Robert Lee Wilie – born January 19, 1942
My dad. Daddy. He had been struggling with his health for about a year, worsening in January this year. I should say, though, he’s had somewhat questionable health for a few years. Our concerns continued to depend as time went on, and things appeared to get worse. One of the more obvious signs of decline were his feet and legs. He was retaining a lot of fluids which resulted in swelling of his lower extremities.You can see in the photo how his feet were beginning to take the shape of his sandals. This was taken on Thanksgiving 2015.
There were a lot of complications. I went with him to a Urologist appointment in January where he was recommended to go to the hospital immediately, but he refused. Old men can be so stubborn!
It was another 3 weeks before he was ready to go to the hospital. I got a call from my mom saying she needed help getting him there, and he wanted to go. I crossed town and by the time I got there, he was in bed not wanting to go. It was tough, he didn’t feel well, but didn’t want to go see a doctor. Eventually I convinced him to go and with some help from Hubs after work, we were able to get dad into the car and to the hospital. He was disoriented, urinating wherever he wanted, and barely able to walk. We got him into a wheelchair pretty early and he got checked in right away. We spent the entire night in the waiting room, mom and I taking turns being with dad since they would only let one of us back at a time. Hubs stayed with whoever was in the waiting room. Around 9PM Hubs and I went to get some food and brought some back to mom, too. I went back to sit with dad after mom came out for her food – good thing I went back when I did as when I returned to his room I found him on all 4’s on the bed, trying to figure out how to get out.
Eventually he rested some, I can’t remember if they gave him a sedative. Hubs and I left around 1AM, mom stayed overnight. Dad was diagnosed with an internal infection and was given antibiotics while in the hospital. He was released a short time later and was given a prescription for additional medication (not the same as his hospital grade meds). He bounced back and forth from the hospital, home, hospital, rehab center and back again throughout the following months. While in rehab or the hospital, Dad responded very well to the medications and his swelling was virtually eradicated. Both feet and lower legs returned to “normal” within a day or two of hospital grade medications. Unfortunately, he was always released from the hospital once he was lucid rather than once the infection had been corrected. Once out of the hospital, the infection would come back due to being resistant to prescription level medications.
March came by and my oldest sister was visiting. During her visit, Dad had a bad fall and had broken his ankle. They didn’t know until the next day and they took hi straight to the ER. They had to sedate him for an MRI and other scans to clear him for surgery. Thankfully he had surgery the next day. After a couple of days in the hospital for observation, he was released to a Physical Rehab facility. Once released from there, he was home for a couple weeks until his medications wore out and the doctors wouldn’t renew his prescription, even though they knew he still had his infection. Within days of his medications wearing off, he was back in the ER due to the complications of his infection. Dad stayed in 2 separate rehab facilities. The first provided less than standard care.
April and May were filled with hospital visits and rehab centers. At the end of May I put in for FMLA to help more with transportation and supervision. He couldn’t be left home alone anymore, was supposed to be walking on his leg (though he did anyway), and wouldn’t keep his damn walking cast on for the life of him. I split my time between my parents, packing the house, and trying to keep active with running.
June turned into a cluster with the move of Hubs, return for me, and the turn around trip for me to help with Piggy. I felt terrible leaving for that trip, as my mom asked me not to go. She was afraid of being left alone with him. We were told Dad’s infection was contagious and the doctors, prior to this last visit, scared the hell out of Mom. She didn’t feel comfortable with me being there a lot as she was afraid his infection would harm the baby. I came home from the turn around trip on 6/22. I saw my parents for a few hours on 6/23, mostly visiting with my mom and helping her with cleaning and meals. Dad was sleeping most of the visit – awake long enough to eat a few bites off his plate and fall back asleep.
3AM on 6/25 and I’m getting a call from Mom. It doesn’t go through and disconnects right away. I knew what it was. I laid in bed for a minute processing, then got up to get dressed and waited for her to call back. I was dressed by the time she called back to let me know Dad had passed. I told her I would be right over, loaded Piboe (our oldest dog) into the car and made the (on average) 20 minute trip in less than 10, crying the entire way.
Seeing my dad in his hospital bed, the way he was, was surreal. I went to my mom and hugged her, hard. We finally stopped crying long enough for me to ask some questions and start helping. I called the police and got the ball rolling. EMT, Police, Coroner. They were all so very nice. Mom and I both commented about how the Coroner reminded us of one of my cousins. We shared stories, answered questions, made some calls. Everyone was finished around 7am and I brought mom back to my house to sleep. She didn’t want to be in her home, understandably. We spent the night at my Vegas house, and then I essentially moved in with mom the next day after meeting with the funeral home.
It’s been hard without him. I miss him terribly. But, I have a library of fond memories to look back on. I wish, though, I had taken more time to hear more of his story. And when he had the idea to start telling me stories and having me write them down, I should have done that right away. With his declining health, the pregnancy, the move… I never got around to it. I hate that.
He was a great man in many ways, a challenge in many others, and had his own demons to face – like the rest of us. I know he is at peace and free from the earthly limitations, and I have to be okay with that.
I will continue to cry for him. To mourn his loss, for the rest of my time.
Photo taken just before we laid his ashes to rest in Pinegrove Cemetery, Rathdrum, Idaho. July 2016.
I was 29 weeks pregnant here with my first. He had been waiting for so long for us to have kids – it broke my heart when my sister commented “aww, a photo of baby with Grandpa”. I’ll never forget that – my kids will never get to experience him.