As the dusk settled, I leaned over and lovingly patted his gnarled hand. His rheumatoid arthritis had clearly taken a toll on his ability to accomplish even the simplest, every day taken for granted tasks. How I wish I could caress away the pain, hurt, and betrayal of his own body.
Hey baby, “how are you feeling tonight?”
“I’m good’ he said, as he tried to find a comfortable spot on the sofa.
“I think we have to start thinking about who will be able to take care of you once I have to go back to LA. I don’t want you to become a shut in; you have too much life to live.”
” I’ll be fine, don’t you worry. My friends stop by, I have Meals on Wheels coming every day and I can still get around. I’ll will be fine, I promise you.”
As I looked around the room for evidence that I could believe him, the dust bunnies, dirty laundry and unmade bed rose up to greet me.
“Danny, I KNOW you can manage on your own but humor me. I am neurotic so I will not have any peace knowing you are here on your own. It’s not you it’s me. I’m the one that needs a plan. When I am at work in LA, I want to be sure that you are not just existing, I want to feel confident that you are living your best life.”
Danny suddenly aged before my eyes and in a span of minutes appeared ten years older. His already stooped shoulders rounded even more as he slumped down in his seat.
“I can’t give up my independence” he protested. I can’t have strangers living in my house, directing my every move and treating me like a child. I won’t have it, I can’t, I just can’t.”
“Don’t be upset Danny; I just want what’s best for you.”
“Best for me? How do you know what’s best for me? I don’t even know that. I just know that I am too old and too tired to have to be bothered with strangers in my house. I’m just not going to put up with that.”
“Well Danny, tomorrow is another day. We will talk about this tomorrow. Nothing is set in stone.”
The next day, I woke up early, having so much more to take care of. I knew that no matter what I could not, in good conscience; leave Danny alone without a plan, regardless of what he said. It was not a matter of treating him like a child; it was a matter of keeping him safe. While Danny slept, I contacted several home care agencies so that I could compile a list of resources and options to discuss with him. As the morning flew by it dawned on me that Danny was still not awake; it was now 11 am and Danny was usually up by 9. As I slowly inched my way up the long dark hallway, a sense of foreboding overcame me while the deafening silence engulfed me. As I opened the door, sunlight streamed through the half closed window. The sky was the perfect shade of blue and the billowing clouds were far off in the distance.
“Danny, Danny, are you awake?” I hesitated but continued walking closer into the room.
“Danny?” Still no response.
As I pulled back the covers, I realized that Danny was gone. I was heartbroken. As I began to recall our conversations over the past few days, I realized that this was what Danny wanted. He wanted to do it his way. He was finally at peace, no more pain, no more disease, and a master of his own destiny until the very end.