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December 15, 1972
Exactly 45 years yesterday, on December 15, 1972 (also a Friday) I was a 15 year old high school sophomore. I came home from school that icy day, hoping that the Holiday concert I was due to perform in wasn't going to be snowed or iced out.
My father had had a rectal cancer resected in late August 1971. After a promising start he began developing pains in July 1972. He had a liver scan and his doctor flat-out lied to him about the results; they told him it was "clear." While he had his good days, many days were increasingly painful by October. My doctor said he told my mother the outlook and at some level I think he was telling me the truth. When he gave my mother a surprise party on November 7, 1972, her 40th birthday, I think she was pretty sure it was near the end, though he still went to work in NYC every day.
He had another liver scan on November 24, the day after Thanksgiving. His doctor told my mother that he was close to death, though that day he felt well enough we even talked about his returning to the ski slopes that winter. His last day of work was December 8; he was checked into New Rochelle Hospital on December 11, a Monday. One of the doctors there told my mother "don't you think it's time you told your son"?
When I came home she tried to be indirect. It didn't work, since I knew from my reading at the library what the real outlook for his disease was. I insisted on calling his doctor, since teh lack of candor seriously bothered me. He told me he had told her in October, but that he knew from before the 1971 operation my father was finished. I called my cousin in another state, who confirmed that I had read the literature correctly. That night, since my mother didn't feel up to driving, I took a cab to the High School to play at the concert. It was too icy to bike the six or so miles.
I wanted to tell my father what his fate was to be. My mother would not permit me to do that. my father died on January 5, 1973, exactly four weeks later.
The question I throw out there is, in that kind of situation, when should a son or daughter know what's going on? I did my own reading and came to my own conclusion. Thoughts?
December 31, 1972 - January 1, 1973
On New Years Eve, 45 years ago today we visited my father in the hospital. While he had a "good day" the day before, he was semi-conscious, his legs waving in the air and the rest of him tied securely to the bed. The providers had unhooked the feeding tube, telling us that he (involuntarily) struggled too much. We understood it to mean that they knew the end was near and there was no point.
His sister and her significant other showed up after a New Years Eve engagement. My mother was told by the nurse that she was in party gear and wreaked of alcohol. She ordered the tubes reconnected, so they tied my father more securely (the way you would tie a cord of lumber) and put him back on. When I came back to the hospital I was livid. My mother said to just "let it be."
I went back to school the next day at the end of the holiday break. With a few dimes in my pocket to keep my tabs on what was going on. He died Thursday night/Friday morning.