*Richard Q. Mueller doing a headstand circa 1970. He might – he just might – have a pipe in his mouth, but from this angle, we can’t be sure…

April 15, 2010 The Thing Is….

My dad really is one of my favorite people on the planet and the thought of not having his irreverent person around to joke with is just so God-awful awful, my heart is breaking. I have got to pull it together. 
Here are some of the things I remember and value (and always will) about him: his humor, his intelligence, his goodness, walking down the street with him when I was a little girl and the feeling that everyone knew him and liked him, how he made people laugh and feel good, and how safe he made me feel, his voice resonating in his chest when I would sit on his lap when I was little, his bursts of song from behind the pharmacy counter (today, in an attempt to ask the “important questions” I asked what were the rest of the words to one that began “in the south of France, where the ladies don’t wear pants” and discovered that they are as follows “all they wear is grass just to cover up their ass” which I think explains why I never heard them in the store all those years ago…), his ability to make any moment funny, his devotion to my mom and to doing what was right, his incredible cheap-a-tude (omg is he cheap!), his appreciation for good looking women (last night at the hospital: “did you see the hips on that one?”, “Not really dad, but I know where you’re coming from, so stop right there, please!”), his love for his kids and grand kids which was without ego although yes I sometimes wished he had taken more credit, more pride in himself and in the fabulous dynasty (I loved calling him the patriarch) he co-created, his modesty, his attachment to coins and stamps and collecting things, his depth and sweetness, the fact that he could stand on his head, and even on his hands on a chair when we were little, little kids and that I knew that he was the best dad of all the dads, ever. And that’s all, but just for now. 
All I want to do is sleep, maybe tonight. Last night was a wash until I called the hospital at 2:30a.m. to ask how he was. Asleep, she said. And so, I went back to bed for the seventeenth time and finally dropped off at about four a.m., waking at six. He told me today to be strong and that “this is life”; I know he’s right and I will try to be strong, but it ain’t easy.

April 17, 2010 Hospice

My dad is home and yesterday was admitted as a patient into Hospice, or, as it is known locally, the Catskill Area Center for Palliative Care. I have always been a fan of hospice care for at least as long as I have understood it, an understanding that dates back to a PBS show Bill Moyers did about it in the 90s. It’s great, and, it’s really great as it exists in the present, not only for the absolutely terminally ill i.e. “you have three weeks to live, yes, you can go into hospice”, it also now admits those whose diagnosis is longer term. 
Although the many services to my dad have yet to begin in full, he was checked out by an RN yesterday who will now visit every week. He will also be getting daily visits from a nurse’s aide named Lisa, a woman I understand to be quite a hottie, something my dad will appreciate very much. A social worker will also be checking in with him weekly and this daughter who loves her dad is feeling much better and much more supported in getting him through this transition, however long it takes. 
I wonder now, in useless hindsight, if I should have stayed with him Wednesday and allowed him to continue to say no to going to the ER. It would have been hard, but courage and strength are what is required now. Well, he is home, rested and resolute. He told me yesterday that everyone else is a lot more upset about him dying than he is, which is true. He misses my mom and his good friends, the closest of whom have been gone many for years, Uncle Hubert, and Seager Fairbairn, among very few others. Quality over quantity, always. His mother lived to be ninety-seven, almost ninety-eight. I adored her, but saw that she too was lonely for those who shared her memories, her peers, her college buddies and beloved siblings who had long pre-deceased her. 
My mom, even in her dementia, gave my dad a reason and purpose in life. She saw him in 1953 and grabbed him. He was (and is) a reserved man, shy although yes, with a large bawdy streak, but essentially private, and not easy to draw out. My mother’s vivacity, intelligence, and energy were the perfect foil for his quieter temperament; their relationship worked in part because he was willing to go along with whatever she wanted 99% of the time. Now I am concerned about him doing the same for me, for my brand-spanking new M.D. niece who loves him, for all of those who love him, and don’t want to lose him, ever. And yet, this is the natural order – and yet, it will happen, probably sooner than later. We have got to let go. And yet, letting go, while trying hard to respect and allow this sweet lovely intelligent man to decide for himself what he wants requires a boat load of grace.

I have a head cold, and grace is easier to come by when I don’t feel like shit. Still, it is possible. I guess.