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The Email Ballad of the Caregiving Daughter
When one sister lives 18 minutes from Dad and the other's out of state, guess who's left holding the colostomy bag. A month's worth of real-life dispatches from the front lines...

Sent: June 2, 2014, 3:55 p.m.
Subject: Dad
He's in the hospital with a urinary tract infection. They told me he's pretty lethargic, but his vitals are good. Yesterday he was talking about how he'd kill himself if he could. That scared the folks at Pinecrest, so they put him on suicide watch and called in a psychiatrist to evaluate. Aargh.

Sent: June 5, 9:24 a.m.
Subject: Re: Dad
I visited today, and he seemed in good spirits, probably because his doctor was young and blonde. They're giving him antibiotics and trying to come up with ways to help him move his bowels. How was L.A.?

Sent: June 8, 2:48 p.m.
Subject: Grrr
Dad's feeling better, judging from the marching orders he just gave me: get him more of "those barrel candies," which I guess means root beer barrels. He also said to order him some movies "on the ticktack," which I think means Netflix.

Sent: June 17, 9:08 a.m.
Subject: Another UTI
Well, he's back in the hospital. They've got him on antibiotics, and they don't know how long he'll be there. He's hounding the doctor for his typewriter and "papers," whatever they are. Says he has something important to write. He also wants his copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I'll pick up on the way out there. He misses you. Come when you can.

Sent: June 20, 4:16 p.m.
Subject: Re: Another UTI
Dad just called. He says he wants me to come out to Pinecrest so we can discuss ending his life. Good times!

Sent: June 24, 6:34 p.m.
Subject: Re: Another UTI
He gave me a copy of the obituary he wrote for himself. I lack the words.... Then he gave me his plan: "I'm going to stop eating. I'll have a light breakfast, and then I'll eat less throughout the day. It should take about five or six days, I figure."

Sent: June 28, 1:18 p.m.
Subject: Phew...?
I saw Dad this morning. No mention of suicide. Just wanted to know how my work's going, how the girls are doing and could I get him some more Nips. And a bourbon and a steak.

Sent: July 3, 5:52 p.m.
Subject: Dad
They tuned the piano in the dining room at Pinecrest, so I wheeled Dad down to play it. It wasn't going well because his fingers are so stiff. I thought a duet might help, so we played "Heart and Soul." It was like a scene from a movie: I slid in on the bench next to him and draped my arm across his shoulders. We must have played the song six times. I cried. :)