Friday, November 11, 2011

The Afterwards

Since I wasn't sleeping well Thursday morning, when I saw the clock read just after midnight, I decided to get up and check on Daddy. I was so sure he was likely to die during the night that I wanted to know whether it was going to be Wednesday or Thursday. He was still breathing. He'd reached his 97 1/2 birthday.

Not that he was going to appreciate it, like last year when we celebrated the 96 1/2 birthday with steak and cupcakes.

I woke for good just before 6:00, my usual for a work day. He lay awfully still, but I wasn't going to fully turn on the lights and verify my suspicions for a few minutes. I had a routine to go through, and I've learned from the last couple years that if I don't go through it a,b,c,d I'm likely to forget b. Never a, since that's the relief stop at the bathroom, but b might get skipped, and then where would I be? Once my pills were taken, the dogs let out, let in again and treated with their Milkbones, coffee made, apples prepared and put in the fridge to cool and all those other things done that I usually do before tending him, I was ready to deal with whatever I'd find.

Elvis, as they say, had left the building. Daddy was no longer breathing, cold, and his arm was stiff when I tried to lift it. OK: time to implement Special List A. This is my mental list of procedures to go through once he was gone. First, turn off the oxygen concentrator. Save on the electric bill. Appreciate the first silence in the house in over a year, since he's been on it 24/7. Second, call "My" Steve, letting my own personal support network be the first to know. Third, call the head of his care team, aka the sainted Randy. Since it was only 6:20, I left a message on her cell phone, giving her the details and asking whom do I notify to make it official. (I also thanked her and the team for their wonderful service.)

Then I turned on the morning news to catch the weather report while I had coffee and waited. Strangely, I remember almost nothing of what I saw, most especially what the forecast was. The snow I saw later was a complete surprise. The bits and pieces that later filtered through were at best confusing. Something about rioting at Penn State, over a coach firing and not the molestation scandal that preceded it - can that possibly be right? And Perry tripping over himself at yet another GOP primary debate. He wants to eliminate Commerce, Education, and... and... oh yeah, Energy. Just perfect! Kill the agency than can protect consumers so those poor corporations can do whatever they want to whomever they want, stop educating us so we won't be informed citizens and more likely to notice what they're getting away with, and... and... oh yeah, stop finding ways to give us clean energy and put the brakes on global warming so there are still things like, say, a viable food supply. Stop what can help deal with the most important long range problem on the planet. Sounds just like another Texas oilman.

Randy called back promptly: call the sheriff on the non-emergency line and inform them there had been a death in the home during the night. When I did, the dispatcher and I discussed whether the First Responders needed to be sent out as procedure dictated. I told her that he'd been dead for hours (doesn't matter) and that the last time they had been out they'd gotten a copy of his DNR orders. It sounded like she found a record of them, once she verified his middle name. She wound up, I found out minutes later, sending a single deputy, followed shortly by the coroner.

While I'd waited for someone to arrive, I woke Richard, informed him that the house would soon be filling with people and why, and that I needed him so I could go take my shower. (I was scheduled for my allergy shots that morning, and wasn't going to miss them. I had, however, called work and informed them I'd not be in.) Rich has his morning routine also, which includes dressing warmly enough to step outside onto the screen porch for him morning cigarette. Just after he stepped out, the deputy arrived, and verified the situation. While waiting for (a) Richard, and (b) the coroner, I chatted with him about some of my dad's WWII history, and about the mounted Walleye on the wall (Steve's - fiance, not brother). I hadn't thought he was quite that young, but every so often he'd react to what I was saying with "Awesome!"

By the time I was showered and dressed, the coroner had arrived, and Rich had moved my car out of the driveway so I wouldn't be blocked in. I answered a few basic questions, like the last time I knew he was alive, and the long list of what was wrong with his health. I referred him to Randy if he had any other questions about his health or care. I was informed that he'd be sending the funeral home a death certificate and instructions to pick up the body, and he was given their information. He stated he'd be taking away Daddy's medications, which relieved me of the job of finding a safe and proper disposal for them. I headed out the house as he was starting his examination of the body.

I still haven't remembered to ask Richard what he determined.

While on the road, I called my brother. I'd been keeping in close touch with him these last few days, and he figured why I was calling that early before he answered the phone. I told him I'd keep him posted as the day went by, and during one of several phone calls that day we temporarily settled on next weekend for the funeral. My Aunt Nina's in that Saturday, and I thought we could catch some of that side of the family in town the same weekend, as well as let Steve's family come down on just one trip. Steve agreed to make that call, since we knew the family would gather for her burial this weekend out near Wilmar. Burial first, then service. Interesting choice, but it depends on the family situation and who's out of town/the country and when.

I also called Steph, and she offered to inform Jordan, my granddaughter, her niece, and for them to be her transportation for the funeral. Paul got voicemail on his cell, since you can't reach him at work. His cell is off and in his coat, but he's reliable about checking it once he leaves work. I wasn't sure whether, leaving earlier than I do, he'd just done everything quietly and in the dark and just hadn't noticed that his grandfather wasn't just sleeping, or he had noticed and decided to let me sleep. (It was the former.)

Then, finally, minutes to stop doing and just start feeling. When I had thought about it, I figured that I'd feel an immense relief that Daddy was finally gone, all that extra work and scheduling and arranging finally done with, getting my space back for my stuff and room for Steve's as he moves in. None of that had happened yet. What's there instead is the tremendous sadness that he's gone, that his final weeks were so difficult. Somehow, with all the long dying process, I hadn't expected that much sadness.

Arriving back in town from my shots, I saw the hearse turning the corner of our street heading toward me. Rolling down my window, I flagged them, confirmed that they had the body, and they'd left paperwork and a phone number to arrange my coming in to deal with the details.

Details, details, details. First I called the funeral home and got a 1:30 appointment. I confirmed cremation, gave them his social security number, DOB, Mom's name so they could get his information from her file, etc.

Then tackle the stack of paperwork on the table. I knew the funeral parlor would notify Social Security, and they in turn would notify Medicare. He also had Blue Cross ( "Medigap"), so I dug out a phone number and called them to cancel his insurance. No, I don't have his account number. I got forwarded quickly to a person.

Apria furnished his oxygen equipment, so they were called. They'd be out Monday, likely in the afternoon, since we're so far away. We varified the list of what would be returned: concentrator, 2 portable tanks with a carry bag and their filler, large tank on a stand. I took a few minutes and picked up all the used tubing around the house, coiled it up into small rolls, and put it in the trash. It's not reusable. Then Anodyne, who supplied the wheelchair, a cushion for it that we never opened, and his hospital bed. It takes Medicare 13 months to pay enough rental on that for it to be paid for and become property of the user. He'd only had them 12 and 11 months, so they'd be picked up Monday around 10:00. Something else we didn't have to worry about getting rid of.

He had a pension of $18.39 a month from a job he held before WWII. It was supposed to be wonderful, back in the day when it was earned. Now it was just a blip in his financial picture. But they had to be contacted. Our problem was years ago when he changed bank accounts that nobody had any information on who it came from or how to contact them. Not even the bank could trace back to its source for us. It eventually got straightened out, and I now recognized the letterhead when the annual mailing arrived and kept it for future need. They were the first, and so far only, contact that informed me they'd need a death certificate, although it could be faxed or scanned and emailed to them.

I still had time to kill, and Rich was back sleeping, since I'd awakened him so early. There were things to clear out of the bathroom. The remaining single use catheters could go back to the store which provided them: I'd checked on one of my visits. There was a full box and a half, and while that box was opened, the contents were individually sealed. Add it to the list of errands while I was down in the cities for funeral arrangements. Some stuff went in the trash, some in the bathroom linen closet, some in the stack to donate to Randy's team. They had brought bunches of stuff over for him, and we could sent the remainder back as well as other things that other clients on tight budgets could use. His raised toilet seat could finally!!! be gotten rid of instead of kicking around the bathroom as we either put it on the toilet for his use or took it off for ours. The plastic parts were trash and the aluminum recyclable. His bed was stripped and those and other linens stacked for laundering, folding and storing. I'd need more storage containers, something to put on the shopping list - just not this day. His clothing and other personal items needed to get sorted and donated too, again just not today.

One errand definitely for today was his walker. I cut the strings holding his bag on it, emptied that out, tossed most of the contents. The walker got folded and put in the back of the car alongside the catheter boxes. Mom had gotten one on "six month loan" from Goodwill years ago. It was way past time to return it. Since I was the one who'd picked it up originally as she by then had difficulty driving to places she didn't know, I knew all the details.

I also grabbed a bag of nuts to take on the trip, along with my ice water jug. I'd need to eat and didn't feel like fixing anything or trying to maintain my diabetic diet at fast food joints on this day. These had been prepackaged weeks ago for brown bagging during a phase when I wanted something different than cottage cheese and apples. Apples, apples, apples! Easy to get sick of them when there's an abundance of "free" fruit. I also got Mom's urn down, and took their 60th anniversary picture from its frame so there'd be a picture to go with the obituary.

Oh yeah, add "his" checkbook to the stack. There would be bills to pay. Since I've been managing his finances since Mom died, and my name is on the account, no problems with needing to close it out or being unable to write checks. First, however, I sat and balanced it (roughly) through current checks, adding in estimates of outstanding bills, so I would know whether there would be enough in it to pay for the funeral. The good news was there should be, as long as this one cost something similar to Mom's. And a couple grand plus besides.

Finally time to wake Rich, bring him up to speed, and head out.

I was, of course, on the cell phone most of the time while driving. There were calls to make, people to update, incoming calls. (By Friday evening I got suspicious when my new cell battery ran out, and checked my usage. Oops, ran over my 1500 minutes for the month with a week left to go. Haven't done that for ages, not since... well, Mom's death, actually.)

The funeral parlor visit took over an hour and a half. There were calls to some central location out of state (I was told where, spaced it) to arrange his burial at Fort Snelling. In the process I learned that they are not open weekends, but would be open this Saturday since Friday is Veterans Day when they close, and they are legally prohibited from being closed three days in a row. You can't keep some bodies out of the ground that long. They also close at 2:30 each day, and with burials being strictly limited to 15 minutes each, you have to schedule by 2:15, or 2:00 if you want full military honors. We did. We would be adding Mom's urn at the same time, so they needed information on her as well, including her death certificate.

They found us a time slot of 12:45 on Friday the 18th. If we started the service at 10:00 that morning, asked the minister to keep it short, held the luncheon immediately after, say 11:00, and were lined up in our flagged vehicles promptly at noon, we should make the drive in 45 minutes and be in aisle 5 right on the dot. Late? Tough. It's November, so dress warm.

I had to sign papers affirming that he had implants, such as a pacemaker. It seems they might explode during cremation. Not a good thing. There were also clauses I needed to initial acknowledging that his body would be irreparably damaged during the process, that they couldn't guarantee every single speck of his ashes got included, and we'd likely get some specks from others, etc.. Duh!

The obituary had to be written, placed in three papers, and paid for that day. They took a check and gave the papers the routing number. There was a later call to my voicemail giving me the final price of each. At the end, I wrote a check for the final costs of the funeral, minus luncheon. The checkbook will have to come back next Friday.

There were the funeral folders to select, both picture and verse. The picture I chose was of a deer standing in the green woods. He loved hunting. The verse you'll have to read for yourself, if you attend. It talks about finding him now in the trees, the wind, the rain, but not in the old body. It says it much better than that, of course. There were a whole lot of schmaltzy or overwhelmingly religious choices, but I went for this one. Since he spent so much time in the outdoors, it seemed to fit.

There was also music, flowers (same bouquets as for Mom, only $8 more now), food (chicken stroganoff and two salads, brownies and cookies, coffee and punch). I need to bring one piece of music on CD, and we are encouraged to bring pictures. An easel will be provided. Irritatingly, there were repeated spelling corrections that needed to be made to his name. Over the phone she'd taken down "Dufty", kept missing the f for an s. That wasn't the mistake. The bar on the "t" was so short after finally putting the "f" on there that the "t" kept being read as an "l". Dufly. Nope, doesn't fly.

When I finally left well after 3:00, it was time to drive! First stop was Goodwill, since they closed earliest, at 4:00. That was in the Midway area, dodging the Central Corridor Light Rail construction on University that closed off the connection to Fairview. Work took me there last week, so I knew how to go. Made it with 4 minutes to spare. Then up to Fridley to the medical supply place near Unity Hospital. Made that. Finally a personal errand: I'd located a JoAnn store in Maple Grove the other day, after thinking they'd closed for good. I wanted to hit them for wedding trims, and wound up with headpiece fripperies, notably the feathers I had been looking for.

On the way home I hit a KFC for hot wings. One near work has a Thursday special on them, and 10 wings fit in to my carb limits. By the time I arrived home, I decided top put off the duty of calling relatives for another day. After all, we had a week to the funeral, and three days until the obit came out. I could veg out in front of the TV and get ready to go to work the next day. I must have been more tired than I realized, since I fell asleep in front of the TV by 9:30.

I made up for it by waking an hour early and starting this post. Even then I was on the road 45 minutes earlier than I have been since Daddy moved in. Maybe the relief part is starting after all.

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