"That SOB is going to kill me one day," my father said that more than once. I began calling him Pop at some point after I moved out and got married. I think he liked it.
Pop didn't get along with his pulmonologist, and he argued with him about everything from medicine to how much water he was supposed to drink. Emphysema is a nasty, nasty disease and Pop was in the final stage. He had done well for a couple of days in intensive care but the professionals said he would "crash" when he went to a regular room. They were right.
He talked out of his head about seeing Jesus or at least I assumed he was out of his head. What do I know?
Then he quit talking at all for a while but made a sound that I associated with the fishing trip. One Christmas when I was about eight or nine he bought three cheap rod and reels for my brother and I. When he decided to "show" us how far he could cast, he forgot to release the button. The rod snapped off in his hand and sailed out into the middle of the pond. He laughed until the tears rolled.
He told that story many times over the years and the sound he made when he demonstrated the cast was always the same: "Dooop!"
He'd said it again lying in the hospital bed and a smiled played across his lips.
"Y'all go on home," he said later when he came around for one of the last times. "You shouldn't have to watch this."
My brother, my three sisters, my Mom, and I stayed anyway.
I had decided to have THE TALK with him about a year before this. Pop was on oxygen then, still sneaking the occasional cigarette and his gardening had been reduced to three tomato plants planted beside the pump house. He was pouring Miracle grow on them.
"You know I love you, don't you?" I asked.
"Yes, I do," he said as he poured the blue water from an old plastic milk jug.
That was it.
But I did know.
I asked Pop's pulmonologist if we couldn't do something to ease his suffering. Pop had become totally unresponsive, and my brother had stood by the bed wiping his nose for hours. The doctor suggested two separate shots of morphine and my Mom agreed.
The nurse came in. She prepped the needle for the first shot, slid it into the IV tube. I watched as she slowly pushed the plunger down and as the tears streamed down her face. She left the room.
My siblings left an hour or two later in search of supper. Pop had quit drowning, and breathed sporadically. They brought his last meal. Mom ate it. I wanted her to ask for the second shot, but couldn't bring myself to say so. We waited, he stopped breathing. Then he started again. Finally, it was over.
December 20th, today, is their wedding anniversary. Mom followed him this June and this will be their first anniversary together in quite some time. He's probably telling the story about the Christmas fishing trip again.