We all knew Vitauts had been having problems with his memory, but we had no idea just how serious it was. While mom was alive, she would tell us that we had, “No idea…” what it was like to live with dad. I’m sure he drove her crazy with his stubborn ways and constant forgetfulness. God knows I drive people crazy, and my memory isn’t half as bad as his.
The first time that we all collectively saw him flustered was at one of his final church services. How many Sunday services had he performed up to that point? Fifty-two Sundays a year for over fifty years? Twenty-five hundred regular services plus a boatload of weddings and funerals. And on this day, he stood at the altar, and he literally drew a blank as to what came next in the service. All of looked anxiously at each other wondering if we should help. Paul, my oldest brother, the rock of the family, took the lead and shouted out to dad what to do next. It was a touching moment between father and son, and Vitauts took it in stride with his usual sense of humor and Latvian accent. “Ja, I know, I know…” he said as he continued the service in stride.
I wonder if he even remembers that? Probably not.
The night my mom died, she was in the hospital and the surgeon and doctor told us that it was just a matter of time. They said that she may hold on for awhile, but they asked us what we wanted to do. We sat in a little room crying together, and I had gone home to grab a bottle of liqueur. We did shots, and collectively decided to let her go. Dad said it’s what she would have wanted. “We always told each other that we didn’t want to keep living if we couldn’t be fully alive.”
Paul was still driving in from Iowa, but the six of us (seven counting my nephew Chris) made the decision together. It was ultimately dad’s decision, but he needed a little bit of strength from all of us to tell the doctor what we wanted to do.
But then, strangely he had the urge to leave the hospital and go home. He refused to stay, and so we all went back to the house with him. We had another shot together, and resolved to return to the Bryan Memorial to say our last goodbyes. We literally had to convince dad to come back. He had either drank a bit too much or literally forgotten exactly why we were going back, but he came.
When he got there and the doctor asked what we wanted to do, he started to talk about letting her stay on life support for a little longer, and he went one. We interrupted, I’m not sure who, probably me or my sister Susan and told him that wasn’t what we had decided. It sounds a little cold now, but we had come to the incredibly difficult decision hours before, and we couldn’t go back on it now.