My Dad is gone.
Now, before you react like, “Oh my God, Dan, I’m so sorry. When did he pass?” he’s still alive. Barely.
My Dad has lived in a nursing home for the past 3 years, ever since my Mom passed. He’s been living at the Rose Garden in Grandville, and for most of the last 3 years, he’s done very well there.
My Dad is a social butterfly. He loves talking to people, he loves flirting with the women that take care of him, and he loves giving people a hard time. His sardonic sense of humor has been passed to his sons, and I’m happy to say also to his grandchildren.
You know the saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? In our family, if life gives you lemons, you make fun of them. Not exactly a cheery outlook on life, but it works for us. There is a reason that Monty Python and Mad Magazine were an important part of my growing up.
My sixth grade teacher once wrote on one of my report cards, “Too sarcastic!” I had to look up the word. I thought I was just being funny. That comes from my Dad.
My Dad did not have a fun childhood. His father, my grandfather, was not a nice person. I’m not gonna go into all the details, but just to give you a glimpse, my Dad once told me that one of the things that my grandpa called him on a regular basis was, “Stupid.” Not exactly a loving guy.
Dad also had some pretty big health issues to deal with too. Birth defects were part of his family. He had such flat feet that when he walked on the beach, his footprints looked alien. He worked standing on his feet for most of his life, and he would go through multiple pairs of work shoes every year.
And yet, he worked many hours at Steelcase, providing for his family and building a nest egg so he could retire at 62. He had to be in pain for a lot of those hours, but he never talked about it.
After Steelcase, he tried a few things in retirement. He traveled with my Mom. He tried golf. (He’s a terrible golfer. I got that from him.) But he soon realized he was pretty bored. So he went to work for a few rental car companies which combined his love of driving with his love of new cars.
When he worked for Budget, he mostly brought cars back to Detroit Metro airport after people would drive them to Grand Rapids. He took almost the same route at least 3 times a week, delivering a car to the airport and then riding back in a van with a bunch of other drivers.
He was asked if it was boring to drive the same route day after day. His response was, “Are you kidding? I’ve spent the last 20 years standing in the same spot, next to the same machine day after day after day.” The driving, with the changing weather and the changing scenery, was always a source of joy for him after spending most of his working life inside a factory.
He also liked hanging with the other old guys that he drove with. They would take a coffee break at the Portland McDonalds, where they would swap stories and and laugh and give each other some serious shit.
One time, a rather ambitious manager told my Dad that the coffee breaks had to stop. Dad looked at the guy and said, “Look, you’re paying me 8 bucks an hour. I’m not doing this to get rich. We’re taking a coffee break.” It was never mentioned again.
He drove cars well into his 80s. He also rode his bike into his 80s. When my mom went into a nursing home with dementia, he visited her every day. The people that worked at that nursing home became well acquainted with Don Cole, from the doctors and nurses to the residents to the maintenance guy. Like I said, a social butterfly.
But about 2 months ago, his outlook on life dramatically changed. The joshing stopped. The smiles stopped. When I would visit him, he would constantly lament that he hated being where he was, and that I needed to get him out of there. His caretakers at the Rose Garden called myself and my brother Paul almost everyday, concerned that his behavior was becoming more and more depressed and combative.
We’re not sure what happened. He may have had a series of small strokes. He has also fallen multiple times, because he has forgotten that he can’t walk anymore. That may have caused a head injury.
Regardless of how it happened, he is no longer the same person. We have called in hospice, and they have him on enough drugs to keep him calm. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking at the same time.
I’ve told his grandchildren to remember him the way he was, and to not visit him anymore. The grandpa they grew up with is gone.
For me and Holly, this is becoming an all too familiar road. She lost her father to Alzheimer’s, and I lost my mom to dementia. And now my Dad is suffering from the same malady. And this situation has me asking a basic question.
Why do we try to live so long? We desperately hang on to life, taking pills for all our old age issues. Pills for the heart, pills for diabetes, pills for everything. Doctors take money from Medicare and our pockets, and nursing homes drain that nest egg we’ve worked our whole lives building up.
Have you ever made the following statement after seeing someone struggle with a brain disease? “Wow, if I ever get like that, put a bullet in me.” If you haven’t said it out loud, you’ve probably thought it. But I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t work that way. Doctors and nursing home people will keep you alive, and they will take your money.
I don’t know what the answer is to this issue. I do know that what we’re doing as a society is not working. If we have a right to live, maybe we need a right to die. As a stage 4 cancer patient, it’s something I think about often.
Thank God for hospice. They at least move things along and keep him calm. It’s very difficult giving hospice permission to keep increasing the drugs, because I know that eventually the drugs will kill him. But it’s okay, because the person he has become is no longer my Dad.
I choose to remember my Dad as a person who loved to sing old hymns, loved talking to people, loved sports, and loved looking at life through a sarcastic lens.
Don Cole is no longer with us. And I miss him already.
Love ya, Pops.
Thanks for reading.
3 thoughts on “My Dad”
First I would like to say thank you for writing such a beautiful story of your dad. Sarcasm is not the only gift he gave you because it is clear you have his wonderful writing skills.
I’m glad you have so many fun memories of him. My mom had dementia so I understand a little of what you’re going through and how the healthcare system, sadly, does not work.
I worked at Steelcase also but did not know Dan that well but I do know that we were all similar to Dan’s personality. That’s how we would get through the day ribbing each other full of laughter and sarcasm.
God Bless you and your family and take care. Cancer sucks for sure. 🙏🏼❤️
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Beautiful tribute! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Praying for a peaceful passing and beautiful memories of your dad and a life well lived. May the peace of Christ be with you all💙🙏🏻
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Sorry to hear death is taking its sweet time with your Dad, not fair to your Dad because thats not how he would want it…..great memories help to get through this ….hugs to you ,Holly and your sons
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