Archive for November, 2005

November 30, 2005

Had an early morning today, with Ann, my teacher, and Bonnie my occupational therapist. They are a lot of fun, and bring really cool toys for me to bring.



November 30, 2005

You probably know Merrill, Janet’s dad, lives with us.

It is a very strange thing to live with someone so close to death. He is 83, and of poor health. He cannot do, or has the will to do much of anything. All he wants to do is be in bed and sleep. We usually manage to coax him out of bed 3 times a day for meals, but that is usually it. And even during the meals, he gets so tired, he won’t finish his meal, and insist on going back to bad. Every day we wonder how long he will last. As I go to his room to get him ready for breakfast, I nearly always wonder to myself “Will he be breathing? Will his skin be cold when I take his hand to wake him?” It’s a time and place in my life right now that is hard to comprehend, even as I live it.

I had hardly experienced death until a couple years ago when an uncle and my Linkert grandparents passed away. Until then, as a child, and young adult, I always felt I had been missing something. Death was always happening to my friends and their families. I had occasional distant relative funerals to attend, but people with whom I had no close connections. When my uncle and grandparents passed away, I felt like I joined a club. At least to a limited point, I was understanding the finality of death, and the feelings and thoughts I had associated with it. I was also beginning to understand more about my feelings about my other Grandmother who has been suffering from Alzeimers for years, and is going through a death of her own, and what that meant to me.

When I first met Merrill, I thought he was in terrible shape, and was very close to death. This was after he had a bad stroke, and a broken hip. I immediately ran scenarios in my head about how his death would affect my then girlfriend (Janet) and what my role would be in our new relationship. A few months later, when Janet went away for a skiing trip, I was the person he would check in with, and call if he needed any help. Then during that summer (after my last year teaching) I picked him up many times, and went out to the house with him to start cleaning it out. I remember wondering what I would tell her if he died “on my watch” so to speak. His health, always declining, and his appearance seeming so weak, you would think the guy wouldn’t last another day. But for some reason, he lived.

Through the last three years, as Janet and I have grown closer, our lives have constantly been with this idea that Merrill could die at any time. We planned our wedding with the hope he would live that long, but accepting the reality he might not (or the possibility he just didn’t want to come at all, which he expressed a few times). We continued to clean out the house and plan the new one hoping he would live long enough to enjoy and share it with us, but understanding he may not last, and all our efforts to make the mainfloor handicapped accessible would be for naught. We decided to add to our family, and had one baby, and now a second on the way hoping he will be around long enough to enjoy them, but realizing that our children may have to “remember” him through pictures. I reduced my work time from full time, to part time, to leaving the “workforce” to be a full time homebuilder/dad/caretaker. This was done (in part) because Merrill needed more and more of my time. Even as Christmas approaches here, I sit and look at him when he’s eating breakfast and wonder, will he be around for Christmas? As we plan our lives, we think of our life with him, and at the same time we also consider if he is not with us.

To have death in one’s mind so much, you become almost numb to it. I’ll occasionally remark to someone that I get to be a fulltime dad, until Merrill dies. And it comes across so flippantly and matter-of-fact, it catches people off guard, and I forget that death is not an everyday occurrence for some people. Sometimes when I’m helping Merrill change clothes or transfer him from the bed to his wheelchair, he’ll moan in pain. I’ll always ask him if he’s ok, and sometimes he’ll answer “Oh, I’ll live…. (dammitt).” It’s often hard to interpret if he is joking, or serious. We discuss his death on occasion. Janet and I have told him a couple times that it is ok for him to die. We talk about what heaven (or hell) will be like for him. We talk about the ceremony we’ll have, and what it may be like. I like to talk with him about what music we might have played. Sometimes the discussion is fun, sometime serious, sometimes sad. On occasion he shares concerns about his money and property, and who will get what. All these discussion are surreal. I walk away from them and think “Ok, that’s it. He will probably die tomorrow” and find I’m wrong the next day, and wake him to have his breakfast.

Our lives are scheduled around him everyday. We work hard on the weekends and evenings to give him a meal at a normal time, though often we give him 2:00 lunches or 10:00 suppers. Sometimes I will get supper started for him, and then we pass him off as I go to a rehearsal or something and Janet will finish and help him back to bed. There are also times when we be someplace for a good chunk of the day, and I will run home to feed him, and after he’s done, will rush back to Janet and Maeve to partake in whatever event we are doing. We often take two cars for this purpose too. Every week Janet and I map out our evenings and figure our who’s feeding him and when.

I’m sharing this now (with Janet’s permission) to share more about my family. In this blog, I love to show fun pics of the house and Maeve and Janet, but that’s not a complete picture of our family. Merrill is part of my family too, and a part I want to share. He is a funny guy, likeable, and interesting. It’s not always fun to live with him, and there are often days when my patience is stretched. But having him live with us, and taking care of him is a unique experience, and one I want to remember and live to it’s fullest… including it’s end…

… which could be tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

Today’s Tuesday pic…

November 30, 2005

Only a couple more Tuesdays left for the Tuesday pics….

Tuesday pics updated

November 29, 2005

I finally updated the Tuesday pictures.

(Except for todays)

November 28, 2005

Our new kitchen faucet (and flawless countertop!).

November 28, 2005

And our mainfloor bath now has faucets.

November 28, 2005

Plumber was coming back today to install faucets that were back-ordered. This gave me the chance to put in a new countertop, as I made some mistakes with our present one. Here is a pic of the prepared countertop, waiting for the plumber.

November 28, 2005

Still have a few boxes to go… but there’s daylight ahead!

November 28, 2005

Mom and Maeve take a break and play!

November 28, 2005

We spent most of the day cleaning and unpacking today. Here Janet is about to throw away our wedding RSVPs from a year and a half ago. It was a nice tall stack!