Monday, June 22, 2009

A day off...

I took yesterday off. I've been going full speed since I left Seoul on the 6th of June, spending time with my Dad, making sure my grandmother is ok, lawyer appointments, running to the bank, running to the county, and pushing drugs. So I decided to spend the day wine tasting out in Temecula with a friend of mine. I'd just gone a month ago when I was here on vacation, so this time we checked out some of the more off the beaten path wineries.

1. Wilson Creek -- this is always stop number 1. Because they have almond champagne.

2. Frangipani -- they have an absolutely wonderful cabernet franc. We got a bottle for dinner... it goes wonderfully with tri tip. They also had a sparkling wine that they mixed with something else. So, so tasty.

3. Oak Mountain -- nothing really spectacular stood out here, although they have music piped into the restrooms which are a standalone facility.

4. Briar Rose -- could not find this one, nothing looked like a winery, although supposedly it exists and people have found it before.

5. Bella Vista -- the last tasting here: have some chocolate, then mix the late harvest syrah with their sparkling wine. Oh, so yummy.

6. Baily -- we stopped here after eating lunch at Carol's. Carol's: excellent. Baily's: eh. Absolutely nothing stood out here.

7. Mt. Palomar -- last stop because my friend is a member here. Tried a couple of blends that are very nice. But my favorite is Shorty's Bistro Red.

It was a lovely day!

Friday, June 19, 2009


I just watched my father die of prostate cancer. That sounds rather harsh, doesn't it? It wasn't. He passed away peacefully at home, with family at his side.

He'd been placed under hospice care back in February. That means that they had reached the end of all possible treatments for him and that he was expected to live six months or less. The hospice staff were finally able to talk him into calling my brother about two weeks ago. I flew out from Seoul about a week and a half ago. My father was a stubborn old goat. He fought and fought against the cancer, and against admitting that he was not going to get better. Up until last week, he talked about feeling better and getting out of bed. He kept working as much as he could, an hour or two at a time. Insisting that he was going to finish projects and get out of bed soon.

My father chose to die at home. I'm not sure he realized that by choosing this option, that he would be at the mercy of who ever was there. If we had not been there, there was no one who could administer the pain relieving drugs he required. If he had chosen to go into a nursing facility, he would have had skilled caretakers who could turn him, clean him, and administer medicine. He could even have had an IV drip providing morphine on demand. Instead, we had to administer medicine based on what we thought his pain level was based upon his agitation and moaning. This often required some experimentation on our part, to find a combination that eased his pain, and calmed him. And over a very short period of time, what used to work became ineffectual, resulting in us giving him more and more morphine at a single time in an attempt to get him to calm down. We administered via an oral syringe liquid fast-acting morphine. We also had to dissolve tablets in water, mix them with the morphine, and then place them in his mouth, either under his tongue or along his gum line. He was most uncooperative until the last day because he insisted on sitting in this very awkward position where gravity could not help us. We had to be careful to prevent the medication from dripping out of his mouth. The last day, the visiting nurse moved him, and put him in a reclining position on his back. This helped immensely to keep the drugs in his mouth, and not falling out on to the pillow.

According to the hospice staff, family members are usually the ones that clean up and change diapers, turn them, and administer drugs. In past years, it was common that people died at home, and for their family to take care of them. My brother and I walked into a situation where we were expected to take over all the care of this person who was in horrible pain, who cried out every time someone tried to move him due to a neurological problem unrelated to the cancer. We don't have any training in how to move someone with brittle bones and who is in intense pain. We don't have any idea how to deal with bedsores. In general, we are not nurses.

Despite the situation, we had the opportunity to say our good byes. I had a chance to talk with my Dad when he was alert and awake. And we were there to say good bye at the end. I have lots of different emotions and feelings right now that I'm trying to make sense of. I didn't have the greatest relationship with my Dad, but I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to come see him, talk with him, and to help him at the end of his life. I'm sad, because I think he was too young to die. He had been an active person, going on hikes, traveling, working, taking ballroom and swing dance lessons, taking photographs, collecting guns, and enjoying life. It was very hard to see someone that just a couple of years ago had been so active become a shrunken old man, who could barely move and was confined to a hospital bed. I'm also angry, because he was so proud that he could not call his children and ask for help. Or even to let us know how serious his condition was. And my heart just hurts.

My brother and I are slowly sorting through decades of accumulated things that my pack rat father never threw away. We have found dresser drawers that are still intact based upon our recollections as kids when we were snooping around. We have found the letters he earned from high school golf. I found every single wage earnings statement from all his summer jobs in the early 60s. And we found photos of our grandfather, who died before we were born. It has been a trip through memory lane. And at the same time, there have been a few surprises. We discovered that Mom's handwriting is still the same some 40 years later when we found envelopes with letters she had written to him before they were married. I found a piece of paper with the date I received my first pair of toe shoes in ballet. We found my brother's birth announcement. We found a Disneyland parking stub from 1984 when parking was only $2.

May you finally be free of pain and able to move again Dad.