Last winter, my 62 year old father had his knee replaced. To be honest, I didn’t think much of it in the days preceeding the surgery. He was a healthy, moderately fit young(ish) man going for a relatively common, routine surgery. Years of YMCA “Fit for Life” and other activites rendered Dad’s knee worthless and he was ready to upgrade to a new model. Although I was thousands of miles away, I was confident his partner would take good care of him while he healed up from the surgery. For my part, I sent him a fun book to read and words of encouragement to both him and his girlfriend. Then, I received a startling piece of mail. The envelope contained all my father’s important contacts and last wishes, complete with a “do not resuscitate” order. Along with his bank account numbers, name and information of his attorney and his desire to have his remains handled by “The Neptune Society” was a note indicating that he was leaving all the important medical decisions to me and his girlfriend, with explicit direction NOT to involve my tender hearted younger brother. My brother simply wouldn’t be able to bear with the trauma of it all. At this time, I had a brief moment of desperation (as I frantically Googled “The Neptune Society” to ensure my dad did not venture into some weird cult as he contemplated death – no worries, he simply wanted to be creamated, a perfectly reasonable choice as far as I was concerned).
The surgery came and went without incident. He devoured the book I sent, even before the surgery took place. His girlfriend nursed him back to health (although sadly, their relationship came to an end weeks later).
Dad and I carried on with life and although he seemed a bit worse for the wear, we enjoyed a father-daughter birding trip to Florida in April after he had healed up.
Life moves on. We mainly communicate by email as he has a strange affliction of a “numb arm” after conversing on the phone after so long (I get it). This evening, in response to an email I had sent him earlier in the day in regard to my birth control prescription change prompted by the pharmacy (am I going nuts due to new hormones coursing through my veins, why do I want to slit my wrists lately, Dr. Dad please help me?) I received the following in an email from him: (Mind you, this was interspersed between random comments about about the movie “Chef, which was cute, but not a blockbuster” says Dad.) “I also met with a sales guy from the Neptune Society, the creamation company, and paid for my funeral. If I croak, just call them and they’ll take care of everything. They have orders to send the urn to you. I sure as heck wouldn’t want you to have to do all that nasty stuff.” This, immediately followed by “I’m hoping to go fishing tomorrow early. Supposed to be cloudy, but no rain, I hope.”
Ok, ok, I am glad that my father is so responsible regarding these unpleasant end of life type of situations. Truly, I am, as I imagine I will dissolve into a puddle of goo when my sweet hero of a father takes his final breaths. Yet, I can’t help but feel this is all terribly premature. After all, he is only 62. He’s still working, for pete’s sake. He’s still randy (much to my dismay), has hobbies and interests and aside from an unidentified collection of pills in our Florida hotel room’s safe (I couldn’t bring myself to snoop on Dear old Dad), I believe him to be of strong stock and healthy as a horse. Why is he planning for his death? And why is he looping me in when there are no indications it’s anything we even have to worry about for years to come?
It’s all a bit unsettling.