Death of My Father

From my journal, nine months ago...

"How quickly things change...On June 30th, Mom and Dad called. Mom scared. Took Dad to ER. Had heart attack. Released after testing July 4th. On July 13th, second bad attack. This time, the Cardiologist, Dr. Evans, did an angiogram, angioplasty, and echocardiogram. Dad is in ICU with breathing tube, IV feeding him, catheterized, with a blood pump. Also had to have dialysis for awhile. By July 16th, breathing tube removed. Two days now he has slept, moving around and trying to turn this way and that. Who knows what dreams he dreams?

"Mom cried when we drove to the hospital. 'No more Hawkeye and Chingascook...' was all she could say, over and over. In ER, Dad motioned us over to his bedside, saying if he doesn't come out of this, he knows he'll see us on the other side. I'm so glad I took their photos on Saturday, July 7th, as I did. Images of them kidding with each other, smiling at each other, goofing off, holding hands, kissing, or just gazing into the camera naturally.

"As I write this, I am alone in the ICU waiting room except for one solitary woman, and Mom. Mom plays solitaire quietly, across the room on the coffee table. She keeps asking me, when I go over to her, why she's paying two months' rent for the old apartment. I explain we're late this month and we need to give notice. Where are we moving to, she asks. I tell her, but a few moments later, she has forgotten and asks again. 'Oh yes,...where Dad needs to go...' I smile inwardly as the solitary woman leaves us alone.

"Mom remembers enough of a conversation a few days before when we told her and Dad they had to move to a nursing home. Then, I could see Dad's face become relaxed and visibly relieved, knowing finally that someone could be there to help them.

"My ears notice that Mom is whistling as she plays cards. Cards and whistling - how appropriate. Two things burned into my mind from my earliest memories that I associate with Mom.

"I hear Mom moan...she says she has eaten too much, and decides to quit playing cards, and lay down for awhile.

"Sharon and Bill, arriving in the afternoon, are with Bill and Betty running errands.

"The hours as this goes by seem surreal. Time passes differently. You don't acknowledge it. Instead, you ignore it, withdrawing into a safe, emotional cocoon. At one and the same time, you reflect superficially on memories that surface unbidden but don't surprise you, but you never let them manipulate you into giving way to any emotional release. This is your way, you say. Maybe so. Maybe it's just your defense against facing mortality head on instead of intellectually, the way most of us most of the time deal with it, if we deal with it at all..."

Dad passed away on August 8, 2001...


Stream of Consciousness IV

Interior of The Spot, during it's heyday...
McCall's (Henniman's). Skogmo's. The Spot. Dick's Corner. The Hartz Store. The Tastee Freez. Coast-to-Coast hardware. Ice rink on the banks of the river, lights strung overhead. The dam. South Pembina. The airport. The museum. Crossing the Red, then the Pembina. Ukranian church dome. Old 81. Old Pembina with the vines growing up the side of the old Methodist Church. Ancestors' rocking chairs in the museum...the old museum that seemed like a treasure chest of old area artifacts. Many a summer was spent touring the row upon row of exhibits, taking in as much as possible. Imagination working overtime wondering who the people were that once owned that dress, that gun, that book. So MUCH stuff that each display area was a mini Fibber McGee open closet. Even the walls were covered with treasures all the way up the the ceiling. The Park nearby had a monument towards the back, almost hidden by the now older trees. The white pyramid-like steps led up in the center to a pillar. Names and a dedication, barely legible, told of a war to end all wars, and the local boys that wouldn't be coming home again. I would climb that monument thinking it was magical, touch the white stone, rough and hot in the summer sun. Who were these people who were just names now, I wondered as a child. I was in awe of someone who would sacrifice so much. Bike home over the bridges, daring to stop and look down to the river below. Such a long way it felt, and sometimes there would be a pull in the back of my mind to jump...jump! A little thrill would run up my spine at the thought mixed with incredible fear. I almost drowned once. I was with my mother and her friend Glennis Friebohle at the Emerson pool on a sunny summer afternoon. I wandered away from the wading pool area. I was little, but could see more people were having more fun in the big pool. I wasn't afraid to try it. I tentatively lowered myself over the edge into the pool, intending to hang onto the side. But the pool was very busy that day, many jumps, splashes, and waves. A wave caught me and lifted my body, and I panicked. My hand slipped, and before I knew it, I was floating away from the edge, I couldn't grasp it, and I was sinking...I was scared, but at the same time, as I went below the surface, I kept my eyes open...I was facing up, looking up, seeing the light above me grow smaller as I sank...The next thing I knew, I was laying on warm cement, coughing up water...Glennis was there. She had seen me as I began to sink and dived in and rescued me. Years later, despite still not knowing how to swim, I love water, and remember that day, and how peaceful it seemed. A few moments of panic, then quiet...


I've suffered from urinary tract/system problems all my life. Since early childhood, I've had unusual amounts of bladder and kidney infections. I suffered from bed wetting until I was nearly 12 years old. I can't remember how many times my mother would be awakened by either me timidly calling to her, or hearing me rustling around after waking up in a cold, wet bed. She would either silently, mechanically change the sheets with hardly a word, or (more likely), scold me as she worked for wetting the bed, telling me not to drink before bed, and later saying I could stop if I 'really tried'. I was very confused when she'd say that, because I knew if there was any way, I would stop. No one was more motivated than I was. But I didn't stop. Not for years. In the meantime, I had such severe infections, I was tested, prodded, catheterized, pumped full of dye and x-rayed so many times, that if anyone should be phobic of hospitals and doctors, I should have been. I wasn't, and still am not. I just remember coping with it all, and sometimes learning interesting things from it. I was fascinated with the instruments, how my body reacted. Overall, I met some very caring people. I had interesting experiences! I guess, looking back, I'm rather glad to have went through it all...

In my adult life, things settled down a bit, but I've had my moments...several (but not nearly as often or as severe) urinary tract infections, plus I had to have a kidney stone removed. After that, I had to have a couple of treatments where dye was injected via the urethra; it contained medicine for treatment of a condition I have developed in recent years called interstitial cystitis. These treatments were some of the most painful I've ever had. After the second one, I vowed NEVER AGAIN. I went in search of a second opinion from another urologist. He told me about a new drug called Elmiron. Thankfully, it has worked for me. It helps the body develop a thickened lining in the bladder, which in turns helps prevent inflammation of the urethra (my condition) which can be painful in various ways. It's rather hard to describe to someone that hasn't experienced it, and it varies from person to person in the way the pain manifests itself.


Dreams of Home: Eaves in the Trees

An email to my mother in July 2000, 8 months before my parents' health worsened and they came home to Minnesota from New Mexico, for good:
I just had a dream last night with Dad in it...I was out in the pasture by the barn, Sunny's barn, that is, and looked up into the branches of those trees that were in and around the corral area, and up in the branches, Dad had installed eave troughs to drain rain water from the trees like on a house. They were painted a rusty red, barn color, beautifully painted, as Dad always painted everything...I have NO idea why he put them up there, but I thought, don't they look beautiful? Don't even the trees look beautiful?

When I think of home, I think a lot about the trees. I love the big canopy of trees that surrounded the house, like big arms hugging us. They kept us cool in the summer, provided a 'jungle gym' for the squirrels to run across and hop down from then scamper over the roof, for the birds to build little villages in each with their own nests and families. Walking over tons of acorns in the fall, crunching under my feet, and raking leaves in the fall, working like mad to make the biggest possible pile, just to run like crazy a few times and JUMP in them for all I was worth, laughing madly.. .then the smell of them burning (when you could still burn them!) Drives down the road with Dad with my hands out the window, letting the long grass on the side of the road whip against my hand, stinging but in a strange way feeling good, at the same time feeling the wind rush against my face and drive down my nostrils straight into my lungs.

Or in the back of the nuisance ground trailer, on our way to the nuisance ground, going up the 'new' dike, pausing at the top, looking SO steep and SO far to the bottom where we would dump our stuff, and then going down with a scared but fun feeling in my stomach, jumping off to look around for 'treasures', but usually only finding burdocks. Or begging to be let to go in the '52 Chevy while Dad dragged the road, always fascinated and looking out the back window as the teeth raked the stones back onto the road from the shoulder.. .Well, I could go on and on. These memories have been with me for a very long time, but tend to rush out of my mind at times like these.. .Love you, Mom and Dad.. .Be sure and read this to Dad, Mom.. .I want him to know I think of these things.. .Trish