the closer we got to home the harder it was. gab had already told the kids that grandpa had died and i had no idea how they would be. both of my kids are and have always been extremely close to him. Magda used to call him "boyfriend" and he called her "girlfriend" and he would give her the moon.
He would sit on the floor with jude and play cars with him, always taking the one jude wanted and then laughing when jude would yell at him for cheating. He also was teaching Jude how to use tools and because of Grandpa, Jude could identify all the screwdrivers and different tools in Grandpa's box.
We picked mom up in lexington and she rode the rest of the way home with us. When we got to town she wanted to see the kids, I was not sure if that was the best idea but complied. As soon as she walked in the house, Magda ran into her arms and they collapsed on the couch holding each other and sobbing. No words at all. Jude rounded the corner and said "aw man, when dad told me about grandpa dying, i didn't cry one bit".
A few minutes later he said "hey wait, when my dinosaur breaks again, who is gonna fix it?" he knew grandpa was the great fixer and was realizing how HIS life would be affected. He continued to rattle off things that would have to be thrown away because Grandpa couldn't fix them anymore.
I looked at my front door with Mel's tools still sitting near it and cried silently. The first few weeks it was a sad reminder and now more than a month out, it comforts me and makes me think of that day he had everyone standing around looking at it and we all laughed about how "many senior citizens does it take to install a front door?"
Jude never did cry about Grandpa dying but the following Monday he cried about EVERYthing else. He cried about me choosing out the wrong shirt for him, he cried because I made his toast wrong, he cried when i took him to school, he cried because his stomach hurt..Easier to deal with those issues than what was really upsetting him I suppose. Magda on the other hand, went head first into her sadness, sobbed uncontrollably and released it. By Monday she was ready for school and some normal kid stuff.
I think I took more of Jude's approach, I'm not much of a head first into my emotions type of woman. I admire those who can do that.
so here we are over a month later, heading into the official Holiday season (and his birthday would have been this month). still sad but not quite as "fogged" over as i have been. the Earth keeps on spinning.
2009 has taken:
2. aunt ruth
3. Grandma Blanche
4. Jill Bane (local young woman who fought cancer for 9 months)
5. Sammy Sartoris (good friend's little brother 17 yrs old)
6. Jeff Roberts (gab's good friend and rolltender only 33 yrs)
7. Hunter Gerdes (10 year old local boy who fought lukemia for 9 months)
My brother was driving down to be with mom on Friday, 9/11. She was mad that he was not attending Grandma Blanche's services but we didn't want her to be alone down there. Mel's sister and daughter had driven back Wednesday to help take care of her services so my cousin (kelly) drove over from Tennessee to sit with mom for a few days.
I was planning to drive down on Sunday and spend a few days. I really thought that it would come down to helping mom make the decision to take him off life support so I didn't know how long that would go on.
I woke up Friday morning and had a sense of urgency. I needed to hit the road "right now". I called my cousin (karen) who said she would ride with me (the sister of the cousin who was already there) and made arrangements with Gab and his parents to help with the kids. I was in Indiana at the time for a training so I actually had to drive two hours home, repack my backpack and hit the road. It took just around 8 hours to get there. I arrived at about 6pm.
at the ICU, you can only be in the room at certain times and for only half hour increments. I went right in at 6 and told Mel I was there and we missed him and the kids wanted him to come home. He was so frail and had tubes coming out everywhere, he would have HATED that. He had a male nurse named Forrest and he talked just like Forrest Gump but he was very sincere and caring. When our time was up, I told Mel "we have to go now, we'll be back in two hours".
we went to eat and at 8:00pm we went back in. His monitors were all over the place like his blood pressure was not stable at all. The doctor came in and told us that he was "very ill" that any ONE thing he had going wrong with him would put him in the ICU but he had several very serious things happening at once. He did not feel there was anything left to do. At 8:30 I had to leave so I held his hand and told him we couldn't come back tonight but we would see him first thing in the morning. I went to the waiting room where my brother was sleeping and my cousin was on her cell phone. My mom stayed (they let spouses spend an extra 15 minutes). Within moments of sitting down we heard over the intercom "Code Blue: Level 4" and seconds after that my mother comes running out screaming and sobbing for us to "come quick". My brother jumped up and I ran out (no shoes) and she tried to get back into the ICU but the nurses held her back and told her she could not be back there. She just cried and screamed at them that she was supposed to go get her kids, they ushered us into a family room near the door.
A woman came into the room with us who was with another family in ICU and she identified herself as a pastor and offered to pray with us. As she prayed my mom sobbed how "she can't live without him" and "where was Jesus when I asked him to make Mel better?" She does not even remember this portion of the event at all.
A doctor came into the room and kneeled down to us. She said "we got a heartbeat" and my mom jumped with hope. "But...to be frank...it's the medicine keep him alive at this point and when the medicine gets through his system he will likely code again". They escorted us in to his room again.
Mel's two sisters and one daughter were driving down (they had waited until after Grandma Blanche's services to hit the road) so they were about an hour away at this point. We hoped they could make it in time to say their good byes.
We were in the room maybe five minutes when he coded again. Again we were led to the family room. Forrest came in and said "he is likely going to die now, do you want to be in the room when it happens?" and we followed him back to Mel's room. There were about 6 other people in the room. A large man performing CPR on his fragile body and a doctor pushing medicine into a mainline at his neck. Other people reading off stats and doing counts. It was chaos. My brother held my mom and I turned my back and looked at the wall because watching his body jumping up and and down was more than I could stand. My mom cried to him "don't leave me" and the doctor kept looking at her for permission to stop. My mom just wanted him to live.
I thought, okay, I am in a fucking movie and his ghost is floating somewhere in this room. He is watching all this unfold and I should see something. I concentrated on the ceiling and tried and tried to see ..something...but nothing.
Finally my brother who is very stoic and restrained cries and says firmly "MOM, tell them to stop" she replies "i just want him back" and Bryan says "HE'S HAD ENOUGH, WE'VE ALL HAD ENOUGH" so she whimpers "i don't want him to suffer anymore" and the doctor stopped pushing meds and the guy stopped performing cpr and everyone stepped back and we all just watched the monitors go to zero and flat line. I was still looking so close for some sign...a shadow, fuzzy shape, glow of light, nothing. Just a yellowing frail body with tubes sticking out.
My mom threw herself on his body and sobbed. Mel's sisters and daughter arrived about half an hour later. It took mom a couple of hours to be able to leave his body and go to the hotel but we did get her some xanax and made her take two. No one slept much that night and the 8 hour drive home the next day was a blur. Mom rode with Bryan, and Sandy and her boyfriend drove mom's car back. Family friends Donna and Richard had driven Judy and Debbie and I was with Karen in my truck. Convoy. We stopped at a great family buffet for dinner and we all felt "mel would have loved this, the food was good but he would have loved having so many family together even more".
it was a Wednesday and mom asked the kids and I over for dinner. She and Mel were leaving for southern il for her eldest sister's funeral the next day and then another sister (and her husband) were riding with them to Tunica, Mississippi for a three day weekend.
Mel came out and didn't look like he felt very well. I mentioned this to him and we talked a bit about it. He was sure he'd be fine, he has been unhealthy for years having survived pretty much every major health scare you can think of ( congestive heart failure, colon cancer, open heart surgery, hip replacement, very large hernia, diabetic coma....we called him "bionic grandpa"). When his breathing got labored like that, he would take a water pill (?) and get the fluid off his heart and he would be better.
We ate dinner and when we went to leave the kids gave them both hugs and kisses (as they always do) and Mel took my hand and said "I haven't given up on your door, I'll be over next week when we get back". And off we went.
They attended my Aunt Ruth's funeral and headed to Tunica. According to mom and Aunt Wanda, Mel still was in pain and they told him that they could postpone the trip and head home. He insisted on going on down. He thought when he got to the hotel he would put his oxygen on and feel better. On Friday afternoon, my mom called 911 and the EMTs came and took all his vitals, his blood pressure was fine and they thought if he just took his pill to get the water off his heart he would feel better. He didn't want to go to the hospital (because he was worried about money) so the EMTs left. My mom called Gabriel to ask him which pill was the right one because mel just put all his pills in one bottle mixed up. grrrrrr. I feel a little angry at the EMTs who should have been more insistent on convincing him to go to the hospital for tests. According to mom and my aunt, they were pretty casual and gave them all a feeling that he was totally fine. It becomes very apparent that we start to blame everyone and everything and do the whole "what if" scenario over and over. What if I had insisted he stay home that Wednesday night when clearly I saw that he was not doing well?
Somewhere around midnight, Mel was in so much pain (his legs were hurting at this point) he told my mom he needed to go to the hospital. We got the call and Gab answered it, we were asleep so he was pissy. Plus he was still mad about Mel and Mom turning the EMTS away at noon when they were there. Honestly Mel has been in the hospital so many times and my mom always made it sound like he was going to die each time that this time we thought it was the same situation. After all, he survives EVERYTHING. He was in so much pain and his blood pressure was too low to give him any pain medication so they put him on a ventilator and in a twilight coma to alleviate pain. His blood pressure was almost non-existent like 60 over 40 or something crazy low.
So here is my mom living in a waiting room 8 hours away from home. My aunt and uncle were making trips back and forth to the hotel (which I must mention the hotel was awesome and gave them rooms for free for the duration of their stay since they stayed a few extra days to be with mom). Over the next few days his condition got worse. His kidneys started shutting down, he developed blood clots, and they thought maybe he experienced a stroke. They did dialysis to try to reboot the kidneys to no avail. His blood pressure never stabilized and his oxygen was floating somewhere around 70% even with 100% O2 flow. They talked about "making a decision".
My aunt had to come home to start her latest round of chemo (yes, when it rains it pours) so Mel's daughter and his sister drove down on Tuesday. My brother and I were planning to stagger our visits so mom had someone with her at all times. I couldn't spend too much time because of the kids and gab's work schedule.
On Wednesday the phone rang at about 3:30 am. Before I picked up, I just prayed "don't say it, don't say it, don't say it". It was my mom and she was crying and she choked out "Grandma Blanche just died". So, Mel's mother passed away and he never even knew it. I hate to say it but I was relieved. I thought, whatever energy or strength she had left (she was 93) she would float down there and give it to him. Her services were on Friday, September 11th.
2009 has taken a LOT of wonderful people from us, it's been rough. both celebrities and friends and family.
i just spent a good amount of time reading over my posts from the past several years and laughing about all the funny stories my kids told. i documented local disasters, accidents, and sad things too. i have decided to post the ordeal of my dad's death here (rather than facebook) since not many people read this blog anymore. it's more for me but feel free to read if you want.
Mel Sykes Jr. was my step dad but for the past 28 years he was much more a dad than my biological father (who I don't hate but don't have a very close relationship with either). Mel could have written a book about how to be a great step dad. I was a pre-teen when my mom and Mel got married so I was at the height of my puberty dramatic girl self. I was a total brat. Mel never ever at anytime acted like he was sorry that I was part of the package. He stuck with me and with love and patience he won me over.
It was after I got married and had kids that my relationship with my mom and Mel really grew. I spent a lot of time with them and they both helped me so much with both babies. We spent many Saturday mornings in the summer driving to garage sales. Mel loved to ride with me and the kids to Bloomington to Menards or Sam's Club (he loved to ride the scooter around with Jude and eat all the samples).
Mel was much more than just smart, he was wise. I relied on his opinion and really miss that the most. Many times over the last month, I have thought "oh, I need to ask Mel what he thinks about that" only to remember that I cannot have that conversation with him. I would get the Pantagraph on Sundays and do the first few (easy) answers of the crossword puzzle. Then I would give it to him, he would work the puzzle and leave a few for me to finish (usually the ones that involved a celebrity or song title). It was a joke that I would "have" to finish his puzzles. I have never known anyone as flat out smart and wise as he.
the door project:
A few paragraphs does not even come close to doing justice to the affect Mel had on my life. He loved doing projects, he would measure about 50 times and it would drive me crazy (because I would just eyeball something). He had to have everything perfect and I appreciated that when he did something, I knew it would be done right. The last project he was working on for me was a new front door. True to form, he took about 10 days just to get the door in place. He had to take out the original door, measure, measure, measure, put the door back on because it was late. Then repeat the process several days in a row. He leveled out the floor around the door, put in new insulation and jams and at last the new door was in. Now, to tackle the hardware. LOL, he had my uncle, my mom, and my aunt all standing around looking at it for an hour before he actually installed it. The lock was not working "smooth" so he spent another full day working on that. At last, perfect. He left all his tools sitting in front of the door until he could finish the molding and trim around the door. He was going on vacation and would finish it when he got back.