October, 1995 Archive

Day of the Dead–October 31 1995

Tuesday, October 31st, 1995

At age 88, my father Henry was in good health and spirits, except for an episode of disorientation and seizure in early May. He participated in aerobics at the Y twice a week, was active in community organizations, went sketching regularly with the Thursday painters, and took hikes with me.

At the end of September, he started losing his memory and balance. Without the consent of his primary care physician, he consulted a neurologist, who ordered tests which showed terminal brain cancer. In the hospital for a biopsy, he fell and broke his pelvis after untying his restraints and getting up to pee at night. This injury left him unable to walk or to urinate. In the transitional care center he lost control over his emotions and would often break into tears. Troubled by persecution fantasies and hallucinations, he repeatedly thanked and apologized to those who were looking after him. “This is not me, I’m not myself,” he protested. He asked for a visit from his grandson Joe, who flew in from Idaho for a weekend. One morning when I visited Henry before work, he talked about how present his grandparents were to him now. Then he wept bitterly and said he wasn’t ready to die. To comfort myself, I answered that he would live on in me and in others, including his grandchildren, as much as his grandparents were now living in him.