I didn't rent a car while down here in Naples, so I've been biking everywhere. I raced all the way from my brother's house, to my parent's house. 8.5 miles away. Made it in 35 minutes. I went in and said hello to Dad, he slowly turned his head and made eye contact, but he could barely utter a hello. Just yesterday, he said "Hi Pete!" as clear as day. In the past few days I've watched a sharp decline in his condition. He's transitioning. He's peaceful and quiet. His movements are slow. Occasionally he mutters things that I can't understand. Sometimes he'll ask me if I can come back early the next morning so that I can take him to Sam's Club or Costco. He liked when I drove him around in November and took him shopping. It's as though he doesn't realize how weak and frail he is. There's no way I could take him out in his condition. But his brain is still going. "Pete, get here around 9 tomorrow. I want to go to a few places." It breaks my heart, because I have to say yes knowing full well I can't
So we were waiting for the hospital van to arrive. Not an ambulance, but a van they use to transport patients to hospice. I'm standing there next to my Dad, in his last moments in his home. A home he was very proud of and did so much work to try and make it better. And now he was about to cross the threshold of that front door for the last time in his life. I'm not sure he understood the significance of that moment, but the rest of us did. I had a lump in my throat. This is it. He is not coming back.
The van was backed into the driveway. They turned around the stretcher and my Dad was looking at the house. His house. I wondered what was going through his mind. I didn't want him to see the tears welling up in my eyes so I smiled at him and waved as they lifted the stretcher onto the van. My Dad's gaze continued toward the house. The van doors shut. I rode in the van with my Dad to the hospice. A lot of the neighbors had gathered outside in their driveways, and as we pulled away in the van, I didn't know what else to do, I didn't want to wave, so I gave a salute. Like I was transporting a wounded soldier. Dad's stretcher was facing out the back window. He couldn't see me so I said Dad, just so you know, I'm here. We left Forest Park, their home for the past 15 years for the last time. It was sad to say the least.
When we arrived at the hospice, Dad was in the back asleep, but when we got him out of the back, the sun seemed to hurt his eyes so he lifted his arms up to shield them. We wheeled my Dad in to Room 8 North, the exact same room my mother was in exactly one month earlier. A parade of nurses came in got my dad changed, cleaned up, and got him nice and comfy in is bed. On top of the bed was a child's blanket. I don't know if it was Chandler's or maybe Evan's, but it seemed kind of comforting. Minutes after the nurses left, a nice priest came in and administered last rites to my Dad. It was a beautiful moment. I really wanted this for my Dad.
Paul and I were present as last rites were read. We all bowed our heads and prayed. The priest said he had been absolved of all his sins and can now rocket up to heaven to be with Hilda.
Seriously, that's what he said, it was kind of funny. I don't know if it's appropriate to take photos at times like these, but I did want to document my Dad's last days and write about it. Paul and I returned later that nigh for about an hour but Dad was asleep nearly the whole time. When we left, Dad again said that he wanted us to come pick him up early to go shopping. Wherever my Dad is going, there had better be a Lowe's, Home Depot, Sam's Club, and Coscto or there will be trouble.