We spent the twilight hours of Saturday evening wandering around the cemeteries in El Dorado. They weren't our destination as we worked our way back to the hotel but with Memorial Day coming up, it seemed like a good idea. The original intent was just to drive by and look at the flowers and the flags but we were moved to stop. It took a while but we finally located the graves of both sets of Wayne's grandparents at one cemetery before moving on to the other where finding those of my mother and step-father were easier. It's been far fewer years.
If it seems like we just got home from El Dorado, it did to us too. A flurry of phone calls concerning the latest health crisis for Wayne's dad caused us to pack quickly and hit the road. We drove all night Tuesday night, taking turns driving in 1-2 hour shifts. We used to make the trip home by traveling overnight, back when we could tuck little boys into the backseat and they'd sleep the majority of the journey. We were younger then; we got old wise enough to break it into two days.
But we needed to be there as soon as possible so we drove through the night and actually, it was better than we anticipated. There's not a lot of traffic on the back roads of East Texas in the wee hours of the morning. You do, however, see some interesting people buying gas at a Walmart in Texarkana at 2AM. Breakfast in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, consisted of maple Long Johns and chocolate iced donuts. Don't judge; we needed something to keep us going and sugar was the choice. Seventeen hours after walking out of our house, we were in El Dorado, ready for a quick clean up and change of clothes.
The news from the hospital on Wayne's dad's condition was sobering at best. Acute kidney failure. A mild heart attack. A small stroke. All within the few days between when we left and when we returned. Added to his long list of other health problems, it did not appear medicine had much to offer him beyond comfort care. We were blessed by the fact that Wayne's dad had made his wishes clear some years ago and signed a durable medical power of attorney so the boys could carry them out.
Hospice and funeral homes weren't necessarily on our radar when we left home but soon were, and with those arrangements finalized, we turned our attention to a plan for everything in his apartment. It will have to be cleaned out before the end of June. Almost ninety years of life in a few rooms....it's almost overwhelming.
Every child will face this situation at some point but knowing that doesn't make it any easier. Fortunately, we have Wayne's brother and sister-in-law to share the load.
The good news is we had a delightful day with him on Friday. He's back at the nursing home and surprisingly okay with being there. The Hospice people came in the afternoon to present him with a pin and certificate honoring his military service and he seemed to enjoy the attention. He even told a few stories about his war experiences.
Saturday, however, was another story and the doctor's warning of weeks, not months, seemed all the more real. Perhaps that's what drew us to the cemeteries after saying our goodbyes. We've loved and been loved by some amazing people, and while we never wanted to let any of them go, we were powerless to stop it, just as we can't stop what is happening to Wayne's dad. It wasn't death we thought of as we stood reading those names on the headstones; it was holiday dinners, funny stories and a host of other happy memories.
One day it will be that way for Wayne's dad but we're not there yet. The journey continues.