He's dying (long, messy)

Fall of last year.
Joe (my SIL’s father), a guy in his 50s, brings in his grapes and the grapes from the fields of 5 of his neighbors, makes wine with all of them the old-fashioned way. He also brings in* the almonds from 5 or 6 fields and whatnot. He was a cop for over 30 years; when he retired a couple years before he practically moved back to his parents’ old house in a little village. His wife, who still worked as a house cleaner, lived in the town during the week and went to the village for the weekend - her choice.

Late November.
Joe’s wife calls him to the table. When he tries to raise from the chair where he is sitting, he realizes he can’t do it without pushing with his hands. His feet support him, he can walk, but he can’t push.

He got increasingly worse; after Christmas, he moved back to the house in the town. In February he got diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, two days after his baby grandson had kidney surgery (he needs to have some more next fall, when he’s big enough; no it’s not life-threatening at all nor should it mean lowered standards of living if it can’t get “fixed”).

Weekend before last, Joe and his wife moved in with my bro and SIL. Last weekend, lilbro and myself had lunch there. Mom is out of town, assisting 93yo Grandma during her 15-years-overdue cataracts surgery; Grandpa had a minor stroke in February but is recovering. Yeah, it kind of was a Febrerus Horribilis.

Joe spends most of his time in the reclining armchair; he was moved to the wheelchair and back by three people. He can wave both arms, but only one has any strength left.

Bro insists that “everything is fine”. Whether he really believes that or not, I don’t know: he is not dumb and SIL is a GP - a very good one. She’s very empathetic, has been able to get diagnoses for things that had other doctors stumped for quite a while, works the system well… And definitely knows what’s in stock for her father. Heck, she tends to jump to worst case scenarios, and in this case the diagnosis has been exactly the one she feared.

Joe used to be one of those guys who use their booming voices to dominate any situation. Last Saturday he whispered loudly. Fine, my rear end.

Yesterday Bro called to say they were taking Joe to the hospital. He’s been having trouble sleeping and the docs there wanted to see whether it was linked to respiratory problems, in which case they’ll keep him there a couple days to teach him how to sleep with an oxygen mask on. He’s not on oxygen for the rest of the day. This is the hospital where Dad was purchaser for 15 years and where SIL did her internship. We’re on a firstname basis with half the staff; this hospital was one of the reasons why Joe and his wife moved to their daughter’s house. SIL has a brother, but even if he was married (and his gf is just great), the daughter would be the one socially expected to care for her parents.

Between September and Easter, I was working in Costa Rica. It didn’t sit well with me… not only were there extremely bad problems with both my employer and the client, but there’s some “little things” that have bothered me occasionally since I was 15. I’ve gone as much as 3 years without so much as a hint of vertigo (it’s not height related) or a trembling leg. The last 3 months in Costa Rica I got sick over 7 times. Then I got a job offer two hours from home and by Og I got it!

So now I’m two hours away and I go home every weekend. Littlebro lives with Mom (he’s getting his own place as soon as the builders finish it), in the same town as Bro and SIL.

And I really, really wish I could do more to help, but how do you help someone who won’t even admit things are Not Fine?

  • yeah I know this isn’t the real verb. I just feel too crappy to look it up. Same for the rest of the vocabulary. Please bear with me, this is a “feeling lousy” thread.

{{NAVA}} Your family has my sympathies. My grandfather had ALS and died in his late 50s (this was before I was born) and it was, from what I hear, heartbreaking for the whole family.

Thanks, Mama

I just got off the phone with Bro. The ALS is proceeding real, real fast; they’re keeping him and won’t give any tentative release dates. Bro stayed home with the baby and didn’t go to the hospital, SIL’s Mom plans on staying at the hospital 24/7 until Joe is released. SIL mentioned that Joe said he’s realized that before long, he won’t be able to talk or eat. I imagine his wife won’t want to hear any talk of writing a will - and, once he dies, will have to get nagged as tactfully as possible to get out of her daughter’s house occasionally… last year when the baby was born she was offering to move in and SIL was saying “no way, that would kill my marriage!” SIL’s mom is one of those people who don’t argue with anybody but do everything they want, anytime they want, their way. And while she doesn’t say things directly to you, adressing something like “such horrible times we live in, that a man will be lolling about while his wife works” to thin air when my brother has just collapsed on the couch is not particularly conductive to sweetness and goodwill.

Not a pretty picture no matter how long the actual dying takes, but in a way I’m glad we went through Dad’s long illness and death. We know some things both about the grieving process and about death-related paperwork that we’d never needed to worry about before.

Prayers and warm thoughts welcome, all.

Your family is in my thoughts. I hope things resolve peacefully.

My sympathies. My grandfather was diagnosed with ALS about 2 years ago. He’s now getting close to the end: completely wheelchairbound, voice going, starting to have trouble swallowing. It’s miserable watching someome you love deteriorate that way.

Nava, nothing to say here other than to express my sympathies.

I can’t imagine the horror of this-to lose one’s independence as well as the control of one’s body. Damn. Your family is in my prayers Nava.