A Road Trip? Yes, Please.

Around_Btown_Sept_2011_087

I mentioned my father in the last post about our elderly parents. He’s 83 and not in great health.

He started smoking when he was 11, rolling his own. He quit awhile back when he was told if he didn’t, he’d die and pretty soon.

Not that the threat of death stops smokers.  I have a close girlfriend who was told the same thing and she decided to continue smoking – she died in April of this year from severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (yes, the elephant on the chest – COPD). And she was only 57.

But in my dad’s case, the threat worked.   The damage to his cardiovascular system was done but stopping  smoking staved off additional damage that would have hastened his death.

So two big problems – a dissection in the descending aorta (a rare condition, and the one that killed the actor John Ritter), and then as that stabilized and the doctors decided not to repair it surgically, he was told his ejection fraction rate is lowering over time.  A normal ejection fraction (a measure of blood flow through the ventricles) is 50-65 and my dad’s is like 17.

My understanding is that eventually as his EF goes even lower, he will probably die from I guess a heart attack.  I’m not clear on exactly what might kill him.  I’m also not clear on why they say there is no further treatment available, whether that is a medical decision or one based on his age.

What I know is that he sounds very labored on the phone, like he’s trying to catch his breath and he reports that he has to stop and sit or lie down frequently.  He just doesn’t have all that much energy and gets winded quickly.  That’s not good.

He says he’s ready to die.   He’s more religious than he was, so I guess he’s comforted by his belief in heaven and of meeting those who have gone before him, including his parents and his beloved third wife (he’s currently remarried – a surprise for everybody).

So when we got a note on a birthday card that said “Come visit – we’re getting old” we took notice.  I don’t know if this will be the last time I see him before he passes away, or just a nice trip.

Which is why this retirement stuff becomes important.  It’s like, “Wait a minute, we’re retired, so we could take our time going cross country, visiting and then returning.”  Well . . . yeah.  We could do that.

So next week, we’ll hit the road and begin to post about our adventures.  Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get a motorhome yet, so this trip will be in the car and stopping at motels.  The nice part is that Izzy will be part of our trip.

Oddly, or maybe not, with both of my parents smoking (and my nearly 80-year-old mother still smoking), I never started.  I had other vices of course (cheesecake, anyone?), but cigarettes were never one of them.  I’m thankful for that, but when it came to my son, he started smoking at 19 and although he’s tried quitting with variable results, he’s smoked on and off for the past ten years.  I had no idea it skipped generations.

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