|Ike Tipton, my dad, after open heart surgery November 1999|
My father, Isaac Walter Tipton, Sr. died August 22, 2000. He was 80 years old. He died of lung cancer. The previous November he had open heart surgery. I remember the day exactly because his surgery was on my birthday, November 9th.
|Pop and Ike, Jr. in one of his many earlier vegetable gardens|
My father was a physically active man up to his open heart surgery. Pop loved his vegetable garden. I remember him struggling for breath to walk the few yards to his garden just so he could do what he enjoyed the most, be out in the open air growing his veggies in friendly competition with his older brother Edward Walter Tipton, Sr.
|"Pop" (my dad) with his best friend his brother Ed|
Each year they had a friendly is serious competition who would harvest the biggest and sweetest tomato.
|Pop at "home", his vegetable garden - no flowers allowed|
During the next nine months my father struggled to regain his old vigor and activity. I often saw him sitting up by his garage, half way to his garden, stopping to get his breath. I remember watching him sitting in his favorite chair in the house (in which no one else was allowed to sit - his "Archie Bunker Chair") arms crossing his chest trying to alleviate the pain that just wouldn't go away. We, the family, could only look on and do nothing. Oh he had painkillers, which constipated him which he hated. He was a lifelong laxative user who believe in a daily "movement." If he didn't have one, he would become very morose.
He also had oxygen tanks in the house to help him breath but he didn't want that tether.
Up to two weeks before he entered the hospital and died from his lung cancer, he was working in his garden, tending his corn crop, checking for insects and cursing the birds that always used to peck at his ripened corn.
Then he went into the hospital for the last time. The pain was just too unbearable.
He was hooked up to so many wires;, pain killers, oxygen and who knows what else. He was hallucinating, worried about his garden. We tried to make him as comfortable as possible but there was no hope. He didn't want to be kept alive by artificial means. When we (the family) was told off to the side of the curtain surrounding his bed, that there was no hope, his doctor was crying. My father may have been a rough man during his physically active life, and distant from his sons but he was a cream puff in the hospital, everyone loved him. And we did too. After all he was my father. I resemble him in so many way, not only physically but in temperament and mannerisms, sometimes much to my chagrin. My Mother once told me "Pop is proud of you." That was enough for me.
When he heard from us that there was no hope he said "Get Dr. Kevorkian." He said it in semi-jest but he was serious. We could have prolonged his life by a week or two by colbolt treatments but that would only cause him more needless pain. He had suffered enough. His doctors and hospital staff did everything they could to make his final days as comfortable and pain free as possible. Of course they weren't comfortable but he wasn't suffering the extreme pain so much because of the morphine drip. But he wasn't totally there either.
I handled the funeral arrangements. When I was asked to pick out the casket I immediately saw one that said "Going home" on the inside of the lid. That was it. That was for Pop, he was "going home."
Folks, the past two weeks have been Hell for me. I'm still recovering from my three visits to the Emergency room in 10 days. Two days ago I was released from the hospital after emergency surgery to removed a blocked kidney stone from my ureter canal. I still have two kidney stones that have to be blasted away by something called a "kidney stone bath." In the meantime I have a stent in my ureter canal which is uncomfortable but not painful. I have to urinate frequently. I cannot hold it in. My urine contains blood clots and blood, which I am told is "normal" for when one has a stent.
|My visit to the emergency room - three times!|
During my two day stay in the hospital, after suffering the at times unbelievable pain of passing a kidney stone, I was pumped up with pain killers, waiting for that kidney stone to pass. It only moved one centimeter. The look on the doctor's sorrowful look on her face when she told me that was one of "How could you stand the pain that long?" I don't know folks, I really don't know. All I know is that I was trying to hang on but I felt like I was slipping. I felt like my fingers were on the edge of a cliff and my grip was loosening one finger at a time.
|Me in pain waiting for the pain killers to take effect - I truly didn't care if I died|
Folks, I have to tell you it got so bad that I was ready to go. Yes, I was ready to die. I just wanted it to end. I teared up realizing I had so much that I haven't done in my life. And poor Bill; standing over to the side unable to do anything to help. And here I was letting everyone down. My friends, my co-workers and someone else who has become very special to me. I felt like I was chickening out because I was ready to give up. I was so tired of fighting to hang on. So, so tired.
|Poor Bill, going through Hell too - he was with me every moment|
However, the folks at the hospital went into emergency mode. They made me as comfortable as possible. Of course they pumped me up with pain medication which reminded me of my father's situation.
But things got better. My doctor admitted me to the hospital that night (this past Monday night). They waited another two days for my kidney stone to pass, it didn't. Then at 5 o'clock Tuesday afternoon I had surgery to blast the kidney stone. They couldn't keep me on pain killers any longer.
|Pain free, finally|
The next day I had my first real food in almost a week. Before my third visit to the emergency room, I ate hardly anything. Then when I was admitted I was on intravenous fluids for two days. Having breakfast served to me in bed was a real treat, but I'm not one for eating in bed. Crumbs and all that you know plus it hurts my back. Still it was so good to reenter the world of the living again, pain free, albeit with a stent which wasn't too comfortable.
Then I was told to get up and walk around. I had been basically bed ridden for the past ten days.
|Here I am getting ready for my "stroll" with my open back "nightie" - I really didn't care about making a fashion statement. Once my hair went, I lost all interest in appearances.|
So since coming home Wednesday I have slowly been regaining my strength. I didn't realize how low I was. And another thing I didn't realize, how much I wanted to get back to my normal physical activities. I tried but just kept running out of gas. I was again reminded of my father, and how much he tried to get back to where he was but just couldn't.
This morning I was going through some old photographs, looking for one which was requested by a French filmmaker of all people. He saw a photo of me with my Sousaphone and asked permission to use it in his film about a boy and his Sousaphone. Don't ask, this is the truth. Of course I gave him permission. He asked if I had one of a better resolution. That is the print I was looking for. However, going through those prints I found these two prints of when I was at the height of my physical activity. When I worked full-time as a bank operations supervisor in Philadelphia, enjoyed a full gay social life in Philadelphia and also was engaged in many activities around my home. I never ever gave a thought to my physical endurance being limited. Back then August 7, 1977, I thought I was invincible.
|Me coming home with a bag full of shopping (of things I probably didn't need) to Bill at our Philadelphia town house. After a full day of work I'm ready for a full evening of activity|
Like my father I love gardening too. Not so much the vegetables, too much trouble keeping the bugs off and it's too easy to get fresh veggies without all that aggravation. However, I do love plant and flower gardening. Bill built me a roof deck on our Philadelphia town house so I could garden and work on my tan at the same time. This photo was taken by Bill of me with a Polaroid without my knowledge. I remember I would rush home after work at 5 o'clock and try to get a few rays of sun to work on my tan. Of course the tanning never worked but I did enjoy my time on our roof deck garden.
|Me, August 7, 1977 on our roof deck in Philadelphia|
This November 9th, on the 14th anniversary to the day of my father's open heart surgery and when his health started to fail, I will be 72 years old. My father was 80 years old when he died. I don't know if that means I have eight years left but one thing I do know, I won't ever be than young kid on the roof deck in Philadelphia who could do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted without fear. These days I know my limitations and I value each and every moment I have of good health.
During my recent stay in the hospital a good friend of mine also had a near death experience. A very unusual coincidence in that we were both in the hospital at the same since a week earlier we were both on the Kalmar Nyckel enjoying a sail (with a little help by a motor) around the Delaware Bay. Little did we know what fate had in store for us in just a few days. We both had a brush with death.
|Wayne DeCajun and me on the Kalmar Nyckel August 20th, 2013|
But one thing I have gained from my experience these past eventful days is that when my time does come, as it surely will, I wish someone would pick out one of those coffins for me that says "Going Home." Then I will be at peace and one with the universe. As a friend quoted a phrase from "Evita" on his blog entry about a death of his neighbor, "he has now entered immortality." That is a nice turn of a phrase and the way I would like to be remembered, whatever unfinished business I leave here on earth.
However, until then it looks as if I'll be around just a bit longer to ruffle some more feathers, rock a few boats, make some waves and perhaps, if I am just fortunate enough, to make a few very special people in my life very happy. I still have some living to do folks. I plan to make these the best years of my life. Everything up until now has only been a preamble.
I will be forever grateful to those who wished me well and who cared for my well being. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
|Pat and Wayne prior to boarding the Kalmar Nyckel - Friends|