My Dad, My Soldier
Posted by Carrie Jackson
My father was the strongest man I ever knew. A WWII hero, he rarely talked about his plane going down in the Philippines but when I moved him out of his apartment into the first of many nursing homes, I found the NY Times article from 1942 that told about the accident. “Henry G. Jackson is credited with saving the lives of the whole crew,” it said. Next to the article is a picture of him, 18 years old, beaming in his Marine uniform.
He had two 25- year marriages and six children, a successful career in international insurance, could drink more Chardonnay than anybody I ever saw, would cross the street to pet a dog walking by, made friends with the janitors and waiters, and jogged until he couldn't walk anymore. He rode his horse, Seymour, until I took his car keys away and he couldn't get to the barn anymore. His favorite holiday was Billie Holiday, and would mouth the words to Lover Man long after Alzheimer's took away his ability to sing and talk.
In the eight + years I took care of him, we became closer than I thought possible. His death in the early morning hours of June 19, 2012, was the most heart-wrenching moment of my life.
He was admitted to hospice on January 6, 2010, after what we believe to be a series of small strokes. I found him unresponsive in his nursing home bed New Year's Day, and he spent six days in Glenbrook Hospital. I sat vigil by his side, my mind going wild. I was 30 years old and scared out of my mind. My dear father's body, once strong and vital and full of life, was curled up in a hospital bed, weathered and worn by 85 years of hard living and fighting. When his doctor came in that Wednesday afternoon, she told me we should look into hospice care.
I had heard of hospice before and knew it had something to do with people dying. Other residents in his various nursing homes had been on hospice, and I knew that Midwest came highly recommended. The doctor made the call, and an hour later I was sitting down with an admitting nurse and two other staff members in the lounge outside Dad's room. Most of what we talked about is a blur, but all I could remember was that they were making arrangements to get Dad back to his nursing home, where his possessions were, where he could be peaceful and comfortable. The next morning they had a hospital bed and two special geri chairs delivered to Belmont, and Dad made the transfer back to his old room.
The care and dignity that he and I both received over the next two and a half years, as my father fought for his life and finally, peacefully, took his last breath, is incomparable. We had the most incredibly dedicated and compassionate team of nurses, CNAs, social workers, music therapists and music thanatologists, chaplains, pet therapy dogs, and so much more. For a good year and a half I was calling the hotline six days a week to get in touch with someone, and developed a warm relationship with the triage nurse who was often on the other end. As his primary caregiver and the only family member involved in his care, I literally would have been able to make it through without Midwest CareCenter. From picking out cremation packages (15 months early) to sharing birthday parties, they were there every step of the way. Midwest Hospice workers are forever in my heart, and I am grateful for learning, through them, how to live while a loved one is dying.