Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Findlay Story

My Uncle Ron passed away today.
And a lot of stuff happened and I cried all the way home.

It had been 2 weeks to the day that my Mom talked to him, and he mentioned going in, because he'd been having some shortness of breath, and some dizziness.  He was going to hold out until Friday because he had an appointment at the doctor.  But Thursday night, about midnight, a friend of his wrote my Mom.  She was supposed to take him to the doc (dizziness + driving = Bad), but he had cancelled, telling her that he was a little wobbly on his feet, and he'd just call an ambulance.  And then she couldn't get a hold of him.  No answering phone, no responding to IMs.   She was freaking out.  And when they called the hospital, he wasn't there either.   They opted to wait until morning, and send the friend over in person.  As it turned out, at 8:30 the next morning, as she stood on his porch, his friend decided to call the ER one more time before breaking into his house.  As it just so happened, he had gone to bed, before calling for an ambulance to go to the ER.   He wanted a 'good night sleep' at home first.   Later, this became a sign to us that he suspected something wasn't right.  I think he waited to go in, because deep down he knew it was going to be a while before he got home.  A long while.  
Testing that first week revealed Advanced Bile Duct Cancer, with metastases; he had a grapefruit size tumor on his liver, and bubbly tumors in his lungs.  That first weekend they pulled 7 Liters of Liquid off his abdomen, which immediately made him feel better, but still super weak, and he a partial obstruction in his colon.  He was too weak to withstand Surgery or Chemo.   But at this advanced stage (Stage 4), those steps only prolong life, not cure.  So he chose Hospice.  A week after admission he was moved to hospice.  My mother came home right after they moved him.  She was home for one night, and then she and I turned around and went to Ohio together to be with him.  
He was my Godfather, my beloved Uncle, and I wanted to be there over Labor Day weekend.  Eric made the comment, I'd let you go if you could go by yourself.  So I did.  Well, I went with Mom.  We had no idea how long we'd be gone.  At least until Tuesday or Wednesday when we took off, because we had some business to conduct.  

This was the sunset our first evening.  
It was kind of beautiful.  
We were staked out at the Hilton Garden Inn in Findlay.  Uncle Richard is a Hilton frequent flyer and he hooked us up.  Our room was very nice, and the staff very kind to us.  Sure, it was because we were related to him.  But still, it felt good that all the staff recognized us and Mommy when we came in, they even gave Mom a care package... with wine and snacks!  Nice.  

Turns out Findlay is a Nice Town.  I had low expectations, partly because I knew it was a small town.  The intersection 'downtown' is called Main St. and Main Cross.  Wow.  Low Expecations.   But the hospital was nice.  The hospice section was very nice.  The staff was attentive, and very kind.  I think I liked it best that the place didn't smell.  I've worked in hospital, been in them a lot.   And this place didn't smell like a hospital.  They had a family room, with tv, beverages, the coffee was constant.   It was Nice.  And that made me feel better.   I knew my Uncle was being well taken care of when we weren't there.  And that made it possible for us to get a lot done.  

The 'New House'.  
Uncle Ron had moved to Findlay 38 years ago, when he got Transferred there with Marathon.  I remember playing in the backyard at his old house, in IL, but I'd never been to this house. He always made a point to come to us. I knew he loved it, took excellent care of his yard. His flower bulbs were constantly a joy and sign of season changing.  He was on top of leaf removal every fall. And his neighbors were his closest friends.  My other uncle called them nosy.  But considering as family we had never been invited over, his neighbors were the ones that were there.  They leapt in with offers of getting mail, and taking care of the lawn.  They wanted desperately to come see him.  But he declared he didn't want visitors.  I think that hurt them.   It was so surprising, the whole thing was happening so fast.  
Meanwhile, we had some paperwork to rustle up for the lawyers, so Mom and I went over to Uncle Ron's house the first day.   I'd never been there, as I said.  And I loved it.  The trees were so tall.  No wonder he felt like this was an oasis.  It wasn't very kid friendly.  No wonder my brood of insanity was never invited. 

This antenna.  
It's a 30 foot tall radio antenna.  
My Uncle built it!  
He is/was a ham radio operator, having built his first ham radio in high school.  He had a wall of cards from his contacts in the basement.   He had a spare bedroom full of ham radio equipment.  It was amazing to behold.  He was a handy man of many talents.  And the fact, he built this was mind boggling.  He 

This is my Great Grandmother's Radio.  
One of these hundred year old antique jobbies
Oh, and I should mention it still works.  
Of course it did.  I should have known.   He fixed it up to work.  He even told Mom he's got extra bulbs for it in the closet.  Of course he does.  
The man could fix anything.  
When my car died when he went camping, he pulled all the tools to fix it out of his minivan. 
It prompted the new camping game, "What's in Ron's Car?"
He had everything.  

He saved everything.  
There were files for every email, he'd print them off and file them, filed by year, filed by person. This organization of this man was Impressive.  I could believe it.  He saved everything.  The important stuff.  I found cards from ages ago, with pictures of Lisa and I.   This is 1981.  I was in 1st grade, and Lisa in Preschool.  She was a thumbsucker, but would pick at scabs with her index finger, but only in the circle of influence within her thumb in her mouth.  She had scabs until like 2nd grade. I was cute though.  I still have that dress.  It's currently being worn by my Hattie Furskin doll.  I was in a commercial back in 1981, for the Indianapolis Public Library on like Channel 4.  The guy making the commercial knew Daddy and was lamenting how tough it was to find a cute 6 year old.  Daddy knew one. ;)  So I wore that dress.  It was on TV.  But this was back in the day before VCRs.  I have one friend with a copy of that commercial, they'd recorded it on Laserdisk!  I think she still has it.  But I was cute.  I seriously felt like I was stepping back in time in his home.  There was some awesome 80s, but also vintage classic 70s awesome.  Shag carpet in the office.  Baby blue toilets.  Vintage Awesomeness.  If I could pick up this house and plop it in Indy I'd bring it all home. 

This was 'The Mess'. 
He apologized to Mommy, I'm sorry for the mess. 
He apparently used to do bills at the dining room table.   
There were 3 dishes in the sink.  I had to laugh.  You should see my living room right now.  

The Mess. 
Ha.  I loved how nicely organized his closets were.  Not stuffed to the gills.
So Organized! And the color coordination! Blue had to be his favorite color.  
Blue was everywhere!

His closet.   He didn't have every square inch of rack covered.  
There was a ton of space.  
We even found his Scout Shirt.  I had to take a picture.  

All the flannels.  Man, I loved this sight.  
This was what finally brought me to tears as we were picking things out.  
He had his Original Teddy Bear from when he was a kid.  
He had Grandpa's old hat from Germany, and a box full of film negatives.  
He saved everything, especially the important stuff. I have stuff like that saved at my house too.

This made Mommy and I just stand there and cry.  

This is his backyard.   
Does this give you a better perspective of the Awesomeness of The Antenna?!
Nice looking backyard too, huh?

My Uncle didn't have a will planned out.  
So they had to ask him his Wishes.  He told us he wanted to be at Van Horn Cemetery, or Cremated and Sprinkled in Greers Ferry, Arkansas, where he used to camp with Uncle Rick.  Sounds pretty heavenly to me.   We went to check out Van Horn Cemetery, to check it out for ourselves.  Uncle Ron was a Rural Route Post Office man for a decade or two, as a second career, after Marathon unceremoniously dropped him after almost 30 years of service.  They dumped him so they could save $ by not maxing out his pension.  A$$hats.  Anyway, he knew a number of mailmen buried out here.  It was about 20 minutes outside of town, in the country.  Back there by the trees is the river.  His first Rural Route delivered out here, and he got teary talking about it.  I can see why.  It was Beautiful.  

Meanwhile, this small country Cemetery, was the home to the body of Tell Taylor. 
Who's Tell Taylor you ask? 
Tell Taylor wrote Down by the Old Mill Stream.  And he lived in Findlay.  
The Taylor family has a strip in the Van Horn Cemetery.  And Tell Taylor's grave has the chorus engraved on the stone.  I imagine Uncle Ron would've loved this.  He loved some old classic music.  After all, he played Trombone in the Pitman Band.  "Boys Band"-The Music Man was his favorite musical.  He quote it all the time.  

We went back to his house to find more paper, do a bit of laundry.  
I decided Lisa needed this gold chair.  Our parents used to have a gold chair way back in the day.  So long ago, as we tell the kids that Nana and Opa were married... to eachother!  Lisa loves all that vintage awesomeness.   This was Ron's den, where he'd apparently been sleeping for a couple weeks, on account of not feeling well.  It was pretty dusty upstairs.  

I love that Uncle Ron's car had his ham radio handle as his license plate. 

Mom and Uncle Richard weren't feeling well.  Eating healthy on the road is hard. The stress was weakening their immune systems.  Uncle Richard got sick last week, and Ma got hit as soon as we got home today.  She was starting to feel it a bit yesterday.  So we hit Denny's for dinner last night in favor of their chicken noodle soup.  They were craving it.  There was only enough for one bowl.  So they shared.  Aww, isn't that cute?!

Before I hit the road today, I snapped a few shots of his home before we headed out, as he had it.  

Uncle Ron's office.  Now this was a bit of a mess.  But, I loved the global wallpaper, the gold shag carpet, and it was evident he was trying to get it all organized.   Cool.  

Love this blue carpet.  The formal living room.  I don't think he hung out here as much, but it was where the stereo was, with all his classic music.  

This felt like coming back to my own living room when my parents lived together in early 80s, or my grandparents.  I wished I'd been able to come here more often, or for a better occasion than this.  

So Today.  

This is my last picture of Uncle Ron, as I held his hand.  

The Hospice  called us this morning at 6:30 am to tell his his BP was low, and he wasn't swallowing anymore.  He'd really stopped communicating yesterday.  Monday night, he told us, we could Go, that he wasn't really going to get better.  We only visited once on Tuesday, he wasn't talking.   But he'd wake to look at us, and I gave him a sip of water, he wasn't really sipping, he didn't have strong enough suction.  Ice was good too.  And the staff was on it, giving some ice every time they popped in. My Mom and Uncle didn't want to run down to the hospital from the hotel after that call.  But one of the items on our list for the day was to clear his room of things we wanted to keep.  I didn't figure they'd be any more inclined to go after he was gone.   And he was going.  So I went down. 

It was nice to be there.  I told him all the cliches, to let him know it was all ok.  Go to the Light.  He'd done well.  I told him we had gotten everything done, and that is was OK.  (That was only mostly true, as it turned out.)  He'd been so well organized he made it pretty easy for us, all things considered.  But I hung out with him a while, and the staff kept coming in to check on him.  I knew he wasn't going to be alone if I left. So I left.  It seems like my Family members don't want to die with the family around.  Uncle Bob died after Mom and Dick went home to nap.  Aunt Debbie died when we took Robbie on a sandwich run.  Grandma passed in her sleep.  

Uncle Ron passed away less than an hour after I left.  I'd driven from the hospital to meet up with Mom and Uncle Dick having breakfast.  When we got back upstairs after breakfast, we got The Call.

So we finished our last couple things, had lunch at Ron's house, we didn't want to leave laundry half done, and came home.  I needed to be home with my Love Bugs.   Hugging Sweetboys makes everything else better.