My stepfather is dying. He’s on his third round of cancer. I can’t believe he even beat it the first two times, which is a testament to his tough, stubborn, ornery character.
I can’t say I’m particularly close to him. I like him enough, but he’s introverted and suffers from depression. He’s a Vietnam veteran, and I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s been through…what type of things have formed his personality and views on life. I can say, without a doubt…he loves my mother. He moved her here around 8 years ago, or so. He knew he wouldn’t last forever, and wanted her to be around her kids so she wouldn’t have to be alone and struggling. He’s lasted longer than he thought he would, so has kind of just been existing here, blending into the scenery.
He fell around 6 weeks ago, and due to the metastatic tumor in his hip, shattered his pelvis. He’s been home on hospice, in a hospital bed, ever since. My mom is exhausted. She’s his 24 hour caregiver, other than the daily hospice aide who bathes him. I try to talk her into hiring help to give her a break, but she’s devoted. All these years of them being married, and I never noticed the love. I see it now, so clearly. Like a veil has been lifted. I think my vision was blurred because of the resentment I’d held on to, regarding me and my mom’s history. We’ve grown so close during these last 6 weeks, and I’m seeing her from a different perspective now. I am finally at peace with her.
This morning, just as I’m pulling in to church, my mom calls asking for my help. My stepfather wanted to get out of bed and she needed help getting him back in, as his hospice aide couldn’t stay. (He requires a hoyer lift). She didn’t want to tell him he couldn’t get up, as he hasn’t been able to tolerate it lately. I was really looking forward to church today. I had a feeling it was going to be a good sermon. Of course, I was happy to turn around and miss it. He’s getting so close, I’m not sure how many more chances he’ll have to sit in the sun with my mom.
I arrive, and he’s sipping coffee and eating cheese. It’s beautiful out, and the warm sun is shining on him as he looks at his garden. I haven’t seen him out of his hospital bed in over a month. I say to him, “Well, well, well. Look at what we’ve got here”, smiling. He calmly states, “What can I say? When you’ve got it, you’ve got it…and I’ve got it”. His voice is nothing but a gravelly whisper, but yeah…he’s still got it. We sit for around 45 minutes…a good 30 minutes longer than he’s ever tolerated being in the chair for, ever since this whole hospice thing started. My mom asks him how he’s doing, sitting up for so long, as her sole purpose in life right now is to make him comfortable. In his classic Vietnam vet style, he mutters, “tough as nails”. We then carried him back to bed.
I didn’t miss today’s sermon, after all…