Death, Dying, and Dad
‘Puter visited his Dad this weekend. As most of you know, ‘Puter’s Dad was diagnosed a year or so ago with primary progressive aphasia (or, dementia, logopenic variant). Basically, Dad is losing his ability to communicate, reason, and do simple tasks. This disease is eating Dad’s brain and eventually will kill him, likely sooner than later.
Dad is progressing through this disease rapidly, at least in ‘Puter’s uneducated observation. Each time ‘Puter visits Dad, Dad is a little more confused, a little less able, and a little less Dad. Dad still lives at home with ‘Puter’s Mom, but at a certain point, Dad will be too much for Mom to handle.
Dad can still communicate, but his words are halting and his short-term memory is shot. Sometimes Dad cannot remember Mom’s name. ‘Puter’s pretty sure he still knows who Mom is, since Dad still remembers ‘Puter, but it comes as a shock when it happens.
Dad’s also developed some odd habits or tics as a result of his disease. Dad’s always used lotion on his face and bald head, because he’s a pale, dry-skinned, red-haired, bald, Irishman. Recently, he’s been using other products he finds instead of lotion on his face and head. For instance, he’s used Mom’s foot cream on several occasions. Sometimes it’s shaving cream.
When ‘Puter was down this weekend, it was deodorant. Twice. Dad came down with it on his neck from ear to ear. Mom got him to wash up, and when he came back down from doing so, he’d reapplied. ‘Puter had to admire Dad’s singlemindedness. Dad just knew deodorant went on his neck, so dammit, he was going to have deodorant on his neck.
Dad often asks Mom when ‘Puter is next coming to visit. Mom will tell Dad, and Dad will then ask Mom every half hour when ‘Puter will be visiting. Now Mom doesn’t tell Dad ‘Puter’s coming to visit until the day ‘Puter is to arrive.
‘Puter enjoys visiting his Dad as his Dad declines. It is good to spend time with Dad when he still knows who ‘Puter is. ‘Puter and Dad are both early risers, so we will get up, “read” the paper (Dad can only make out headlines and very basic facts any more) and discuss the current events Dad can remember. Sometimes, ‘Puter will remind Dad multiple times of current events so we can discuss them. ‘Puter and Dad enjoy this quiet time together very much, even though ‘Puter does most of the talking and Dad does most of the listening.
‘Puter’s been forced to confront end of life issues with Dad’s disease. Both the end of Dad’s life, and the end of ‘Puter’s life. We often hear people of all religious and political leanings (including “none”) bandy about the term “death with dignity,” but what do we really mean?
We Catholics are fortunate, in that we have The Catechism, the result of over 2,000 years of wrestling with Jesus’ commands and their application to the world. ‘Puter likes the neat summation of the Church’s position on life issues, including end of life issues.
We learn the following from Catechism sections 2276 and 2277:
2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.
2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
Pretty simple, no? Help the sick, don’t kill the dying. Even (especially) when doing so would be the easy thing for us to do. Even (especially) when we rationalize so doing as better for the afflicted individual.
In ‘Puter’s own coping with Dad’s decline and soon to come death, ‘Puter’s realized the beauty of these two simple sentences. First, they affirm the dignity of life – all life – no matter how pained or inconvenient it may be for the afflicted individual. Second, they affirm the dignity of all lives tasked with caring for the ill and dying, in reminding us that to affirm and protect the value of afflicted lives for which we are responsible affirms the dignity and value of our own lives as well.
‘Puter can vouch for the spiritual (or, if you prefer, emotional) power in dealing with the sick and dying so as to preserve their dignity. ‘Puter’s learned to be more patient, more receptive, more calm, more flexible in dealing with Dad’s decline. It’s been both a painful and a beautiful way to learn these lessons.
Death with dignity isn’t just about preserving the dignity of the sick and dying. It’s also about preserving the dignity of their caregivers’ lives.
Add this to the list of things Dad’s taught ‘Puter.
Always right, unless he isn’t, the infallible Ghettoputer F. X. Gormogons claims to be an in-law of the Volgi, although no one really believes this.
’Puter carefully follows economic and financial trends, legal affairs, and serves as the Gormogons’ financial and legal advisor. He successfully defended us against a lawsuit from a liquor distributor worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid deliveries of bootleg shandies.
The Geep has an IQ so high it is untestable and attempts to measure it have resulted in dangerously unstable results as well as injuries to researchers. Coincidentally, he publishes intelligence tests as a side gig.
His sarcasm is so highly developed it borders on the psychic, and he is often able to insult a person even before meeting them. ’Puter enjoys hunting small game with 000 slugs and punt guns, correcting homilies in real time at Mass, and undermining unions. ’Puter likes to wear a hockey mask and carry an axe into public campgrounds, where he bursts into people’s tents and screams. As you might expect, he has been shot several times but remains completely undeterred.
He assures us that his obsessive fawning over news stories involving women teachers sleeping with young students is not Freudian in any way, although he admits something similar once happened to him. Uniquely, ’Puter is unable to speak, read, or write Russian, but he is able to sing it fluently.
Geep joined the order in the mid-1980s. He arrived at the Castle door with dozens of steamer trunks and an inarticulate hissing creature of astonishingly low intelligence he calls “Sleestak.” Ghettoputer appears to make his wishes known to Sleestak, although no one is sure whether this is the result of complex sign language, expert body posture reading, or simply beating Sleestak with a rubber mallet.
‘Puter suggests the Czar suck it.