Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hachoo! I see you.

I often find myself thinking about my dad. However recently, I started thinking about his last couple of months. During those months, he was pretty much in a vegetative state and looked pretty well vacant. It was such a depressing sight, but I remember getting a certain joy out of watching him sneeze during that time. It was like during this one small moment I would see his personality come through on his face. The vacant look was gone, but his personality left just as fast as it came. His hand would rise in preparation for the sneeze, then “hachoo!” I’d see that glimmer of him and then gone.

It actually occurred to me to put some pepper on his hand, hoping that when he would raise his hand up to prepare for the sneeze, it would propel him into a sneezing fit. Then I would be able to see the lights in his eyes for a longer period. I could not torture the poor guy just to appease my longing to see him up and at it and full of life. I just wasn’t that cruel.

There was one other time I saw life in his eyes. My dad at this point was pretty much confined to his bed. My cousin Stan dropped by to chat a bit. Stan was sitting on one side of my dad, and I on the other. We started talking about Stan’s dad, my uncle Tony, and how his dad’s passing was so sudden that he thought it made the situation less torturous for him. We sat and started comparing and contrasting our experiences. At a certain point during our conversation, my dad started getting really antsy. He seemed uncomfortable. So I started to tend to him. I then noticed his piercing blue eyes staring right at me as if to say, “Shut the hell up! I am not dying!” I don’t know if it was fear or anger in his eyes, but I do know that it was intense.

My dad never liked talking about death. I think he was genuinely scared of it and wanted always to avoid those conversations. So I truly do believe that he understood what Stan and I were talking about and didn’t want any part of it. I don’t think Stan knew what I saw, because he was on the other side of the bed. I don’t think I ever told Stan what I saw either. However, I do remember trying to cut off the conversation, because of my dad’s glare. I don’t remember how I did it though. Maybe Stan sensed something and stopped talking about it. I just don’t remember that part. All that is really vivid in my mind are my dad’s blue eyes looking directly at me. I will never forget them.

That was the last time I saw any life or consciousness in my dad. Sometimes I think, “Good job Erik! Your dad’s last memory of you is of you being insensitive and talking about something he didn’t want to talk about.” Then I remember he suffered from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and he would’ve forgotten what we talked about a minute later, so I tend not to sweat it too much. Sometimes it’s hard not to.

I like remembering the smile on his face after my reaction to taking a swig of a previously frozen bottle of beer that my brother Richard handed me. They were both in on the joke, and that beer was nasty. He was cracking up and it was a beautiful site. On the flip side, I tend to try not to remember the time when he was in the hospital. I don’t really want to remember him that way. My mom has a picture displayed in her family room of him, in that semi-vacant state, sitting in between her and my brother Tony. I can’t stand that picture, because I really don’t want to remember him like that. If only he would have sneezed right when the picture was taken, then I think I would be able to look at it and smile. “Hachoo!”


  1. My brother died on Friday morning. He was having trouble going..... he struggled. Thank God for morphine. It eased his eshausting efforts to breathe and made him less anxious. He was still 'in there" as he would respond untill the end with a strong squeeze of his hand when we asked. Just want you to know I understand your grief and enjoyed your story. Maybe someday there will be a cure. I pray there will be!

  2. My brother Billy, finally left this earth on Friday morning after years of having PSP. He had a hard time leaving. He struggled. Thank God for Morphine. It eased his exhausting effort to breathe and made him less anxious. He was "in there" until he took his last gasp. He would react to our talking to him with a strong hand squeeze. He knew and understood. He was brave!

    I wanted to let you know I understand your grief, and I enjoyed your story about your father. I pray there will be a cure for PSP in the near future. It is a horrible disease!!

  3. Thank You. I am sorry about your brother. Be thankful that he is not suffering anymore and that he is at peace.

  4. My sister died 7 weeks ago with PSP. She was diagnosed only 4 months earlier, so the disease progressed rapidly.I have been a nurse for 33 years, yet had never heard of it. Beth suffered with pneumonia on 3 different occasions,she had a feeding tube, had lost all means of communicating,and appeared to be in pain up till the very end. I miss her so very much. My heart hurts every day...

  5. I'm sorry to hear that Ginny.
    I never heard of it either before my dad.
    The only thing I can say is that it's going to hurt for a while, but try not to think about your sister's last days. Try more to focus on your younger times together, and enjoy those memories. You'll cry thinking about them, but you'll be smiling while cry and that's more soothing.