I just wrote a check to start paying for my grandfather’s funeral.

I just wrote a check to start paying for my grandfather’s funeral. It’s a stranger feeling than I expected it to be. Full disclosure, I didn’t really think much about how I would feel about this whole scenario. It was just another item on my ‘to-do’ list until I actually wrote that check, then it became immensely more real.

He’s still alive which I think makes this such a strange situation. For all intents and purposes he’s no closer to dying today than he was last week or the week before that. But this definitely makes me feel different about the fragile nature of his life right now. I know that statement can be said about almost everyone in the world but I have spent so much time over the last few years taking care of him. He’s become a huge part of my life, a lot bigger than he was even just five years ago. This definitely reinforces his mortality and the sort of business side of things that need to go along with this all.

About a year and a half ago, before the incident that ultimately put him where he is now, he asked me to go to the funeral home near his apartment to help him put his final plans together. To be honest, that was not as strange to me as I feel right now. At that point not much else had changed in his life but he was 84 years old and he was just facing reality in my eyes. I was already in the thick of taking over a lot of his responsibilities and the people closest to me had already helped get a Will and Power of Attorney filled out for him and filed correctly. This was just another one of those responsibilities.

So on April 3rd of last year I picked up my Pop from his apartment and drove him to the corner of his block where the funeral home is located. We went in and talked to the funeral director about what it is exactly that Pop wanted. He opted pretty much exactly for what him and my mother decided on for my grand-mom when she passed away almost twenty years ago. Some of the things we had to decide on were so incredibly crazy to me. On top of whether or not to have a viewing the day before versus the morning of his burial and things like that we also had to select what type of metal lined his casket. That was one of the least crazy things we had to decide.

All-in-all we walked out with an estimate in the $12,000 range. I knew it was going to be expensive but that really caught me off guard. I feel so sorry for people who have to get that news AFTER someone passes.

I know it may be a weird thing to say but until that money was just shipped out to the funeral home, all of this was just an amorphous plan that we had in place. Nothing was really real, just some vague outline that we made almost two years ago. But things changed with his health recently and we needed to start paying some money towards this.

My grandfather has Dementia

My grandfather has Dementia. In hindsight we should have known for a while but in reality we just figured it out about a year ago.

My family and I have been taking care of him for the past few years but it was just about a year ago that he was officially diagnosed. There was an “incident” one night last August where he got lost while driving around the city. Eventually he was found heading the wrong way on a major highway. Luckily no one was hurt; there was no accident.

The police saw him almost immediately and stopped him before anything happened. They could tell he was having bigger issues and it was not alcohol related or something similar. They called my parents and suspended his license. We were able to pick him up and sort this out ourselves.

That’s kind of where this long, arduous adventure began.

But first, a little back story.

My brother and I had been going over to his apartment once a week for a few years at that point. We disguised it as just wanting to hang out with him and watch a baseball game but we would clean his apartment and make sure everything was okay. We all were checking on him on a daily basis in some form. A phone call, a random visit….really anything to be able see that nothing was wrong.

He was still running his normal routine at that point. He’d go to a series of community meetings in the mornings each week, he’d visit the gym a few evenings a week to go water-walking, then he had a rotation of dinners setup for him half of the week. Ours being his standing Tuesday dinner meeting.

The day after the police found him, though, my brother picked him up from one of his community meetings and took him straight to the Emergency Room. That’s the point in the story where everything changes. He would never drive his car again, he would never see the apartment he had lived in for over 25 years again, he would never have his routine again. Ever.

The weirdest part about it is, aside from some minor protestations about wanting his car back or wondering where some of his stuff was, he largely has not put up much of a fight.

They did a bunch of tests on him in the hospital and found nothing seriously wrong. There hadn’t been a stroke or anything major but they did diagnose him with ‘mild dementia’. After a few days in the hospital we came to the conclusion that he could not go home alone. My parent’s house wasn’t equipped for him (no bathroom or bedroom on the main floor) and neither were mine nor my brother’s. We had to find somewhere for him.

I should point out here that a few years prior to this incident we put a Living Will and Power of Attorney together for him. I should also point out that I am the Power of Attorney, along with my mother. Ultimately we had to decide what was best for him.

For the last year I have been navigating the waters known as Medicare and assisted living facilities/nursing homes. I have had a TON of help. My wife and her parents, my parents and my brother and sister. It really has been a team effort.

The scary and shocking part is that, well, it honestly seems like no one has a solid grasp on what can and can’t be done. I have had to explain to hospitals, after researching things myself, what they should and shouldn’t be doing. I have had to deal with the blowback of people that wield a lot of power telling me one thing and then, when it comes time to pony up, saying flat out that they never said that one thing to me.

And then there are just the straight up slimy ‘gray areas’ that so many places rely on (at least it feels that way) in order to serve their best interest.

Back to that first Emergency Room visit last August. That’s where we got to experience our first in a loooong series of gray areas. Specifically the gray area in which a hospital can keep a patient for basically as long as they want because they don’t think that person can go home on their own BUT (and this is a HUGE BUT) as long as they don’t ADMIT him to the hospital, then insurance doesn’t have to pay for it. (A later lesson learned is that there is also a big difference between ADMITTING a patient to a hospital and ADMITTING a patient for OBSERVATION. That lesson is for another post.)

I have learned a lot over the last year-plus and a lot of it has terrified me. I have been urged by many people to talk about it and document it. So here goes.

two graphic novels

I can’t claim to be long-time comic book/graphic novel/whatever you want to call them fan. I definitely bought a bunch of comic books when I was growing up but the only ones I really remember were the handful of Simpsons ones I picked up. My best friend and his brother were huge Milk and Cheese fans (check that ridiculousness out here) which I absolutely remember as a thing but honestly couldn’t tell you a single thing about. That period of my life is full of sports and other stuff.

In the last few years, though, like a lot of people I have really started diving deep in to different titles and figuring out what exactly it is that I like about comics. At first I was nervous and unsure where to start. Everything looked like one big pile of books. Now I realize how different things can be but it was tough to navigate at first.

Things I’ve Learned:

  1. Superheroes really aren’t my thing. The movies are cool and The Flash is one of my favorite TV shows but the books are kind of boring to me. There, I said it.
  2. Marvel is better than DC in my eyes, but they are both below other publishers on my list of favorite companies.
  3. I don’t think I’ll ever really know exactly what ‘type’ of comics I like. And coming from someone who likes to be able to know specifics about things, this kind of bothers me. But I’m coping.

That being said, I have read two books this year that I think everyone should check out. “Rust: A Visitor In The Field” and “The Nameless City” are have both really hooked me for some reason. I can’t describe exactly why but I just couldn’t put either of them down.

Both are hardcover books that felt good when I picked them up. Maybe my design background liked that? Both of them had great artwork and fun stories that have a bit of mystery to them. Maybe it’s neither of these things but these are really great books.

I read both books in a single sitting which, even for a book that’s mostly pictures, is not something I tend to do. Neither of them are superhero books. Neither of them are even that Earth-shattering from a story standpoint.

Like I said, I can’t really explain why it is that these two graphic novels stuck out to me but they did. I have read a fair amount of books this year, both traditional books and comics, but these two are the only ones that really stick out to me.Bo

a need for (another) creative outlet

It seems only fitting that this should be an introductory post since, well, no one has any idea what this site is about, right? To be honest, I am not entirely sure I know what it is about either. So buckle up, because we are about to figure this thing out together!

I wrote about this a bit for the about page but I really miss writing about things. I worked at a newspaper for years and was able to write about (mostly) whatever I wanted. We were a small operation covering a large area so it was definitely an ‘all hands on deck’ type of situation. We covered the Fishtown/Northern Liberties/Port Richmond/Kensington area before the casino went in and before everyone NEEDED to either live there or open a business there.

To say a lot was going on there would be a severe understatement.

I had the opportunity to meet so many great people over the span of time I worked at the paper. I wrote stories about artists and filmmakers that were creating projects right in our neighborhoods. I was able to interview writers who had either lived in our neighborhoods and written books (hello Sam Starnes!) or screenwriters from there that were doing big things in Hollywood or elsewhere.

I also had the opportunity to write about baseball. Anyone who knows me, knows that THAT was a huge deal for me. I was pretty much given carte blanche to write a weekly column about the Phillies for four years. And, yes…that included the years they were in the World Series. And, no…I wasn’t able to GO to the World Series because of it.

I had the freedom to write about whatever I wanted because my main job was to take pictures. We had other guys that wrote the real meat and potatoes of our news coverage. I still take pictures to this day. (You can see that stuff here or here.) But I got away from the writing part of things when I left the paper. It’s been five years and I want to get that back.

I had the idea for this site a few months ago. I can pinpoint the exact day because I was (surprise) standing at the Phillies game talking to my brother and it all came tumbling out. It just took me a while to realize there was an actual desire behind doing it and not just some random thoughts I was having one day a few months ago.

The posts will (hopefully) be regular and the content, to me, is sort of a question mark right now as far as what that might be. But it feels good to write something again. It’s good to have this outlet again.