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When am I supposed to mourn?

When am I supposed to mourn?


Friday, August 17th at around 4:30 pm was the one year anniversary of receiving a phone call from the Boise Fire Department regarding dad. On that horrible day, Boise Fire had found dad unresponsive, bloody, and confused on his driveway. As dad would later tell my brother and I in the ER, he was just tired and wanted to take a nap in his driveway you know, as people do. Now that I think about it, dads “taking a nap in the driveway” comment was one of the last truly “dad” comments we would ever hear from him, dad always possessed a different form of “logic” than the rest of us humans. He was a retired 1-Star General, I’m a senior financial specialist so maybe I shouldn’t poke fun at dads logic :)


Dad’s stay at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center was an exercise in horrible communication. It started the first day of his admittance. The night before the ER sent my brother and I home around 11pm with a room number for one of the towers in the hospital. Dad had to be chemically restrained while in the ER which meant that he was sound asleep and admitting was backed up. Dad was going to be admitted, that was a given, it was just a matter of paperwork being finished by the hospital which my brother and I did not need to be apart of. At that moment, Tyler and I need some version of nutrition and rest for we were about to start the longest hardest 6 months of our lives.


That Saturday, August 18th 2017, Tyler and I meet at the room we were told he would be at. Dad wasn’t there. Not only was dad not there, there was no sign of his stuff and the room had been completely cleaned. Since we already had a room number, which was given to us roughly 9 hours earlier, neither one of us thought we needed to verify at the front desk. As would we commonly discover during dad’s extended stay at St. Al’s, we were wrong in assuming St. Al’s had our backs as dads caregivers and adult children. As it turned out, dad liked to wonder around so the nurses on his floor had moved him closer to their station to keep an eye on him. The only reason Tyler and I found this out was because some poor CNA crossed our path and we used our consider size difference to scare the poor kid into making multiple rapid calls to find out what was going on. We were both exhausted, confused, worried, and on edge from the ER the night before, the least the hospital could have done was send us a quick text or Facebook message saying dad had to be moved. Playing “find dad” would turn into a game we had to play something like 5 times during his stay, once he was even transferred to an entire new tower without so much as a warning from this hospital. 


The hardest day of my life, and remember I once fell off a cliff rock climbing which I was completely conscious for, would come in late September of 2017. At this point dad was in the supposed award winning stroke wing of St. Alphonsus. No doctor, nurse, CNA, hospital social worker, or janitor had sat Tyler and I down at this point and explained the true severity of dads multiple strokes. In fact, we still had no idea what had caused the strokes, only assumptions based on dads previous health issues. Since my brother and I still had to work full-time in order to pay the bills we were only available by phone during the day or at night after work. As anyone who has spent any amount of time in a hospital knows, information is only disseminated from 9am to 5pm and only if you are in the same room as the patient when the healthcare provider comes. Maybe it was a strong belief in our dads mental and physical strength, maybe it was the pure lack of communication by the hospital on dads true state, or maybe it was just pure selfishness in not wanting to realize yet our dad was basically a dependent kid again, we asked for and received permission to take dad back to his house and then to his favorite restaurant for dinner. A hospital is basically prison with nicer guards (nurses) so getting dad out would be our true test on how dad was doing was the belief. 


Looking back, dad was scared the second we walked into the elevator to go to my car. When I say scared, I mean dad had no idea what an elevator did so it was like he was riding one for the very first time. We had no idea that his memory had took such a hit from the strokes nor that we should have stopped to explain what an elevator does. Dad’s house was roughly a 10 minute drive from the hospital, much like the elevator he remembered nothing on the trip back to his house. As we were getting out of my car, one of us asked dad if he remembered anything, his answered was a loud and emphatic NO and that he was scared to death. He wanted either my brother or I to take the lead because he had no idea what to expect. Once inside, things did not improve.


We let dad wonder around his house to look at everything. The only way I can describe dads behavior would be to imagine a kid interested in space first attending the Smithsonian Museums Space Wing. Dad had no idea what was in closets, cupboards, or right in front of him but he was curious enough that he wanted to tough and explore everything, dad was part cat maybe. While in the master bathroom dad did ask to brush his teeth but tried to do it with a bottle of bleach as toothpaste, luckily Tyler and I caught this in time. Right after that, dad said “I feel more comfortable here than at the hospital so can I stay here”. Tyler and I’s heart broke at that point. 


At this point we tried to get dad back into the car so we could get him to the hospital. Going out to dinner was not going to happen, dad no longer had the ability to process going out to dinner. On the way out, we stopped in his living room so dad could take a nap. He was snoring within seconds after sitting on the living room couch. Tyler and I just sat there in silence with tears in our eyes, that was the first time we knew just how bad dad was. 


After about an hour, we woke dad up saying it was time to go. As we were walking through his kitchen he found a mop at which point he started mopping the floor. It was like dad was in another world at this point, it was like he was proud of himself for figuring out how to mop (dad flew the F-102, RF4 Phantom, and the F4 Wild Weasel during his distinguished career and now was fascinated by his mopping skills) that he didn’t want to stop. Not only that, he couldn’t focus on anything else. While mopping, I think dad also forgot how to use his right leg. His leg became like a noodle basically which made him go do circles in his kitchen. Tyler was closer to his hight than me so he got dad to drop the mop and get under his shoulder like he was helping an injured football player off the field. I was blocking the entrance into the living room while wondering if we should call 911 for help because I was just in pure shock. Somehow, we got dad back into the car and we were off to the hospital. The pure shock, the inability to understand what I was witnessing, and the utter lack of instinct as to the right thing to do at that moment was like nothing I will ever be capable of articulating. I still feel this way every time I step foot in his house now, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to morn this day. 


Come mid-October, the hospital wanted dad out. There was some crap about Medicare and his Blue Cross Insurance not covering his stay anymore. However, money was not an issue at this point, if they could “help” dad we were more than happy to pay out of pocket. The hospital didn’t care, it was strictly a financial situation. 


What can be best describe as clumsily, we worked with a social worker named Amber who evidentially found a place called Emerson House. To Amber’s credit, she took our complaints about not receiving current or updated information regarding dads physical and mental health seriously and for about 10 days there we had nurses talking to us constantly. Our discovery of Emerson House was not so beneficial. 


Long story short, Emerson House almost killed dad through neglect and abuse one Friday night. My brother and I had to call 911 for dad because he was barely breathing, ice cold, and unresponsive when we arrived for a visit that night after work. Under no circumstances should anyone ever stick a loved one or friend in Emerson House, they only care about themselves and that is it. 


Dad’s second stay at St. Al’s found a kidney stone that was impressively large. This was after the ER was able to get his blood sugar under control again, the ambulance at Emerson House said his blood sugar was above 600. Just one of the many reasons I’m not afraid to accuse Emerson House of neglect, they didn’t care about dad at all except for his rent check. 


Tyler and I were able to get dad into a great place called Valley View Retirement. They were amazing. Not only did they bring us up to speed on dads actual mental and physical condition, they were concerned with Tyler and I’s quality of life too. Neither St. Als nor Emerson House ever took our well-being or health into consideration, it was only about the business of healthcare and not the people. This needs to change!


Dad died on January 8th, 2018 while at Valley View Retirement. Even though dad’s Medicare benefits had expired while there which meant we were paying out of pocket, it was still well worth the money to not to have to move poor old dad again. Not only that, Valley View was against using chemical or physical restraints like St. Al’s and Emerson House did. Dad even acknowledged this one day in a moment of clarity. Thank you for everything Valley View Retirement!


When am I supposed to mourn? 


In attempt to give family enough time to make travel plans, we held the funeral on January 18th at the Veterans Cemetery. They rule! We were even able to arrange for a A-10 fly-by by dads old unit which was incredibly special. Turns out dad had spent his life leaving work at work so he could spend time with his family. My brother and I knew he was a successful and accomplished soldier, we just didn’t realize the extent of his amazing career until we started going through his stuff and awards. We wanted his funeral to reflect his military career, it was our way of honoring his career finally even though we were to young growing up to understand a lot of it. The funeral also gave us a chance to hear stories of dad buzzing Soviet ships and screwing with other aircraft while deployed to Norway on a NATO exercise. Turns out dad was more Tom Cruise in Top Gun than he let on at home. 


On January 22nd, both my brother and I went back to work full-time. It was now time to close out his estate. 


In Idaho, any asset worth less than $100,000.00 can be distributed per the wishes of a Will. Per dads Will, I was the point person for his estate. There is just my brother and I who would have any legitimate claim to his property, my parents divorced some 20 plus years ago. Tyler and I are not fighting so splitting his cash assets as been easy. 


We did not know about the $100,000.00 threshold until we talked to a real estate agent. The agent referred us to a lawyer who told us that we had to file the Will and some paperwork with the court to get a Judgement that basically validates me as the Executor of dad’s estate. This lasts for something like 3 or 6 months then we have to do it again if there are still assets over $100,000.00 that need distributing.


The real estate agent is also recommending we put in new carpet and paint the inside of dads house before selling. Not a big deal except its only been 7 months since dads funeral. Since there is so much left to do its like we have not yet had a chance to process our loss and experience since that horrible phone call from Boise Fire last August. To add to the stress, St. Al’s sent a bill of $2,500.00 for dads first hospital stay that does not explain where the amount comes from. So, unless I want to audit roughly $200,000 in charges by the hospital to find the $2,500.00, we are basically obligated to pay. It’s just another reminder of dads suffering before finally passing away and our inability to gain respect within the healthcare system. 


I realize my brother and I are not the first people to lose a parent. Our situation is not unique by any means. That’s not the point of this post, the point of this post is to make people realize that it will probably be at least a year after dads death before we can finally take a break and morn his loss. Tyler and I will receive more bills from St. Al’s, maybe up to a year or so after dads care. Tyler and I still have to sell dads house and 2 cars. Tyler and I still have to decide what to due with dads property in McCall Idaho. Tyler and I still have cash assets to split. Tyler and I still need to find time to morn our dads death.


When am I supposed to mourn? 


Alan Brewington