The Leader of the Band Has Died.
Paul A. De Dea, Sr. (the First)
October 26, 1925 - December 5, 2014 @ 1:30 pm EST
I found out on Monday from my middle brother Steve that my father had pretty much decided he'd had enough.
In July of 2013 he entered an assisted living facility. Earlier this year (2014), after mom (Mary) had a mini-stroke and was hospitalized, dad was transferred to another AL facility, where mom joined him after she came out of rehab. They shared a room as they had most of their lives.
About a month ago, pop was again transferred to a rehab facility for dehydration and what the staff called "sundown syndrome".
Sometime in the past couple of weeks, he just gave up. He was placed into hospice care within the same facility.
For a while I was angry with him for giving in to despair. But given the degradation of his quality of life over the past couple of years, I think I can understand him now.
Because of macular degeneration, dad lost the ability to see clearly. Most of his days when his vision had been intact were spent looking out the window, sitting on the porch and "neighborhood gazing", doing his Search-A-Word puzzles, playing cards or other games, or watching TV. Everything that he enjoyed involved eyesight. Take away that and the ability to gaze upon those you love and the mind abides in a world of darkness, and begins to fashion its own reality out of dreams and recollections, shadows and vague imaginings.
Dad was not in pain. He did not suffer from a debilitating illness, although his physical body needed help from time to time. He refused bandages or IVs, taking in water only through a straw held over his lips. When I talked to him, I could not make out the words spoken by a voice I did not recognize. Only after I said, "I love you, dad," did I recognize his feeble attempt to reply, "Love you too."
Part of him was still there.
He simply at some point in his psyche chose to stop living in his current condition. He chose death over an unsatisfying and no longer joyous life.
I respect that immensely.
I will miss him immeasurably.
I was driving home from New Paris with my dad, soon to be 72, in the passenger’s seat. On a whim and with some apprehension -- it was not easy to talk to my parents about important things -- I asked him, if he had it all to do over, would he do anything differently? To my surprise and slight amusement, he replied, “Not that I can think of .” He went on to explain: “I’m happy as I am. As I was.”
I couldn’t help but laugh and fumblingly backpedal, trying to explain that I asked out of curiosity, nothing more. He said, “I don’t think I did anything wrong.... Drastically wrong, that is.”
I sat there, dumbfounded.
Of course, there were dozens -- hundreds -- thousands of things in my 38 years that I would have done differently. Granted, most were minor, but there was the occasional significant choice that I just might change had I been given George Bailey’s second chance. But despite all that, there were things in my father’s life that I knew he could have done better: his difficulty with taking responsibility for his anger, his tendency toward overindulgence with the bottle, his -- then it struck me.
He had done all he could; in his mind, his was the best possible life he could forge for himself out of the raw materials of his upbringing and circumstances and temperament. It occurred to me -- finally occurred to me, after decades of introspection, weeks of therapy, and countless conversations with friends and family -- I no longer could stand in judgment of my father. What I want and who I am and what I expect from myself are a far cry from what my father wanted and who he is and what he expects from life and from himself.
And I know now, in his simplicity, he is the happier.