Richard S. Painter, Sr.
MADISON – My dad died on May 24, 2012. He would have been 86 years old in July. He’d been fighting dementia for nearly a year. On Thursday afternoon he couldn’t find the strength to cough and a few hours later, after I’d turned him onto his side to make him more comfortable, he simply stopped breathing. I was on the phone with my brother, Rick, when I noticed that his deep, noisy inspirations had stopped. I put my hand on his chest for his last breath while Rick waited on the other end of the phone. It was perfect. Nobody was alone when he died.
I write this obituary for him not because you had much chance of knowing him but because there are people I want to publicly thank for their help in caring for both of my parents since their move to Wisconsin in 2000. My mother died from complications from dementia and emphysema on May 26th, 2006.
First on the list of people to thank is Dr. Linda Siewert and her medical assistant, Laura. They supported my care for my parents in a smart, dignified and sane manner. My parents loved and trusted Linda making this journey with my aging, ill parents manageable. Friends wondered if I shouldn’t move east to be near my brother for support. And leave Dr. Linda? Impossible!
Next is John Santiago, my dad’s masseuse! At the age of 77 my dad discovered the therapeutic benefits of human touch. John’s strong, knowing hands relieved my dad of chronic back and leg pain. His gentle, thoughtful approach provided my dad with the comfort of another friend.
Last summer my dad had to be moved to an assisted living facility where Gwen, Samantha and Pam showed extra patience and kindness towards him. This spring, as his dementia progressed, and he moved into a memory care facility where everyone demonstrated an immense amount of patience. My dad was out of his mind at Willow Pointe but the staff did their best to keep him safe. The aids who care for our aging population do not get what they deserve for their hard work. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Dr. Bill Rock is on my list of people to thank for helping me with my dad. Doc Rock was instrumental in starting what is now known as Agrace HospiceCare in Madison and with the hospice nurses, social workers and aides my dad’s journey “to a better place” would have been a rocky road in hell. There is no way to express my gratitude for their care for my dad and me this past year. There is not enough money left in my dad’s estate to properly thank them but I will try.
A year after my mother died my dad cultivated a friendship with his neighbor, Arnita Ready. I believe that Arnita was a gift to me and my dad from my mom. There was love and laughter between 80 year olds who were too young to give up good company. My dad and I were so fortunate to have Arnita down the hall. Like my mom, she is one in a million, loving my dad unconditionally.
My dad was a challenge my entire life but after my mom died he quit drinking and became a loving father and a good friend. I am grateful to him for that and to everyone for helping us through a wild ride.