Bob has been slowly quieting. I remember sort of wondering a week or so ago, why he was even in hospice. His mind was clear and he was talkative. I mean, yes, there was the cancer and tumor, but he seemed to be handling it. I wondered why he couldn’t at least be in his own home and getting some in-home care. He just seemed pretty good, all things considered. And then just as suddenly as I wondered that, Mark called me at work one day to say that he’d taken a turn for the worse. And every day since, it seems like he slips a little bit more.
I didn’t see Bob yesterday. Mark visited in the early part of the day before he was supposed to go to work for the afternoon and evening. He thought he might take the night off, but Bob’s nurses encouraged him to go ahead and go to work. They didn’t feel Bob would be leaving us last night. Since Mark was going to work, he encouraged me to go to bowling with the girls.
After bowling, Mark called me from work. His siblings had been in touch and said things were looking bad. One sister was going to spend the night and we expected to get a call overnight. We didn’t sleep well, but morning came and Bob was still with us.
I went to work today. I’d been called in for a short mid-morning meeting with my boss and was feeling pretty good afterwards when I got a call from Mark. “My dad took a turn for the badder,” I heard him say. I thought he was distraught. His grammar was worse than usual.
“Oh, nooooo,” I replied.
“No, Ter. My dad took a turn for the better!“
“Ohhhh,” I said, relieved. Although Mark and I both knew that this turn for the better was yet another sign that the end continues to draw near. Still, it was great to hear that Bob was sitting up, eating, talking and clear-headed. When I came home, Mark and Kacey were bursting with news from their earlier visit.
Mark was impressed with the stories Bob remembered from years back. All morning long he recounted events and remembered names of friends and loved ones from the past. Kacey laughed at how when Mark’s mom and sister asked Bob “what?” one too many times, he motioned to them, saying, “You. And You. You ask ‘what’ too much. I’m done with you.” Then, pointing at Kacey, he said, “She can stay.”
I wanted to see Bob tonight while he was doing so well. After dinner, Mark, Kacey and I drove over to see him. Just as they’d told me, Bob was sitting up, sipping on water, and talking, although he seemed to be losing steam. While we’d thought he’d been watching the hockey game, he told Mark to “look at that boat.” Mark turned to the television screen where the hockey game was still going on.
“Yeah, that’s a great boat,” he told Bob.
“You boys should take a closer look,” Bob suggested.
“You want us boys to check out that boat?”
“Should we buy it if the price is right?”
“Can we use your money, Dad?”
Twice Bob asked why that little guy was always pouting. Steve, Mark’s youngest brother, who is around my age (and six feet tall,) is apparently “the little guy.” Mary Jane said that Steve never pouted when he actually was little. Being seven years younger than his next oldest sibling, he was always considered so cute! He was spoiled by his siblings. She said he never had a chance to pout, but Bob insisted he was always pouting.
I’m not even sure what it is that triggered it, but I felt tears welling up, and as hard as I kept trying to swallow them back, I couldn’t stop them from coming. The room was full enough with people that I thought I’d go unnoticed, but one of Mark’s sisters caught on, came over and wrapped me in a half-hug. That only made it worse so I excused myself, hurrying down the hall, trying not to outright bawl and sounding like I was hiccuping as I kept trying to fight it back.
I didn’t even know I had that much emotion, to be honest. I found myself in the hospice living room and thankfully found a box of tissues. And when I’d mopped up my face, I turned to find another of Mark’s sisters, Robin wrapping me up in a hug, and Sharon,the sister from before standing back looking on with sympathy. I apologized. The last thing they needed as they were holding it together so well was for me to lose it for no real reason. Robin assured me there was no need to apologize.
“I’m honored you feel this way about my dad,” she said.
Of course I feel this way about their dad. He’s my husband’s father, my kids’ grandpa. He shared his beloved cabin with us and taught the kids to love the outdoors. He always had a tough exterior, but there was no doubt he loved his family.
Robin reminded me that while Bob’s reality right now may be very different from the one we can see, he’s not suffering in severe pain, and he knows he’s loved. His entire family surrounds him every moment they possibly can. And what the hell, she said. You’ve gotta find the humor in the fact that sometimes he tries to eat his tissue box and needs to be reminded there are better things to eat. He’s visiting with people we can’t see and seems to be enjoying it. He tried to tell Robin about the little girl he talked with. Robin didn’t know who she was, but I believe she’s one of Bob’s loved ones, already passed on, who will come to get him when it’s time to go.
When I’d regained my composure, we returned to the room. Mark was sitting in a chair next to Bob’s bed and pulled me close. “Hey Dad,” look who’s here,” he said to Bob, as if I hadn’t already been there. “It’s Terri.”
“Ohhhh, Terri!” Bob said in a voice that made me feel very loved. “How are ya?”
“I’m good,” I said, still feeling a little tightness in my throat. “How are you?”
“Good, good,” he said.
“You look good,” I told him.
“Well, thanks,” he said before his eyes drifted off and focused again on something I couldn’t see.
We sat for a while with the rest of the family. A few conversations went on. Bob seemed to be conversing too, but with whom, I don’t know. I could see his mouth forming words, but there was no sound. And his eyes were focused elsewhere. When more of the family came to visit, we decided to head home and make room for the others. Mark said, “I love you,” to his dad. I squeezed Bob’s hand and said, “I’ll see you soon, Bob.” He looked at us and seemed to acknowledge what we were saying. It’s all we could ask. And if it was the last really good day we have with Bob, then I’ll be glad for it.