The phone rang at 6am yesterday morning and it was my mother in Miami.
I knew it was bad news.
“Your father is choking”, she said, “I think he is dying”.
I knew this call would be coming for along time. For more than a year in fact. Yet when it finally does come, I don’t think anyone is ever really prepared for it.
We had been planning on leaving for London on Friday. Instead, we scrambled to get on a flight to Miami, which is where I am now.
We drove directly from the airport to the hospital where my mother was waiting. My sister and one of her kids joined us.
They have moved him to the hospice. He is DNR, and I suppose it is only now a matter of time. Hours.. days… one does not know.
Do you know the way to San Jose?
My father had been in decline almost five years. He suffered a series of strokes, each one taking away another function, until he was bedridden, and finally unable even to swallow. It was long, slow, tortuous and ultimately stripping away the last vestiges of dignity.
A few years ago, when the strokes started to come, we went down to Florida to visit my mother and father.
On that trip, my father had just lost the ability to walk. We went out and bought him a wheelchair, and Lisa and I took him for a walk in the small nature preserve that is adjacent to their condo in Key Biscayne.
We pushed him in the chair and we sang “Do You Know The Way To San Jose”. It was his favorite song.
“Take a picture of your dad” she said to me. “There will come a time when you will want to remember this moment.”
Watching him struggle for breath, I took out the picture.
The time has arrived.