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It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt


Seems like a long week which started with snow, freezing rain, a leaking roof in two places, more snow, four family birthday celebrations (one in absentia), a Caregivers' Support Group meeting before the holidays that ran late, causing my husband to worry needlessly. (I will address the behavior that one caregiver expressed extreme frustration about in a different writeup, and was exactly what I had been going through the last two weeks, called "Shadowing.")


We were already down one car, getting much needed repairs before winter, when our newest car wouldn't start. So I had to go places in my leaky, drafty 1990 Miata; our one son took Dad to an emergency root canal, the first dentist knowing he has Alzheimer's disease, the second did not. Note to self and sons: in the future, text me when things go awry. The other son took Dad to get rock salt, Pepsi, and postage stamps. Mission accomplished, but much confusion as my husband bought rock salt at the hardware store, then not even 10 minutes later, he was trying to get it at the grocery store, but couldn't remember what "the stuff" was called. Son to the rescue, "Dad, we're here to buy Pepsi."


The plumber came at some point to give an estimate; that was an hour of absurdity as he told me what he couldn't/didn't do and what I or my sons could do to save money. Honestly. I've known this guy forever, was friends with his ex-wife and kept calling him her name. To add to the mix, we both took a break from the same Methodist church for similar reasons and apparently he needed to talk about it, at length. On top of that, my son and his daughter met in preschool, dated briefly, and have remained good friends since then. Her father likes my son and thinks they should date or get married which I decided not to comment on. I called my son-in-law and asked his advice regarding the plumbing and the furnace which was very helpful. (The basic problem was my husband kept turning the furnace and/or the water heater off, thinking he was "fixing it.")


Firewood was delivered and briefly all was right in my little world until Thursday night, when the left side of my face began aching at my middle grandson's birthday dinner where I was just hoping my husband wouldn't pick a fight with my daughter's father. My husband and I had one brief moment watching the youngest of the clan talking to the fish, in the large tank where we had donated my husband's last remaining catfish, who arrived "slighted smashed by gravel and rocks, but is now totally happy," according to a text from my daughter. My husband stayed near my son-in-law's father and God-only-knows-what they talked about, but they both seemed quite happy.


Friday, I called my Russian dentist and they took me immediately. Problem solved, no charge. Hallelujah! The last time I was there, the dentist had told me about his wife having a sprained ankle too, and that he dragged her down the hall to a chiropractor who used this "blue light therapy". One session and she was pain-free. He told me to ask her and I think it was the first time I've ever seen the woman smile. (My daughter's father was a chiropractor and the way he does it, way too New Age for me, thanksverymuch.) However, my ankle pain has spread upwards, so I found myself making an appointment for Monday. They take my insurance and the receptionist was very sympathetic, "Well, we can't have you feeling bad for the holidays; I'm putting you in for a full hour."


After a few more episodes with my husband getting confused and agitated, followed by a phone call from one of his daughters giving me grief, I somewhat half-played Counter-Strike with my younger son using a different computer (oh, yes, his hard drive died finally this week), so his aim wasn't as accurate and I was on the mic, which totally threw off both teams, as females seldom play violent FPSs. We had some good laughs and I got to be on the fringe of something he enjoys. (During tournaments, his team plays seriously and for charity.)


So, I needed to be alone, a glass of wine and to relax, watching a series called reel13, which shows a classic feature film without interruption, brief comments by learned film historians/lovers, then an independent film, which is what I caught last night, then a short, chosen by viewers. Saturday night is all right when spent this way. The film I watched starred Anthony Hopkins, in a biographical role, about an elderly man from New Zealand who has a heart condition but has waited twenty years to fulfill his dreams of racing the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, during Speed Week. At some point in the movie, he recites part of Theodore Roosevelt's quote. The World's Fastest Indian, 2005, priceless... and I'd watch it again in a heartbeat.

I wrote Frail in September 2010. I had a day where I kept thinking that I should call to invite my father sailing and kept not getting around to it. I finally sat down and thought, "What am I doing?" It was hard to think about it. I realized that I was avoiding calling him because he had missed chorus two days before. He was getting frailer and frailer from emphysema. He wouldn't wear his oxygen enough. He was stubborn and living alone. If I called and he didn't answer, I would either drive out and see if he was alive, or worry while I sailed.

I decided not to call until after we sailed.

I've driven the 17 miles to his house a few times over the last five years to make sure he was all right. When we lost grundoon I thought we would lose him within a year. People with emphysema shrink but become lighter, as if they were trying to turn into birds. They lose muscle mass so that the lungs and heart will have less work. They move cautiously and not very much.

At the end of May he called complaining that his phone was cut off. I tried to fix it but since I wasn't him, the phone company was unsympathetic. I offered my house and to call with his presence. He refused and called me back after going to a pay phone, successful. Two days later I called and left a message on Sunday, that my daughter was going to perform playing her viola. He usually would call back that day or the next.

He didn't call. I ignored it on Tuesday, but by Wednesday, June 6, I was worried. I called three times in the morning and then drove out.

No one answered my knock. The cars were there. I couldn't see a body, just oxygen tubing going in to the bathroom. I couldn't find the hidden key. I carried a plastic lawn chair around and peered into windows. I debated calling the police. I checked once more and found the key. I went in. He was on the bathroom floor, quite dead, cold and with livid blood on the side down. "Oh, papa." I said and cried. I thought that I mustn't touch anything.

I called 911. I said, "I've found my father dead. It's not a siren call. I need the sheriff but he is cold."

"Do you want instructions to start CPR?" said the dispatcher.

I had a moment of quite illogical panic. I had not started CPR. What sort of daughter was I? The medical part of my brain kicked back in. "No, no. I'm a family doctor. He has been dead for more than a day. CPR would not help."

Even so, I was glad when the police arrived. Then the sheriff, then the undertaker. They all assured me there was no sign of a struggle and that he had died instantly. They said about 4 days. I suppose if I had been in the next room when he went down I could have done CPR but it would have been to no avail. They were all very kind when my first response had been, oh, I mustn't touch anything, what if they need to do an investigation? But they just wanted his medical history and to know if it was expected. "Yes," I said, thinking of Frail.

It's not surprising and not me seeing the future. My father was a bit of a hermit and had very few visitors. His cleaning people had come by but they didn't have a key. It would always be most likely that I would find him. It was terribly comforting to be told that he hadn't lain there in pain.

And at least he had someone who came to look for him. I hope that everyone does.

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