It had been a very long day, but then most days were. In addition to the usual bounding between Dad and catastrophe, there was a visit to his primary care physician. Dad was unsteady and taking him anywhere was a challenge. The doctor had told us that he was withdrawing some of Dad’s medications and that Dad should eat whatever he wanted, cholesterol be damned. Well, maybe those weren’t his exact words.
Dad and I had finished our usual early dinner and the day was closing into a winter evening as Dad was closing into himself, beginning his night’s restlessness. The phone rang; I took the call in a room away from Dad and was surprised to hear the voice of Dad’s wonderful doctor.
“I wanted to be sure you understood me today,” he said gently.
I assured the doctor I had understood: aggressive treatment was no longer the greater good. Dad’s body had had enough of swimming upstream. He was 84, worn out by dementia he didn’t even realize he had; his cardiovascular system and heart were exhausted, his mind not his own any more. Death wasn’t imminent, but life was, like the winter day, closing.
The doctor gave me permission to stop fighting the disease. It was OK to let go and know that Dad and God would take it from there. It was time.
It didn’t mean the end of medical care for Dad; it meant that medical care had a different purpose. The doctor was not abandoning his friend, as he referred to Dad, but standing with him, acknowledging reality when Dad couldn’t.
There comes a time when time runs out, and it’s all right to put away the clock.