My Dad, Alfred George Zaft, Jr., passed away today, March 23, 2013, of complications from lung cancer.
He had been somewhat sick for some time. Doctors thought it was pneumonia, but after several weeks of treatment in December and January they brought him in for a bronchoscopy. The samples they got showed pneumonia; they were not able to do a biopsy at the time as he went into atrial fibrillation. They were not able to get his oxygen levels up after this procedure so they admitted him to the hospital. He was in the hospital for several days, then released, but after a week he was back in the hospital again as he was very weak and having trouble breathing.
After 9 days in the hospital they released him to a rehab care facility to work on getting him stronger, but after about 2 weeks there he was back in the hospital again. After several days there they moved him to an acute care facility, but after 2 weeks he was rapidly getting worse. He had another bronchoscopy a week ago, where they were able to get a biopsy sample.
This last Tuesday he was appreciably worse so they admitted him to the ICU (down the hall from where he was). He was in quite a bit of pain, had no appetite and quite a bit of edema. Early samples from the bronchoscopy showed that besides pneumonia, nocardia bacillia and aspergillus (fungal infection) he also had pseudomonas, a bacterial infection mostly found in hospitals. He also developed shingles, due both to stress and his weak immune system.
This morning I received a call from my brother that my stepmom had been called into the hospital urgently to meet with the doctor as the biopsy results were (finally) in. Unfortunately due to rush hour traffic I didn't get there 'til almost 8:30 so I missed the doctor, but the results were what we'd feared for a long time -- lung cancer. Apparently the variety he has often appears on x-rays much like
pneumonia does. He probably had it bad since October or November.
Unfortunately the reality of the situation was that he was extremely weak from the multiple opportunistic infections he'd been fighting for 2 - 4 months now, and while the antibiotics had kept him alive, he was not winning the fight. The prognosis was that he was not strong enough to endure cancer treatment on top of what he'd already been fighting; and indeed he had repeatedly said he did not want to. When the doctor told him that they'd found cancer, he reportedly told him, "I told you that 4 months ago, !". He had had no appetite for several days and his body gave other signs that he was ready to go.
So, we moved him to a hospice in east Mesa. It's a beautiful facility. I was there for a couple of hours last night with him and they are making him comfortable. He was on oxygen, of course, and meds for the pain (though he occasionally still gasps in pain in a way that would break your heart), and a catheter; but no antibiotics, no monitors, no poking and prodding him.
My brother, sister and I had gathered at midday today to visit with him and my stepmother Fran; but he was heavily sedated and didn't wake up while we were there (or at least, he didn't open his eyes). We talked to him, told him we loved him, held his hand.
I left around 2:15 to run some errands etc. with the idea that I would come back around 6:15 to see him and give Fran a break. I received a call from Fran just a few minutes before 5 that he had passed. I jumped in the car and managed to drive the 20 miles to the hospice in about 21 minutes :-).
Fran told me she had been sitting with him, holding his hand, and he was breathing regularly, when he took a catch breath... and stopped. After a moment of disbelief she called the nurse, who confirmed that he had no pulse.
Some family friends arrived immediately after his passing, fortunately, and stayed with her until my arrival so she wasn't alone. After my arrival I paid my respects and talked with Fran, then my brother Gary and his wife arrived and then my nephew. We prayed over him and paid our respects, and said our goodbyes.
Needless to say this happened much, much more quickly than any of us anticipated. My personal thought was that we had 2-3 days so the fact that he was only at the hospice for a little over a day was quite a shock and a surprise.
It was my dad's desire to be cremated. I'm sure there will be some kind of ceremony or service at some point but I don't have any information at this point.
When I returned to Arizona in October 2009, my main reason for the move (okay, other than the fact that I couldn't bear the Oregon weather any more) was that I really, really wanted to be closer to my Dad and the rest of my family. I knew this day would come at some point, and I didn't want to be 1500 miles away when it did.
In the time I've been back in Arizona I've spent a lot of time with my Dad; when he was not on the road in his RV we had dinner once a week and did numerous other things. I had an opportunity to work on our relationship in a way I'd never had before, since we hadn't lived in the same town since I was 5. All this is a long way of saying that I had an opportunity to say the things I needed to say to him, to tell him I loved him and to hear him say that he loved me too.
So, I have no regrets... but of course I will miss him.
I'm on a road trip. I left Phoenix about 2 p.m. and headed up the Beeline Highway (87) past the turnoff for my brother's house and on into the mountains. Stopped at Payson to get gas. It's pretty up there!
Turned onto 260 and then on up into the mountains and then climbing up the Rim. I don't think I had ever been this way before but it was stunning. I was a little sad there wasn't a scenic overlook because I wanted to stop and take some pictures. It was really amazing. A little past that I saw a guy hitchhiking and stopped to give him a ride -- don't usually pick up hitchhikers but it was such a desolate spot I figured I would give him a ride. He seemed nice enough. Dropped him off in Heber as he was heading north, and gave him a couple of bottles of Diet Coke to tide him along. Driving along through the area I could see the effects from the big Rodeo-Chediski_fire. Wow. Sad.
Got into Show Low and stopped at McD's for a snack, then on to Highway 60 toward Springerville. Very desolate country and usually I was the only car in sight... passed through the Springerville volcanic field and that was REALLY trippy! Grassland with all these extinct volcanic vents sticking up. It's the 3rd largest such field in the country -- who knew?!
I pressed on through to New Mexico as the sun set and then on in the dark to Socorro, NM where I found the Rodeway Inn, my destination for the night. Gordon 11:11 PM
Monday, January 17, 2011
Saturday 1/8 I was up at crack of dawn to go warmup for my Adult PreBronze Free Skate test. After the test (I passed!) I went to breakfast with my coach and some friends. When I finally was driving home after dropping my coach off, I was listening to the news and heard about the horrible shooting in Tucson. 19 shot of whom 6 were killed (including a 9-year old girl!) and one of the wounded was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
I can't express how hard this hit me. My Tucson! My home, wherever I may go. The place my heart has been for so long... a scene of tragedy. Later on I would discover the links I had with the injured and killed... Judge Roll, who had attended Ss. Peter and Paul school with my pastor John Lyons, was a daily communicant and had often been a lector at SSPP. One of the men who died, shielding his wife (who was also shot) was the uncle of one of my classmates from Amphi. Another classmate knew the shooter and his parents; their kids had been in Little League together. And of course I had met Gabby Giffords when I was in grad school, when we took our winning Student Showcase entries to the Capitol and she came out to talk to us briefly.
On Wednesday they had a memorial service at McKale, and President Obama came. He gave a wonderful speech that, I think, really helped a lot of people to grieve and to feel better. Thank you, Mr. President.
Saturday I was down in Tucson to sing at a wedding with our SSPP Schola. Part of my goal was to visit two of the memorials that had grown up, one at UMC and one also at Gabby Gifford's office (there was another at the shooting site but I didn't want to go there).
I visited the one at UMC Saturday afternoon, since it's right across the street from my old parish (Ss. Peter and Paul). It was probably about 2:30 p.m. and there were probably150 or so people there. Of course the news trucks were still all camped out too, which made it a little noisy unfortunately. The memorial was on the small lawn in front of UMC. People had left stuff all around the perimeter, and then there were some pathways through the middle lined with more stuff. There were cards, flowers, candles, a lot of little posters with pictures of those killed, or of Gabby Giffords. Many of the local schools had drawn up posters signed by their kids. There were poems and expressions of love, of hope, of comfort. There were many expressions of thanks to the UMC doctors, nurses and staff as well as the first respondeers, and some thanking President and Mrs. Obama for coming to Tucson. Walking through, there were a number of kids present with their parents, but not too many teenagers or young adults, mostly middle aged folks it seemed like. The atmosphere was quiet and reverent although there was some talking too. A few people were taking pictures, and I considered it but it didn't seem appropriate to me so I refrained. Reading the signs and cards and looking at the displays it was almost overwhelming, the communal grief and hurt registered there. At the same time there was definitely a sense of pulling together, that this act doesn't change what a great and good place Tucson is. It was sad but uplifting too.
Later that day, around 6ish (sun had just set) I stopped by the memorial at Gabby Gifford's office. There were probably 15-20 people there. It's much smaller, a much smaller space. This memorial had a larger proportion of flowers, and especially candles. Many, many candles. It struck me as "only in America" that people express their love for their Jewish Congresswoman by lighting candles with pictures of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe. I had brought some flowers and I found a suitable spot for them.
One poster that particularly struck me was from a man who described how he'd lived the first 50 years of his life in Tucson but was now living in Phoenix; and how he had felt like Tucson was his refuge, how he would go visit when he needed to, and be recharged. How he felt like the shooting had taken his Tucson away from him, how it was no longer safe. He said that as he had watched the community mourning and grieving and drawing together, he felt better and realized that despite the shooting it was still "his place."
One of my goals when I came back to Arizona was, to put it simply and bluntly, to "get my life back." I was thinking the other day that I've largely achieved that. It's not the same life I had when I lived in Tucson -- I'm less involved in the community and that time has largely gone into skating and piano, so it is inwardly-oriented (vs. the time I used to spend teaching RCIA and working with CTAC). Still I am keeping pretty busy and really, I have a good life. I'm very grateful. Gordon 4:28 PM
Saturday, September 11, 2010
A Day Of Remembrance
Another 9/11 comes... for me the paradox, a day to celebrate (my birthday) and to mourn those lost on this day 9 years ago.
In a special way I remember John Badagliacca, whose name on wear on my wrist every day. May he and all those who died that day rest in peace, and may the grace of God give comfort to their families and friends.
Long time, no post, sorry. I am on vacation in Oregon. I arrived Friday. Saturday I spent with Dad and Fran, and we had dinner with my Aunt Nancy and cousin Robin, it was really nice to see them. Sunday was a long day -- figures competition in the morning and then hanging out with my friend Mary afterward. We were going to go to Voodoo Doughnuts but the lines were really long so we hung out on the waterfront and looked around and talked. A good time.
Today I drove out to the coast. Stopped in Astoria and visited the Astoria Column, then a brief detour over the Astoria-Megler bridge. I have a fascination with bridges (on the drive out I also got to see the beautiful St. Johns bridge and the impressive Longview bridge). The Astoria bridge is really, really high for the part over the channel; then it sinks down and is just a little way above the river. Coming back over it from Washington it looks like it goes straight up, it's so tall and steep! Wow.
I drove down to Seaside and checked in to the hotel here, took a walk on the beach and looked around a bit. Unfortunately it is typical Oregon weather, cold and dreary (though, surprisingly, not actually raining -- yet).
Tomorrow I will look around a bit more then head back toward PDX as I have lessons with my old coach Tuesday evening and early Wednesday to prep for the competition at the end of the month. Gordon 8:34 PM
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Have You Read The Bill?
[Background: I have had a number of discussions on FaceBook, sometimes heated, about Arizona's SB1070. I wrote and posted this there, but thought I would share it here as well.]
May 28, 2010
Have You Read The Bill? – A response, and a challenge.
In the discussion of Arizona’s new immigration law (SB1070) and its implementation and the continuing reaction of others, this question “Have you read the bill?” (“HYRTB” for short) has come up repeatedly. Indeed, I think I myself have been asked this question five or six times to date.
I find the question, and the reasoning that underlies it when asked by some persons, to be offensive; it’s also unhelpful and uncharitable. I’ll try to explain why. I must point out at the outset that my remarks are not aimed at any one person, for while some people have what I consider to be bad motivations in asking the question, I know several of my interlocutors to be people of sincerity and good will who genuinely mean no offense.
The question seems simple enough. Have you read SB1070? This is often accompanied by the remark that it’s only 17 pages. True enough. What are the subtexts of this question? I can think of several variations on a theme:
1. You must not have read the bill; otherwise you would agree with me/have a different position.
2. I don’t understand why you don’t support this bill, so I’m assuming you must not actually have read it. (This is the kindest variation, held by at least one person I know.)
3. Reading the bill will convince any intelligent person to support it regardless of any other circumstances.
4. If you have not read the bill your opinions don’t carry any weight and I can ignore them.
Let’s take them in turn. The first and second are very similar; the main difference is that the first seems arrogant and the second comes from a position of sincerely seeking understanding. Behind them both, though, is the implication that reading SB1070 will produce agreement with it. Considering how many well-educated and well-read people in our society disagree on fundamental points of view, the likelihood of education resulting in uniform support for any particular position is low.
The third point is also similar to the first two, but I put it this way to bring out another point – context. Every person that’s asked me the question has been a white person, and most of them do not live in Arizona. I find it ironic that someone can ask this question, because the questions that I would ask in response include “Do you live in Arizona? Are you familiar with Arizona politics? Do you know why this bill came forward at this time, and who supports and opposes it and why? Do you have any Hispanic friends?” SB1070 did not come forth in a vacuum, but in a particular set of circumstances of which many of the people asking HYRTB are totally ignorant. Many people who object to SB1070 do so not because of the text of the bill but because of their experiences with Arizona’s politics and law enforcement, especially in Maricopa County.
Furthermore, it applies a standard for debate that most do not apply to other discussions or issues. Do I have to have read the entire Tax Code of the US to object to the level of taxation I experience? Did those objecting to Obama’s healthcare initiatives actually read all 1000+ pages of that bill? Do I have to have read the UN Charter to support or object to the United Nations? What about the North Atlantic Treaty? I suspect not.
It’s the fourth point that is most offensive. Put another way, the question asks “Do you know what you are talking about?” Questioning the knowledge and/or intelligence of your interlocutor is never conducive to a good discussion, but is a standard ad hominem tactic. It also avoids discussing the actual objections raised. If you wish to have a respectful, productive, and persuasive interchange, avoid such tactics and address the actual points of discussion.
My challenge to those who have asked HYRTB, and to everyone – have a discussion that is respectful and uplifting, edifying and charitable. Seek to understand not just the text, but the context, of what you discuss; and for those that profess a Christian faith (at least) – as Frank Sheed (I think) said, when you are tempted to put someone in his place, remember that his proper place is Heaven and everything you say and do towards him should help him attain that end.
I have a lot more to say about the bill itself, which I will do in a future posting. I did want to take some time to make these points since they have been the cause of some hurt feelings on my part and presumably on the part of others.