A Man of Illness

December 3, 2010
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For as long as I knew him, he was a sick man. He was diagnosed with diabetes, had heart bypass surgery, a ruptured aneurism, along with the common burden in the south known as high cholesterol. The one time I actually understood the severity of his illnesses, were his last battles with two subdural brain hematomas.

My Papa had always been able to fall asleep very easily; he would fall asleep in the middle of saying sentences to me. He loved having company at his house, but with newly divorced parents who both longed for time with their disappearing children, and the various extra-curricular activities that the typical American was overwhelmed with, there was simply little time to spend with him. He began to fall asleep more easily and he fell frequently. One day, he fell and hit his head hard on a table. He was rushed to the hospital and they discovered his first subdural brain hematoma. He had brain surgery, and to the family’s relief, it went well. For an entire day, he had a tube draining excess fluids from inside his brain.

The day I visited him in the hospital, I could tell he knew it was the end. He told me and my younger brother how proud he was of us and how much he loved us. I kissed his broken and mended head goodbye, not knowing if I would be so fortunate to see him once more. He was fine though, and he came home a couple of weeks after. He complained about the pain, the confusion, and life in general. He was ready for the end.

While he was well again, he was not able to hardly move. To get out of the house that seemed to keep him stranded from the outside world, I took him on car rides. The long car rides were painful, but I was thankful for them. I knew his days were numbered, so the thoughts running through my head consisted of questions I would yearn to know after he was gone. My mind, to my despair, was empty. He desperately longed for company and attention, but once again, with a newly divorced family, a part time job, volleyball, and school, free time was scarce. He felt the burden he placed on his wife, family, and friends as he became physically incapable of what he once could do, which but him further into his state of depression. He dreamed of the day he could fall asleep and come to find peace at mind and would never awake. He would finally be out of his pain and misery. To his relief, this day was approaching quickly.

We got the call. He had fallen, yet again, this time to be found in the driveway by the neighbor. Once again, the ambulance rushed him to the hospital. We then discovered his second subdural hematoma. The excess blood in his head was causing him to be unbalanced, which was causing the falls. I thought nothing of it, since it had already happened and turned out fine. The surgery went well, and we began looking for a hospice to put him into. It was beginning to be too difficult of a task for anyone to care for him.

As time went on, more and more tests were performed, it came time for a CT scan. He had difficulty remaining still and he was put to sleep. He never woke up from this sleep. He made various movements, had a pulse and heartbeat, and was very much alive. He remained in the hospital for what seemed like months in this deep sleep. The last time, I would ever see him, I entered the ICU and saw him lying there in his bed. He lay there in pain; he moaned and grunted. The nurse adjusted one of his many tubes and the moans got louder and it pained me to listen. We tried talking to him but the only words I could get out were “Hey Papa”. My grandmother tried desperately to get him to wake up, shaking him and talking loudly. He did open his eyes once for a split second. You could see the happiness pour over my heartbroken grandmother’s face who had lost her little brother just weeks before. Yet he quickly closed his eyes once again and they remained shut. Reality came back to us and we left the hospital after awhile.

I never saw him again. The next thing I knew, I awoke to the long talk from my father, informing me my Papa had passed away and how to deal with this pain. It never became a reality until the funeral. My brother and I spoke, telling our memories of Papa, trying our best to hold back the tears. It was the most emotional part of the funeral.

If anything, the biggest change in life afte4r the passing of my Papa, it was my relationship with my grandma. We spent lots of time together. In my lifetime, I only saw her once cry. She never minded caring for him, and without him she was lonely and felt as though she was no longer needed in this world. Love from our family and friends was the only way to chase the pain away. His passing definitely brought our family together. No Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner would be the same without my Papa there to say the blessing and provide his humor to the political disagreements that had immediately sent me and my brother to boredom. I find peace with myself knowing that I have no regrets in anything that happened before he passed on, and knowing how proud and pleased he is with me for all of my decisions and individuality.

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