Monday, October 19, 2015

Countdown to His Death - The Day

Today is October 19, 2015.  Louis Francis Martin died at Samaritan Hospital at 6:45 PM October 19, 1979.  I was not present.  My mother, brother and his wife, and my sister were by the side of the bed when Louis, the emaciated, toothless, babbling version, with his arms reaching out in the air above him, like he was trying to get the waitress's attention. Breathing slowed to a pace that allowed his soul to move. And then it did.

I was home, sitting in my room.  I had gone the day before, October 18 on a solo visit.  What I remember from that visit was taking one of Lou's cold hands in mine, and asked him if he knew me. He nodded. And then he said something I didn't get, and that was all.I kissed his forehead and walked out of the room.  The next time I saw him was in the casket at the funeral home.

But there were years in between to review.  Like 1977.  All I can remember about that year was that Jimmy Carter was inaugurated President and then the next day he began his downhill slide to doom, Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a World Series game,and  my mother still worked in Latham.  I ended my junior year at Siena, and, after not going to Cape Cod ever again, began my senior year.  I had college friends by now and was able to go on dates and have fun, which had been rare.  Girls, okay just a few, thought I was funny and kinda cute.  This was a revelation.  But then I'd go home, and the situation would be the same.  We tiptoed around it, and except for the occasional blow up, all would be serene.  I'd play some baseball and hang out with a friend whose father was also ill. My friend and I agreed that we would inherit our father's diseases and still visit each other in our wheelchairs.  He's in his already.  Not my turn yet.

1978. The Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the playoff game at Fenway. I graduated from Siena and did not have a graduation party (maybe by my request, maybe).  I  have one picture of my parents standing in front of Siena Hall.  They are about three feet from each other and have all the emotion of the Royal Guardsman at Buckingham Palace.  I had a few pictures of me with friends, and went to dinner with a friend.  Lou stopped me on the way to meet my friend told me "I know we don't talk much, but I am proud of you." And I walked away, mumbling something about "too late now."

I was a 21 year old asshole.  And I would pay for that, as I should have.

From June 1978 until Lou was hospitalized for the last time, I was his full time caretaker.  Christmas 1978 brought a surprise snow storm and we were hitting the shovel and the snowblower for a while,  Lou was back in his element of supervising a crisis, but it did not stop me from slamming Lou with a fluff of snow.  Instead of a snowball returned toward me, I was given a look that would chilled my blood if I wasn't already freezing. We moved the snow away and went back in the warm house.  The idea was for us to go to my brother's home for Holiday dinner.  Lou by this time was no longer able to drive and that had been my duty to inform him of this. We got him into his car, passenger side, my mother in the back seat, yours truly driving (yes, I got my license) and we drove on to the snowy streets.  Until Lou opened the passenger door as the car was moving, and said "I 'm going to Barbara's (my sister's).  She's nice to me.

My mother lost it.  She screamed repeatedly "Get in this car! Get in this car!" Lou continued to shuffle along in the snow.  I pulled the car over, told my mother to stay in the car, and went after my father.  My mother joined me and we got him back in the car, with a promise that we would go to my sister's house right after visiting my brother's family.  Lou calmed down some once we got him back in the car and my locked the passenger door.  When we arrived at my brother's home family came out to help move Lou around and into the house.  There he saw familiar faces of grandchildren and friends long back.  We were able to have a decent day and even did get Lou to my sister's.  Home and we got my father into bed and then we collapsed.  1979 was going to be brutal.  My mother had that far away look in her eyes, she would start feeling depressed and begin the ranting again, this time I was the consumer, and would be for the next 22 years.

The year was brutal.  Lou would run away. We'd go find him usually talking to the bus mechanic about how the buses were running.  Time became distorted for him and he'd get up and want his breakfast at three in the morning, and if he didn't get his eggs and bacon, the dining room chairs would begin flying.  We could soothe him most times.  Most times.

Oh, yeah.  I can understand why some of you are asking where are the medical people?  Lou's doctor gave him some blood pills.  The Mental Health unit said they had no reason to think anything  difficult was going on, maybe a psychiatrist could provide some meds. For me, sure!  I'll take them as I wash Lou's crap off of his butt and clean him up in the shower.

Lou was finally hospitalized in August of 1979 and remained there until he died on October 19, 1979. So he has been gone for 36 years.  His death certificate says renal failure, arteriosclerosis, and pre-senile dementia. Lou was a smoker for many years, and working man meat and potatoes guy.  No big concern for us, that's all we knew.  But from his gut there must have resided many a bad news blood cell waiting for their chance.  But there was no heart attack, no stroke.  Just this fast decline.

Way earlier I said that my friend and I talked about how we might be when we hit 50.  As noted my friend is in a wheelchair and I'm not. Yet.

No, I do have what my father had, but it fits as Demylination Disorder, a sort of MS. My father would fall asleep at the kitchen, and then his muscles would jump. I do.  Constant brain fog. Yep.  Odd sleep habits. Gotcha.  Rawer emotions. True.  Pains and numbness of extremities.  Oh, yeah. And it showed up around age 55?  Like October 9 1975.  Lou Martin had just turned 55.

Lou Martin lived 21,561 days.  He went to war, came back and raised a family, liked a beer in the summer and his home grown tomatoes. I could have been a better son.  I am trying to be as good a person as he was.

As of this day I, Thomas Martin, have been on this planet for 21,560.  If dealing with my father's illness gave me any solace was that when my turn came, I'd pull more life out of days and be here. HERE.

I'll let you know Wednesday the 21st how it went.

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