When I wrote a few weeks ago about the passing of my brother-in-spirit, Ken Gibson, I mentioned that he was caring for his father, who had himself been in the hospital for two days when Ken died.
Ken’s father was also named Kenneth Gibson, and this had been a source of confusion for me and others, going all the way back to high school when I had to remember to ask for “John” when calling his house, because his mother thought of “Ken” as her husband, and they used Ken’s middle name “John” around the house.
I remember Ken Sr. a bit from back then. He was a nice guy, and pretty smart too. He worked at Zenith as a mechanical engineer, and he was probably responsible for making mechanical engineering seem interesting enough to spur Ken to attempt an ME degree, before eventually deciding he liked business classes better.
It was around this time that Ken’s father had open-heart surgery. This was back in the early days of coronary artery bypass grafting, before modern minimally invasive techniques were available, and it was a big deal. The surgeon was flown into town, presumably so local surgeons could learn the technique. His son would have the modern version of this surgery a few decades later.
In later years, I didn’t see Ken Sr. much, but Ken would tell me stories about what they were up to. They always had some do-it-yourself project going on at the house, and they took a lot of trips. They were both Civil War buffs, and they took several trips to visit the battlefield at Gettysburg. I also remember an epic trip to Alaska. Ken adored his father, and devoted years of his life to care for him.
In June of 2017, Ken had a stroke, and his father ended up living with my wife and I for a few months while Ken recovered and then had heart surgery himself. With both of them under our care for a while, things got confusing, because they both used the same doctor’s office and hospital, so every time I talked to a doctor or every time a therapist showed up, we always had to clarify which one of them we were talking about. This amused both of them.
We got to know Ken Sr pretty well that summer. He needed a walker, but he was able to get around the house pretty well, and although he sometimes forgot things, he was pretty sharp for his age. He could do his own blood tests and give his own insulin shots. He was also a charming and courteous guest. That actually made it a little hard to take care of him, because if we set up his bath incorrectly or fed him food he didn’t like, he wouldn’t tell us, no matter how much we asked. We’d only find out later when he told Ken.
In later years, Ken Sr.’s health declined, and he had to be hospitalized several times. Ken also told me that his father’s dementia was getting worse, to the point where he basically had no short term memory. This turned out to have a silver lining, because even though the hospital staff was obliged to inform him that his son had died, he forgot about it overnight. When asked about his son, he would say Ken was “doing OK.” Neither we nor the hospital staff saw any reason to correct him, and he spent the rest of his days unaware of the terrible news.
Around Christmas, Ken Sr. was discharged to a nursing home, which promptly returned him to the hospital because of severe pain and low blood pressure. Shortly before the end of the year, Ken’s doctors discovered that he had advanced liver cancer, which explained a lot of his symptoms. They informed us that because of his age and his other health problems it was effectively untreatable, and that he didn’t have long to live. At their recommendation, we approved him for hospice care.
Kenneth Lee Gibson passed away on Monday, January 3, 2022.
It turns out the confusion over father and son having the same name did not stop with their deaths. When we approved hospice care for Ken Sr., the hospital asked which funeral home to use, and we gave them the name of the place we were using for Ken Jr. So when Ken Sr. died, the hospital called the funeral home before we did, and they told the funeral home they could come pick up the body of Kenneth Gibson. This apparently freaked out the funeral director because he had just picked up the body of Kenneth Gibson from the coroner’s office. He had to have been wondering if he had somehow gotten the bodies confused.
It’s early yet, but as things stand, I might be getting involved in settling the Gibson estates, so I think they will be confusing me — and others — for sometime to come.
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