Sunday, June 20, 2010


I have had my blog going on three years. Every year I bring this post back in honor of my Father. An amazing man, Christian, husband and father. This is a photo of him holding my youngest son, Zach when he was almost a year old...Zach is now almost 18.

Happy Father's Day to every Dad out there.

I know I was blessed to have a great Dad and in his honor I pull this blog forward every year to show my respect once again.

I know he is on my shoulder every day and the times he visits me in my dreams is a delight.

I wouldn't be half the parent I am without having had such an excellent example.

"Ten Days Down The Nile"

I have always been blessed to have had the greatest parents brother and sister a person could ever hope for . We grew up in a small community on the outskirts of Atlanta , Georgia . My Dad was a blue collar worker , selling parts for lift trucks . My mother was a stay at home mom who was always the room mother president of the PTA and about a million other committees and projects . She could sew like the wind ... making all of our clothes even suits for my Dad , upholstering for our furniture …evening gowns for my sister , and even the cheerleading and majorettes uniforms when my sister and I were in high school . Shortly after making my sister’s wedding dress and of course all the bridesmaids dresses , we were all shocked and deeply traumatized by her sudden death from an aneurism while out shopping with me and my sister . She was dead before the ambulance got there , and the funeral was the largest our church had ever seen . We all went home to our now empty and seemingly lifeless house to try to figure out how to go on without her . It wasn’t easy , especially for my Father whose main function was to bring home a paycheck week after week at a grueling thankless job and to be the undisputed head of household . Now he was stuck with the task of having two of his three kids still at home with no idea how to cook for , discipline or show love to without his mate of 27 years . We all struggled especially me , the lost 17 year old with a chip the size of Texas on her shoulder and no regard for the financial struggle that my Dad was going through . Always expecting to go first he had almost no life insurance on Mama and the hole that he found himself in was only deepened by my thoughtless and careless spending as a senior in high school with thoughts for no one but myself . Yet my Dad still loved me even after 2 years of partying at college bouncing checks and living it up with my new college friends . Once home I started my career as a waitress ... one that I still have at the age of 46 . I finally found my niche … using the PHD that I have in BS . My Dad so lovingly forgave me for all the wrongs I had done in my wild and crazy youth and supported me fully in a marriage to a wonderful man that I met gaining a 4 year old stepson that I adored and in-laws anyone would love to have . Things went along .. I had a son , Zachary joined later by a daughter Massey who of all things , was born 18 years to the day that my mother had died . My mother’s maiden name was Massey, so I took pride in giving my daughter the gift of her grandmother’s name. Once a horrible day to remember in our family was now my little girl’s birthday … August 19 . God took so dearly from us but gave back so sweetly . I still feel mama was cheering me on that day . As the years passed my dad never remarried , dating and breaking the hearts of many women ... none of which could measure up to the loving relationship he had shared with my mother . He finally seemed content with a sweet woman he met in his neighborhood who was sharp as a tack and truly loved my dad . They enjoyed going up to her little shack in the Blue ridge mountains working on the little house clearing brush and just enjoying the peace of the mountain air . Right before his 77th birthday we all began noticing little quirks and inconsistencies with my dad . Always sharp and quick , he began to lose interest in things he had always loved … tennis , reading , crossword puzzles , even going to his church . I think the first big clue was when he held his fork upside down at the dinner table at my sister’s house and tried unsuccessfully to eat his brocoli . Unknown to any of us , his doctor had told him a couple of years back that he had the beginnings of Alzheimer’s and put him on medication . His fear of what may possibly come to pass was terrifying to him and he tried to keep it from us as long as possible . We all tried to cope as well as we could trying not to baby my dad but be there for support . He seemed to know his limitations , like not driving too far or not at night . The day before his 77th birthday everything changed and definitely not for the better .We asked him what time he would like for all of us to meet for his birthday and his reply was to put it off a day or two saying he just felt “yucky” . He claimed to just have a bit of a bug and we believed it to be nothing but . He lived in a downstairs apartment in my sister’s house giving my sister the knowledge that we could keep on eye on him discreetly without him feeling pampered . My sister called me at work to say she was worried about him , finding him downstairs staring at the 3 D flashing screensaver on his computer saying that it was bothering him . The next couple of days led to no real improvement so my sister took him to see his Doctor ( who was as old , if not older than my Dad .) That proved to be one mistake we made in letting him go to a physician that we had no faith in . My sister mentioned that we were concerned about west nile virus to which he replied “If it were that , he’d already be dead ." My dad had also worried tremendously about skin cancer that he had had from years of playing tennis and wore long sleeve shirts in the sun along with his floppy white hat . Knowing that he had the beginnings of Alzheimer’s , he truly dreaded possibly contracting the west nile virus that was at that time just coming to attention of the medical world and media . The old codger of a doctor , gave my dad a prescription for penicillin saying that would take care of whatever my dad may have and sent us on our merry way . We kept a close eye on my dad and watched a sudden and rapid decline . I took off work on a Friday night to sit with him and watched him lay on his sofa with no TV , music or sound and seemingly drift in and out of a troubled sleep . The next day his girlfriend Elizabeth took the task of staying with him on the pretense of just having someone around in case he needed anything . My sister called me at 7:00 in the morning to tell me to come to her house immediately …something was definitely wrong with my Dad and could I come quickly ? The feel of impending doomed followed me all the way to her house and I was shocked to walk into my Dad’s bedroom to see him sitting in a chair by his bed totally nude and wringing his hands together . Elizabeth had spent the night with him and said he paced about all night long making no sense or reason with the statements he made . Something big was wrong and we all knew it needed more than a visit to his tired old outdated doctor . We pulled him into his pajamas and assisted him into my sister’s car for what we know now would be his last car ride anywhere . We took him straight to the emergency room of the hospital and had to get him in a wheelchair just to get him through the doors . The man I brought to this hospital was a stranger to me , so frail and unresponsive . I felt that the nurse taking information from us was thinking that we had brought in an old feeble man whose senility was almost gone . How could this be .. I wanted to say .."This is not the state of mind my father was in less than 48 hours ago , you just don’t know what a sharp man he really is .“ But current facts don’t lie and it broke my heart to see her write “altered" on his metal status . I think this is the moment that we all felt our hearts slowing voices became fuzzy , none of it made any sense . This is a man whose tennis partner is 81 . A man who leads services at nursing homes for invalids . This was NOT our father and please do something to bring back the man we love . After finally getting him through the piles and piles of paperwork and insurance , we wheeled him back so that we could get all this mess cleared up and return to the life we had with him . This was not to be the case and with every hour that passed the dread I felt building seemed to crescendo and pound into my brain that something huge and horrible was happening to us at this very moment . When the doctor entered the curtain in the emergency room our first question was “Could it be west nile virus ?” His answer seemed to quiet our worst fears saying that it was a one in 114 million chance that my dad had the dreaded disease .We didn’t a know what he had but were all a little bit eased by the odds in his favor . Test after test were run all coming back negative for many things . About seven hours into the hospital visit I called my husband to bring me some clothes . I wasn’t going anywhere until we figured this mystery out . The last test was a spinal tap . It wasn’t very pretty , having to sedate my dad did not go over well with him and he was rolled back to his ER cubicle sweating profusely and totally altered by this point . After waiting what seemed hours the news came back … he may have some form of encephalitis . The words seemed to come from a million miles away not from across the bed as the doctor spoke . By this time we called our brother who lived in Orlando at the time and said “You need to get on the next plane “ . Everything was changing and none of it for the better . My brother arrived ... a big burly charismatic person that everyone who had ever met fell in love with . We weren’t close as kids but the older we got the closer we became . He is a carbon copy of my Dad personality wise and is probably the reason for him being so well thought of by so many people. He was close to my father , even though he lived farther away . I felt immediate comfort just seeing him walk through the hospital doors and knew now we would get to the bottom of this unfortunate mystery . Doctor after doctor talked to us giving us all their opinions options and suggestions . Things with my dad , known to all of us as “Diddy” got worse more quickly than any of us wanted. His first night in the hospital his temperature spiked at 106 and we were witnesses to what exactly goes on in the all night world of a hospital . They wanted his exact weight so they could give him the maximum amount of medicine to try and bring his fever down . I remember swabbing my Dad with cool cloths to no avail and then the staff had us help put my Dad onto a hammock type weighing device to get his exact weight . I should remark here that my Diddy was extremely close to his God, having raised us all in the church and lived his life as a total man of God. I never heard my Dad curse and neither one of my parents ever drank alcohol or lived their lives in any way but the straight and narrow. My Dad , delirious at this point called my brother Chris “A son of a bitch” for rousting him onto the scale to which my brother replied “ Diddy , you aren’t the first person to call me that even today. “ They brought in a cooling blanket that filled with cold air to try to bring his temperature down and even had us put on masks at one point thinking that he may have some “contagious” disease . That lasted about 20 minutes with me and my brother and sister . We just knew in our heart of hearts that it wasn’t some communicable disease and it felt almost like being scared of our Diddy to wear the masks . I remember one of my friends from work coming into the room around midnight to check on us and from the look on her face I knew we all looked frantic desperate and losing any positive attitude we may have originally had . That night my brother and I slept on the fold out couch in my Dad’s room with the thermostat set on 60 degrees praying prayer upon prayer that the morning would bring a glimmer of hope . The nurse came in the next morning asking how we had slept and my quick witted brother remarked “You know it is cold if you feel like spooning your sister”. The nurses that we were blessed with were the sole companionship we had for ten days and the most professional caring people that one could ever hope for in this situation . They never treated my Dad with anything but the utmost respect and caring and never catered to the fact that he was in an altered state . My respect for these women is huge , and my gratitude will be undying to them … they made my Dad’s last few days ones of dignity and of the premium care that I wanted for my father and I was so fortunate to have had him receive . To this day… years later I still send the nurses a Christmas card with a note to thank them once a year for the professionalism, patience and love they showed not only to my Dad but to his children as well. The next day we got our first glimmer of hope with a great neurologist that we got lucky enough to be assigned to . He was a small stature of a man but came quickly to be a giant in all of our eyes. He never pumped us with false hope but gave it to us straight and never pulled any punches. I felt such gratitude to this Doctor that a couple of months after this experience I felt compelled to send him a Thank You note as well for all he did for our Dad. He came in the next day for an examination of our father asking him to say such phrases as “Today is a sunny day” and asking him if he knew where he was . My dad answered that yes he knew where he was … "The Blue Ridge Mountains." That answer seemed prophetic to me as if that was where he really wanted to be.

The neurologist said that my Dad’s B-12 level was very low and that had been proven to be a big determination of diminishing memory and comprehension . We were all excited that maybe with monthly B-12 shots his Alzheimer’s may be helped to be kept at a minimum. He also said that he had sent a blood sample off to the CDC in Atlanta for a test of the West Nile Virus , but it would not be back for a while. He said the treatment for any Encephalitis was the same but if it was in fact Encephalitis his chances were not good . He said younger people could fight the sickness and come through fine but given the fact that Diddy was 77 it did not look good. We all still clung to the fact that he had a one in 114 million chance of contracting West Nile and that at this point in time his chances seemed pretty good. The fever was down yet he remained in a state of constant sleep which is one of the main symptoms of the illness . He woke up once that day and recognized two of his life long friends from the church and even called them both by their nicknames. I took this as an encouraging sign as we hadn’t had too many and we all continued our constant bedside vigil. The next day was much of the same … sleep, sleep, sleep. On the third day in the hospital my brother decided to take an hour off and go eat at the Varsity in downtown Atlanta. Cindy and Elizabeth were in the room with Diddy. I had stepped out for a few minutes . Upon my return I noticed how ashen my Father looked. I feel like had I been sitting in the room with him the change was probably so gradual that I likely would not have noticed as my sister hadn’t . He just seemed almost ghostly. I immediately went to get the nurse who by now was our best friend in the world. She came to his room right off and after taking one look at him called a code Blue. Then it all began to happen. I have never been through a more surreal period of time as when it all started to escalate and time seemed to freeze. The cardiologist came first followed by a team of nurses aides other doctors, and assistants. My sister and Elizabeth and I were asked to leave the room, but I just could not leave. If he was going to have all these people that had never met him working on him I felt he would need me there all the more. The cardiologist said he was having a massive heart attack. I have never been struck so harshly by words and the panic I felt almost took my breath away. They allowed me to crouch beside his bed holding on to his hand and letting them do their best to save my Father. The monitor started dropping, they were losing him. The doctor asked if my Dad had a DNR and I said that he had expressed to all of us children that he never wanted to be kept alive by a machine. Being the one in the room at the moment I was at a loss, asking the Doctor what he would do if it was his father in that bed? He responded, “I would bag him to get his he heart started again and see if he could come back on his own”. I replied, “Do it.” His heart rate had slowed to 5 beats a minute and although I prayed and willed it to come up on its own it did not. They started compressions and bit by bit his heart seemed to come back to life. He was moved immediately to the ICU, a trip none of us wanted to make but reluctantly followed. By this point in our journey we had a support group of friends that astounded us completely. My sister’s best friend seemed to be there with a hot thermos of coffee every time we started to fade. People from my work collected money to pay my bills since I had walked away from my job. Teachers from my kid’s school brought baskets with snacks , magazines, drinks, candy , and a different friend of mine was picking up my kids from school every day taking them home with their own families and not letting them worry one bit. More than that I didn’t have to worry about my kids at all, they were totally taken care of. My husband was taken groceries and my yard was being mowed. I will never forget the immense sense of true friendship that I experienced from all the co-workers relatives and extended family members that hovered around us the entire time we were at the hospital. All I had to do was worry about Diddy and that was consuming all my time, emotion and energy at that point. They had to shock him twice in the ICU to get a rhythm back and it was a totally frightening situation we all walked into in the small world of the Intensive Care Unit. I think by this point we were starting to grasp at straws... hoping for a miracle or just hoping to wake up from a dream. The nurses that my Dad had had upstairs came by after they got off of their 12 hour shift to see how my Dad was doing. We came to make more friends in the ICU but it was a different group... more people prepared for the worst and praying non-stop for the best. We met and lost several new friends that day and it almost came to be a common thing to be sitting in the waiting room with people who learned while you listened that they had just lost a loved one. We met a man who lost his sister the same day my Dad was brought down to the ICU , we probably took her room... but the next day he called the ICU waiting room to speak with us and see how our Dad was doing. In the time of his own grief he felt compassion for us three kids sitting in a room with no way to help no way to understand.. Yet he reached out to us in our time of need. I will never forget the friendship that he managed to show us in his own time of grief . We spent another night on chairs in the ICU waiting room which had come to earn it’s name… we were waiting. The waiting gave us plenty of time to reflect on the years we had all shared. We truly bonded with each other those couple of days remembering stories laughing at the good times we had shared, and crying over the bad ones. I would not take a million dollars for that time spent with my siblings, growing closer to them than I ever had in my life.

The morning brought us a visitor from the hospital’s infectious disease nurse to tell us what we all knew at this point in time was destined to happen. The CDC had confirmed that my father had indeed contracted West Nile Virus, in fact two different types of Encephalitis. Suddenly we were faced with some pretty heavy decisions. Should we keep him on life support to fulfill our desire to have a father or let the brutal nature that had encompassed his body let it take him from us completely?

My father never regained consciousness after his massive heart attack and my brother and I spoke several times about the fact that Diddy was such a good man of God that he probably had been gone from this Earth since the heart attack. We were just consoling ourselves by pumping air into a body that God had already taken home.

After we all talked... my brother , my sister , Elizabeth and I we all knew it was already in God’s hands… a place that we all four needed to be now. The papers were signed and the forms filled out.

Now nothing was left except our goodbyes to a body that used to house the most incredible man in our universe.

I remember finally being able to push all the tubes wires and ventilators to the side, and crawl into bed with the man that had shaped... formed and brought me in to this world and now ironically I would lay next to him as he left it.

Somehow it was very comforting to be with him even in his disparaging state. I will never forget the prayers apologies and promises I made to him on that bed and hope that by the time I was saying them he was already at peace with my mother wishing us to not be sad but to be grateful for the chance to have been his children...and hoping he had done a fantastic job of being a good and faithful servant.

The heart monitor slowed down to a mere beat per minute and finally but not willingly I knew he had gone Home.

I miss him every day of my life but am so grateful that I was lucky enough to have had him in my life at all. By the time I reached the age of 42, I had witnessed the death of both of my parents.

Two people who still remain so vivid in my heart that they will be with me every step I take and visit me in my dreams every night.

Time marches own... memories dim but the chasm he owns in my heart and soul will be his and etched in my mind for a lifetime.

Ten days down the Nile .. A trip that I never wanted to take but one that God had destined for me to experience.


Stella said...

WOW, Kelly, I am crying!


Joannah said...

You make me cry alot on this blog. What a sweet homage to your Diddy. He was a very sweet man. As I do recall he gave me and Jen some furniture when I was young and poor. Keep writing girl.