Dear Annie: My father was in prison for my entire childhood. I am now 23 and have managed to build a good relationship with him since he was released two years ago.
Recently, Dad became very ill and stopped breathing. He was on life support for a week. Because I am his closest relative, I am in charge of his health care. I was told the damage was too severe and he would never recover. They expect him to die within weeks. When Dad woke up, I was given the option of making him “comfortable” with medicine that would eventually stop his breathing.
I want Dad to be happy in his last days, so I asked him what he wanted. He said he wanted to live with me, so I brought him home, and he is in hospice care. Now his brothers are furious that I didn’t put him in a nursing home. They think he would get rehab there and be able to live a normal life again.
When my father was incarcerated, no one in his family made any effort to be in my life. Dad told his brothers that he is prepared to die and wants to spend his last days with his daughter and his grandchildren. Plus, a nursing home won’t treat him if he refuses treatment, and it isn’t likely to help him in any event. He suffered terrible brain damage when he stopped breathing.
But, Annie, his brothers are making my life terribly stressful. I have tried to explain to them that they can’t make him fight this battle, and sadly, they cannot fight it for him. I feel so overwhelmed. I am thinking of forcing Dad to go to a nursing home so his brothers will know he had every chance. But if he dies there (and he probably would), I will hate myself for not letting him live his remaining days the way he wants. I don’t want to regret this decision forever. What do I do?
-- Your Happiness or His?
Dear Happiness: As long as your father is capable of making this decision, please respect him enough to allow it. His brothers feel helpless, and that is why they are badgering you to put him in a nursing home. We urge you to have Dad’s doctors and someone from hospice speak to your uncles directly and explain the situation so they will understand more clearly what is at stake. Our condolences.
Dear Annie: May I add to the comments on chewing gum during exercise class and sports activities?
When I was a senior, in 1959, I attended a high school faculty-senior basketball game in front of the entire student body. Our wrestling coach ran up the court and suddenly stopped and dropped to his knees. Everyone, including the other coaches, thought he was having a heart attack. He lay there and died.
I wrestled for four years under his coaching. We later found out he had been chewing gum and it got stuck in his windpipe, and that’s what killed him. It was one of the saddest days in the school’s history. True story. I can’t say it more strongly: No gum chewing during sports.
-- Still Sad
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org