MY FATHER’S PASSING, PART 1 – THE BEGINNING
I have been circling this writing for more than a year. It was by far the most horrendous event I have been witness to in my personal life. More so then when strange men came into our home when I was a teen with guns, threatened us and caused us to have to live in a car for over a year with an actual contract out on our family. Worse then being evicted from multiple places to live. Worse then not having enough food so that I would get stretch marks that didn’t go away until I was in my 20s from losing weight by the end of of the month. Even worse then horrible nights when there is an alcoholic rampage in the house.
It bothers me enough I still haven’t sat down and cried, instead I am so very angry at so many other people that I haven’t really talked to anyone about this but my husband Wolsey. I have found that trying to unpack it is a large undertaking and to be honest I don’t know if this even covers everything. This is about the circumstances before, during and shortly after my father passed away. I know I will miss details as I go. Hopefully Wolsey will point them out and I can update this post over time.
My father was a very complicated man. He loved his children very much, he had been in trouble with the system for most of his life, and he ended his life in poverty. He had an endless supply of love and acceptance for me and Wolsey. He would support us no matter what. However, his decision making had been damaged due to PTSD, mental health and most impactful was alcoholism.
We tried to help as much as we could, but he was proud, and he also knew we had our own bills so the best we could do was help out with some bills, some food and some extra stuff I knew they would like (below is a video of 60th birthday from March 24th, 2008, he always liked carrot cake).
That video is four years after he was diagnosed as terminal. He had been terminal for close to a decade. The spots on his lungs kept growing, but he kept trudging on. We didn’t realize how bad his health was, he kept it to himself, but even with as bad as it was, he still might have made it a couple more years.
I think about it now though; I think I knew he was closer subconsciously. One day in March the year before he passed I had traveled up to Bellingham by myself, in a rare non-Wolsey trip. For some reason a song came on my iPhone on the way home and I had to pull over and cry, I was worried about my dad and mom’s health out of the blue and I realize now I was already grieving.
He survived much longer than anyone had expected. He had gone back into the pulmonologist that had originally diagnosed him six years before and they all came out to visit. None of the staff thought he would have made it a year, let alone six. My dad just smiled and told them he was immortal, no one could kill him.
There was a saying all my friends and family joked about since I was 18. No mere mortal could kill John Bradley. He was tough, resourceful, and just enough luck that everyone believed he would survive just about any situation. In the past he had taken on multiple cops, Vietcong, members of other outlaw clubs and abusive family members when he was a child. This saying changed as he got sick though. Our saying didn’t change much, but it went to “He has one more good fight in him”, even his last year where he couldn’t walk very far from his chair we said he still had a good thirty seconds in him, and to be honest thirty seconds would still be enough for most circumstances.
I tell you all of this to give you some background on him. In the future, I will probably have a lot of amazing (and some terrible) stories about him.
It started in January of 2016. His health was fairly poor, and like usual he went in and out of the hospital as his lungs were getting worse. He had gotten out and was recovering. We had been up there a lot to look over him and my mom. Things seemed to be getting out of the weeds and back to normal.
It was then that we started preparing for the hubby’s top surgery. He was ready to go, and the night before my dad received news that an old friend of his Joe had passed away and this was a huge blow to my dad.
Most of my dad’s friends were gone. They were hard living outlaw motorcycle club members and he was on the other side of sixty. This meant those that didn’t go to prison and die there already were all in bad shape. Joe was the third to last friend my dad had (Jimbo and Dennis were his last friends). This is out of literally dozens of hardened men I grew up with and called family. It set my dad into a tailspin of depression.
I should have picked it up earlier. He had mentioned to me once in passing that lately he was missing my grandmother. She had passed away 30 years ago and I now realize he was probably feeling depression, lost and just not in a good headspace. It didn’t help that he was bipolar, and had severe depression/mania episodes.
He called me one night, and I could hear the exhaustion and depression in his voice that night. I talked with him, reassured him and reminded him that the hubby and I would be up the next weekend. He perked up a bit and was excited about the surgery and the results. I hung up thinking everything would be fine. Things weren’t fine, and wouldn’t be fine for the next year.
The next day Wolsey went into surgery and while it was a successful surgery it was inundated with a lot of complications. No one had told us how bad he would leak from liposuction portion of the surgery would suck. The actual mastectomy went well, healed quickly, etc. The doctor’s office messed up though, they sent him home long before they should have and it left me by myself to take care of him. He couldn’t move well; he couldn’t clean up after his wounds and he was just hurting too much.
At no point in time did I begrudge that. I am here for him, just like he was here for me for everything. It didn’t bother me to have to put in that effort of getting up every 20 minutes, help him to the bathroom, while he was in there clean up the bed, change bedding and then put him back to bed and give him more pain pills. He is my life, and it was the least I could give to him.
It was also at this time I got a call from my mom. My dad had gone back to the ER and his O2 wouldn’t stop falling. They had him on positive air and he could talk. They were discussing options about how to handle it.
Something snapped in him, or maybe it’s better to say a decision was made by him. He took the positive air off his face, got up and while the doctors were talking he went downstairs and had a cigarette. When he came back up, they told him he couldn’t do that anymore and that he would have to use the positive air for a large part of his life, or at least until they could get the O2 under control. I was told he just shrugged and told them to fuck off. He was done.
He checked himself out of the hospital, meanwhile they were telling him he would die. He wasn’t going to let himself loose anymore of his freedom. I also think he had hit a depressive point again, his closest friends had passed, they weren’t ever going to make it back down to Lake Tahoe, or pretty much anywhere out of their apartment except for when I could take them places.
He decided to do this on his terms and he took their info for hospice and went home and determined that is where he would pass. My mom told me this over the phone and in my head, I was freaking out. My dad was dying, probably wouldn’t be longer than a week or so and I couldn’t leave that night at all since Wolsey couldn’t take care of himself.
The worst part is Wolsey couldn’t take care of himself at all for the next few days. It was unlikely he could get up to Bellingham before my father passed. Meanwhile I knew I would have to drive up there daily (a 250+ mile roundtrip) that I would have to fit around being home to take care of Wolsey. I couldn’t imagine it ever being worse.
I was wrong, a thousand times wrong once the hospice situation happened. However, that part of the story is still coming up and I think I have mulled about it enough for today.