Mudty Relationships: An Essay in Closure - Part 4

This post is part of an 11 part essay that I have written in memory of my father, Tod “Mudty” Eaton, who passed away in August 2018. On this blog, I had previously shared the eulogy I gave at his Celebration of Life, which I think was a meaningful public goodbye to him.  This essay though is a bit more complex and nuanced in drawing out the final days of my father’s passing and how I reconciled his life, his death, and our relationship.  It’s a deeply personal essay that I have spent many hours on for the past year and with the encouragement of kind friends, have chosen to share.  

Additionally, if you feel so moved, I would encourage you to donate to my fundraiser for Care Dimensions, the hospice home that made his final days more comfortable for all of us.  

Part 4:  Navigating

A photo of Tod and Paula Eaton, sitting at a table.
Tod and Paula Eaton, circa 2007

When you’re not waiting, you’re navigating.

Navigating to the emergency room from two hours away at 11pm because big decisions may need to be made that night.

Navigating how to coordinate coverage so that for the foreseeable future, family is with him throughout the day.

Navigating the balance of being there for your dying father, caring for your mother, attending to your partner despite your mood, keeping up with work, and clinging to some level of self-care.

Navigating your own moods, attitudes, patience, and unresolved conflicts with your father while in his presence, knowing that now is not the time.

Navigating what’s best for him (and what does that even mean in this circumstance).

Navigating how to advocate for your father with nurses, doctors, social workers, and sometimes, even family.

Navigating explanations to hospital folks that bring in physical therapists or give him breathing-improvement exercises because it’s only going to make his remaining time that much more frustrating.

Navigating your father’s anger and frustration at people with a delicate balance of acknowledgement of his frustration and acknowledgement that they are people who are doing their best to care for him.

Navigating how to keep people in the dark about your father’s declining health because that’s what he wants.

Navigating how much you can lean on friends and loved ones and at what point is it smart and helpful or are you taking unnecessary advantage of them.

Navigating how to meet your father’s expressed desires even if they are contradictory or seem pointless.

Navigating conversations with friends and colleagues to acknowledge the reality of the situation but diminish the impact since focusing on the reality of the situation only adds to the exhaustion and you need your energy for all the navigating you’re doing.

Navigating how to tell your father he will never return home and his resistance to such an idea.

Navigating your father’s resignation less than 12 hours later when he realizes he can no longer go home because he cannot control his body and will need constant care.

Navigating what questions to ask your mother questions about wills, healthcare proxies, and insurance.

Navigating a Kafkaesque healthcare system that has myriad different documents about what is supposed to happen coupled with numerous different explanations by doctors, social workers, and the like about what can happen.

Navigating your frustration with a social worker who makes it sound like the choice between spending $9,000 and $12,000 are distinct options.

Navigating which conversations are worth having with your father and which he is capable of having.

Navigating how to tell your mom that your father died just a few moments ago.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  If you haven't read the essay in full or have missed previous parts, feel free to navigate to other parts from the links below:

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