Eli is rolling around on the carpet trying to disembowel his lamb with his flailing hind feet. The lamb occasionally emits squeaks of protest but seems to be holding his own. I am holding my own in a sea of mixed emotions.
After five years of death in life, my father appears to be down to his last hours. Matter of factly, we have wished to release him from his failing frame for a long time. Now I am wondering how I will carry on when the last physical evidence of his existence is gone.
I sat for hours beside his bed, stroking his still-warm skin, listening to his horrendous breaths and rattling cough. His hands are mottled with red and purple. I could circle his forearm with my hand. His mouth hangs open and I swab his mouth with a wet sponge. He is on a pain med and oxygen. The furrows in his face have smoothed. His eyes open now and then, but he is not seeing anything on this earth. The hospice chaplain says he is looking into his future, to the place that God has prepared for him as he promised, and it is a comfort to believe that. I read him the scripture about the mansions and I sang, very quietly in an embarrassed way, some of the good old hymns we used to sing. I told him everything I needed to - what a good father he was and that I wouldn't have wanted any other. Sometimes he held my hand very tight. Sometimes he was agitated and pulling at his sheets and at the oxygen canula. He made noises.
I talked to him about Tennesee and the magnolias and cutting down the cedar tree. I talked about his archery range and going to Will Roys' Drive In for chocolate milkshakes and the moths flying in the yellow bug lights. I told him I only went on the UFO hunting trips in the hope that he would stop for ice cream. I told him that his mother was waiting and that he would see his brothers soon. I just can't imagine the real world without him. I wanted to cling to him and beg him to stay. When I had to leave, I kept wanting to touch him one last time, fearing that the next time I saw him his skin would be cold and empty.
Cheryl came and I could not stay there with her. She wanted to give him medicine to cure the pneumonia, and do everything to save him, and she was crying and distraught. I warned the nurses they must ignore her. His treasures, Mr. Fitz and Marion and Anne and, of course, Larry. Everyone so loving and compassionate. Heather and my daughter were coming over and they will make Cheryl leave. But then again, I don't want him to die alone. My mother will be frightened. She won't know what is happening. How will we ever explain it to her. She has not been eating either. Ice cream. All she eats is ice cream. She seemed very tired today. And has no idea that Arthur is dying.