I generally steer clear of really personal posts on public blogs because I have to live with people, but this one’s coming out before my last nerve fries out. And so no one thinks I’m taking sides or anything, I will talk about all sides equally.
Zombie death. Sooner or later, all our parents are going to croak off if they haven’t already. Since my mom has already passed, I feel perfectly comfortable saying it took some kicking before that bucket finally tipped over. Long time readers may have seen me touch on the weird subject of parent death in a couple of my surveys and picked up that I thankfully had a very touching moment with my mother before she died, but you also might remember that my dad is the sort that wants to be buried on a cardboard box and his last wishes are that 1- we ignore all cries of anguish and suffering once he’s injured himself enough to escalate death in some way (an infected broken leg is a horribly slow and miserable way to go, but he thinks he can will himself to die in 3 days if it comes to that), 2- we never ever allow anyone to take him to a hospital to save his life for any reason whatsoever (so I have to show up to an accident on a highway and scoop him up myself and take him home to die), 3- we never tell anyone he’s sick or suffering so he won’t get visitors running everything while he’s trying to die, and 4 – I personally pull his gold teeth out of his dead head after he passes so no one else can get them because he doesn’t trust the funeral home, and you know grave robbers run rampant nowadays. After a year of arguing, it was finally just easier to say Ok, fine, whatever, yes I’ll do it, and then secretly plan on throwing the biggest wake of the Mennonite century once he’s gone just to spite him. And I’ll tell everyone he’s got gold teeth in his head and collect wagers on who’s bad enough to get in there with a pliers and pull them out before we put him into that cardboard box. He’s actually got plans to build his own coffin, but enthusiasm gave way to laziness this last year. He has the plans drawn up so we can do it for him after he dies, though. Personally, I think we can get him curled up into a big fruit crate if we try hard enough.
My mom thought she was taking the easy way out, just wait for the big strokes to happen with her super high blood sugar and float happily up to God and away from this mess. Except it backfired. Hundreds of mini strokes, several big strokes, a heart attack, a broken hip, right side deficit, complete communication loss, and more than 5 years later, she finally died in her sleep, after going on and off hospice in a nursing home every few months like a yo-yo. I’ve done the meetings with nursing home staff, I’ve done the phone on 24/7 for 5 years thing, I’ve done the this-might-be-the-last-holiday thing for years and the I-can’t-get-off-work-for-her-helicopter-transport-to-ER-on-Christmas thing, and I even did the mother-in-law-texting-football-scores-to-my-husband-during-my-mother’s-service thing, so I’m feeling pretty qualified to say this next bit.
There is no excuse for not having everything ready and arrangements made and your will done up in this day and time. None.
I want to be delicate, so here goes. Utter panic and chaos and 20 people all over 3 counties dropping everything they’re doing to fly through rush hour traffic just before suppertime to meet at a hospital is NOT a plan.
When I’m in my 80’s I’m going to expect death every single day. (I have already lived like that for a few years, actually, thanks to illness, it’s quite inspiring.) I’m going to put clothes on and comb my hair every single day and be ready for a sudden onslaught of strange people bursting into my life. I’m going to have everything I need in my purse and pockets every time I walk to my mailbox, including money and whatever pills I take. I’m going to keep a list of phone numbers and medical history in easy reach at all times to make it really easy for someone else to help me stay alive, if that’s possible. I’m going to have a plan in place in case I can’t talk or communicate, and I’m going to make sure I say all my goodbyes before the very last minute and second of my life. If I’m going to die, I want to do it as gracefully as possible. By the time I hit my 80’s, death is NOT going to be a surprise, and I’m not going to expect any of my grandchildren to leave a restaurant in the middle of birthday dinner after 8 hours of work and sit with a baby in a hospital waiting room. And I feel comfortable saying that after 20 years of loyalty to a family I’m only married into, since I’m the one who seems to do so much of the emergency driving. I’m happy to help in time of crisis, but yeah, I’d love to see a real plan happen.
Our modern society is a smooth oiled machine. People in nice houses can generally count on all kinds of automatic life saving stuff happening after that 9-1-1 call is made. Coming from a family that rarely went to doctors for anything and it’s like pulling teeth (haha) trying to get my dad to take a single tylenol when he’s got gout real bad and can’t stop crying and can’t walk across his own home, and the way I live with the dread of going through with him what I did with Mom, I’m kind of having a hard time with this panicky in-law stuff. I feel like this is where the saying comes from, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. My parents and Scott’s parents are opposites, yet so much the same, consumed with the idea of death and yet in really weird denial. I don’t know if that’s just left over from living around Depression times or what, or if we all eventually get like that maybe, but I feel like I’ve been very patient with old people for a long time, way more than any of them ever had to be with their own parents and in-laws (and not one of them lived next door to their parents or in-laws), and I can only think that if the tables were turned, I’d be getting all kinds of lectures on how to do everything, because that’s what old people are good at, being very bossy about how the world works, or how they think it should work.
My latest bet that I made with Scott a year ago is that his mom will out-live me. Her mother made it to 102, and despite all of her own chaotic panic she’s never suffered cardiovascular ill effects from her type triple A personality. Her matriarchal line is genetically indestructible. It’s occurring to me that in a few years she may be the one babysitting my chaotic near death episodes… I have one gold tooth in my head. I think I’ll tell her she can pull it out after I die. Otherwise it’s up for grabs in the funeral home.