I had a dilemma.
Mark—a known liar and universally recognized idiot—thought he had had a medical PoA for my father. He believed that Marsha had gifted it to him on her deathbed and—like any collectible item—it could be passed in exactly this fashion.
ME: He thinks he inherited it.
OFFSPRING: It’s not… what?!
ME: Like it’s a fuckin’ brooch or something. I don’t know…
OFFSPRING: Okay, but that’s not how legal documents work!
ME: I KNOW!
ME: Tell me ‘bout it.
OFFSPRING: Well, what are we gonna do?
ME: … I haven’t decided.
OFFSPRING: Whelp. You’ve got four and a half days to figure it out.
- Mark believed himself to be in possession of a PoA that did not exist in any legal sense. This meant that the next time my father was incapacitated, the old family classic would be resurrected. As his indisputable next-of-kin, I would almost certainly be appointed proxy but it would get ugly; my father would be awakened without my having to make any decisions at all, and Mark would not make the same mistake twice.
- The next time my father was incapacitated (because COPD means this will keep happening) Mark would almost certainly argue against intubation, meaning my father would die.
- I had promised myself that however ugly things got, I would model class, integrity, and wisdom for my… less gifted family members. So far I believed this had not gone unnoticed by my father, though he still had some cognitive dissonance with regards to his opinions of me (Chase is still the same irresponsible child who brought her pillow on that fishing trip and let it fly into the river; nevermind that she’s also the thoughtful lady who makes sure all my meals are correct, feeds me pudding when I’m too weak to manage it, and fixes my monitors when the nurses can’t figure out their new equipment)
- I could not, for the life of me, think of a way to tell my dad “Mark doesn’t actually have the PoA anyway!” that wouldn’t sound like the petulant wail of a spoiled child to his ears.
- I really, really didn’t want to tell him. Because as long as he didn’t know, there was still a chance I could take it some other way.
This is where I confess to a thing Offspring and I had been working on in secret: when Marsha nearly killed him back in March, Offspring and I were deeply concerned by what we learned about how things were going. And the fact that I was told I couldn’t see my father (fly to Colorado to help Marsha, yes… actually see my father in the hospital? Out of the question!) set off all sorts of alarm bells. So Offspring hied down to the JAG office (free legal! Woo!) for help. JAG referred him to a (still free) civilian attorney who agreed to take the case, walking us through having Dad declared incompetent and getting full PoA over him; we were all set to file and had our battle faces on when I got the call from Marsha and it hit the fan. We thought, with her death imminent and her clearly incapable state, that such action would be unnecessary.
And now I had a big decision to make and a ticking clock on it. I entered Dad’s hospital room later than usual, racing thoughts and dehydration having made for a fitful night’s sleep, to find him similarly out of sorts. Grief was the accepted explanation for his foul mood, and we eventually got him to agree to a nice nap with his BiPAP on; once he was out he was out cold, I was left to stare at his once-familiar face and wait for the right choice to fight its way through the mess of my thoughts to the front of my brain.
The process was somewhat hampered by the occasional attack by such thoughts as Marsha’s dead and she hated me, how did I never realize she hated me?
Into this silent war tiptoed the teeniest social worker. I wish I’d caught her name, but I was mid-shelling when she introduced herself and actually stopped to blot my eyes. She peered at my father and quietly asked how long he’d been out, and we talked about him while she waited for me to spill my guts.
What is it about those shrinky types?
ME: (dabbing eyes again) Sorry, I’m just…
SW: (gently) It’s fine. It’s a lot, I’m sure. You were close?
ME: (laughs quietly) Well… there’s the thing.
ME: She hated me.
SW: (places hand on arm reassuringly) I’m—
ME: I didn’t even know. Everyone else knew, but me? (shakes head) Oh, but they were kind enough to tell me right after she died, so that’s something.
SW: I’m so sorry.
ME: … I would have liked to know that she hated me.
SW: … What would you have done differently?
ME: I don’t know? But at least I wouldn’t have been left with questions that can never be answered.
Dad stirred then and she suggested we move out to the family area to chat without disturbing him. And I swear to you, I only meant to fill her in on the PoA change, since that’s what had brought her in… but she was so sweet and lovely and such a good listener that I found myself sobbing and forgetting who I was talking to and it all came out. Everything I’ve told you so far and everything I haven’t.
Mark’s conviction that Dad did this to himself on purpose.
My fear that Mark wanted Dad dead, for reasons I couldn’t begin to contemplate.
My belief that Kenny is ill-prepared to be Executor; he thinks it will all just sort itself out.
My desire to take my father back to St Louis with me.
Why I didn’t forgive Marsha when she asked for it.
My desperate wish for my father to choose me, just once in my life.
My concern that I was experiencing some sort of mental break, and that’s why I was suddenly falling prey to daddy issues, of all things.
But seriously, he said I was the most important after his wife and now she was dead; how was I still not at the top of his list?
The horrible fight over the PoA and the things Mark said.
The fact that I could prove he was lying.
The fact that Dad had caught him in a lie and then somehow forgotten about it by the time Mark and Kenny were done talking to him.
And then, when all the words were out there in the canned hospital air and couldn’t be sucked back in… I remembered who I was talking to.
ME: Omigod… (groans, drops head to lap) Can you please just forget I said all of that? I don’t even know why I unloaded on you—you’re not here for me, you’re here for—
SW: It’s fine, this is what we do.
ME: Yeah, but…
SW: (rubs my back) It’s fine.
ME: (peeking through hair) So… can we just pretend all that didn’t happen?
SW: (grimaces) Here’s the thing…
SW: Well, you’ve told me that your father is being manipulated by family members. And I do need to help him with that.
ME: (groans) Shit.
SW: (pats shoulder) Let’s go see if he’s up yet.
ME: (sends up silent prayer)
As it happened, he was not. She stayed with me a few while I tried to rouse him, but he was out cold, so she left with the promise that she would enter her notes and be back “later.”
I, meanwhile, hoped that her “later” was on the same timescale as my father’s “later.” I’m still waiting on that second camel ride, Dad!
Dad finally awoke in time for his breathing treatment and listened with great interest to our chatter as he breathed against the machine; I kept correcting his form mid-sentence without turning my head, causing him to frown and properly seal his lips around the mouthpiece. Then the respiratory therapist brought in some new tubing for a piece of equipment and I changed it for her while she stepped out to answer a call; this, too, my father watched with great interest.
ME: (under my breath) Is that really the connector they… well, fine, if they’re happy with two failure points instead of one; it’s no skin off my nose. (frowns at useless bit of plastic, steps back)
DAD: (grips my wrist)
ME: What’s up? Do you need something?
DAD: (smiles) You are a godsend.
ME: (smiles, sits) Well… I’m pretty sure that’s how I got my middle name, innit?
“Godsend” being such an improvement over… well, everything from the days before, I was feeling generally a little less hopeless about life in general and our relationship especially.
Until his lunch came.
ME: (looking over tray) Well, they’ve finally figured out what I mean by “deconstructed PB&J” but… (checks thoroughly) … yup. They forgot the J.
DAD: You’re kidding me!
ME: (wryly) I would never kid about jelly.
DAD: (throws up hands)
ME: (puts up hand, tugs at gown with other) It’s fine. I know where the kitchen is on this unit. They’ve got jelly packets for their bagels and things. I’ll just pop out and steal a couple. (checks tray again) … And a knife, while I’m at it.
DAD: … Idiots.
ME: (smirks) Back in a tick.
DAD: Thank you.
ME: (scrubs out)
ME: (fetches jelly, etc.)
ME: (returns, gowning up) Got the jelly, knife, and even a cup of ice while I was out there.
ME: (starts making sandwich)
DAD: Now hold on—hold on there! It looks like you only used—
ME: I used four and a half packets of jelly.
DAD: There are five packets on that tray.
ME: (raises eyebrow) Because I grabbed five.
DAD: So there’s still some in—
ME: And if I use all of all five, one whole packet will come glopping out onto your sheets and we’ll have to change them. But if I use four and a half, you get all four and a half packets of jelly in your mouth. So. This way is better.
DAD: But more—
ME: This is the way that works, Dad. I’ve minmaxed this, will you trust me?
DAD: YOU ARE NOT LISTENING TO YOUR FATHER.
ME: You’re right, I’m not. Because he’s repeating that thing he said when he was wrong.
ME: Eat your sandwich.
DAD: (takes sandwich, bites, chews thoughtfully)
ME: You’re welcome.
DAD: (takes bigger bite)
One (perfect) PB&J, three milkshakes, a smoothie, two puddings, and an ice cream later, he was still sulking and feeling a little snippy. The doctor entered, and she and I discussed his current meds and possible changes. Dad tuned us out for the most part, except the occasional bellow for things he knew he couldn’t have… and, of course, the eternal, “will I be able to attend my wife’s funeral?” question. As always, the doctor tried to hedge by asking when the funeral would be, but this time Dad looked to me as if I had magically acquired that information while sitting next to him damned near 24/7.
I shrugged and reminded him I had no way of knowing anything about any of that, and the doctor took that excuse to put the question off yet again and booked it out of there.
DAD: Why don’t you know about the funeral?
ME: … Kenny’s handling all that, Dad.
DAD: Is everyone here yet?
ME: Again, you’d have to ask Kenny.
DAD: Why don’t you know?
ME: … Because I haven’t spoken to Kenny?
DAD: You haven’t spoken…
ME: (shakes head) Not since… well, not since the day… she…
DAD: (looks away)
ME: I’m sure he’s handling things.
DAD: (quietly) Yeah.
I couldn’t follow up on that since the doctor popped back in with some x-ray results and a new order; Dad started dialing the phone while we discussed this at the computer.
DAD: Kenny? It’s Lee.
ME: (totally not eavesdropping)
DAD: How’s everything going over there?
DAD: Uh-huh… and when are your sisters getting in?
ME: (rolls eyes, asks doctor about switching to steroid)
DAD: Okay, good. Now, I got a question for you—how’s my daughter doing?
ME: (snaps head up, suddenly alert)
DR: Well, we can—
ME: Shhhh! (mimes, “hang on, this shit just got interesting!”)
DAD: Well here’s what I want. I want you to call her. And I want you to include her in whatever you’re planning. And I want her to help plan the funeral.
ME: (groans quietly)
DR: (pats hand supportively)
ME: (does internal Kenny’s In Trouble dance)
DAD: Tuesday? At two? Okay. And call her.
DAD: Okay. Bye. (hangs up)
ME: (finishes with doctor)
DAD: Your sisters will be arriving next week. There’s a meeting on Tuesday to plan the funeral; I want you to be there.
DAD: (determined) I want you to be involved.
ME: (defeated) Yes, Dad.
As I walked to my sexy borrowed car that night I was still dodging the now-familiar Marsha emotional bombs:
She hated me.
She’s dead and she died hating me.
But now I was distracted by a new one, the unfairness of it temporarily obscured everything else:
Why am I being punished for Kenny being shitty to me?
I wore a DRESS for this shit…
 Husband has theories, all of them terrible. That is, they’re terrible to think about, not they’re terrible theories. The only one I’m able to sort of wrap my poor wee brain around is the possibility that he resigned himself to his brother’s imminent death and now can’t or won’t hear any “nonsense” about it being any other way.
 I’m aware I still need to explain this to you. It’s coming, I swear.
 Christ on a cracker, I probably need a return to therapy. I am one sick cookie. I’ve got a husband who chooses me every fucking day and shows me what love looks like constantly and I’m sat around whining about not being Daddy’s favorite.
 Seriously, they must teach these people some magic tricks, because I don’t like strangers touching me when I’m… unguarded.
 Yes, I’ve always been like this. And I forget nothing.
 Not actually a joke… I got my middle name off a saint.
 Sorry, Palliative Lady, what was that you were saying about his decreased appetite being proof that he’s dying soon? FUCK RIGHT OFF, LADY.
 Seriously? Since when? I swear, this “we’re all family thing” got dialed up by a thousand when they realized they were gonna have to answer to Jesus soon.