Francis T. Carberry. July 15, 1947 — August 19, 2013.
The first bad email arrived on the Tuesday before last. Dad had been taken to hospice. The email didn't say anything beyond that. I called Mom and she said he'd be back home in five days. The next email came two days later... medicine injections via the tongue. The following day, Friday... Dad's not coming home after all. It's a matter of time. But I didn't have to come home yet. We spoke two days later, just after lunch, and she didn't have a better estimate. I figured, from the facts I'd had thus far, it was down to days.
It turned out to be thirteen hours.
I was expecting a normal day off from work this past Monday; I'd even had a few beers on Sunday night. As I was settling down to bed, I heard the Super Mario Bros. power-up sound. Who the hell is texting me this late? I grabbed the phone, saw it was from John, and got the worst piece of news I've ever gotten in my 32-plus years.
At that point, I was running on adrenaline, but conflicted. I couldn't sleep and wanted to pack, but I knew I needed to sleep, because I had a long drive ahead of me the next day - and also, I couldn't inform Cooper of this until the day shift came in anyway. So I did a bit of packing, got to sleep a few hours later, finished in the morning, squared everything away at the tire plant, and finally got on the road to New York around 10:15. As I drove, I was comforted by seeing so many comments on Facebook to the picture that you see above.
Mom was doing pretty well when I reached Northport. But I knew that everything could go to shit over the following two days. Especially when I got to the funeral home on Tuesday afternoon, and saw Dad lying there, looking like he was sleeping, but knowing he wasn't. He's not getting up. He's never getting up. That day was made much easier by seeing so many family and friends, including many I hadn't seen in quite a long time. Between the two viewing sessions, we went to dinner at the Ship's Inn in downtown Northport. As we rounded the final curve of Main Street and came within sight of the harbor, we collectively realized a massive miscalculation. A Tuesday night in August meant the "Family Fun Night" street fair was in full effect. Not only would we be detoured, but we'd have a hell of a time finding parking. I recalled that Dad would have surely warned us about this... had he been around.
We Carberrys are not especially religious folk, and so a funeral Mass, or the equivalent in the other major world religions, was not held. The funeral home director simply led us in the Lord's Prayer, we paid our final respects, and processed eastward to Calverton National Cemetery. Dad was laid to rest with Air Force military honors, performed expertly, and at my urging, with his putter alongside him.
The rest of Wednesday, and the whole of the last two days, have been spent relaxing and recuperating from all this. I saw Ryan Wednesday night, and we ran through all of this, as well as some other problems we both share, not to mention some excellent wine and beer. I've also been helping Mom with paperwork, of which there is a fair bit. But with everything and everybody doing about as well as we can be, I intend to get on the road back west tomorrow afternoon, so as to allow me a full day of rest back in Findlay before returning to work at Cooper early on Monday morning.
The certificate of death listed glioblastoma as the ultimate cause. Inputting that term into Wikipedia yielded a balance of welcome and unwelcome information. The annual infection rate for this type of tumor is estimated at two to three per hundred thousand. To put that in perspective, in a city the size of Findlay, Ohio, one person per year would have this particular form of cancerous mutation. The Wikipedia article also mentioned one study indicating alcohol consumption may be a risk factor. That, along with the knowledge that he drank at least a Budweiser or two daily, was a bit unsettling. On the other hand, there appears to be no genetic predisposition for glioblastoma. This shit just happens. For a very small number of people, the dice come up snake eyes, and my Dad was one of them. They get this, and so from healthy and happy to gone in what seems like the snap of a finger. The other thing I saw gave me faith and comfort in the decisions the doctors had taken. Based on the median survival rates, chemotherapy - which had been foregone in Dad's case - would have bought him one more year, and in nothing resembling the condition in which he had lived his first sixty-five and three-fourths years. When I saw him lying peacefully on Tuesday, I took solace in the fact that he was no longer suffering as he had in the final four months of his life - and also in the fact that the cancer had run its course relatively quickly, and not left him with a lengthy period of pain.
So many of the people I've spoken to this week told me that Dad constantly mentioned how proud he was of all three of his children. As I paid my final respects two days ago, I told him I couldn't wait for him to see how proud I'd make him in the future. It's a tall order, but I can't think of any more worthwhile.