In April of this year, I noticed that my father was suffering from coughing, fever, vomiting, chills, significant weakness. As I might have mentioned before, a little over a year ago he had been diagnosed with cancer…melanoma which had metastasized to his liver, pelvic bone, and lung. He had been receiving chemotherapy and he claimed that it was working. When I told he should see a doctor about his symptoms, he told me he had those symptoms because the chemotherapy was “burning the cancer out”.
One day after I came home from work, my dad told me he discovered what was making him sick. “It was bad Tilapia from Wal-mart”, so he threw out the whole bag. I’m sure I must have had a puzzled look on my face. I could not determine if he really believed that or if he was trying to sell me this absurd story. “Bad Tilapia? It wouldn’t have anything to do with cancer or chemotherapy? Like an allergic reaction to the chemo? Or anything like that?” I asked. He assured me it was the fish. I was left speechless by his ridiculous claim.
I decided to spend more time around my father in case he fell out in the floor, without him knowing what I was actually doing. I was afraid to go to work but went anyway. I didn’t want to leave him home alone. Sometimes I would come home and he would be barefoot…he never walked barefoot. Cabinet doors would be left open, refrigerated food would be left out on the counter, food in the microwave that he never ate. Sometimes he couldn’t remember if he had eaten anything.
Then one evening, I noticed he was struggling to get up to go to the restroom. I watched him and instinctively knew something was about to happen. I watched the hallway opening from the living room waiting for his return from the restroom. Nothing could break my focus. Then I heard him coming down the hallway. It sounded different and then I saw him. His left arm outstretched, his upper torso and head leaning to one side. I rushed to him and he said “get me to the couch” but I knew he wasn’t going to make it. I did help break his fall anyway. He tried to get up from the floor and I pushed him back down. “You are staying right there. I’m calling 9-1-1 and we are going to find out what is wrong with you.”
When he arrived at the hospital, his oxygen level was 40. He ended up spending three weeks there and most of that time he was in ICU. He had pneumonia and an allergic reaction to chemotherapy. After that, he was transferred to rehab where he stayed for 54 days.
I experienced an array of emotions. I felt like I had been thrown off a cliff. I was terrified to be in the house alone. For the first two weeks my dad was in the hospital, I constantly searched the house for what I ended up naming the Phantom Man. I would check closets and under beds over and over again at night. During daylight hours, I spent my time memorizing the number of paces it would take me to get to the closest exit from various points within the house. Conducting drills over and over and timing myself to see how long it would take me to get out. At night when I would lay down to go to sleep, I would keep my eyes fixed on my bedroom doorway waiting for this Phantom Man, but he never came. I listened for him. Nothing. When I closed my eyes, I had terrifying visions of someone standing over me. But when I finally got up the nerve to open them, no one was there. Finally, I decided I would try something when I would close my eyes. When the images came, I will just say “thinking”. Over and over again if necessary. Eventually, it helped and I was able to sleep and after a while I finally stopped looking in closets and under beds too.
As I became more comfortable being alone…in a decent sized house…in a rural area, I found myself wanting my father to stay away. “My brother and sister will not help me”, I thought, “and I can’t take care of him by myself. It will be better if he dies in rehab.” My father decided that he wanted to stay in a long term care facility that was one of the best in the area.
I made arrangements to become POA for my father while he was still in his right mind. This gave me the authority to use his money for his care while he resided in the long term care facility. Once I used it all, the state will pay for his care…after they probed his financial records for the last 5 years. So, I am taking great care to save every receipt so I can show that his money was used for his needs.
But it also meant something else. A person cannot have a lot of assets if they are requesting financial assistance from the state. It is for people who don’t have resources to pay for their own care. This means, when I have used all of his resources, his house and land will have to be sold for fair market value…the house I live in. I cannot buy it because I have $80,000 worth of student loans and $23,000 worth of credit card debt. I am currently in the process of filing bankruptcy for the credit card debt (it can’t file bankruptcy on student loans). Besides, I don’t like long term commitments. I like the freedom of being able to leave whenever I want. And renting as opposed to buying allows me to do that.
I had to find a place to rent. So, I started saving money and began my search for a new place…preferably a one room house where I can see all of the few possesses I own. It proved to be more difficult than I thought possible. I didn’t exactly get what I wanted but I did move into a one bedroom apartment and for the next four weeks I lived there, it would be hell.
That story will be in the next post…