Thursday, February 07, 2019

She lost her fella

My friend Kathleen's dad last week. It was not sudden. He was over 90 and had been in declining health -- both mentally and physically -- for years now.

As her husband began to fade, Mom promised him that she would keep him at home. Despite hardship -- she's nearly 90 herself and not very strong -- she made good on that. A day nurse was hired, and every evening one of their adult children would come to spend time with Dad and put him to bed. If the nurse noted a change in his condition that indicated the end might be near, his son or daughter would stay the night, so that Mom wouldn't be alone when she found her husband had passed. There had been several close calls over the last month and finally, on the coldest day Chicago had seen in decades, he died in the wee small hours.

I feel bad for Kathleen, of course. Losing a parent is rite of passage -- a big one. But I'm glad that she had those evenings with her dad. She noticed that, around Thanksgiving, he stopped using her name and she suspected he no longer knew which daughter she was. It didn't hurt her feelings. Instead, she took it as a sign the end was even nearer. She was content to sit with him, singing showtunes for a while, and then putting him to bed.

She was disturbed, though, by the explicit nature of some of their conversations. He was never inappropriate about her. Dad seemed to still realize that he shouldn't view his daughter -- whichever daughter she was -- sexually. But he did enjoy comparing and contrasting the bustlines of his various nurses, expressed a curiosity about their genitalia, and even leered at Julie Andrews as they sang along to My Fair Lady.

Kathleen is no prude, understood it was age and medication talking and not her dear old dad. But when dad started talking dirty, she felt bad for her mother, who could overhear.

When Mom looked at Dad, she didn't see dementia or impending death. She saw her husbandEvery evening, when her adult son or daughter arrived, Mom excused herself for about a half hour. She then fixed her hair and make up so she'd look nice for "dinner with Dad."

It breaks my heart that -- after more than 65 years and seven children and 13 grandchildren -- she has lost her boyfriend.