I was just becoming used to the typical daily routine of parenthood – at least, what it was for me for the time being. My husband and I had finally nailed a schedule down that worked well for us. While Nathan still isn’t on any kind of predictable schedule, we were finding a sort of rhythm and starting to find ways to get over some of the more awkward hurdles, like timing my pumps and making sure that my husband got a good, solid night’s sleep at the same time.
In this time, and with the sleepless nights that sometimes come with having a newborn, I was also starting to understand my father-in-law’s schedules. Since we live in the basement, I could hear him going about his daily routine above us; I started to get a good idea about how he lived, and what he did and when. He would get up every two hours throughout the night, basically like clockwork, to use the washroom. Every day at 7, he’d get up (which would be announced by the sound of his dogs jumping off the bed) and start his day by going to the washroom, then going to fix breakfast and coffee. Just before leaving for work at 8:20 each morning, he would turn on the radio in the kitchen to keep the dogs company, go sit on the front steps to put on his shoes, and leave through the front door.
Nathan is usually a fairly good sleeper throughout the night, but has been working through a regression the last few days. Where he’d normally go to sleep at 8 and wake at 11, 2 and 5 for feedings before starting his day around 7:30 or 8, last night he only slept from 11 to 1, then 4, before deciding he was up for the day. During the 1 o’clock feeding, I heard my father-in-law use the washroom, as he always did. Nothing unusual there.
I was preoccupied with Nathan being fussy for a long time, so it took until about 6 before I realized I hadn’t heard him get up in a while. Even then, I figured he was just sleeping more deeply than usual, and I was busy with the baby. Besides, it was too early to worry yet, but something nagged at me, even so early. He was so brutally consistent in his routines that it was already odd to see them broken.
7 rolled around, Nathan was still awake and fussing, and he didn’t get up for work. I began to wonder, but figured he had scheduled the day off and was sleeping in (but wondered why he hadn’t mentioned as much to us). I finally got Nathan down around 7:30, and had a beautiful 40 minutes of sleep before he woke… again. I was starting to get really perturbed by the lack of activity upstairs, but wondered if he’d woke, done his routine, and left early in the brief stint while I was asleep.
At 9:30 – Nathan still awake, but starting to seem drowsy – my husband called me and asked me to check on him because his partner said he’d never turned up to work. When my father-in-law didn’t answer his phone, he asked my husband to check on him. Since my husband was at work, he delegated that duty to me. All my fears suddenly validated, I was all but certain I knew what had happened.
I knocked on his bedroom door and called his name several times. No answer. Finally, I announced my intention to enter, steeled myself and went inside.
He looked perfectly peaceful, like he had just fallen into a particularly deep sleep. His dogs still laid dutifully on the bed next to him, showing no signs that they understood what had happened.
I bawled in a way that has become all too familiar to me since Brock died. I shakily called 911 and they talked me through it the best they could. They asked me to try and perform CPR, but I would need to get him onto a hard, flat surface to try. When I touched his arm to make a cursory attempt to try to drag his 250+ lb frame out of bed, he was ice cold. I recoiled and wailed louder, inconsolable to the woman trying to talk me through the process.
The police and EMTs arrived about 5 minutes later and pronounced him dead. When the coroner arrived and assessed him at noon, he suspected he’d died 8-12 hours prior.
So, I discovered a dead body. And, for the second time in slightly more than a year, I’ve had the displeasure of touching a dead person.
He didn’t live well – smoked excessively, drank heavily and ate poorly – and we knew a bad outcome was all but inevitable, but we didn’t expect it so soon. Not once, in the days leading up to his death, did he mention feeling strange at all (and he was always happy to find things to complain about). We had no reason to suspect that he was getting ready to check out so soon.
We didn’t hang out often or talk too much (we are/were both rather introverted), but I spent a large chunk of his last evening with him. It was perfectly routine for him. He started drinking at 5, as he always did, had 6 beers, as he always did, watched a movie recorded on his PVR, as he always did, ate a late dinner, and was in bed by 10. Nathan and I watched most of the movie with him, as I brought him upstairs with me while I put a shepherd’s pie in the oven so that my husband could have a nap. It was a bad movie, called The Caller, and we had fun complaining about it. We talked about normal shit during commercials, like what age Nathan would get interesting at, the fact I’d forgotten to get rent from the bank for him (and that I would do it tomorrow), and whether or not the dishwasher was full enough to run.
It is heartbreaking how many people I’ve spoken to today have been hurt by his loss, but also admitted that they fully saw it coming. How sad it is to live in a way where people look on your death – at the young age of 55, no less – shrug, and say, “Well, he didn’t exactly take care of himself.”
I see another move in my immediate future, and my husband and I now also get to look forward to purging his house, settling his affairs, making funeral arrangements, and so on. Forgive me if my infrequent writing slows even more.