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Rock And A Hard Place

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My dad passed on 22 August 2011, at the age of 72.  Out of all the children, I was second youngest but by far, the closest to him.  My dad and mom were married for 32 years (I'm now 32), but had long since really gotten along, more coexisted (more out of tradition and religious reasons).

Earlier that month (August), my dad informed me that he tripped in a parking lot and banged himself up pretty good, so I wouldn't be alarmed when I saw him.  He was scraped up, had a black eye, and his hands were scratched up from trying to catch himself.  I was naturally alarmed anyway but he assured me that he tripped and he was ok.  However, he told me he was considering visiting his doctor because his hand was still bothering him.  About a week later, I received a call from his doctor's nurse.  I was apparently was listed as his emergency contact.  I assumed it was in reference to his hand but thought it was still odd for her to be calling me.  She informed me that my dad had stopped by that morning and that they needed to get in touch with him immediately but they couldn't reach him on the phone.  I asked her why there was such an immediate concern over a hand injury and she informed me that my dad came in that morning because he had fell in his bathroom and hit his head on the floor.  Because of the nature of the injuries they recommended that he go to the emergency room and have scans done to ensure there wasn't any swelling or bleeding on the brain (they allowed him to drive himself across town to the hospital).  Apparently the hospital released him, determining everything was "ok".  After my dad was released, someone noticed that his neck was "possibly fractured", which required immediate attention.  The hospital called him, got no answer, they called his doctor, who called him several times, and also got no answer.  I told the nurse I was leaving work at that moment to check on him and that I would call him as soon as I hung up the phone.  The nurse informed me that I should carefully but quickly drive him back to the emergency room.

I called my dad right away and he answered.  I told him what the nurse told me and that I was on my way to his house.  When we got him to the emergency room, they immediately took him into a room and strapped him onto a backboard with a support collar to restrict his movements and prevent further injury.  When the doctor arrived, he began explaining that I should've taken him to the other hospital because they were not capable of treating his injuries there.  The doctor also explained (after I questioned how he was released with a NOW confirmed broken neck) that the doctor examining the brain scans overlooked the neck injury because of the limitation and purpose of the image, but that my dad broke his neck in two places at the C1 vertebra.

We were transported downtown by ambulance (which literally threatened to break down on the way there) and were left in the emergency room to wait for more doctors.  "Dr. Doogie Hoswer", a nurse, and an older (angrier) doctor came in a couple of hours later to inform us that because of the nature of the injuries, they couldn't really provide surgical options, but my dad would require extensive physical therapy and a neck brace for at least six months.  However, the outcome was not necessarily grave.  Then they stated that he would also be admitted, at least overnight, to monitor him.  A couple more hours passed before we were moved into his room for the night.  My dad told me to go home and I told him I would check on him in the morning, worried but not overly concerned.  I asked him if he wanted me to call my mom (who was out of town visiting family) but he was adamant about not telling her.

The next morning, I went to work (early morning shift) to wait to my dad's release.  I called the hospital to check on him but the nurse informed me that she just started her shift and hadn't checked on my dad's progress yet.  So I called back about an hour later and the nurse informed me that my dad would be staying overnight again, but she was unaware of the reason.  She told me that she would let me know when she found out.  I informed her that my dad hadn't eaten the day before and would probably be pretty hungry. She assured me that she would get him something to eat right away.  A few minutes later, my dad called me.  He sounded groggy and disoriented, which I chalked up to the medication he was presumably on.  He was telling me that the doctors released him and he wanted me to come and pick him up.  He was very difficult to understand (he sounded like a stroke victim).  I got off the phone with him and called his nurse.  I asked her if he had been released, she said no.  I asked her if he was on any medications that would cause him to sound so "off", she said none that she was aware of.  She also informed me that he refused to eat and asked me if there was anything specific that she might  bribe him with that might encourage him to eat.  I immediately became extremely concerned, so I left work.  I decided to get my oldest brother (second closest to my dad) and tell him what was going on, despite my dad's wishes to not tell anyone.  My brother decided to stay with my dad overnight.

My dad (who walked into a hospital without much assistance and spoke clearly, with solid thought) became another person.  He went from needing assistance walking (two nurses and a walker), to not walking, barely eating, and hallucinating because of his medication.  Then he had a catheter and IV because he was unable to swallow, in a matter of a few days.  My brother and sister-in-law decided it was time to call the rest of the family, even though during his lucid moments, my dad was still adamant about not calling them.

The next night I stayed with my dad, so my brother could eat and sleep.  My younger brother and his family came by briefly and then left to pick my mom up at the airport later that night.

Until this point, none of us had met my dad's doctor yet(several days).  No tests had been run yet even though he had mostly only gotten worse.  The doctor met with the family the next morning (day 4), with the whole family there but he had called in tests.  Later that afternoon, someone took my dad for scans to ensure he hadn't suffered a stroke, but because of the time, the speech therapist (helps with swallowing) decided to leave for the weekend, instead of waiting to do her JOB.

By the time my mom got to the hospital (late evening), my dad was hallucinating again and not really in any condition to talk to anyone.  My mom insisted anyway, but the visit didn't go to well because he wasn't thinking clearly and she couldn't understand him.  She told me my sister (who she was visiting) would be unable to fly in until the following night.  I told her to go home, unpack, and rest, while I stayed overnight.  Little did I know that this would essentially be the last night my dad would be conscious.

The next morning, I was so emotionally drained that I could no longer hold it together and I went home before the doctor met with the family, afraid I would fall apart because of the impending news.  Despite all the already horrible things going on, I had NO idea had bad things really were.  When I got back to the hospital my family told me the WORST news.  The limited tests they had already run showed that my dad had cancer in his spleen, pancreas, and spine.  They said that it was probably far worse than that.  However, bottom line, my dad had slipped into a coma that night and would most likely not wake up.  The next morning, the family met with a hospice specialist to discuss my dad's terminal care.  He never made it to the hospice room and I was the last one in the room (to say goodbye) when he stopped breathing.

After an extremely traumatic experience dealing with my dad's final affairs, where his final will (listing me as the executor of the estate as my dad and I had previously discussed) had mysteriously disappeared...  I was accused of hiding things from my mom because my dad confided secret bank accounts to me and a thumb drive containing information to settle his  bills and such, which my older revealed for me (to take the blame).   An older will was the only thing remaining that listed his "wishes".  We were a "split family", my older brothers being step siblings (my dad's biological), one of which was previously disowned and disappeared long ago; the rest of us are adopted.  The remaining step brother informed my mom that after everything settled, he would no longer keep ties with "our family", except me.

I'm currently facing the first anniversary of his passing...  My mom gave me my dad's ashes after the funeral because she didn't want them.  A few days ago, she informed me that she wanted me to fly out to Seattle, where my mom's family lives.  My mom's side of the family never really cared for my dad, nor he them.  In fact, my uncle (mom's brother) sent his regards when my dad passed but decided not to come to the funeral because he had gotten a new job and didn't want to ask for the time off.  Anyway, my mom wanted to spread my dad's ashes out over the ocean, which was one option my dad wanted.  However, we had discussed giving my dad a burial at sea (he was in the navy) and/or spreading his ashes in Arlington previously.  I asked her if she wanted all of the ashes and she said yes, so he could be at rest.  I informed her that I was not ready to discuss it.  A couple of days later, she informed me that she cancelled the plans and told me to let the rest of the family know when I was ready.  I feel like she's trying to make me feel guilty and selfish because she blames me for keeping my dad's health a secret (even though we didn't know it would end the way it did).  She blames me for hiding things from her about my dad's finances, the current will, and not giving her the information he left specifically to me (his computer passwords, etc.).  

The week of the funeral, my mother changed the locks on the house and installed an alarm but refused to give me a key or the code, saying that I needed to call her before just stopping by anyway.  Not to mention that my mother announced over dinner two months after my dad passed, that she would eventually start dating.  Two weeks before Thanksgiving, she informed us that she was already dating someone, some guy she'd been "friends" with for over a decade (recently divorced).  They even went on holiday vacation together, and she asked me if I wanted to meet him, and I of course, did NOT. She said she understood but showed up with him before they flew out, to introduce him to me anyway.

I've spoken to my "family" a handful of times (at best).  One conversation proceeded a nasty tornado, where I called my mom to check on her well being and ensure the house was intact.  She informed me that she had been in Vegas for several weeks, house shopping.  A rather big surprise to find that she was considering moving out of the state without telling me.  Another conversation (a week or so later) involved my sister wishing I was able to join them in Vegas, where I informed her that I was unaware of a "family" trip that I was obviously not invited to.

I know this all sounds like an unbelievable, Maury episode but I don't know what else to do or who to turn to for support because it was always my dad.  My dad and I spoke all the time and no one in the family could deny that I was the most knowledgeable, when it came to knowing what my dad wanted.  All my actions were intended to do right by his wishes, not for selfish reasons.  I guess I just needed to get this off my chest to anyone who might have an inkling of what it feels like to be "alone".

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Hi meow269,

In this world when we love someone we do not forget them ever. Your dad may not be still here with you but believe me he will always be there for you whenever you need him. My best friend who is not with me has always helped me spiritually to deal with this world.



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Thank you for your response. I know that he's with me always but sometimes it's seems to be little consolation, you know? I guess I knew that there would be a grieving process and that I'd miss him, I just never really wanted to face that it'd happen, at least not without warning. It'd probably be easier with family support too. Sorry to hear about your friend passing.

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Dear friend, of course you want your dad to be with you the way he always used to be ~ in the flesh, right here WITH you, and in person. That is what all of us want, those of us who are mourning the loss of a precious loved one. Believe me, we do understand that yearning. My own father has been dead for more than 30 years, and I still miss him with all my heart. We only get one dad in life, and for a daughter it's a relationship that nothing else can duplicate. Even if our dad was not a perfect human being (and no one really is, of course) we still miss him (or the dad we wished he could have been). You're coming up on the first-year anniversary of your dad's death, so it's understandable (and predictable) that many of those initial feelings of loss are being reawakened for you. It may feel to you as if you're right back where you started in your journey many months ago ~ but that does not mean that you're not moving forward in your grief process. I hope it helps to know that this is very common and normal. Many mourners find that the actual anniversary day is far less difficult to get through than they expected it to be ~ especially if you face it head-on, prepare for it ahead of time, and plan how you intend to spend it. See, for example, Creating a Grief Ritual: Love, Loss and Continuing Bonds by Elaine Mansfield. I hope it helps, too, to know that even when you aren't getting the sort of family support you need and deserve, you still can find support elsewhere ~ and most especially you will find it here, among our members who are walking the same path with you, whether we are right beside you, behind you or ahead of you.

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Hi meow269 - yes, I also feel very alone. Since my mother's passing last year (May 12, 2011), my closest remaining relatives are my dad and my sister (my brother died 4 and a half years ago). My husband and cats are my main support group -- and this website (which has been extremely helpful to me). I was single for many years, but had friends, and, mostly, my mom, as my biggest supporters. Now that my mom is gone from this world, my dad is changing to be a man with some personality traits I don't really like too much, but I still do love him. My sister (who is ten years older) and I were never close, as I desired us to be, and she is quite clear she doesn't want to take on a motherly role to me (and I wouldn't want her to). My friends have mostly disappeared. So -- not much support there. It has been an eye-opening time, and a lonely one. I am adjusting to my new world -- but not really enjoying it.

You sure have been through a lot with your family, and I am sorry that it has to be that way for you. Your statement, "All my actions were intended to do right by his wishes, not for selfish reasons", says it all. You can live with yourself and know you did your best.

Others on this site (like Ron B.) have had some similar problems with their families, and maybe reading some of their posts will help give you some insight.

No -- we are not alone -- because now, we have each other, and other supportive people grieving right along with us.

Wishing you peace and strength.

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