I hope it's okay with you, the so many who have followed and cared so much about my Dad Reports, that I write the final chapter here on TPC rather than try to respond to more tweets than I can possibly answer.
I hope it's okay with you that I share only what I can share and leave it at that, because this is so difficult to write about.
I hope it's okay with you if I do it this way, and I hope very much that you understand that if I fail to reply to you personally, it's only because your responses have been overwhelming every time I've tweeted about him over the past 2+ years, and that I get so many kind, sensitive, sweet replies, that I just can't handle all of them the way I'd like. I wish I could, but I can't.
Just please know that I read and appreciate every one of them, I love every one of you, and you have provided support the likes of which I've never experienced before in my life, and never imagined existed.
Over the past couple of years, I've been asked so many questions that I will try to fill in the details that a lot of you have been asking about.
Tuesday, May 14, was my dad's 94th birthday, as some of my Twitter followers may recall.
Background: He was an internist, and he anticipated much of what has happened, so we were prepared and surrounded by the best doctors (his friends and colleagues), and got excellent advice and care.
On Thursday May 16, I brought my dad dinner, as my brother and I have done every night since my dad's first stroke over 2 years ago (he's suffered from a series of small strokes over time). Despite the strokes, he remained amazingly quick and witty, even when he could no longer speak in intelligible sentences, or barely form words; communicating verbally deteriorated into mumbles with occasional recognizable sounds and words. He never forgot who my brother and I were, and even remembered his grandsons with prompting, even if it took an entire day to recall them.
We have been there without fail every single day and/or night to make sure he's had everything he needs. Roger, his 24-hour aide, has been there for the past 20 months, and he was letter perfect, caring, anticipating every move, every need of my dad's, as if he were family.
Months ago, @AliKat747, who has become a friend not only on Twitter, but in "real life," urged me to start hospice care. I always thought that was only something to request at the very end, but she informed me otherwise.
This is something everyone should know. Hospice is not reserved for deathbed care. For months now, my dad got weekly checkups from hospice nurses, follow-ups, medical equipment, a hospital bed, oxygen tanks (for when he might need them), medication... all covered by Medicare. This couldn't have been more comforting, and as time went on, as they developed a history with him, as he got increasingly dependent and in need of more care, they were there to provide everything we needed... with comforting words, smiles, hugs, you name it. Again, please understand, hospice care is not something you should put off until the last minute.
So to @AliKat747, you have my undying gratitude and love. You were the angel who dropped in at just the right moment. You were the person who was astute enough to see what we couldn't, and pushed us in the right direction. You are the definition of "friend."
I also must thank, again, Keith Olbermann for so strongly urging us to get end-of-life papers and affairs in order well ahead of time. He did that on his "Countdown" show when he was going through a similar ordeal with his own father, and was compassionate enough to fill us in on how to cope with what he was experiencing, even through his own pain. Thank you endlessly, Keith. Your advice was invaluable.
On May 17, Mr. Laffy and I went to Boston for one of our twin's graduation from Tufts. He got his Master's in nutritional science and we were so happy and proud. We arrived at our hotel, and literally, not a minute after we stepped into our room, the phone rang. My brother called to tell me my dad had suffered another stroke. He could no longer move his mouth, he couldn't speak, he could barely nod, and was coughing 24/7. Roger the aide was there for him, sleep deprived, worried sick about my dad, and hospice came to the rescue as best they could.
Those symptoms lasted and worsened the duration of our trip. The other night, some of you may remember that I tweeted about his having to go on Morphine and how I knew this was the end of a very long and painful road. When I called my brother from the car on the way home from the airport yesterday, I was told the meds (diuretics to alleviate the fluid accumulating in his body; his heart could no longer pump body fluids effectively), including the Morphine, were not working.
We went straight from the airport to my dad's house, fighting terrible gridlock on the freeway, so it took much longer to get there than it should have at 3 pm. Again, that was yesterday, Monday, May 20.
We got there at 4 pm PDT. I walked into his bedroom to see the hospice nurse, Arline, and Roger the aide, at his bedside. My brother was called and was on his way. My dad was gasping deep, long, scary gasps, and I held his hand, telling him I was there, back from the trip, I was there. I didn't know what else to say or do. "I'm here, I'm here."
Arline told me she was going to give him something to help lower a fever that had just developed. But that never happened. I watched as my dad drew his last breaths. Big, loud, deep, scary breaths that were spaced far, far apart. Arline gave me a "he's gone" look. I asked, "He's gone?" Seconds and seconds went by and suddenly he drew one huge breath. I thought that was it. Seconds again went by. One small breath. Then he was gone.
All that happened in the very few minutes since I arrived at his house.
It was my first time seeing anyone who wasn't alive. Ever. I didn't know what I was feeling. It scared me, it was horribly disturbing, and of course, very sad. Arline hugged me. She was a compassionate anchor who knew exactly what to do and say at each moment. I pointed at Roger and said, "He's the hero." Because he was. He spent countless sleepless nights with my dad when he would wake up at all hours to somehow get himself to the kitchen to eat bananas at 1 am, 3 am, 4 am. He couldn't walk (meaning, shuffle tiny, tiny steps as Roger held him up) alone during the day, but somehow in the wee hours of the morning, he got himself to the kitchen.
After he took his last breath, both Arline and Roger, independently, said, "He waited for you to come." I'm not sure I believe that, but it was a kind, lovely thing to say.
Mr. Laffy hugged me and we left the room.
My brother showed up a few minutes later.
I hope it was okay that I shared these details with you. I did that for two reasons. I haven't really shared them with anyone else except Paddy and my in-laws, and it helped. So thank you for indulging me.
I also know that I will get so many heartfelt tweets of condolences and so many questions that this was the most efficient way I could handle that. I don't feel like talking on the phone, I don't feel like doing much of anything.
I haven't told my twins yet; they stayed in New York for a day or two and are on their way home right now. I'll fill them in once they're here. I just couldn't bring them such sad news while they're celebrating and finally relaxing after a tough, tough school year.
Again, thank you for bearing with me. The next few weeks and months will be taken up with sorting through his belongings, selling his house, and the usual things people do that I've never had to do before. I will be here to post when I can, but today isn't one of those times.
And thank you ahead of time for all your kind words, your outpouring of love and shared stories of similar experiences, and for becoming my cyber family. I likely will not be able to respond to you individually, so please consider this my way of doing what I can to express my gratitude.