In the years following my mothers chemotherapy, I made a conscious effort to be more connected to him. We started a somewhat short lived tradition of going on trips together during spring and winter break to various famous places and cities, just me and him. He also started to do this with my mother.
In 2000 when I decided to graduate from high school rather than drop out and then I decided to attend university and major in psychology, partly out of a desire to understand my own problems and partly out of a desire to understand my family's problems. I found I really didn't like psychology that much and the only class that really helped me was a course on abnormal psychology, which helped me understand my father even better than that therapy session confessional in 1997, and for the first time in felt like I actually had a real father.
By 2004, I had switched majors many many times trying to decide what I wanted to do after college, and by that point I qualified for an Associates in Liberal Arts and just took it. Despite the fact that it was not a very powerful degree, it did have the effect of making the relationship with my father more reciprocal. He frequently expressed pride that I could say I was an educated man. About a year later, he was delighted when I announced I would go back to school and actually focus
on a major : Computer Science.
The 2000s were not without problems for my father and my family. Decades of bad financial decisions made in haste, ruined credit ratings, and lost retirement funds, and lost health insurance left my parents in dire straights. Add to this years of alcohol abuse and denial over medical conditions like diabetes led to a decade that severely strained the relationship between my parents. In 2006 my father's condition had gotten to the point that he was clearly too ill to work, though he refused to retire (he couldn't !). He had collapsed during a meeting with a prospective client, and ended up in the hospital, He was informed by a cardiologist that he had nearly had a heart attack and that if he didn't get a double bypass operation, he could have one at any moment. After fighting over it for a while, my parents decided to go ahead with the operation despite the fact that the the health insurance would not cover it. At first, they had decided to sell the house I grew up in to pay for it. The house had been a huge point of pride for my father, and after the operation, he had second thoughts about selling it, trying desperately to find another way around having to do so, which often led to numerous arguments and fights with my mother all the way until the end of the year, when I fought with him for the first time in a decade. Fortunately that would be the last time I ever fought with him.
In 2008, he had a stroke caused by excessive fluid in his blood, which was in turned caused by his failing kidneys (a long term complication of diabetes), and he began a 3-times-a-week regiment of dialysis. He recovered from the stroke, but not without problems, he now had problems balancing, and walking. Again his psychological problems and pessimism kept him from fully recovering, he could have regained the ability to walk if he had stuck to his physical therapy regiment, but he didn't feel it was worth it. He spent the last two years of his living back and forth between a wheel chair and a walker. At this point in my life, I had decided to graduate as soon as possible so I could take care of my parents, being the only child in the family who had yet to move out. I graduated from UTSA in may of 2009 with a bachelors in computer science. Before the graduation ceremony my father said something to me that still haunts me to this day, a little over two years later: "If you hear a popping sound from the handicap section of the auditorium, that's the buttons of my shirt popping off as my chest swells with pride"
My father never retired, he had to change the nature of his business from that of a trial lawyer to that of a legal consultant because it became increasingly difficult for him to leave the house. In mid 2009 he started to develop a disturbing symptom, his breathing became more and more shallow as his lung capacity shrank. By November, we had taken him to see his cardiologist to find out what was happening and found he had yet another problem. His lungs were slowly filling with fluid as the walls began to break down, partially as a result of excessive blood fluid and partially as a result of years of asthma related lung damage. After the fluid in his lungs were drained, the severity of the problem became magnified, the fluid in the lungs had caused the formation of a thick protein build up in his right side that could not be removed. He would need a lung transplant, but that prospects of surviving a lung transplant were slim if he did not get a kidney transplant. The unlikelihood of any of this ever happening led the doctors to advice that we place my father in a hospice.
By January of 2010, I had felt like a failure, My plan had been to get my degree, find a job, and support my parents until their eventual deaths. I felt like I had to rush because my father's health was failing fast and his ability to stay aloft financially was quickly disappearing. But despite my best efforts, I could not find a job with my degree, the economy was collapsing, and not even my new technology-centered degree was going to save us, I was going to need more than just a B.S. unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the cashier job I was lucky to find.
On January 10, 2010, my father was having a panic attack at the hospital, and I was there, being his security blanket, holding his hand as he trembled, by the time he had calmed down he said to me "Okay, you can go home, take care of your mother"
. Those would be the last words He ever spoke to me. The next morning, he wouldn't wake up, The doctors found him in a vegetative state, not quite dead and not quite alive, barely responding. They put him on a life support system and shoved a tube down into his lung to keep him breathing, he finally responded by trying to pull the tubes out of his mouth, then passed out again.