My stepfather came over today to tell us that he was planning to end his life. “I’m not going to live very long,” he began.
He’s told me this several times. It could even be true, for all I know. He smoked for many years and now has COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. So I asked what his wishes were: cremation or burial, and what does he want us to do with his belongings.
“I’m going to choose termination,” he said. The guys he talks to at the coffee shop, he said, had told him that he can just look up “termination” in the phone book. Many of them are doctors, he says. He also said that hospice would provide this service for him.
I know that doctor-assisted suicide is not legal in this state. I don’t have a phone book, but I’m pretty confident that you can’t look up “termination” and find people who will kill you. I Googled the issue and confirmed that what he had in mind is not legal.
He said that the doctors at the coffee shop told him otherwise. He could go “anywhere,” he said, and later accepted my suggestion of, “Like, to a hospital?” “And you just pay them,” I started, but he interrupted to say that he wouldn’t pay them.
I suggested assisted living again, but he’s adamantly against that. He doesn’t even like to go to the senior center for lunch, he said, because the people there are old. He is not old, he says, because he has a young attitude. And, following the orders of the social worker who called me last week, I told him again that he shouldn’t be driving. He told me that his coffee shop buddies told him to ignore the doctors on that point. “You have better coordination than she does!” he reported them as saying.
I will be telling his doctor about these things when I take him to his appointment next week. I think he is going to have to go into a home, whether he wants to or not. I was shocked when my mother put her mother into a home against her will, but I clearly can’t take care of my stepfather and maybe the same was true for my mother. I am not related to this particular old person, and he is, as the social worker delicately put it, “cognitively impaired.”
By comparison, my husband has been reasonableness itself. He did say, after my stepfather left, that he was worried he’d end up like that. We have no grandchildren and our kids live far away, he pointed out.
My stepfather has earned his isolation. I don’t think my husband is likely to find himself in that situation. But he’s not sure what he’s going to do about a job or training. He has talked about taking all the money from his 401k and going to a casino with it, and he has also talked about spending a few months sitting on the sofa watching TV. But when I was laid off from my job, I made a probability tree which included, “Dying in a gutter,” so I know that sometimes people get dramatic when dramatic things happen.
I didn’t think about taking time off, but I didn’t get severance pay, and also was very stressed by the idea of being out of a job. I also cried. I don’t think my husband has cried.
We went to the farmers market before my stepfather’s bizarre visit and found nectarines, peaches, squash, long beans, onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes. After the bizarre visit I sewed up a Sunshine Top for the 2015 SWAP.
I’m trying to be supportive and helpful for both these guys, because I know that the transitions they’re going through are difficult — more difficult for them than for me. But I also know that going through their transitions with them is very stressful for me. We’ve just had too many major changes in the family this year already.