, trying to say something. He says something about being cold, it was hard to understand. I call the nurse and she mercifully brings over 2 blankets, warm like they just came out of the dryer. She spreads them over him and he seems a little better.

I check my watch. It’s getting really late and Mom and I are still very cold. We’re just waiting and waiting and waiting for CombatBro. It seems like forever.

4:00 AM

CombatBro shows up with 2 large sweatshirts. I toss one to Mom and pull one on. He is going to swap places with me and take over watch of Dad. Mom won’t leave though. She’s going to stay here with him.

But I need to take CatSis to her work in the morning. Mom says I’ll need to leave by 6:30 AM to beat the traffic.

I drive home with the AC blasting to keep myself awake. All I want is the bed and some knowledge that Dad is going to be OK. He doesn’t seem any worse than he was the last few days, so I tell myself this is probably a false alarm.

When I get home, CatSis has been up all night with worry. I tell her Dad is taken care of and we need our sleep.

6:30 AM

My alarm goes off. The day has begun. I’m dreading it, but the things need to get done. CatSis gets ready & we are out the door to get her to work on time.

Traffic isn’t too bad and I get her to her job at the Publix a little early. I text mom to ask if she needs any food. I detour to the Chick-Fil-a and grab coffee and chicken biscuits before I head back to the hospital.

7:30 AM

They’ve moved Dad to the ICU. Mom is up there with him. They are waiting for Dad’s oncologist, they were supposed to have an appointment with him at 8:30 AM this morning before all this happened.

The reason for the early appointment was because they have an 11:00 AM meeting at the attorney’s office to sign the papers selling the house. They need to make this appointment.

But I wanted to take pictures of the house before they sold it. It’s been their home since 1992, I grew up there, I need pictures to remember it. I should have done this when I got here on Saturday. I should have done this Sunday or Monday, I shouldn’t have put this off. But this is still important to me. I eat a chicken biscuit with Mom and head back out. They don’t need me for the appointment anyway.

8:45 AM

I get to the house. I’m trying not to get emotional, but this place has so many memories to it.

I walk across the yard, taking pictures from every angle. I remember when we moved here and there was no yard, just a wild tangle of chest-high grass and weeds. The pear trees were only 7 feet tall. It was a fun, wild property perfect for exploring and acquiring ticks.

Every room has memories. This is the room where we ate Thanksgiving dinner. This is room where we opened Christmas presents. This is the attic where I hid when I wanted everyone to leave me alone. This basement where I played Wing Commander 4 when it first came out. Here’s the room where my Dad and I yelled when Braveheart won Best Picture. This is the room where my girlfriend and I sneaked away to kiss until my parents noticed we were missing. This is the room where I cried after she broke up with me.

It was all going away. All of this, all the memories. I need pictures of every room so I can hold onto it. I need to hold onto it because, after a lifetime of transience, I need to feel like I still have my home.

10:00 AM

I stayed too long. I need to get back so I can drive Mom and Dad to the house sale appointment. The lights conspire against me, Mom and Dad were relied on me and I foolishly lost track of the time.

I get to the hospital and only Mom is ready to go. “Don’t we need both of you to sign?” I ask. But Dad isn’t doing well. The oncologist never showed up and Dad is in no condition to leave the ICU. Mom crosses her fingers and hopes that a legal document allowing her to sign for Dad will be enough.

11:00 AM

We drive to the attorney’s office and make it just on time. Of course, we are the only people who make it on time. Everyone else filters in a little late… the real estate agents, the buyers, everyone is running behind. We congregate in a waiting room filled with nuts and drinks and candy and start some small talk.

The buyers had driven a hard bargain these past few weeks, which added to the stress for my parents. For this reason, my Mom is not inclined to like them and so neither am I. But they are sweet and affable, eager to love the home that we so dearly loved. They have a Southern style and rich accents and they really are very kind, expressing sympathy that Dad couldn’t make it. We shouldn’t resent them and I hope, if they see this, that they understand we don’t.

The lawyer is late. Very late. But I’m glad to just sit for a bit. Eventually we start to run out of small talk and the real estate agents discover that they went to high school together in Florida. It’s a small world.

The attorney shows up and we are all herded into a room with a long wooden table, the kind of table you assume cost as much as a small house. The attorney mistakes me for the second signature and plops a pile of documents in front of me. We explain the situation, she looks at the signature waiver that allows my mom to sign for Dad and Mom starts signing away.

30 minutes later, Mom has a check for over twice my yearly salary. And she just wants to deposit it and get back to her ailing husband.

12:15 PM

We have driven back to where the hospital is. There is a branch of her small local bank a couple blocks away where we go to deposit the check. By now, NeuroBro and SkinnyBro, both recently graduated from med school, have come to see Dad in the hospital. They text me details of the doctor visits and I offer to get them sandwiches at Panera while Mom deposits her check.

My phone buzzes.

A text from Mom: “Help”

I go into the bank.

They won’t deposit her check. The teller says they need Dad’s signature. My mom explains she can’t get it, he’s not capable of writing it out. I explain that we have a document that allows her to sign for my Dad and if it was good enough to sell the property, it’s good enough to deposit the check into an existing account. I hand the teller the iPad my mom keeps all her documents on.

The poor teller takes the iPad to a back office. A few minutes later, she comes back and explains that the bank lawyer won’t let us deposit the check without both signatures. I ask to see him. She says he can’t meet with us, he has appointments. I say I’d like to make an appointment. She says she can’t do that, I’d have to talk to him. I ask to talk to him and she tells me she can’t let me back there, it’s for employees only. We leave the bank, exasperated.

I’m trying to comfort Mom. We get in the car and she suggests we go to the branch near the old house we just sold. They know her there, they know how sick Dad is, maybe they will let her deposit the check there.

As we drive over to the other branch, I try to comfort Mom. I suggest that the reason this is so hard is because it’s cheap and easy for the lawyer to tell us to go away. He won’t get in trouble for being cautious. He has to assume we are liars or that we got something wrong… even though we didn’t. Acting in our favor has risks. Telling us to go away is safe.

This may or may not be true, I don’t know. But there is a small relief in telling ourselves that we did everything right and it’s all their fault.

Mom calls the other branch as I drive and asks to talk to a woman she has known for 25 years. She starts explaining what has happened, how she sold the house, how she has this huge check, how she had to do it all without Dad because he can’t leave the hospital. The tears are flowing freely down her face.

We get to the other branch and they give her a hug. She is bawling in the bank and I try to get her to sit down. They work things out, I think they made the check “deposit only” or something, I was too distracted by my weeping mother to remember what else was happening. But the check is gone. That ordeal is over. Now let’s get back to Dad.

Dammit, we promised my brothers we would get them food. We detour to Panera and grab sandwiches.

1:30 PM

We’ve made it back to the hospital, head over to the ICU. Dad is resting. He looks awful. He’s weak and it’s hard for him to talk. He’s covered 6 inches deep in blankets, but his hands are still cold. NeuroBro and SkinnyBro see us outside the room and come out to us. We take our lunch to the waiting room.

The news is not great, but it’s an enormous relief to have two doctors in the family explain it to us. The prognosis that sticks with me is from NeuroBro: “Which ever way this goes, it will take a long time.” Dad could get well enough to go back home, but that may take weeks. Or he could deteriorate and that could take weeks. If death is the bottom of a ravine, Dad’s fallen half way down. Getting back up will take a while. But he never gets back up, he will just slide slowly down.

Mom is heroically holding back tears. I think she just wants to go tell Dad the good news that the stress of the house is over. This has consumed their lives for months, but now that it is done and Dad is in the ICU, it seems so small.

Even so, he’ll want to know it’s done. If I’ve learned anything about my dad this last year, it’s that his number one concern has been that Mom is taken care of, that she doesn’t have anything to worry about. He will see the sale of the house as a major step in his primary task of making sure Mom is cared for.

2:15 PM

We start making plans for this week. Mom needs clothes and essentials from CombatBro’s house. She needs my Dad’s iPad and his Bluetooth speaker in case he wants some music. And someone needs to pick up CatSis from work.

I realize we can’t got back and forth from CombatBro’s house several times a day, it’s too taxing on everyone. So I hop on AirBnb and look for a place that’s open tonight where Mom, NeuroBro, SkinnyBro, and I can all crash. There’s a place about 4 miles away, I book it for tonight until Saturday and schedule the check-in for tonight.

I’ll need to get my stuff too. I was supposed to be working remotely today and I haven’t checked in yet. All my laptops are back at CombatBro’s house… as is my phone charger. We all need a resupply.

NeuroBro offers to drive, so he and I jump in the car and head off to pick up CatSis. We talk along the way. We are a stubbornly optimistic family, but this conversation isn’t optimistic. It’s about memorials, about Mom’s income when Dad passes, about relocations and family politics and how we siblings can prepare to not gossip about each other or hold grudges. We’ve seen these things wrench other families apart after a parent dies and we’re talking about how to avoid that.

3:00 PM

We drive to the Publix where CatSis works and park. We go into the store to look for CatSis. NeuroBro is on his phone walking the aisles, I’m standing by the door in case she comes out looking for us. She sees me from across the store, waves, and comes walking toward me.

As CatSis talks to me, a woman pushing a cart comes up to us. “Are you CatSis’s brother?” she asks gently. Yes, I reply. “Well, I just wanted to let you know that she is a delight and we’re always glad to see her here. She told us about your dad, is he doing ok?”

I had forgotten, CatSis has been working here for something like 15 years. She’s bubbly and friendly and kind and she has customers who are her friends that she knows from just being in the same place in this small town for so long.

No, I think. He’s dying.

“Yes,” I say. “We’re all working to take care of him, which helps.”

I think about Mom’s plans and how CatSis may have to move from this store to another store because they live so far away and my heart breaks. These little connections are important, we shouldn’t have to break them. We shouldn’t ever have to change anything. Everything should always be the same once we’ve found a good place. I’m quietly angry that my sister may have to leave this place she loves and then I feel absurd that, of all things, this is the change that bothers me.

We drive from the Publix back to CombatBro’s house and talk a little bit about Dad, giving some updates, but otherwise taking a break from conversation.

4:00PM

We’ve arrived at CombatBro’s house. We grab the mail and bring it to the house. Good, my extra phone cords have arrived from Amazon, I’ve been having trouble keeping my phone charged and that has been yet another point of anxiety for me today.

We come inside and I go upstairs and grab a duffel bag. I start picking out clothes for my mom. I want her to be comfortable, stylish, I’m trying to think what I’ve seen her in before so I can get something I know she likes. I go to the table next to Dad’s recliner that he’s been sleeping in the past few days and start scooping up power cords, his Bluetooth speaker, sundry electronics that I suspect he may need.

I also throw all my clothes, laptops, work devices, everything into my bags. I carry everything downstairs and put it in the landing to load up into the car and head back.

I count my cords. Shit. Where are the cords I *just* got? Where did I put them? Shit shit shit. I go back upstairs, can’t find them, dining room, kitchen, can’t find them. Shit. I hunch over by my backpack and try to think by my mind is simply not working right now. I can’t even place where I’ve been the last 20 minutes.

“Hey bro, are you ok?” CombatBro asks.

“I’m not great” I reply. “But we’ve got to get back.”

We load up everything into NeuroBro’s car and start driving back to the hospital.

My phone buzzes. AirBnb host wants to know how many people for the unit. I reply that we will have 4 people. At least we don’t have to make this 45 trip back up here again today.

5:15 PM

We’re back at the hospital. The ICU room is getting a little crowded, but everyone wants to see Dad. He’s still in-and-out of consciousness but, with five of the six kids there, there’s basically a line to hold his hand and talk to him.

Before all this started, I had a dinner reservation with an old friend who lost his dad far too young after a long illness only a few years ago. It seems like we might have a lot to talk about. It’s about 20 minutes away and I really want to talk to him because I really want to hear what helps, what hurts, what to be ready for.

I try to dig out the keys to my rental car from my backpack. I can’t find them, I empty all the pockets, but they aren’t there. Dammit. I left them at CombatBro’s house.

Goddammit.

Mom offers me her keys so that I won’t be late and then I can get there and back quickly.

I go down to the car and see another message from the AirBnb host. I never marked how many guests for the place and she refuses to start the checkin if I’m going to have more than 1 guest. I try to go to the reservation and mark it, but the check-in process has started and I can’t change anything.

I call her. I ask if she can let us have everyone in and I can just pay her in cash as an apology. No, she replies, it needs to go through AirBnb, she won’t let me into the unit until they mark 4 guests in the software.

“OK, fine” I reply. “Then it’s just one guest. My mom needs a place to stay, so she will stay there.”

“But you said four guests”

“And now I’m saying forget those other three guests, just one guest.”

“I can’t do that”

“Yes you can, you approved my reservation, you’ve refused a refund, and it’s for one guest and my Mom is only one person.”

“No, you can’t check you mother in. You said four guests.”

“I said 1 guest in the reservation and then tried to change it later and I couldn’t so I’m sticking with the 1 guest that you approved when you accepted the reservation.”

“No, I won’t give you the checkin details until you get 4 guests approved.”

I’m now fighting with Atlanta traffic so I have to hang up, the question unresolved.

6:00 PM

I get to the restaurant and check my phone. I have a note from AirBnb customer service. They are willing to change from 1 guest to 4 guests, but they are going to charge me “$29 per guest after 2 for each night of your reservation”.

Fine, whatever. Do it and solve this problem. The additional charge comes through, making this reservation now more costly and more trouble than a regular hotel. But it’s done. Thank God.

I meet my friend. Hugs and “I’m sorry, this sucks” and then we go to order and sit down.

I’ve known this guy since high school, our parents were friends, his dad was my high school history and bible teacher. My mom asked me later “How is your friend doing?” and I have to confess to her I have no idea because I forgot to ask. All we talked about was our dads.

We talked about how illness affects our kids and how they see their grandfather. We talked about how our dads reacted to being sick, especially about how, as incredibly sick men, obviously frail and in need of aid, they would almost push people away when help was offered. No one wants to feel like they can’t do something like go to the bathroom or walk down the hall. Especially when the sickness comes far younger than it should, especially when these are proud men who have lived their lives as the breadwinners and caretakers for their family. Having that role reversed feels like a stab at their very identity. We walk about what it’s like to lose dad, what happens afterward, how to talk to kids, how to support a widowed mother.

We finish our meals and walk out to our cars. I tell him about my dad’s speech and how difficult it’s been watching my stubborn, irrepressibly funny father lose the ability to communicate. I tell him about how, when I dream about Dad, I hear his voice from when he could talk perfectly, his tones and jokes. And how every time I have that dream, I think for a moment “Oh whew. That was all just a big scare and he did recover after all.” My eyes fill with tears and I’m really angry at myself that I’m going to cry in front of my friend when I haven’t shed a single tear in front of my family yet. He hugs me, tells me he’s praying for me, and we turn toward our cars to go.

7:15 PM

Walking to my car, I see NeuroBro is calling me. I answer “Hello?” and he says “Where are you?”.

“I’m on my way back now”

“Ok”

I hang up and look at my phone. I have a habit of silencing my phone and turning it on it’s face when I eat with friends as a courtesy so I’m not distracted. While we had dinner, NeuroBro called 3 times and texted once.

Oh no.

I jump in my car and start driving back to the hospital. I plead with God to let my dad be alive, please don’t let me have missed his last moments because I was eating a burger with a high school buddy. I mentally kick myself around the entire trip back. Atlanta traffic is merciful to me and I don’t get stuck or slowed down.

I manage to make it back in about half an hour.

7:45 PM

I park the car and jog into the hospital. Up the elevator to the ICU, I must look ridiculous trying to fast-walk I don’t want to run through an ICU. I turn the corner and I can see down the hall to my dad’s room.

Mom is outside the room with SkinnyBro talking with a doctor. She is small, under five feet tall when standing straight, but she is bent now, almost doubled up, such that she makes a tiny figure against the frame of the looming physician. She’s weeping.

I come closer and the doctor turns. SkinnyBro turns to me and says “He said they’re not going to do any more infusions.”

I’m a little shocked. The infusions were part of an immunotherapy meant to cure or reduce the cancer. Of course they wouldn’t do them if we lost him “Wait, is Dad in there?”

SkinnyBro looks at me weird. “Well… yeah.”

I look in the room and, sure enough, there is Dad, sitting up in bed. He looks tired, but more alert than I’ve seen him all day. I glance over at NeuroBro and give him a mean look, moving to get closer to him.

“Why did you call me three times?”

He shrugged “We didn’t know where you were.”

I narrow my eyes at him, but I’m quietly so glad Dad is still alive that I’m not even remotely upset.

ChemSis is here. At 8 months pregnant, she drove 2 hours to come be here. Now the family is all here, near enough for the next painful steps of this. We talk to Dad and to each other. The news is about more than the infusions. The difficulty breathing was due to the cancer spreading to his lungs. He has an infection. He’s now too weak for anything but occasionally talking and even that is a struggle.

It’s obvious now that we are getting near the end. He’s not going home with us, not tonight, not ever. We need to tell our kids, we need to get everyone here. We suddenly have a list of things to do that include hospice and funerals and gravesites. Mom and Dad just moved out of their house this weekend so we need to figure out all the bank accounts, retirement accounts, we need to contact Dad’s boss, his brothers, friends.

The longer we think about what we need to do, the longer the list gets. It seems endless. I think it might be. I think we just entered the process of coping with Dad’s death and that this process may take the rest of my life.

Eventually, we realize there isn’t anything left to be done today. Everyone is exhausted. Mom is so tired she can hardly speak. Dad is fading out again. It seems like a good time to get a little rest. I get Mom down to her car.

8:30

It’s dark when we go outside. Mom has missed every ounce of daylight. We get in the car and head to the AirBnb reservation, about 3 miles away. I check the latest instructions from my host, who says that there is another guest upstairs. I’m confused by this, since I asked for an “entire place” for my mom and brothers to stay, but I guess that maybe there’s some separate apartment above the garage or something. Those places can always be a little weirdly laid out.

After winding through some suburban roads, we show up at the address in the listing. I check where the key is supposed to be and, yes, it’s there. I remember the guest upstairs and see that there is a window above the garage. I wonder if this is a basement apartment, sometimes that is what hosts rent out. But there is no path around the house to the basement and there is no light indicating anything and the host didn’t say anything about it. I decide to just try to front door. The key fits, the door opens, and hopefully Mom can finally get some rest.

We enter the house & head up the stairs. The first door down the upstairs hallway is locked. So is the second one. The third one is open and I drop Mom’s bags there. She is supremely uncomfortable, I can tell she feels like we just broke into someone’s house. I check to see where I’m going to sleep. The adjacent room is a mess and the bed is unmade.

That’s what triggers me. I need this place to be a restful place for my Mom and having half the doors locked, an unknown mystery guest in a place we’re supposed to have to ourselves, and an unmade bed is not going to give her any peace. I contact AirBnb customer service and start waiting for them to respond.

Meanwhile, before I even made the decision to leave, my mom has been on her iPad looking for hotels. Once she picks a hotel near the hospital, I take over and insist on using my credit card. Reservation complete, we exit the property, I replace the key, and we get in the car.

My phone rings, it’s AirBnb customer service. They want me to go take some pictures of the place. I just… don’t want to. I want to get my mom into a room to get some sleep. But I get out of the car, retrieve the key, take the relevant pictures of the offending property, replace the key, and finally. Finally. We are on our way to rest.

9:15

We pull into a Holiday Inn Express and head to the lobby. The the front desk worker is cheerful & helpful, but he can’t find our reservation. I pull up the receipt and notice that, because it is so late on the 11th, Expedia defaulted our check-in data to the 12th. Mom puts her arm on the front desk and buries her head into it.

The man at the desk says he can give us a room now and just assign that reservation to that same room number so we don’t have to move. I sigh with relief and thank him. He smiles. This hotel is 2 blocks from the hospital, I think he knows what is happening here. Moments later, we have our keys and are headed to our room.

We get into the hotel room and Mom doesn’t even pull back the covers, she just falls onto the bed. My mom is a very proper person, I’ve never seen her do anything like this. I can hear the regular breathing of sleep only a few minutes later.

The day is over.

I’m exhausted but my mind is still racing. I’ll need to fly my family out here & they will need a place to stay. We need contact all the family, the uncles, Mom’s parents.

I don’t know how much time is really left, but it isn’t a lot. It’s not over but it’s close. Twenty-four hours ago I was watching “What About Bob?” with Dad, laughing together at Richard Dreyfuss and Bill Murray as we have several times over 25 years. Now I know that’s the last thing we will ever get to watch together.

Dad’s decline has been gradual over the last 20 months as he took chemo, infusions, watching his tumor count fall and then rise. There has been moments of despair and hope, but we had enough warning to make the most of it.

And then it was sudden, a 20 hour free-fall.

The amazing thing is that I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I got to be there for Dad and Mom. By pure chance, an accident of timing, or maybe the gracious hand of the God my father loves so well, I was here when he needed me. Mom didn’t have to do this alone. I didn’t have to hear about this after the fact and imagine what Dad and Mom had to go through. I got to live it with them.

This day was a nightmare. But it’s also a blessing that I will hold on to for a long time.