Monday, October 31, 2016

Losing Dad

February 2014, Arkansas.
We all knew my dad was going to die, we just didn't know it would be so soon.

My dad's been going through an immunotherapy trial in Nashville for the past 4 months. Each time he has a treatment, he gets a bit loopy, gets diagnosed with a urinary tract infection, takes antibiotics, it clears up and he regains his lucidity.

So when my stepmom called me on Wednesday to tell me she was taking Dad to the hospital and that he was out of his mind, we all thought this would be routine. Get the infection cleared up, send him home, and continue on the journey to a cure.

Instead, she was informed that the tumors had grown significantly in the past several weeks and were impeding his kidney function. There were no more treatment options; he had been out of options for some time. My stepmom was told that he had 3 days to 3 weeks to live. They recommended hospice care for him, to keep him comfortable until he died.

Kristi and I caught a 7 a.m. flight on Friday, October 28th. I had toyed with the idea of traveling on Saturday, but decided to go earlier since my youngest wanted me back home in time for Halloween.

She and I arrived at the hospital at 1:30 p.m. Dad was in a drug-induced sleep the entire afternoon, his chest automatically expanding with his breath, mechanical in its steady rhythm. He was snoring loudly with his mouth wide open, unable to squeeze his hand in yours, open his eyes or respond. He slept with one foot hanging off the bed, a familiar position that I remember from his healthier days. Kristi and Jessie re-positioned him, but throughout the afternoon his left foot kept drifting toward the edge of the bed, even though we never saw him move.

Kristi and I left the room at 5 p.m. to meet with the hospice nurse and set up the hospice care. We asked to see a chaplain, and spent the last 10 minutes of our time in prayer with the chaplain, praying for peace for dad. When we returned to the room, he was gone. The nurse told us she'd just been in just minutes before and he had been breathing the same as previously, so he must've passed in the past 10 minutes while we were praying.

So much for those 3 days.
December 2013 in Valparaiso.
I believe he timed it that way -- he did not want his loved ones to be there to hear his last rattling breath. But he knew his two daughters, the last two family members who hasn't seen him that week, had been there and had said our good-byes.
The Florias attack a model of Chicago.
I am so grateful that we had so many good times together of late. I had just been down over Labor Day weekend to visit, he had come to Minnesota the previous October, and Kristi had many more trips than I, creating many memories with him and with our southern relatives.

Kristi and I are in Arkansas now, helping my stepmom organize her life. We are erasing every sign of his illness in the house -- the adult diapers are being disposed of, medications being purged, hospital bed returned to the agency it was rented from, medical agencies phone numbers erased from the home phone. We are re-instituting the good memories that those items had pushed aside --  photos and the cherished items of his that had been shoved in closets to make way for medical supplies.

In some ways I lost Dad a long time ago; I haven't been able to call to talk books with him in a year. He hasn't been able to give me advice on work-related topics for longer than that. His cancer treatment was all-consuming; it was the only topic he would discuss at any length.

Yet now, he was truly gone. He will not be coming back to us.

It's a lot to process.

I'm sure I'll be writing more on my dad. He was a wonderful storyteller, I can continue on those stories to keep his memory alive.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nine Grams

Marissa joined me in grocery shopping the other day. At this age, shopping with one of the girls is fun. We get silly, we look at foods we have no idea what they are, and we laugh.

I nearly bought this cereal, even though I knew no one would eat it, just because Marissa and I had a good laugh over it.

Marissa will pretends or actually sneak food into the cart that she knows I don't allow in the house, then run-walk down the aisle with the cart so I can't see what she put in it.

This sneaking of food into the cart tends to happen most in the cereal aisle. I thought back to when Lindsey and I did our sugar-free challenge and how difficult it was to find cereals with no sugar in them. I picked a random number and told Marissa she couldn't buy a cereal that had more than 9 grams of sugar. In the meantime, I was also scanning for a new gluten-free cereal for Lindsey to try.

I had no idea how challenging this would be.

Marissa brought me the "Dory" cereal which had 11 grams of sugar per serving, only two grams more than my limit. Surely only 2 games doesn't make a difference, right? She held her hand over the corner with the picture of the cereal while she asked for it, so of course I said she couldn't have it. The picture was of a cereal with marshmallows in it -- really, only 11 grams? I'd been reading ingredients lists of 17 grams, 23 grams and more. If that's 11 grams, how sweet and sugary are those other ones?

I decided to start looking at the "healthy" cereals vs the ones that I would assume would be more sugary.

First I checked out the Chex cereal choices. I looked at the GF "fruit and oats" variety, then happened to see the chocolate Chex next to it.

Guess which one had more sugar? Yep, the Fruit & Oats one.

She asked for the S'Mores cereal. Lucky Charms (which makes both girls crazy). Choc-O something-or-other. No. No. Nope.

Finally we got tired of studying cereals and saying "no" and went for a long-standing favorite in our house, Cracklin' Oat Bran.

It wasn't until we brought it home that I saw what the sugar content was -- 17 grams per serving. Guess we're crossing that one off our list, too.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Our Blessed Dog

Getting her Beauty rest after a run.
You may know that our rescue dog, Beauty, is a runner.

She will run for 10 miles in the morning, snooze for the day, then is ready for more play and racing around by dinner time.

She's well trained to stay in our yard...unless she sees a squirrel. Or a dog. Which is why when we leave her out for a while we put her on a tie-out in our front yard.

Saturday was no exception -- she was going crazy inside watching all the squirrels through the windows, I figured I'd give her a first row seat by putting her on the tie-out so she could observe more closely.

About 10 minutes later Wayne says to me, "Where's Beauty?"

"On the tie-out," I say.

"No she's not."

"Yes she is. I put her there myself."

I go out front to look, and the leash that she had been attached to is lying in a pile. No Beauty. We investigate it. It's not broken, and it almost looks like someone coiled it and laid it on the lawn.

Outside of the concern that someone may have nabbed her, her disappearing act is a familiar routine. I grab shoes, the leash and a dog treat, and Wayne heads to the car to search the neighborhood, both of us with cell phones.

I post on NextDoor, a social media site for neighborhoods, and Facebook. I get lots of sympathy but no leads.

Since it's like searching for a needle in the haystack by walking the neighborhood, we both eventually return home empty-handed. I post a better description of her on NextDoor with photos, and wait to hear.

Finally, someone posts that they found a brown pitbull, please call their number. I leapt to call, and discovered that they indeed had our dog.

Here's the best part.

Beauty had pulled on the leash so hard she had snapped the metal ring that held the leash to her collar. When it snapped her identifying tags also flew off -- we found them later scattered in the lawn.  It explains why the leash was in a neat pile, it was from the recoil.

 Beauty's broken collar.

She chased said squirrels for a while, and then got distracted by a dog going in to the Lutheran church just a block away. Turns out that the Lutheran church was having a blessing of the animals that day. The people brought her into the church to see if it was someone else's loose dog. They figured she was a stray, but she was so sweet and nice to the other dogs that they had her join the service. After all, that's what this service was all about, right? Don't just bless the dogs who have loving homes, but the strays, the unwanted by society. (Or so they may have thought.)

She got to visit with other dogs, get treats, and get a little holy water sprinkled on her head. We were worried she was in danger of being hit by a car, and she was safe inside, getting pampered.

Beauty was blessed. Literally.

After the ceremony they posted on NextDoor about finding the pitbull, then walked her down to our house for a joyful reunion.

Guess this means we should start going to church.