Fulfilling a Sacred Duty to My Dad
by Art Goodtimes
Jul 22, 2008 | 612 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
UP BEAR CREEK

VINCENZO … It was incredibly healing to go back to California, land I was born into, and spend two and a half months accompanying my father on his passage into the great mystery. As the eldest son, in the Italian tradition, it was my duty to do this. And it was a duty I welcomed as an honor. And a great learning. Vince’s passing is the subject of this week’s Talking Gourd. And his condition the day before he died follows in The Deep item directly below … But I have to say from the get-go that the American social safety net worked for my dad, a WWII veteran, in the Bay Area, and with a very good union health care plan with the National Association of Letter Carriers … Yolanda Betran of Community Services Agency got me connected, provided counseling and on the right track when I first came to town to provide home hospice care for my dad in Mountain View … Cedar Crest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Sunnyvale did a wonderful job getting my dad back on track to living at home, with my assistance, after a short bout at El Camino Hospital (where Dr. Mary Kornei kept a watchful eye on him for many years) … When I did enlist the aid of Pathways Hospice, a nonprofit home health and hospice group, I got incredible help from everyone in the organization, but especially Melinda Kotterman the nurse, Bonnie Shisler the social worker and Cathy Lynch the community relations coordinator (what a GREAT group of people!) … And finally, when care got beyond the capability of untrained me at home, and we had to find professional care, my family didn’t have to spend vast sums (we don’t have) on private rest homes and assisted care facilities. Instead, the Veteran Administration in Palo Alto was able to provide quality care, with nurses, aides, docs, and volunteers all taking the time to get to know patients and their families individually, in a lovely hospice unit with an aquarium and bird cage and visiting pets, and at no charge to my father who had served his country during war. Paperwork was minimal, and TLC was paramount, thanks to Sheila Kennedy and her excellent Unit 4-A staff (another GREAT group of folks!). Family was welcome to stay with loved ones around the clock. So, in the end I spent a two-day vigil at his bedside and had the privilege of being there, holding his arm, as spirit left his body, in the deep coma of the dying, when life is breath alone, and a heart that won’t stop pumping.


THE DEEP … Barely breathing. Tubes in his nostrils bubbling oxygen through water into his lungs. Wind but no sails. His beard shaved. Teeth stowed. His mind’s anchor lost to the typhoon in his brain. Eyes that stare but don’t see. He is beyond recognition … His heart got a boost from the auxiliary motor of his pacemaker implant still pumping him up. Obedient to the blood it serves. Although the will to live had abandoned ship. He’d make little cries, like a long-necked cormorant. Involuntary. Hospice SOS. Dreaming harbor in a sea of white sheets … So he breathes, but rudderless. The morphine a wetsuit so the ocean chill of pain can’t touch him. Breath for the sake of breath. Mechanical. About to be becalmed. He is, like us, waiting for it to stop, like it began. Deep in the mystery.


DREAM WORDS … I lived a kind of monastic life in Mountain View. Cut off from my family, my community, my colleagues, my garden, my home. And I paid a little more attention to myself, and my own moods, needs, experiences, even as I was paying attention to Grandpa (as my kids called him and my step-nieces and nephews) and gardens front and back at 298 Jessie Lane (including my Cloud Acre experimental spud patch this year) … I even found time to write down a few dreams. And in one dream I heard a word that I didn’t recognize and I wanted to bring it back from the dream world into the waking world. So I did, although the force of bringing it back to the waking world interrupted a deliciously sensuous dream (tradeoffs). And I wrote the word(s) down as they sounded to me, shim poddered … Anyone out there have any idea what it might mean?


ORPHAN NUCLEAR WASTES … Last year the Department of Energy (DOE) started a multi-year process to determine how to dispose of low level radioactive wastes, or what is known in the regulatory world as Greater Than Class C (GTCC) wastes. Currently, they have no designated disposal sites or licensed methods. Class C or lower rad wastes are generally disposed of simply by covering them with a few feet of dirt in situ. GTCC wastes can contain 140 million curies of radioactivity, more than 10 times the radioactivity of the materials slated for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project salt cavern near Carlsbad, N.M. GTCC wastes come from commercial nuclear power plants; 110 million curies of the GTCC wastes result from “activated metals” in the 122 active and decommissioned plants in the U.S. For instance, metals in and around the reactors in nuclear power plants become intensely radioactive due to particle bombardment over the decades. By 2035, the DOE projects they will also have some 1,700 cubic meters of GTCC-like wastes containing 2.4 million curies from “sealed sources,” consisting mostly of small sealed radioactive materials containers used in medicine, testing oil and gas pipelines and the like. “Other” sources (non-sealed) of GTCC-like radwaste are transuranic wastes, mostly coming from the only commercial reprocessing site in the nation – West Valley, Nev. And another more than half chunk of radwaste in all these categories comes from the Radioisotope Power Systems project, which provides electrical power supplies for space satellites and some weapons.


© 2008 Art Goodtimes


THE TALKING GOURD


Good Morning



beside him holding his arm

as he took his last breath

at the VA


Palo Alto near Mountain View

high fogs

reincarnate into blue


as they often do

on the Peninsula

in the San Andreas dawn


especially in a dry year

Big Sur

an inferno of crown fires


promising next spring’s morels

Dad dead at first light

gaunt & beautiful

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