25 August 2011

Time Passing

I published the first post on this blog two years ago today. Having recently retired from my day job, my intent was to document the process of applying for SSDI, which I expected to be a long drawn out and frustrating experience. Six weeks later my claim was approved, and I was officially out of stuff to write about. Not having anything to write about does not appear to have held me up much.

I started out posting every day. That lasted about a week. Then it was every other day. Then a couple of times a week. For the last couple of months, posting once a week or thereabouts seems to be a comfortable compromise between feeling obligated to write something, and not having anything to say.

As if to mark the anniversary of the blog by reminding me of its initial purpose, I got an envelope from the Social Security Administration the other day full of stuff about applying for Medicare. I haven't been able to work myself up to look at it yet. It's sitting on the corner of my desk, looking ominous and threatening. I tell myself that applying for SSDI was a lot easier than I expected it to be. Maybe signing up for Medicare won't be that bad. Maybe.

Several times over the last couple of years, we thought my dad was dying. Each time, he defied the odds and confounded the authorities, stubbornly refusing to relinquish the place on the planet he has occupied for almost 91 years. He wasn't ready to go. Now, I think he is.

Spending so much time lately climbing out on limbs of the family shrub, I find myself thinking about all this birthing and dying stuff. I mean, duh? Although I may well think about it differently when I'm confronted with my own imminent demise, at least from this vantage point, dying doesn't seem all that scary. Pain, now, pain is scary. But if you can die without pain, you know, you've got to go sometime. I don't remember being afraid wherever I was before I was born, why should being dead be any worse? Dying is just part of the deal. It's inevitable, and while I guess it's always a little painful for the people you leave behind (at least you'd hope somebody is sorry to see you go), it's not always bad.

Stalking dead people in the parish register of Sainte Genevieve de Pierrefonds from 1782, so many of the burials are for babies only a few days, or months, or years old. Early census records note the number of children each woman bore, and the number currently living. The two numbers were rarely the same. And the record of a baby's baptism sometimes preceded that of the burial of a young mother. That's a different kind of death altogether. Those deaths are tragic. Although I don't know those people, reading about what happened to them makes me sad. And then there's what looks like a hastily-scribbled note stuck in the pages of the register that records nine names, "tué par les Iroquois." That doesn't sound exactly like a peaceful sendoff to me.

For my dad, dying is a process. He's getting ready to go, but in his own time, on his own terms. At home, with family and friends around him. He's not eating or drinking much. He refuses pain meds. He seems to be aware, at some level, of what's going on around him, but doesn't respond much (other than to spit out the pain meds). He likes sitting in the sun in the afternoons. Last weekend, his grandson's new bride brought her viola and played for him. He liked that. He is dying. We will miss him, but this death is not a bad thing.

My dad always said he wanted to live to be 100, and be killed by a jealous husband. I don't think he's going to make it to 100, but who knows? I guess it's still possible that a jealous husband will show up and send him on his way. He would like that, although I'm not sure my mom would be so crazy about it.


  1. Oooo...a Jayne Cobb quote.

  2. Zoom,

    I hope your Dad's death will be a good one. People think I'm odd when I say things like that, and I guess compared to most I am. I used to be a hospice volunteer briefly (moved soon after training) and still think that one of the best reads is the book by two hospice nurses, Final Gifts.

    For some reason I've been either around or involved in friend and family deaths from a young age yet have never been there "at the moment". However, I've seen good death scenarios and, well, "not the way I want to go" deaths. I wish your dad what he needs for his exit. Maybe he can come back in 9 years and somehow play out the jealous husband scenario. You if these things are possible, they're likely not as neat and linear as we think.

    Congrats on your blogiversary. I'm always intrigued at how you start out with noting that you have nothing to say. However, your posts generally draw me in and interest me much more than the folks who think they have a lot to say. I glad you continued writing beyond the SSDI process but not daily. Daily blogs usually burn me out.

    Good luck with Medicare envelope stare-down and eventual process. Let us know how that goes for those of us following behind you.


  3. I took French in high school, but never learned the word for killed. Education lacking.

    Your Dad spits out his pain meds likely because they make him less aware of what's going on around him. It would seem he prefers the pain to that... grogginess.

    Even now, his being killed by a jealous husband would be so much harder (than even this) on your Mom. Just sayin'.

  4. Around here, lots of love affairs, avg age 85, two louvahs are 99 and 98, she is very possessive...it could happen. I'd rather go in my sleep,but not likely. Maybe as I get older I will seek a dramatic death...hmmmm

  5. My dad and grandmother died shortly before my daughter did. Their deaths were really... overdue. It was almost a relief. They fought their deaths off with everything they had. It was draining on the family.

    Your dad. A jealous husband? That's funny!

    My daughter's obviously was not timely. It was a surprise, a shock.

    I want to go in a flash, when I'm older. I'd like to see what my son does with his life. I am not afraid of dying at all. How can I be?