So. More than four months since he died. More than two months since my last entry.
I hadn't meant to go silent for that length of time. But then, I hadn't expected anything that's happened since all this started. Why should the postmortem be any different?
Thankfully nothing dramatic to report today. After my Facebook adventure, I tried to mend my fences. We'll see in the long run if I was effective and if the effort was worth it (political postings died down for a while but now they're back, and I'm trying not to react and instead let them come and go - my Facebook practice). Then I sank back into exhaustion. Everything seems like a massive effort - getting work done, getting errands done, moving from one room to another.
Somehow in spite of that I've been productive. There's been work, which is no small thing in the current environment, and I've been able to concentrate on it and meet deadlines and even create a few new things. So that should be reason for optimism.
I've also been getting through the work to do with my father, which continues, of course. No one actually dies, not anymore. What happens instead is that you unravel slowly in a continual stream of e-mails and phone calls and attorney's letters. So there's been the ongoing negotiation with the nursing home about the Medicare pharma bill (still not settled - they have to write a contract with the insurance provider, which they didn't have before, and then persuade the insurance provider that, yes, coverage ended in March but the charges are from January so they're valid)... And there's been the asset transfer at the brokerage (lots of forms, additional effort because the remaining holdings had to be divided equally between me and my wife, the result of a clause in the will that I'd never paid attention to before). Then there was a last big asset sale to cover the funeral costs and also give a gift to E, his longtime aide. After all the conflicts and all my efforts to fire her, then bring her back, then lay her off, in the end there's a check that I wish could be bigger. She stood by him when most other people didn't and for all the difficulties, I think she cared. I talked with her a couple of weeks ago and she brought me up to speed on the other jobs that she and the rest of the aides are sharing - they seems to have created an informal network, which I guess is something else my father left behind. She promised to stay in touch but I don't know if she will.
Oddly, the thing that moved me the most was the afternoon I spent canceling his credit cards. Maybe a sad comment about the society we live in but that, more than anything else, more than the funeral and the gravesite, felt like mortality. Like at a funeral, the guests brought varying degrees of ease and sophistication to the table. Chase and American Express took my word for it that he'd died and canceled over the phone, Citibank insisted on a death certificate and a letter of administration, and Discover had already canceled him. They said they monitor the public records - they said it with a faint air of "what took you so long?"
Similarly, there was the processing of the tax refunds - New York State wrote him a check, which I'm able to deposit in the joint account; the IRS noticed that he was dead and balked, unless I could provide proof that I was the administrator of the estate, which of course I did. Their caution seems reasonable - I'm actually glad they checked before flinging tax revenues back out into the world.
About the credit cards... part of the sense of finality comes from the fact that there's a long story behind them. A long time ago, my father ran them up - in spite of his fiscal conservatism - because it was the only way to juggle the cost of my mother's breast cancer meds. This was in the days before Medicare Part D and even if there'd been that, her first illness predated her Medicare eligibility by seven years. After she died, in the early 2000's, he began paying them down. At first he made small payments. Then he discovered the wonders of those courtesy checks they send you all the time, and started checks from one card to pay off another. Then he tried to use the checks from one card to pay off the same card, which of course the credit card companies didn't want to go along with. His credit card behavior was one of the early signs - not the earliest, but early - that something was going wrong with him. It was at around that time that I started to help him with some of the household tasks, like check-writing. Then I took over the process, and shortly after that, I used my power of attorney for the first time to sell an annuity and pay off all the outstanding balances. So the cancellation was the end of a long journey and not just mopping up. I thought about that for a short while - then I went through my call list and got rid of them all.
A while ago I promised you a few stories like that, and that is in fact where we're going next. There are a couple of tracks to pursue. First, there's recent history. I started this blog in the fall of 2007, and didn't really pick it up in earnest 'til the following winter. By then he was in the late-middle stages of the disease, and most of what I've written is the end of the story. There are at least five years of Alzheimer's to cover before the first entry. I'll get to that, because it might do someone some good who's only partway along the path. Then, there's early history. I haven't had the heart yet to dig into the family papers, but there here - all the history back to the 50's, and to a lesser extent the Depression and the war. I'm not sure if what's in there will help me get at who he was - or if there's even such a thing as "who he was" (as opposed to the versions of him I could invent to satisfy my need for something concrete and definitive). But it's worth a shot. So I'll be looking at that, too.
And there's the present, which continues. There's the paperwork, which won't be done for at least another year (he lived six weeks into 2010, which means I'll have to file his taxes next April). There's my meeting with the nice hospice people who want to counsel me. I haven't arranged it yet, but I'm about to. And there are the dreams. He appears in them often, sometimes with Alzheimer's, sometimes without.
Actually, now that I think of it, the first written reference I have to his Alzheimer's is a note about a dream. That might be a decent place to start.
I'll pick up there next time.