Emails during dad's final days

Calendar of events
Friday, April 4, 2003: Admitted to hospital for an outpatient check on his kidneys. He was expecting to go home that evening; he had made plans for the weekend. He never went back home again. A few days later, on Tuesday night or Wensday morning, April 9, he suffered a severe stroke that would progress to the point of paralyzing his left side and ruining his short term memory. He was discharged from the hospital and my brothers moved him into a rehab center for about 8 weeks. He did not improve. We then moved him into a critical care nursing home in North Dallas. That became his last place of residence.
• Sunday April 6
Phone call about Dad in hospital since Friday. Breathing concerns.
• Monday April 7
Called Dad late afternoon. Good talk.
• Wensday April 9
9:10: Bill called - Dad had a stroke Tuesday pm/Wensday am.
Took walk - decided I had to go home.
Wrote emails with instructions for Linda, classes, AIGA.
9:30: Went home, packed, sat outside in rocker. Loaded car and dogs.
10:40: Drove to Dallas. Tough drive, napped in grass at McDonald's.
3:00: Got to hospital, 6th floor.
Took dogs to Orchid Lane, back to hospital until 11:30.
• Thursday April 10
Talk to Mom. Preston Center Starbucks.
10:15-3:15: Dad moved to room 305.
Home to walk dogs, watch game shows.
5:15-9:15: Hospital visits.
• Friday April 11
Hospital, lobby coffee.
Saw Dr. Whittaker (also Mom's doctor). Talked with social worker.
Lunch with Bill & Steve. Toured Presbyterian Village North.
Discussed strong possibility that Dad wouldn't go home to Orchid Lane - may go straight to PVN.
2:15-3:00: Hospital, lobby coffee, home, clean refrigerator.
Drive to Abrams PetSmart, dogs to White Rock Dog Park.
Orchid Lane: Look at files with Steve.
6:00-10:00: Hospital, Bill, Steve & Sandy til 7:30.
• Saturday April 12
Walk Dallas.
9:00-11:30: Hospital.
Lunch at Central Market, drive Coit to High 5.
Let dogs out, pack.
1:00-3:15 Hospital, talk with Steve.
Home, phone messages, load car.
Say goodbye to Mom, drive to Edmond.
Love's, gas, coffee, walk dogs.
7:30: Home, unpack, laundry, mail.

Some emails
Sent between April and October, 2003.
From: Jim Watson
To: Design faculty, College Dean
Wensday, April 9, 2003, 9:27a
9:30am Wensday
My dad suffered a stroke this morning so I'm leaving for Dallas. One of my regrets with my mother's death is that I did not get to the hospital soon enough. I don't want that to happen again.
I need help:
Linda or Larry:
1. Go to Wensday 10am class, Graphic Design I, and collect the ambigram projects that are due today. Tell them no class today - turn in work and go. We should have class on Monday. Put projects on my desk - I will leave the office open (please lock it tonight).
2. Go to 2pm class, History of Graphic Design, Comm Building Auditorium room 120, and tell them no class today - move schedule back 1 week - Lecture 9 will be next Wensday.
3. Linda - you have a meeting today at 2.
1. I left the AIGA office slides and handouts with Linda. The program Thursday starts at 7:30 - maybe check in around 7pm. At MetroTech off MLK, between 36th & 50th - in the conference center. There's a map at Thanks.
2. ClockTower has a presentation to the Global Education Fund Thursday at 2pm. They are fine with that - ready to go. Please let them know I won't be there.
3. They have another presentation at 4pm for Spitfire Grill with Craig from Music. Not sure where they are with that - please check in with them and see if they need help. They are showing a tight rough or finished comp - depending on how far they've gotten.
There may be more details I'm forgetting. Everything else can probably wait - Tuition waivers, award nominees, MFA stuff.
Thanks for your help. Jim
Tuesday, June 10, 2003, 4:00p
How am I doing? Thanks for asking/caring - here's an update: I have accepted (or in the process of) that my dad is just waiting to die. My brothers and I had a meeting Monday with the nurses and rehabists - they all pretty much agree he is not trying too hard to overcome the affects of the stroke. They also informed us the stroke did more damage than we originally thought. They feel within 2 weeks he will stop making progress. When that happens, Medicare will stop paying for rehab and we will move him to another facility and pay for the nursing and rehab. He is clinically depressed about losing his best friend of 70 years and a spouse/partner of 60 years. He doesn't want to do anything - seems he has just has given up with options for life. Its hard to see my father who was a strong figure in my life become so helpless. I replace his diaper, clean up his shit, hold his dick while he pees into a urinal - stuff that, while I wasn't mentally prepared to do, I do because he needs me to.
Friday night I stayed in a hotel because it is too depressing to be in the house. We moved there when I was 8 years old so it is full of wonderful memories and most of those include my mother. He has not moved any of her things and so there are too many reminders all around the house. We took him to the house on Sunday to begin deciding what to sell, keep, etc. It feels better being in the house now because I am throwing things away and we are getting it ready to sell. The Sunday tour of the house with dad gave us the green light to clear it out (but there's 45 years of stuff) - we did not want to move anything until he had a chance to go through the house one last time. It was a bit strange for him but he knows he will never live there again (and he went to the hospital in April for some 'routine' stuff thinking he'd be back home that night).
I will go back a week from this Friday to be with him, help my brothers, and do more work on the house and its contents.
Bottom line -
    1. There are tough times ahead.
    2. I learned I am still grieving my mother's death.
    3. I will go back on antidepressants when I go back to Dallas (or tomorrow).
    4. I will go back to therapy if necessary.
    5. I am assessing me and sometimes, I don't like what I find.
    6. I will help my brothers settle the estate.
    7. I have a new respect and patience for old people.
    8. I will take better care of my mind and body.
    9. My dog, Conor, mom and now, dad - I've had enough loss and death stress for a while.
  10. I will always miss my mom (and dad).
  11. I will move on, day by day, or minute by minute.
  12. Life is good.
Thursday, August 21, 2003, 8:08p
Chris, I apologize if my crying in your office made you uncomfortable. I hope it didn't. My mind is sort of messed up. I have no regrets about choosing to be single. My parents were my confidants. I called home at least once a week - every Sunday. I called them with news and when I was faced with decisions. They shared my accomplishments, advised me, and comforted me. That is gone and I miss it. My dad is unable to answer the phone. My parents were always together - I never even saw them fight. Wonderful childhood. When my mother died, the parental unit was gone. I enjoyed my visits this spring with dad and even now - we have talked and bonded a lot. Anyway, I really appreciate your patience with me, your listening, and caring. I know this will all pass. Most moments I am doing great - but there are those waves of loss, Loneliness, finality, etc. that overtake me. I hope you're okay with me unloading heavy stuff on you. Thank you. I also apologize for all those times when I've been a jerk. I'm so sorry. I really am working on it. I'm learning how short and sweet life is.
Okay, I took a break. New topic: I need to get with you soon concerning (here come the bullets):
• Fee forms and procedures - we used to get slides developed at ProPhoto. We would send them a PO for a couple hundred dollars and they would deduct each time we brought film in - lets discuss some options.
• FIDER update - sorry I dropped the museum request on you today. There was a miscommunication or something somewhere but I will take the blame - we should have asked you sooner. If I can work with Bob and Joe on space, let me know. The museum would be ideal for the site visitors to review student work - wall space, near the design office, near the conference room for meetings, and right off the design gallery. We would like to start collecting student work next week and the site team leaves on Tuesday, October 21.
• MFA proposals and update
• Office space for Ruki and hopefully, new full time faculty in fall.
The drive tomorrow will be therapeutic. I'll check in with you next week. Thanks for all the time, energy, and support you provide. Please know that you are appreciated, loved, and respected. Jim
Monday, August 25, 2003, 9:39a
Chris, re email from Torrie: Monday, October 13 is fine with me. I would like Melinda to join us and she has penciled it into her calendar. If its okay with you, let me know & I'll respond to Torrie. Thanks.
PS: Sure enough, the weekend was a roller coaster - up (or at least sorta up and then down, way down. Last night was awful - I got very little sleep (awkward - when I'm sleep deprived, I cry even more easily). We think he's had another stroke as his speech is now almost incomprehensible, his concentration is poor, and he has no strength in his legs. My brothers are calling his doctor today. Letting go and saying goodbye to the house, its furniture, and contents is very hard. We have to be out of the house this Sunday night - the estate sale people take over for the sale the next weekend; we close on the house the following weekend; the bulldozer will probably come in soon afterwards.
As always - this will be moment by moment - I will need to rely on people here to be patient and understanding, as you always are.
Thank you. I may go to Dallas this Thursday instead of Friday - we'll see. Jim
Monday, September 15, 2003, 3:06p
Well, I didn't think it could get much worse but this past weekend was the worst. Dad is weaker, not eating, hallucinating constantly, and unable to answer our questions. It was very hard to leave him on Sunday afternoon. He told me he was proud of me. Also, childhood home was sold at noon today. I walked through it yesterday and saw it empty for the first and last time. We moved into it when I was 8 years old - numerous Christmases, birthdays, etc. I saw the corner where my desk was on which I did high school homework and built model cars. It was a tough weekend.
I'm about to go home now (around 3pm). I'm sorta bummed still. The heads up is that, unless I hear from my brothers that he is improving, I will go to Dallas after class on Wensday.
What I want most is to be with him and feed him and sit by his bed and hold his hand. But I also do not want to get behind in the large lecture classes Tuesday nite and Wensday afternoon. So, I will stay to cover those and then probably go. The heads up is, if I do go, I will miss the Financial Managers meeting on Friday and probably miss deadlines for Faculty Evaluations, and Phase 1 hiring. I hope we can work those out later.
As always, thank you for your patience and understanding. Jim
Thursday, September 18, 2003, 6:13p
I felt great on Thursday. I finally got to a point of being ready to let him go. I have been holding on, more for my sake. That is selfish. I need to let him go. This realization has been very liberating. I feel somewhat freed up. I will certainly be impacted when he does go, but I'm better prepared. I have no regrets - before I leave his bed to return to OK, I always tell him I love him and I thank him for his sacrifices and support. His active fruitful life is already over.
I had a good talk with the nurse Wensday night - his doctor has altered his medication - he is stabilizing and doing better (not good, but better). As of now, I am not planning to go to Dallas until next Thursday. I have lots to do here at home to get caught up and I need to grade 100 tests. I feel pretty good about this. I plan to call the nurse each evening this weekend to see how his day went. Of course, if he slips, I will get in the car and go.
Purpose of this email: although I will be in town, I need a day away from UCO, so, I'm not planning to be in at all on Friday nor attend the meeting Friday afternoon. Linda will be there. I often remind myself of your advice - that I need to take care of myself, also. I will try to do that. Thanks.
Monday, September 29,2003, 10:48a
My father was taken to ICU Sunday. His toes and fingers were blue. He is on a breathing machine. The doctors say he will live for about an hour after we take him off the machine. He and my mother were both explicit in their desire to not be kept alive by machine. My brothers are waiting on me to get to the hospital. I would like to be there when he takes his last breath. I am going to the airport now.
I plan to be gone all week. Any departmental business - please work with Linda and Larry.
Lon, can you give me an extension on the October 1 deadline for course changes - ours are only prerequisite changes - not too serious.
Larry, please check in with ClockTower periodically. They are working on a logo for the College of Business. Today, Monday, they have a meeting with Brennan Michaels at 1pm.
Linda/Larry, please tell my History class: no class on Wensday - Comm Auditorium, 120, 2pm.
Melinda, get with Linda/Laci/Larry for any FIDER needs.
I can be reached at brother Bill's cell: 214-555-1829
Tuesday, September 30, 2003, 8:43a
My father passed away Monday night at 11:13.
His three sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids were with him. We removed the breathing mask about 4pm and he held on for 7 more hours. We had some good talks with him - he even cracked a joke or two. He gradually became quieter and more still. He died very peacefully. I had some good alone time with him (good? I was so sad I couldn't cry hard enough but I am glad I had the opportunity to thank him one last time for his sacrifices, time, and love).
I didn't sleep last night and am sorta numb today. We will meet with the funeral home, the church, plan the service, and go remove his/our furniture and clothes from the nursing home. I will email/call Linda when we know the details on the Memorial Service.
I am glad I work with wonderful people and can spend this time with my family.
Thank you for your patience. Jim
Tuesday, September 30, 2003. 11:37a
From: Department Secretary
The memorial service for Jim's father, James W. Watson, will be at 10:00am on Saturday, October 4th, at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, 9800 Preston Road, Dallas, Texas. A reception following the memorial service will be at 11:00am in the church reception hall. Flowers are not allowed in the sanctuary, but will be arranged in the reception hall.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003, 10:31p
Linda/Lon, thank you for the kind words.
We got a lot done today. I took a sleeping pill at about 8pm. Hope it helps. It was very hard removing his things from the nursing home. That had been his home (and my weekend home) for the last 3 months. The nurses came in to hug us, some were crying, and to tell us how much they liked dad. I plan to take a floral arrangement by there on Friday for the nurses' desk. They were all really good with us and dad. We removed the last of dad's belongings - his glasses, shoes, clothes, wheelchair.
I am flying back to OK late Wensday afternoon. I don't plan to come to the office on Thursday. I am not yet strong enough and I'm pretty sure if someone mentions my dad, I'm likely to become a blubbering idiot. I may sneak in at nite to check email and get next week organized. I will drive back to Dallas with my funeral clothes and return to OK on Sunday afternoon. Chris, you do not need to feed the dogs on Thursday - I will do that - but please check on them Saturday. Thanks.
Dad's obituary will be in both Wensday and Thursday's The Dallas Morning News, Metropolitan section.
Lon, lets meet Monday or Tuesday about curriculum changes. Thanks.
Details for the Memorial Service:
    Saturday, October 4, 2003
    Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, Dallas
    Inurnment (putting cremains in niche at church, family only): 10:30am
    Memorial Service, Sanctuary: 11:00am
    Reception, Jubilee Hall: 11:45-12:30
Thursday, October 2, 2003, 10:03p
I have my father's story on my website:
I am mostly okay, with a few periodic bouts of grief (I've lost a lot in the last 10 months). I really feel fortunate to work with such good people. The week away and with the family was very therapeutic.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I will be back at work on Monday, the 6th.
Thursday, October 9,2003, 5:41p
From: Abdullah
Dear Dr. Watson
I have tried many times to write you a note about your father's death, but words always lost their ways. I thought talking might be easier for me but things are quite bad in Pakistan when it comes to communication.
Although I don't know much about your father, I find it difficult to accept his death. It is because of you. I made a connection with him through you, a connection of love and affection. Your love for me is the reflection of his love for you. I know how hard it is to remember your parents when they are not around. Just remember them.
I am sorry but I can not write more because I don't know what else to write. The only thing I can say is I love you and miss you very much. I told Maria about your dad and mom. She became very sad.
Please take care of yourself. I need you and many more Abdullah needs you. Please never stop teaching and never stop loving the way your parents loved you.

Dad's story