03 November 2005

What World is This? How Did It Get Upside Down?

Never, in all the ways I imagined the passing of my parents -- in all the nightmare scenarios that I would invent for myself when I was fretting over being a sub-standard son, or thinking about my own mortality and, by extension, my parents' -- did I contemplate that possibility that my father would die before my mother.

My mom's had such a hard life, physically. Eight children (from twelve pregnancies) in an era when no one told you it was wise to get back into shape after each pregnancy. And she spent so many years doing physical labor -- working in the kitchens at Carnegie Mellon University's Skibo Hall, or helping the handicapped when she was working with (it was a different, less politically correct time) retarded children, or just plain raising a brood of children as wild and rambunctious as a herd of cattle. She just took a beating, and as a result, has also suffered a lot of physical degradation over the years.

But my dad got a wake up call in 1978 when he was diagnosed with diabetes, and he cleaned up his act with a perseverence that was... well, characteristic. He lost a lot of weight, he started eating healthily, and he started exercising. He was a machine. Up until last week he was walking or biking 15 miles at a stretch.

My father died last night, after suffering from renal failure that proved just too taxing on his 76 year-old body. He fell and tore a rotator cuff while biking last week, and that started a chain reaction of dangerously high blood sugar levels, renal failure, bacterial infection in the blood, and finally, heart failure.

I got the call that he'd been admited to the hospital on Monday night, but somehow managed to not see I had a message until I was getting into the subway Tuesday morning. So I called from work, and of course there was no one home, and I didn't get any more news Wednesday morning. It was then that my sister Sue told me I might want to get home as soon as possible.

But I didn't quite make it.

I'm still numb, of course. I don't seem to be able to focus on anything. Telling you that story seemed to help a little.

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