Monday, September 08, 2008

Taking a Deep Breath.

I've just had the most stressful weeks of my life, I think. Sorry I had to disappear for a while, and many many thanks to those of you who sent your thoughts and prayers. The good news is that my dad is doing well-- he's out of any immediate danger, and I think he's recovering amazingly well.

To recap what happened while I was away, the short story is that I got a call from my mom saying my dad wasn't feeling well and my sister was taking him to the doctor. My dad has a lot of health issues, so callous as it may sound, I didn't take this as anything particularly alarming. But as I learned more, it began to sound like he might have had a minor stroke. Then late the next night, my sister called me from the hospital, sobbing, after she was told he actually had a brain tumor that seemed like it could be malignant and growing fast, in a location that could potentially affect his basic life functions. This was the kind of dire diagnosis that even if unconfirmed, I could not ignore. The next morning I was on a train.

Over the next couple of days, my sister and I slept at the hospital while waiting for more news. I booked my mother a plane ticket to come back-- she has been away for 6 months taking care of her own mother, who has Alzheimer's. My dad was put on medications that reduced the swelling in his brain and his symptoms-- balance problems, vision problems, lack of control on his left side-- were all greatly lessened. We took him home and took turns sleeping on the living room floor so we would be right there if he needed to get up and walk around. We took him back and forth for more tests, bought a pill box so we could keep track of all his medications, and waited for surgery to be scheduled.

Meanwhile, as soon as I knew what was going on, I was worried about his financial affairs. I knew my dad hadn't made a will or a health proxy. I had no idea what bank accounts or insurance policies he had. I had no idea what bills needed to be paid. His money matters were a complete mystery and what made things even worse was that he is a total pack rat. His desk was a shambles and the house was full of dusty piles of papers, magazines, catalogs and who knew what else. I dreaded what we'd have to do to untangle things if he died.

Some people might think I sound like my priorities are screwed up: "Your dad could be on his deathbed, and all you can think about is paying his bills?!" Well, his health was out of my control. He was in the hands of excellent doctors, and I was doing whatever I could to keep him comfortable and safe at home. But getting his affairs in order was something I could control, and it was something that I knew would benefit the whole family and make it easier for us to take care of my dad's needs no matter what happened. So I went to work...

To be continued...

10 comments:

Orange said...

Hey Madame X,
I am glad your dad is recovering, I think you pointed out a very important issue, all the planning (financial) should be done, as you said there are things you can control (bills and stuff) and there are things you can't control like your father's health.

I am glad he is doing better.

Single Ma said...

Wishing your father a speedy recovery.

I think your points are valid and something we should all take heed to BEFORE we're in your situation. If something happened to my mom, I wouldn't know where to begin because I don't know anything about her financial affairs.

By the way, you were missed.

modena604 said...

I am glad to hear that your father is recovering.

I hope your dad gets well very soon
I am sure he will with you and your sister taking good care of him.

SandyVoice said...

Dear Madame X, we are all so glad your dad is doing better. I'm glad you went there -- it's so important to have people advocating for you when you aren't well. And you are absolutely right to take care of the financial stuff. It takes a heavy burden off your father and the rest of the family, and will make the rest of his life easier.

Laura said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your dad - you and your family are in my thoughts.

frugal zeitgeist said...

Welcome back. Your dad is lucky to have a daughter like you.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad your dad is going to be ok. He's very lucky to have a daughter like you.

Get some rest.
-tasha

Kris said...

Madame X, I'm so glad your dad is doing well now, and I think you absolutely did the right thing by offering to take care of his affairs. Everyone with older parents should read this series of posts.

Revanche said...

Glad you're back and that your dad is recovering, it sounds like you had an incredible pile of work to get through.

You're absolutely right that the time to settle matters like these is now: you never know what's going to happen and clearing up after the fact is so much more complicated.

her every cent counts said...

Sounds like we're in a similar boat, though your dad may have it worse than mine. I just found out that my dad has advanced-stage prostate cancer (ie the type that can't be cured) and he has, maybe, 2 years to live. He's all the way on the east coast and I live in California. I haven't dropped everything yet to fly out there, but I'm tempted. It's a tough choice. It would destroy my finances to quit my job and make that kind of move. I'll be visiting in Nov. But... one of the things I want to get in order is the finances. My mom is so clueless. It will be tough, because it's weird talking to my father about planning for him dying, but... it's also kind of necessary. I'm not sure how it will work...