Watching My Father Fade Away ...
"I'll be down there tomorrow. It's too darn hot. The expressway is a parking lot."
On and on. Oh did I ever think of excuses yesterday! I spent the better part of the day fooling
myself in an attempt to assuage my feelings of guilt. I had found every excuse not to visit my
father that day in the hospital. Feeling very guilty, I called my brother Ron around 7:30 p.m. He had been with our father all day.
"Hi Ron, so how was today?" My brother is in from St. Louis spending time with our father
whose prognosis is not especially bright.
"Not so good," he sounded worn out.
"Oh ...?" I wanted him to continue.
"Can you come on down now?" he asked, barely masking an order to do
so. Frankly, I was glad he did. Even though my father had been having a
bad day, I felt unburdened of my self-inflicted guilt.
"It's just that I've not seen him cry before except when he thinks about Ben (my dad's
first grandson, my first-born son who died almost eight years ago)
It's so darn pitiful," my brother remarked.
Tears. My father was crying while sitting on the commode. Disappointment. Let down. Ten days
in the hospital and the diarrhea is unabated.
I kept silent. What response is there? Here is a man who does not care about his cancer. He can
deal with that. I heard him say it tonight over the phone while speaking with my cousin Robert
who is a medical doctor in Michigan.
"Robert, it's not the cancer. I accept that. It's the 'f .... in' diarrhea that is taking me downhill."
When will he be going home? Well, he won't be unless the docs can get a handle on this problem.
You see ... my Father isn't dying from the diarrhea but the cancer.
"Dying" such a harsh word, that I am going to substitute "fading away" in
its place. You know like what General MacArthur said about old soldiers not dying but
fading away. Do you remember that?
As a matter of fact, my father is an old soldier, United States Army, brigadier general, retired. And as with old soldiers, especially those who wear stars on their epaulets, there is no crying. Reminds me of that Tom Hanks line in A League of Their Own when he said there is no crying in baseball.
Think about what my father just said about the diarrhea taking him downhill, and answer this
question if you can: When we are just babies, what do our parents train us to do, that when we
achieve it, is regarded as our first really great accomplishment?
No, it's not "Da-da, ma-ma" or our first step without holding on. Sure they're important. Don't
get me wrong, but I've something else in mind. You got it, right?
It's "making" on the toilet, ‘toilet training”- the achievement of mastery over our bodies,
controlling one of its most basic functions. My father, may he forgive me, has lost that! And to
lose control over one's oldest personal mastery, that which first defined you as a kid and no longer a
baby, is emotionally devastating.
So we struggle on. My father, may he live to be 120, is in need of much prayer and support. His
Hebrew name is Avrum ben Rose.
Thank you from his son,
Alan D. Busch
p.s. I will post more later.