MY FATHER'S PASSING
YET ANOTHER COMA
My dad contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion during an intestinal surgery. No-one took responsibility, and his claim for compensation fell 1 week outside of the Canadian Govt.'s allotted time window. These are events that have changed me forever.
Facing the prospect of a parent's death seems to activate a certain growth process - as well as releasing an incredible inner turmoil. Father-son relationships are often quite strained affairs. Perhaps the great universal intelligence needs these and other complexities to occur for the sake of its own learning. All we humans can manage is to live through whatever of these situations come toward us - as gracefully as possible.
A VERY PROUD MAN
Stepan "Steve" Kovaliv, was a study in complexity. Having endured harsh forced labor conditions under the Nazis during WWII, and having once had the flat-out courage to escape an SS prison camp, finding himself years later in slow decline as a result of an unscreened blood transfusion belittled him beyond words.
My dad suffered many savage beatings in his lifetime - first as a boy at the hand of his own father in Ukraine, then later as a prisoner of war. As his illness progressed, these experiences returned to the foreground, fiercely assaulting his pride, as he was gradually forced to relinquish all control.
Sometimes, finding myself pacing industrial hospital hallways at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, in a time of deep darkness, nerves on edge and awaiting the possible final pronouncement that never seemed to come - yet another long, drawn out false alarm - there are no words...
THE LIVING ROOM
It was my father's final wish to die in the privacy of his own home - and so others must, rightly so, take on responsibilities. For over two years, my mother - a geriatric nurse and the REAL hero of this story - catered to his every need, against staggering obstacles and through many more downs than ups.
Our eternal thanks to an underfunded team of excellent home-care support workers.
A BRIEF RETURN TO NORMALCY
Extremely high ammonia levels caused by chronic liver failure induced serious bouts of dementia and depression for my dad. Between periods of apparent normalcy, we would hear often about the (imagined) purple dogs and German soldiers in the front garden, or of the 'psychedelic' internal worlds that he would visit during long weeks of unconsciousness.
MY SISTER'S ANNOUNCEMENT
Far too often emergency workers were called to the house - sometimes to calm violent outbreaks aimed at the primary care giver - my mother. In a small village you can sense the eyes peeping from behind parted curtains as everyone hears and feels the shrill blast of sirens.
My mom, Christine - a Scot - married a domineering man 22 years older than herself and of a completely different culture. Powerful forces of duty, fear, tradition, and obligation to family kept her bound to this difficult relationship for nearly 40 years. As bitter reward for such devotion, shortly after her husband's death my mom was slammed with full responsibility for a highly-secretive and crushing financial debt that would be my father's ultimate legacy of thanks.
During the latter stages of Hepatitis C it is not uncommon for the liver to swell to enormous proportion. When this finally ruptures, the vomiting of blood is quite an unsightly spectacle.
LOVE AND MARRIAGE
I now fully believe that it was a mistake for my parents to have stayed together. Saying goodbye was as mixed an emotional event as one can imagine.
Stepan Kovaliv 1926-2002
My father was a man at odds with the world and never found peace. He used his final words to quote Socrates -- "The only thing I know for certain, is that I know nothing"