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61. None of Us Held His Hand

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My Story

2021. 5. 14.

Father had the prostate cancer. For older folks, prostate cancer progresses very slowly. He was getting shots every 2-3 months to slow its advancement. One day, doctor found unusual figures in his liver tests and ordered additional diagnostic imaging tests. They found a small growth in his liver and the liver specialist diagnosed it as a liver cancer. The doctor did not recommend the surgery. He put him on the pills and started to monitor his condition.

 

For mother’s condition, the doctor thought it was neurological issue. We took her to the specialist. He put her in the hospital and ran lots of tests. They found cancer cells in her spinal fluid. Doctor thought she was too weak to go thru additional invasive tests and even if we found the location of the cancer, he did not recommend chemotherapy. 

 

By then, father did not want to drive anymore and he sold his car. The parents began to receive home health care services provided by the county. I and my siblings, or the care giver would take them to the doctors’ appointments and the grocery shopping. My older sister, Namhee, was in east coast, and Eun Ju was in Orange County, 1 ½ hour drive from the valley. Therefore, I, Kay, and Daniel took turns and helped them. 

 

In theory, every child should be dear to his/her parents. Parents should love and treat their children equally. In reality, the parents are also human beings and they have their favorites. My parents put us in different categories based on our circumstances and talents, and gave us different assignments. They seldom asked Namhee any favors since she was far away. They asked me to handle all their correspondences and dealings with the government agencies, depended on Daniel for Korea town shopping, and expected the cash from Kay. They had some savings. They put the money with Daniel, who ran the finance company, and collected interests.

 

Since I lived close by, they called me first with any urgent matters. They often pushed wrong buttons on remote control and could not turn on or off the TV. Whenever they got letters from the apartment office or the government, they called me.

 

One early morning while I was getting ready to go to work, I got a call from father. Mother fell and she was bleeding. It sounded serious. 

 

I called 911, asked them to dispatch the ambulance, and went to their apartment with my wife. Paramedic put bandage around mother’s head and were loading her onto the ambulance. We followed them to ER. They put multiple stiches on her head and she was hospitalized. They wanted to send her to convalescent hospital instead of the apartment. They gave Daniel the list and asked him to check and choose the best place for her. He picked the one close to me. 

 

It had both convalescent ward and nursing home. Mother ended up spending next few years there. She never came out of there. 

 

In my memory, father never had done anything himself. He became an officer young and always had assistants who took care of his needs. After his retirement from the Marines, he had the business with the mother and she took care of the books and documents. In America, people use checks and credit cards. I never saw him writing checks or using credit cards. 

 

Once mother was discharged to the convalescent hospital, father stayed alone at home and his health got worse rapidly. His kidney function got worse and fluid filled his belly. Once the fluid built up, it pressed the lungs and heart. He could not breathe well. I got calls from him early in the mornings and took him to ER several times. 

 

His kidney problem stemmed from his eating habit, salty food, and Korean doctors who gave him medications irresponsibly. He had high blood pressure. He should have controlled it with diet and exercises. But he relied on the medication. High dosage would drop his blood pressure, but it was damaging his kidneys slowly. 

 

He was hospitalized for several times. Finally, we took him to the convalescent hospital where mother was. Initially, they put them in the same room. After few months, father was taken to the men’s ward and mother was placed in women’s ward. Around that time, mother showed the signs of dementia. We probably did not want to accept it, though. 

 

Mother said strange things about the father. She said the Latin female care giver was flirting with the father. She also said one of the Korean female patients was father’s old lover. 

 

Father did not like staying in the convalescent hospital. It was far from what he thought his life would be when he got old. He was thinking about the lives of the old people in his childhood. He wanted his children and grandchildren to take care of him. We could not provide what he wanted even though we knew what he wanted. I doubt he ever understood what we went thru. He never had old parents. 

 

I truly believe he passed away prematurely because he lost the will to live. He often said, “There is no need to live like this anymore. This is not a life.” He also said, “How soon a person would die once he stops eating?” Not too long after that, he could not eat. He did not want to take any nutrient injections or tube feedings. He started to lose weight. 

 

I went to see him after work. Since he was sleeping, I spent some time with the mother and came home. Around 10 at night, I got a call. They told me he passed away. He had five children, but none of us could hold his hand when he was lonely and scared. 

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