Deserve is the most useless word in our language, and should be removed from the common lexicon.
I’ve been reading and hearing it a lot lately;
- You didn’t deserve to be treated like that.
- You deserved better parents.
- I don’t deserve to be spoken to like that.
- I deserve to know.
- I deserve to choose.
But here’s the thing: that word doesn’t matter. Deserving something, believing you deserve it, having hoards of people say you deserve it, doesn’t change shit.
You get what you get.
As my father used to point out to me on a near-daily basis: life isn’t fair.
I came home to discover three very important things:
- The Blues play better when I’m in town.
- Husband will not, in fact, cook a meal just for himself.
- Brindle dog had lost about ten pounds of muscle and had deteriorated significantly in the week I was gone.
For the record, I do not blame Husband for that last thing. The second thing… well, it was probably more about him not wanting to do dishes, so I’ll give it a pass.
So this is where we’ve landed with our lovely Brindle: she cannot walk, and standing is only happening with assistance. But she is still eating and happily interacting with us, and she loves cuddles… she just also had a lot of pain from worsening arthritis and muscle deterioration. So we increased her pain meds; we’re building her a set of wheels, helping her get around, and adjusting to our new normal. I cook for her, because hard kibble is just too much effort for too little reward these days, and she rests on a pile of pillows beside me while I work so she can alert me if she needs anything.
Dad recovered surprisingly well from his downturn, although the social workers at the hospital were quick to point out that the most likely cause for it was sudden depression due to my departure. I received that bit of criticism while I was changing a pad under my not-technically-paralyzed dog and nearly had a screaming breakdown right then and there. Can’t win for losing, right?
While his overall recovery was good and everyone agreed he needed to get out of the hospital before he went absolutely barking, he wasn’t strong enough yet for the rehab we’d picked out together. A skilled nursing facility was the compromise, and together with the staff at Good Hospital we found one willing to take him. Dad was nervous at first, because I hadn’t been to this place to check it out, but I promised him that if he didn’t like the look of it all he had to do was call me and he’d be out of there before he could unpack his socks. This cheered him, and off he went.
Of course, two days later I caught hell from Kenny, who claimed to have just been by the hospital only to discover my father was “missing.” Nevermind that he’d been there the day of the transfer, which was literally all anyone was talking about from 9am until the thing was done… no, he claimed I’d done it in secret and was furious. I thought back to my conversations with the Case Manager, who said things like, “I’m just calling the whole family to update…” and “Now I’ve already talked to the others, but I wanted to call you and make sure…” and rolled my eyes at these dramatics.
KENNY: Well anyway… When are you coming out again?
ME: (sighs) When I can afford to, Kenny.
KENNY: Oh, yeah… I know how that goes. Well… when do you think—
ME: Kenny. It costs me about a thousand dollars every time I come out there for a week.
KENNY: (whistles) (genuinely shocked) Why so much?
ME: (tightly) Plane tickets. Hotel room. Rental car. These things are not free.
KENNY: Oh. Yeah.
Dad settled in to the new facility nicely, though he was disappointed in his progress. I would hear from nurses, social workers, and physical therapists about his amazing work only to switch to him for complaints about how weak he was, how long it was taking, etc.
One day, he complained that he wasn’t able to stand at all, and might only ever get around in a wheelchair—this distressed him.
The next day, he complained that he was only able to do one hour of his workout in the gym and after that he needed a walker to get back to his room—this was, by his estimation, virtually no progress at all.
I reminded him of the day—less than a month before—that he’d gotten winded picking up a box of tissues. Of the time he couldn’t sit in a chair for fifteen whole minutes, because it was too exhausting. He remembered these things, but still felt his progress should be faster.
But he carried on, like a good Marine.
Then, one day, Depression hit back. He wanted to quit; he was struggling.
I phoned the social worker at his facility and spoke with her, requested extra visits with him and some extra attention to help draw him out—out of his funk and out into the community.
He complained of loneliness; I arranged activities and visits.
He wanted his teeth; I called the dentist—oh, it turned out Mark had been lying about everything, so I had to start all over there—and got that ball rolling.
He wanted to go see Marsha’s grave; I impressed upon the social worker and case manager why it was so important for him to go: until he saw that patch of dirt, for him she would always be in his home, sitting on the couch, waiting for his return.
It all helped… for a while. Outings were scheduled and—while he hated the Mandatory Fun—activities got him out of his room and gave him something to do besides sit in his room waiting for someone to call or visit. He got to tell me, “I’ll call you back later” which… you know, even if the thing you’re stuck doing is awful, is still a better feeling than waiting for the phone to ring.
One day I called and Kenny was there, about to accompany Dad to lunch. Thinking that was just the sort of thing that should have been happening all along, I promised to call back later.
Then Kenny took the phone from my father.
KENNY: Hey, Chase.
KENNY: I’ve been hearing a rumor…
ME: (unhelpfully) …
KENNY: Well, I’ve been… what’s this I’m hearing that you’re saying about Lee going to St.Louis?
ME: I’ve been saying I would like it. That there’s a Veterans Home right here in the city that’s lovely and I think he’d like it. That the air down here is better for his lungs and also I’d like to spend more time with him.
KENNY: (uncertain) Well… he doesn’t want to go.
KENNY: (stronger) He doesn’t want to go, okay!
ME: (vocally shrugging) If you say so. It’s a thing we’ve talked about, and will continue to talk about.
KENNY: Well, stop talking! You’re upsetting him!
KENNY: He was crying about it yesterday!
ME: He seemed fine to me, and we didn’t talk about it yesterday.
KENNY: Well… JUST STOP!
KENNY: You know… you could just come out here more.
KENNY: I mean… you and Mark need to quit all this fighting. I’m not trying to get in the middle of it but (blathers on)
ME: (examines nails)
KENNY: And I mean, you could just stay at the house, you know, you don’t have to get a hotel or whatever.
ME: Well we both know that’s not true.
KENNY: Well… right… because of Mark.
ME: (picks at cuticle)
KENNY: But that’s what I’m saying! And I’m not trying to get in the middle of it, but I think you guys need to (continues verbal diarrhea)
ME: (bored) Hey Kenny?
KENNY: (interrupted) —yeah?
ME: (brightly) I think it’s great that you’re not getting in the middle of it.
KENNY: … Right. I’m not. I just think you shou—
ME: I think it’s great that you’re not getting in the middle of it.
ME: Now you go have a lovely lunch with my daddy. We’ll talk again sometime. Buh-bye!
ME: (hangs up)
ME: FUCKING KENNY!
ME: (storms through house)
HIM: What did he do now?
ME: (mocking) I’m not trying to get in the middle, but blahblahblahblah… BULLSHIT!
ME: (fumes and rages for 20 minutes straight)
Oh yeah, that’s a thing he’s been putting up with a lot. I’m pretty sure at this point he’d love to just bury my phone in the yard, but he’d have to find a way to sneak it away from me first and it’s never more than a few inches from my hand so…
I called Dad back later that evening, to check on Kenny’s story. Dad was lucid and clear:
- No, he hadn’t cried.
- He didn’t want to come live in my house. (I tried explaining to him that wasn’t the offer, but someone had been pretty clear with him that’s what I was angling for so it was an uphill battle)
- He wanted to go back to his house.
- He would consider a St Louis facility if and when his own home turned out to be impractical or unavailable.
Since I knew that house would require major renovations to accommodate a mobility-challenged person—and Mark was dug in like a tick anyway—I was content with that last point.
ME: Now, just so you know… I’m gonna keep asking. I can’t force you to do anything—that’s not what that form you signed does—but I can keep asking and I will. Because, well… that’s just how I am.
DAD: Oh, I know this. My daughter is…
DAD: (chuckles) … a force of nature.
ME: (puffs up) I do love you, Dad.
DAD: I love you too, Munchkin.
I hung up, crying. Husband was right there, had heard the whole conversation, and joined me on the couch at the first sniffle.
HIM: What happened?
ME: (sniffs) He called me Munchkin.
HIM: Is that… sorry, what does that mean?
ME: (smiles watery smile) He hasn’t called me that since I was little.
HIM: Oh… (confused)
ME: I remember when he stopped.
ME: He said… (hiccups) He said he’d stopped because I wasn’t his little Munchkin anymore. That he’d call me that again when I…
HIM: (hugs me)
ME: (swiping away tears) if I ever turned into someone he could be proud of again.
HIM: (stunned) That’s… horrible.
ME: But… he called me Munchkin.
All in all, things were looking… better, if not good.
But Depression is a beast that knows patience; knows how to stalk and trap its prey.
And the day came when he wasn’t just frustrated with his progress: he’d given up entirely.
I won’t even report that conversation to you, because his side was all, “I want to die, I want to die” on a loop. Literally, just those four words, shrapnel in my heart.
It didn’t help that the C.Diff was active again, so all activities and outings were canceled. He was once again on a contact protocol, this time in a place where other people were walking about freely—going to meals, playing games, going on walks—doing things he’d disdained but all better than lying in his bed waiting for someone to come change yet another soiled diaper.
I rallied nurses and social workers to his side. Antidepressants were prescribed, but of course those take time and he’d already wasted a lot of that insisting he didn’t need more pills.
He begged me to help him die.
I posted daily, praying there’d be no need to include any of this by the time you were ready for a final “and here we are” post.
Then, on Friday—these calls always come between 11:45 and 1am, don’t they—my phone rang.
My father had been found screaming help me, help me, help me; incoherent, BP and O2 dangerously low. They called 911 to send him via ambulance to Closest Hospital; I considered insisting on Good Hospital—which had cared for him so well and knew us—then decided it wasn’t worth fighting with them over, and Closest Hospital would be fine.
I will regret that decision for the rest of my life.
By the time the ambulance arrived, my father had enough oxygen on board to argue with them that he didn’t want to go to the hospital. They called me, needing me to make a decision: is he incompetent? You know him best, Ms. McCann—do we strap him down and take him against his will?
I had them put me on speaker.
Then I did my thing:
Ambulance dudes were beyond grateful, since apparently taking a patient against their will is a lot of paperwork.
And they took him to Closest Hospital, where the ER doctor asked my permission to intubate and told me to come as quickly as I could to say goodbye either way.
I gave my permission and mentally started the clock—and rehearsing my excuses for running into overtime, because I wasn’t going to murder my daddy on Father’s Day.
As it turned out, excuses weren’t necessary; he self-extubated after only eight hours. I celebrated.
Mark and Kenny were by his side in record time, Mark insisting to anyone who would listen that he now had PoA, would have it in writing first thing Monday.
I couldn’t speak with my father.
He was asleep. Or incoherent. Or—and this sent me over the edge—misplaced for a good half hour on Sunday before they learned he’d been transferred to a medical unit, where he was busy receiving new treatments and unavailable to speak with me.
He refused to speak with Offspring when he called—a sick feeling grew in my belly.
ME: Can you try calling again? I’m still at the emergency with Brindlepup.
OFFSPRING: (sighs) I can try. I’m just… trying to work myself up to it.
OFFSPRING: Last time he let me talk for all of a minute before he said, “I need a drink” and hung up on me.
ME: … Supposedly he’s better today—they moved him to Medical.
ME: … I’ve got a voicemail from Mark. Saying it’s urgent that I call the very instant I get his message.
OFFSPRING: You’re not going to return that call, are you?
ME: I don’t know. I mean… I haven’t actually got the message yet, so…
ME: You know me…
OFFSPRING: Classic Chase.
ME: It really is.
I finally got through late Sunday, while Husband was out picking up a new prescription for Brindle.
Kenny answered the phone.
KENNY: Who’s this?
ME: This is Chase; who is this?
KENNY: It’s Kenny.
ME: Where’s my father.
KENNY: He’s… not doing well.
ME: Really. I spoke with his nurse about an hour ago and he said Dad was doing much better today.
KENNY: Oh… well…
KENNY: (clears throat) Yeah, well… in retrospect… in one sense he is but in another sense he’s not…
KENNY: Um. Let me see if he even wants to talk to you.
ME: (melts) Hi, Daddy.
DAD: What the hell were you thinking, telling them to… put that tube in?!
ME: I… did what we talked about.
ME: Yes. I told them you were Intubate Only, no CPR, and that they had only a little time—
DAD: NO! I told you, no tubes!
ME: The last instruction I had from you was that I had a 24-hour limit—
ME: We sat there, in Good Hospital, with six doctors in the room—
DAD: NO! DON’T YOU TOUCH ME! DON’T YOU EVER TOUCH ME AGAIN!
DAD: You’ve… lost it.
ME: (calmly) Go to hell, Kenny. (hangs up)
My phone blew up.
A call from Kenny’s area code—I sent it to voicemail.
A flurry of texts from Kenny—I glanced as they came in without reading them.
I sat, alone, looking around at the no one crowding around me and gasped for air in a room that suddenly had none.
Mark had done it. He won.
 I’m not saying I’m actually magic… I’m just saying we can’t prove I’m not.
 He does, as it turns out, clean while I’m gone. So that’s a bonus.
 I am aware that other people might have made a different choice, and those people are encouraged to fuck right the fuck off with their opinions. My family, my decision. My pup is under the care of multiple veterinarians who are all thrilled with what we’re doing for her and with her, so unless you’re secretly one of them (ie; someone who has a DVM and has actually examined this dog) I don’t want to hear any bullshit about how I’m doing it wrong.
 Yeah… he got turned down by a few—my father had developed a reputation. Across two counties.
 NO! YOU FUCKING DON’T, YOU MOOCH!
 Double that for tourist season, which is… well, most of the year, frankly.
 Ooh, I forgot to list food and gas, didn’t I?
 Unless, of course, you don’t actually pay for them. You fucking leech.
 Are you imagining just how wide my smile was? Hey, teeth were showing—it counts as a smile!
 This was not a growl. Probably.
 Kenny doesn’t know what to do with honesty. It’s the hallmark of a lying weasel.
 Lie all over town if you want, asshole, but don’t try it with me.
 Husband’s parents were pretty shit, but he’s not on my level and sometimes it really hits him just how different we are because of that.
 C.Diff is awful.
 She’s fine, but she developed an abscess above her tail—because when it rains it pours—and we’re treating every little thing super-aggressively now that she can’t manage as much on her own; the emergency vet is becoming a regular expense.
 There’s been some debate around here about this line—I’m pretty sure he’s referring to the PoA, but it’s just barely possible he means I’m the one who’s not thinking clearly.
 I still haven’t listened to this. According to Husband, it’s a screeching rant from Kenny’s wife—I’d better never talk to her husband like that again, etc. I blocked her number. Bitch doesn’t know me and doesn’t want to.
 The gist is that none of this is Kenny’s fault or doing, and I need to talk to Mark and make peace with him—and, of course, Kenny doesn’t deserve my ire.