Thursday, December 17, 2009

Goodbye Jack (a long remembrance)

Prologue

This could also be titled: “What the hell I’ve been doing with my life the last four years.”

I started this blog in 2003 as a thirty-something, poker playing party animal. I regaled in tales of bad beats, cheap drinks and (occasionally) bathroom sex. I was enjoying the nightlife in Buffalo and it treated me pretty good.

I was also catching on to the growing poker blogging community. I missed a couple of blogger gatherings, mostly because they were far away. To this day I’ve still never been to Vegas.

All things must change, I guess. During the summer of 2005 my ebay business – my “9 to 5 job” - had pretty much collapsed. The combination of rising costs, merchandise flooding the market (and the lingering NHL lockout) basically destroyed my revenue stream. And poker wasn’t paying the bills either.

I didn’t really have any other choice to pack up and leave my now too expensive apartment. So in 2005, I moved back to our family’s house in Auburn, NY (aka “Prison City”).

And that is where this story begins.

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I meant that move to be only temporary – a jumping off point to embark on a new adventure. Obviously, that’s not what happened.

I spent the first few months worried I had turned into the ultimate blogger or 2+2 cliché – living in my parent’s basement, spewing pseudo “baller” posts online, pretending to be someone that mattered. (FWIW, I’ve never been baller, real or imagined.)

Besides, I was also knocking on 40 years old and uncertain what the hell I was supposed to be doing anyway.

What I soon realized was that my father, Jack – my new roommate – had been living all alone for a few years, and becoming quite overwhelmed with the house upkeep and the isolation he had created.

I quickly surmised that my “temporary” move had taken on a whole new meaning. I had two choices: I could pay someone to look after my father, or stay with him and help take care of his affairs.

Since I couldn’t afford to hire any help, I decided to stay for the long haul.

There’s a little back-story here. Jack and I had a tenuous relationship at best. We didn’t speak to each other for several years. It was very “prodigal son-ish” – I needed to prove I didn’t need him for anything, and he needed to prove he had the final say on most of my life choices.

We had made our peace well before 2005, but you can imagine how difficult it was for Jack to ask me for anything. If he needed support from his kids, why did it have to be from me?

My father was retired and fairly well off. Approaching 80, he was mentally sharp and very capable of looking after his finances. But he had reached an age where we all get worn out easily and sometimes forgetful.

So for about a year there was a nice balance at home. I helped with the household affairs, and I had enough space I could get back into poker and whatever else I wanted to try. (Daily fantasy sports soon came along – another story for another time.)

Early in 2006 Jack had his regularly scheduled doctor visits and was sent to a lung specialist. He was soon diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis – irreversible scarring of the lungs. It was idiopathic, meaning that the cause of the illness is unknown. He never smoked one day in his life.

Since this is a progressive disease, I knew right away that he had been dealt a shitty hand - a long, slow death sentence. And he took the news like a fucking man. Jack never told a bad beat story, regardless of the circumstances.

He was immediately put on oxygen, which he needed 24/7 for the rest of his life. The next 2+ years were pleasantly uneventful, considering the amount of doctor visits he required. I think he had about seven specialists he was seeing.

This year was just a long, downward slide. My father continued to lose weight down to about 100 pounds. (This is a side effect of the lung disease). As he needed higher levels of oxygen to maintain his blood levels, even simple tasks like walking to the bathroom were exhausting struggles.

This spring my sister also moved back to the house from California. She was a huge help with the medical scheduling, as Jack needed more and more treatments at home.

This fall we found out my father had cancer. But in actuality, this turned out to be the least of our worries.

Jack was a great patient, always wanting to fight. He was just too weak and frail for any chemo or radiation.

We had a few scares in November when his breathing became irregular or shallow. We called 911 more than once over the last month.

Jack ended up in the hospital and we were discussing hospice options for him. He actually seemed to improve a bit. He was completely lucid and cracking some jokes.

Then on early Saturday morning, around the time hardcore bloggers were holding court at the hooker bar, my father passed away.

I don’t believe in fate or happen-stance or whatever, but there were forces pushing me to where I am right now.

While I’m still mourning, I’m a little scared to begin that new adventure I meant to start in 2005.

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Epilogue

I buried my father yesterday.

He was a depression era child. He taught me the importance of appreciating what you have.

I’m thankful we got to spend his final years together.

It’s just that simple.

PS – Here’s my favorite pic of Jack. He used to race sports cars before he had kids.

4 comments:

BWoP said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your loss.

TenMile said...

You've handled the entire thing very well. Sorry for your loss.

Alex said...

I'm sorry about your loss.

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