A few days after Dad's 76th birthday of April 20, 2005, he suffered a massive stroke. After three days in the hospital, the doctor met with his wife (my stepmother) and myself to let us know there was nothing more they could do for him. Dad was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes when he was in his 40's and in the previous few years, his kidneys had shut down. He was on the maximum dialysis available, three times a week. That allowed him to live a pretty normal life. The day before his massive stroke he worked the Lion's Club annual golf tournament, stopped by my radio station's broadcast from a credit union (why weren't you there, he later asked. I told him it wasn't my time in rotation), went home, took a nap, then had dinner and went to a play with his wife. His last day walking he made use of his legs. Of course he didn't know it was going to be his last day walking.
The hospital made arrangements to have him moved to a nursing home to live out his remaining days. They even let him have chocolate ice cream that night because doctors figured it wasn't going to hurt him, as he didn't have too many days ahead. My younger sister, Maureen, had flown in from wherever she was troubleshooting a Johnny Rockets restaurant, to be by dad's side. She spent the night with him, sleeping in the other bed in his room. She didn't want him dying alone. That's why he supposedly got married, but that woman was at his home, deciding whom should receive his belongings.
The next day, dad awoke, had a little breakfast and then the doctor came by. Jokingly, the doctor said, "Have any plans for the day?" Dad though for a second and said, "It's Friday, so I'm going to dialysis." The doctor was taken aback. Dad had admitted, when they were moving him, that he'd had a good life. So when the doctor asked the question, he was surprised. Thing is, he didn't know Dad. Dad didn't just give up. Dad fought. And he was in for the fight of his life.
April turned to May and May to June. I tried to be with him at least three times a week. I worked about 30 miles away and lived 40 miles away, but he was my dad and even if he was just sleeping, he knew I was there for him as he'd been for me many times growing up.
My older sister Debra, lives 3,000 miles away, so she'd call at least once a week, while Maureen visited when she could. I figured this was probably going to be Dad's last Father's Day, so I asked Maureen to make him a pineapple upside down cake, the dessert he used to make for us as kids. I told her that we were going to have a party in his room on Father's Day. I even told Dad that we were going to celebrate Father's Day at the nursing home, bringing him treats and gifts. I had read somewhere that if someone who is dying has something to look forward to, they are more likely going to hang on. Dad had a speech therapist and a physical therapist to help him repair the damage that his stroke caused. He was making progress too. We were all so happy for him. Until the heatwave.
The nursing home he had chosen didn't have air conditioning. Which is no big thing if you're in San Francisco or Alaska. But Dad was in Woodland, CA. Temperatures get over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and June 2005 was no exception. They had swamp coolers, but it only got the temperature down into the low 90's. Because Dad was on a catheter, he got a bladder infection. They gave him oral antibiotics, but his body could only fight one thing at a time. They sent him to the hospital and after being on IV antibiotics for a few days, he was fine. Just in time for Father's Day.
Dad grew up in Oakland and was a big fan of the Oakland Oaks baseball team. It was prior to the Kansas City Athletics moving there. When the A's took the scene from the Oaks, dad became a fan of theirs. He and my older sister Debra were HUGE fans and went to games together back in the early 1970's when they were champs three years in a row. I think Debra even got to hold Reggie Jackson's beer while he was signing autographs.
I knew just what I was going to get Dad for his last Father's Day. I bough a jersey at Walmart and had a local T-shirt print shop put McMahan on the back, then #1 Dad under that. I also bought him an A's hat as he needed to wear a hat every time we took him outside for some fresh air. Maureen brought the cake and I'm kicking myself now because she gave him something else but I can't remember. But I do recall it was very sentimental. We all enjoyed the cake and think we sang to him as well. He was so happy, he was crying, although I've been told that ppl who have strokes are emotional.
Dad passed away about a month later. He got another bladder infection and began hallucinating, even hitting me because I wouldn't do a story on the "drug dealers" there.
I called his wife, since she was the only one who could make the decision. She decided that he would no longer go to dialysis and the people at the nursing home would make him comfortable. Dad fought with every ounce he had, it just wasn't enough. When his wife explained to him what was going to happen, he accepted his fate, saying he'd lived a great life and had the three best daughters anyone could want. On his final day on this earth, he was in a coma, the nursing home said that he was non-responsive. I stayed with him while my sisters went out to get some lunch. They brought back a six pack of Dad's favorite beer - Sudwerks. We clanked our bottles together over his bed, toasting him. Then Maureen got one of those sponge things on a stick and poured some of her beer on it and lifted it up to Dad's Irish Hook nose (that's what mom always called Dad's large proboscis) and a funny thing happened. Dad, who was non-responsive just that morning, opened his mouth! Maureen gently put the beer soaked sponge in his mouth, while dad slurped it dry! He opened his mouth for another sip and Maureen gave it to him.
We were blessed to have one last beer with Dad on his last day on earth.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.