Friday, August 15, 2014

More light shed on Robin Williams' death...

So, yesterday it came out that Robin Williams was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson's disease.  Having just lost my dad to Lewy Body dementia with Parkinsonian features, I can sort of understand where that desperation came from.  Parkinson's disease is a very cruel illness and it leads to a most undignified death.

While I don't necessarily condone suicide, that diagnosis, along with issues with depression, must have been really devastating to Mr. Williams.  Had the disease progressed, it would have gradually peeled away his brilliance until he was left a shell of his former self.  And it would have been difficult for his wife, too.

I should probably learn more about Parkinson's disease since my dad had it and my uncle (on my mom's side) has it.  I really know nothing about it other than having seen how it affected my father, a man who used to be very healthy and motivated and eventually dwindled down to something pitiable.  It broke my heart to see my dad on his death bed in the condition he was in, despite the excellent care he got.  I wouldn't want to die on those terms.

My dad had a lot of hallucinations and weird dreams owing to the Lewy Body dementia he suffered.  One time, he insisted to my mom that there was a baby in the house, when at the time, his youngest child (me) was 36 years old.  He also accused my mom of having an affair with one of the nurse's aides who helped take care of him.  The guy was twenty something years old and a born nurse (he has just recently become a nurse).  He took excellent care of my father; but my dad was really mean to him at times.  He was often combative, incontinent, irritable, depressed, and exhausting.  But sometimes he'd have good days that I think probably made up for the bad ones.

A few days before he had the surgery that ultimately led to his death, my dad had a good day.  He told my mom and one of the aides about some songs he knew as a young guy.  My mom had never heard of these things even after 56 years of marriage.  She told me about it with obvious happiness in her eyes.  Despite everything, I know she loved my dad very much and losing him was painful to her.

As for me...  it's kind of a bittersweet thing.  I had love and respect for my father, but he didn't always treat me very well.  I can't say I miss him.  It's been a long time since I last enjoyed being around him.  I know my mom was upset with me at times because I didn't want to visit him too often, even as he grew frailer.  I did talk on the phone with him sometimes.  In fact, I talked to him on Father's Day and we had a nice conversation.  It was a surprise when I heard he went to have his gallbladder out and suddenly was at death's door... although when I heard about the surgery, I had a feeling it would probably lead to his death.

Ultimately, though, I think my dad's death was a blessing.  It was time.  And I'm grateful everyone in the family agreed that it was time.  Having been through this and seen my dad three days before he died, hooked up to a breathing machine and looking very uncomfortable, deathly pale, and sad, I think maybe Robin Williams wanted to avoid that fate.  I can't say if it's wrong or right... lots of people live with Parkinson's disease for years.  But I do see why death was attractive to him...  Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, it was even a merciful thing to do.  

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