Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Long Road Home

Ike Tipton, my dad, after open heart surgery November 1999
Mom wrote on the back of this photo "Isaac and Pop coming home 1999."  Isaac is my brother Isaac, Jr.  He was helping our father down the walkway into his home.  My brother Isaac is on the left, our father is on the right holding on to the rail.  Our father never leaned on his sons but today he had no choice.  He wanted to go home.

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
Pop was never the same after his open heart surgery.  In fact, during surgery they discovered he had inoperable lung cancer.  They didn't tell him they discovered he had lung cancer.

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.


Breakfast!
By the way folks, I finally lost that annoying semi-spare tire I had around my waist.  I lost eleven pounds during this ordeal.  I'm down to 159, under 160 which is my ideal weight.  I can wear those size 32 waist pants now!  But it sure is a helluva way to lose weight.

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.
I was released form the hospital on Wednesday morning.  Still very weak and beat up.  And constipated, very constipated.  In fact the next day at 4:30 am in the morning I had a crises that was almost as bad as the kidney stone pain.  I had to take a bowel movement so bad but couldn't.  I was on the verge of panic. I didn't want to go to the hospital again and have a hose stuck up my behind but I was almost there.  Thank God I had a spare Fleet enema which I took.  RELIEF!  

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
I look at these pictures and marvel that I was ever so shallow as to think that I would be this healthy and vigorous forever.  

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
This could have been our last photo together had it not been for the heroic efforts of the Beebe Hospital to save us, two old buzzards who have long lived past their prime but will live to see another day, provide a few laughs and even bring happiness to ourselves and others in the process of living our own special unique lives.

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 










32 comments:

  1. OMB, ron! between you and the cajun...I hope I haven't run totally out of good vibrations/karma for both of you.

    besides, you gotta get your strength back...a little over 200 days til the next blogger meetup! we can't meet up without our leader/cheering section!

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    1. Anne Marie,

      Keep up those good vibrations for me and the cajun, wee need 'em!

      Ron

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  2. Ron,

    Man, I wondered where you were going with this when I started reading. First ting I seen or heard from you in days. Missing you and still sick.

    Lar

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    1. Lar,

      I go just wherever my writing takes me. I don't plan out in advance how I'm going to write my blog. My blog writing is sort of like a mental Ouji board, wherever the spirit leads me. I'll try and call you tomorrow or Monday morning. Thank God I don't have to go to work until next Thursday.
      Plenty of time for a rest.

      Ron

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  3. Well Ron - another beautiful post. And some new Tipton history. I was teary eyed near the end and oddly enough my music system was playing Auld Lang Syne. I like your attitude to life. I think you are a critical realist. And how much more can you be than that. But let me add. I began to worry about my Mom when she was in her 70's living alone in a big house. And if she didn't answer the phone I'd get in the subway in the evening to if she was alright. She had a thyroid problem with operation but not much else. Nonetheless, while I worried she lived to 101. Sometimes we are frail, sometimes we are incredibly resilient. Just some of my rambling thoughts.

    Pat

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    1. Pat,

      I have LOTS of Tipton history to catch you up on. As with most families, we have quite a rich and varied history. Lots of drama. Reality shows have nothing on us.

      I would like to live to be 101 with you know who.

      Ron

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  4. Ron, what a fantastic blog post (along with equally fantastic photos). This is undoubtedly your best post ever. You've said so much and covered so many things that it's impossible to comment on all of them. The story of your father's final days is very touching. And the details of your recent ordeal is so harrowing that I felt like I was there. You were always a good writer but I think those damned kidney stones helped sharpen your writing skills (*smile*). Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    I think I was in the hospital four days when I had my bout with kidney stones. I remember that I begged to get the hell out of there. The whole thing was a nightmare beyond hell (you can certainly attest to that). My right kidney was sore for nearly two years - - no lie.

    Anyway, take care, and I'll look forward to more blog posts.

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    1. Jon,

      Thank you very much. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to relate my medical drama so I just started to write and whatever came out, came out. I did want to make the connection with my father who tried to hard to keep going until the day he died. I guess I am my father's son because that is exactly the way I have felt these past two weeks during this ordeal.

      Since you passed a kidney stone, you know what a harrowing ordeal it can be. With this one, not only did I have two separate episodes within one week, the second kidney stone wouldn't even pass. I had to carry it eight days, swallowing pain killers until I could stand it no more. Those eight days had to be the worst of my life Jon, the absolute worst. My fear was that I would do permanent damage to my kidneys. I can believe your kidney was sore for two years. I'm still weak but recovering. What a knockout punch. But this whole episode did get me to thinking what my father went through and what my eventual fate will be. A sobering thought. I hope and pray that when I go it is fast and painless.

      Thank you again Jon for your always thoughtful, kind and generous comments. I have found so many good friends through blogging. I am glad I found you.

      Ron

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  5. Ron, it is we who should thank you.

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    1. Thank you George. Looks like I'll be around a bit longer. I didn't want to checkout yet although I felt like it a few times the past weekend.

      Ron

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  6. Ron, this is the most beautiful thing I have ever read from you. Simply stunning. You can take solace in the fact that your intellect and creativity are still at their peak!

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    1. Tony,

      Thank you very much. I didn't know how to approach my recent medical bout so I just "let it flow" when I started to write. I wanted to make the connection between how vital my father was and how he was brought down by age and illness and how eventually I too will be bought down by the same inevitable fate that awaits all of us. Too soon we realize that we are mere mortals only taking up a tiny space of time in this infinite universe. We assume so much when we are healthy and vital then when something like an illness hits you, you realize that you too will go the way of all. I just had to get this out of me. Thank you again for your very kind an generous comment.

      Ron

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  7. Ron,
    Wow. I loved every word that you wrote today. I am about 3 years younger than you and I have come to the realization that I can't do what I was able to do 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. I have been fortunate that I have been relatively free of health issues other than normal for someone almost 69. Biggest problem in the past 10 years blood pressure controlled with a small daily dose of medication and depression controlled with a lot of medication. My father died at 86 and had Alzheimer's as did his brother and mother. That is my biggest worry especially as we suspect that my sister (2 years older)might be starting. My mother did live to be almost 101,her mind was as sharp as a tack until the last 7 days of her life. People say I take after her so I don't necessarily want to be that old, just have my full mind. So glad to hear you are on the mend, I know how hard it must be for both you and Bill but at least the worse is over. Good vibes to you both.
    Continue to stay well,
    Jack

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    1. Thank you Jack. I too worry about dementia. Both of my Mother's older sisters had dementia when they died and she developed it about a year before she died at age 86, two years ago. My cousin Randy, who was only 64, died in his sleep a few months ago. After seeing his mother slowly go downhill with dementia for about 12 years, he always said "When I go I want to go in my sleep." Well, he got his wish and he did die in his sleep but as his wife told me, she said "it was till too soon."


      Bill was so happy today that I was beginning to return to my normal, bitchy behavior. He knows when I get annoyed with him that I'm getting better. You should have seen the smile on his face when I started to bitch about something (which I even forget now).

      I hope you enjoy many years of good health Jack. We all have to go sometime but I would like to be fully alive right up to the end. That's my hope anyway.

      Thanks again for your generous comment.

      Ron

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  8. Hooray!! You're back!! So glad you are on the road to recovery!!

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    1. Thank you Karen. I'm on my way to recovering. Each day is a little better. I was pretty beat up though, the most I've been in years.

      Ron

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  9. And we are all glad "you let it all out". We always love your stories and this one was very touching! I still would love to know why the doctor waited so long, hoping the stone would pass on its own. Not at your age, not taking all those painkillers. It just doesn't seem right to me, but thank God it is over and you are happy, ready to move on and I bet, looking at life a bit differently! Make every day count for Bill and yourself!

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    1. Nadege,

      I think my doctor realized that it was too long for me with the kidney stone. He said "five days" but because of the holiday weekend it stretched to 8 days and then I still had to go into the emergency room on Labor Day, September 5th. My oral pain killers weren't working so he admitted me to the hospital that night and put me on intravenous pain killers. Most kidney stones pass, I was just the unlucky small percentage that didn't. Even the bank manager, who I saw after my ordeal told me his kidney stone passed one hour before his scheduled surgery. They waited as long as they could before they put me in surgery.

      You can bet I'm making every day count for me and Bill. You should have seen how happy he was today that I was getting back to my old bitchy self. He knows when I start bitching, I'm getting better. He knows me so well.

      Ron

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  10. Pollyanna Pat here. I just had to comment once more - Retired in Delaware is simply one fabulous blog. The content has such good quality and diversity and is written so well. The comments from the readers are so often incredibly thoughtful, caring, witty, and often informative And then final comments you graciously add, Ron, to each of us noting something we might have mentioned. What a really great package. So glad I stumbled over this site when I did.

    Pat

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    1. Pat,

      You're much to kind and generous with your compliments.

      Thank you,

      Ron

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  11. I think this is one of your best posts, ever.

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    1. That is quite a compliment coming from you sir, my inspiration and guide for writing a good blog. Thank you Dr. Spo.

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  12. Anonymous1:08 AM

    Ron, I haven't had time to post, but I'm so glad you are getting better. You gave us quite a scare!
    I think I mentioned before that my partner, Daniel, went through the same thing! Awful wasn't the word!!! I remember him throwing up from the pain. He is a lot like you. A very strong person. He is so stoic, so when he said he was hurting, I knew he was bad off!!!
    I hope you continue to get better and know that all of your followers do care about you and wish you well!!!
    Oh and by the way, that pic of you in 77 with those short shorts on---- SEXXXY!!! ;)
    Your friend in Alabama,
    James

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    1. James,

      You know from what your Daniel went through really how awful passing a kidney stone is. When I throw up because of the pain, it's bad. The worst part about the pain from a kidney stone is that it seems there is no way out, no way to alleviate the pain. You just feel like you're going down, down and out. It is literally the worst I've ever felt in my life.

      Hey! Thanks for the compliment about me with the shorts. Bill has always told me he was attracted to my "long legs" first, much to my chagrin. I often kid him "You weren't attracted to my intellect?"

      Thanks for your well wishes. Means a lot to me.

      Ron

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  13. Randy in NEB3:18 PM

    Ron, I too really like your blog! Thanks for keeping all of us informed. Sometimes the human body can be a little bit icky, I don't know how the doctors do it. I'm glad you're, day by day feeling better. After these last stones are gone I'm sure you'll be back to your 100% bitchy self.;-) I need to work on getting into my 32" pants also, right now there a little snug, too many cookouts and buffets. I'm with James I too am loving the Aug. 77 pic of your looong legs in the short shorts! What is your inseam 36-38 inch? Must be difficult to find 32x36 pants. I think Bill got it right he found a guy who is hot and has smarts. Best wishes and inproved good health . Randy.

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    1. Randy,

      Thanks Randy my special Nebraska (and probably only) friend. Yes, my inseam is 32-36. I have jeans with 30-36 and 31-36. Yes, very hard to get that's why I still have them! These days I'm more comfortable in 33-35 (shrinking) although the 32's are fitting again. I'm not quite as toned in the "six-pack" these days though. Just telling it like it is. Gravity does take it's toll.

      Always good to hear from you Randy. Whenever I do I always think of Johnny Carson.

      Ron

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  14. Randy in NEB3:56 PM

    Ron, I forgot to mention, it looks like your Mom and Pop really loved each other right to the very end. My folks are the same way, out shopping or going for a walk. They still hold hands. Randy in NEB

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    1. Randy,

      Yep, you're right. Mom and pop loved each other right to the end. They were married 60 years. She lived another ten years without him but she was never the same. She lost so much weight and rarely smiled or laughed like she used to. It was like her reason for living was over. I'm glad your parents had the same kind of loving and respectful relationship. That's probably why we're such nice guys!

      Ron

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  15. Anonymous8:24 PM

    Ron, welcome back to your healthy self. Missed reading your wonderful blog when you were suffering with so much pain.
    Susan

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    1. Thank you Susan, it's good to be back!

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  16. Anonymous11:10 PM

    Ron, What a tough summer you have had. I am glad you are finally recovering from all of these kidney issues. I think you will be around for a very long time.
    Lynne

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    1. Lynne,

      This has been a year which I will long remember. In addition to my health issue, it was also the year I got married which never in a million years would I have predicted. Ironically, the last time I had so much health drama in my life and other drama was whenI was 17 years old and tried to join the Army, failed, got an operation, had complications that I almost died from then finally joined the Army. This year, I'm 71 years old (reversed numbers) and I go through so much again. I hope next year and whatever years I have remaining are calm waters. I've had enough to do me a lifetime.

      Always good to hear from you Lynne, one of my longtime followers.

      Ron

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