Last year at this time mostly I sat and watched him sleep. The closer he knew he was getting to the end the more anxious he was. Trying not to sleep. Which made him even more anxious.
But in those days, everyday...that I watched him sleep, I counted his breaths. I can not remember what the Hospice lady said to look for exactly...what they called it? But the high levels of morphine would eventually slow his breathing until it stopped.
He would take ten breaths and then stop breathing for ten or fifteen seconds. Then take another five and stop breathing for twenty or so seconds.
The irony is that our histories made this so easy to do. To just sit, watch him breathe. All day or night.
In his sleep he had conversations with my sibs that had already gone...and with my father, too. He talked to them as if they were there in the room, calling them by name. I imagined them all standing around his bed. Truthfully, that was very comforting.
One day he opened his eyes and smiled this just huge smile, looked at me, said,
"I suppose you heard all of that?"
"I did." I said, smiling. He looked embarrassed for a minute.
"You were talking to them, weren't you?"
"Yes," he said. "Dad, too." Then his expression changed. He felt guilty.
"What?" I asked.
"What do you think happens when you die?" He asked.
I suspected he was looking for something very specific.
"I think that when we die and as that part of us that is physical falls awway...so does the addiction, the disease. There would be no more need. He would be the man that made us pancakes on Sunday mornings, took us fishing on Saturday afternoons, not the man that came into our bedroom on Saturday nights."
"I think that, too," he said. The smile coming back.
"I want him to come get me when it is time." He said.
"I think that would be very cool," I said.
"Me, too," he said...and he fell back to sleep.
...and I watched him breathe.
checkin out for a few weeks...