Today I lost someone very dear to me. I first wrote about Adolf in October, on his 104th birthday. For a very long time, we have had daily telephone conversations. Until a few weeks ago, he lived alone in his home on Long Island, taking care of himself. He had become completely blind, but knew every inch of his surroundings.
He always insisted that he had "no aches and pains." In late May he fell, but managed to get up again. He didn't mention it to me or his daughter-in-law in Maryland for several days. When he realized that he was not improving on his own, he allowed her to take him to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had a compression fracture in his back. Two weeks later, he was delivered by ambulance to a nursing home in Maryland, near Marlene and her family.
His son and only child had died young of kidney disease. There cannot be anything worse than outliving your own child, which is out of the natural order of things. Martin's last gift to his father was a loving daughter-in-law and three granddaughters, who made his life as comfortable as possible. For years, Marlene and one of her daughters drove to Long Island from Maryland every 5 or 6 weeks to do his paperwork and fill his freezer with home-cooked meals.
He was unreachable for several days, but Marlene kept me apprised of his condition. The nursing home Nazis would tell me nothing because I was not "the responsible party." Last Thursday, Marlene told me that his kidneys had failed. The nursing home wanted to hospitalize him for invasive testing, but he refused. He was ready to go.
The doctors predicted that he would live for days, not weeks, while his systems shut down. He was given "palliative" care. He would be kept comfortable, with no heroic measures.
On Friday, I received a great gift. Adolf called me! His voice was strong, and he said that he missed me, too. He told me that he loved me, words I never heard from my own parents, and promised that we would catch up soon. Marlene says that he was aware of his prognosis, but chose to ignore it. I think he was trying to spare me the knowledge that he was really saying goodbye.
Flip has always considered my relationship with Adolf a strange love affair. I think that a life without such love would be even stranger.
Adolf gave me the experience of being a beloved daughter. He used every day of his life to learn more about the world. He kept up with current events, and always had opinions on them. When he became blind, he listened to books on tape. He was intensely interested in other people. He lost his eyesight, but he never lost his vision. Or his humanity. Even when he was sighted, he was colorblind. He considered all people one race - human, and everyone he met was a friend he didn't yet know.
Although 104 years is undeniably a very long run, it's hard to accept that he is gone because I expected him to live forever. I cannot imagine a world without Adolf in it. Sunday was Father's Day, and I feel as if I have lost my father. Bon voyage, Adolf.