Saturday, June 04, 2016
The Best of Heroes
My father passed away. He was ninety-four years old. A World War II veteran who became a journalist and worked for over forty years at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City. He rarely took a day off from work. He helped form the newspaper guild and was president of it.
He loved to talk politics. He was funny, smart, and honest.
He supported my mother and four children on his salary. That involved becoming a Do-It-Yourself expert in household repairs. He made sure all four of his children went to college. When he retired, he bought a camper. He and Mom traveled to Florida in the wintertime and Canada in the summer.
When Mom's health declined, he took care of her. When she died, Dad became my responsibility since I lived closer to him than my siblings. When he broke his hip, we sold his house and moved him into a senior apartment complex very close to our home.
For several years, he remained fairly independent. He walked to the grocery store and bought all his food. He made new friends in his building. He made even more friends online. He kept up with the family and all his grandchildren on Facebook.
Then he had a stroke. After two months of rehab, he was back in his apartment--this time with live-in help. His aide cooked for him, did his laundry, and made sure he didn't fall down, but he dressed himself and spent plenty of time online detailing his experiences as a young man during World War II. I became his editor and computer guru. He called his aide his associate.
He was happy. He kept up with all his friends, went to the movies every Wednesday night and attended the Friday breakfasts as he had before his stroke. We took him out to restaurants on the weekend and he went to all the family get-togethers along with his aide.
Meanwhile, I worried about Dad's finances. The money from the sale of his house rapidly depleted in paying the aide's salary. I applied for the Veteran's Aide and Attendance Benefit. I was told it would take twelve to eighteen months. I contacted my congressman. He didn't have any success in getting the Veteran's Administration to move any faster.
Dad began to get very weak. He didn't care about Facebook anymore. He didn't go over every item on his bank statement anymore.
He didn't read the newspaper.
One day he had a seizure. After an MRI, we learned he had metastatic brain tumors. The oncologist wanted to treat him with radiation. We said no.
We brought him back to his apartment with his trusty aide by his side. We called in the Visiting Nurse Association's hospice team. Dad had more visitors than ever before.
A reporter from the local newspaper interviewed him for a Memorial Day article.
Then Dad took a turn for the worse. I was by his side as he took his last breath.
He was given military honors at the gravesite, which was nice but it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights if he had received the Aide and Attendance Benefit from the Veteran's Administration. Nevertheless, there was enough money left to bury him next to my mother.
I'm going to miss his daily morning phone calls, his presence at every family gathering, his lively conversations, his politics, and even his constant questions. The journalist's and never left him.
Dad was the best of heroes.