In memory

Seeing my Father out

My father used to call me Doug the hugger.  I would wrap my arms around him and squeeze tight. He towered over me then.  Usually I could only reach his knees, unless he was down on the floor wrestling with us.  He was quite vigorous in his prime.  He canoed and played racquetball and coached my basketball team.  The first thing that really slowed him was a skiing injury that made it painful for my dad to continue jogging. That was years ago, and even then he was busy cutting and hauling wood, and biking to work.  As decades passed, illnesses took a toll on him. He recovered from a cancer and a heart attack.  He was treated for an eye problem.  As his body got old  he took an awful lot of pills.  A damaged bladder led to him wearing a catheter and a belly bag.  When my father got cancer for the second time, I worried about him.   
I watched my father lose capacity in a way that awkwardly mirrored the way my daughter had gained capacity as she grew and matured.  With my daughter, her increasing mastery of her mind and body was a cause for celebration.  Seeing those same milestones being taken from my father was hard.  In youth we overshare about our child’s potty training, not so with incontinence.  When my dad, who represented strength in my childhood, became weaker, I resisted the change.  My reaction was painful and shared furtively, if at all.
A few months before his death, I found the man who taught me to drive struggling to get his car into gear.  I told myself, “It was a momentary lapse, don’t make a big deal about it”.  But that episode brought back memories of how my maternal grandfather had become a danger on the road in his last years of life.  Each of my grandfather’s neighbors secretively approached me about taking away his car keys.  The car represents independence to a senior citizen just as much as it does to a teenager.  For my dad, I offered rides more frequently. 
Spending time together became an objective.   I brought my parents out to our home for a birthday party.  I recorded him reading his poetry.  We gathered to eat sandwiches at a park. When dad was waiting for mom, my wife and I got chairs to sit next to him and pass the time.  I would share with him details of my projects.  On three occasions I painted his picture.  The first one was a painting of him sleeping on the couch.  He napped a lot so it was easy to catch him doing it.  Since it wasn’t a very flattering picture, I promised to do it again.  For the second pose he was playing on his phone, but since that didn’t really represent my image of him, I substituted a book for the phone.  I used the excuse of wanting a double portrait to get him to pose a third time with my mom.  Our conversations continued much as they had been for years.  
Even so I knew my father was facing an aggressive cancer.  One kidney was removed.  A mass appeared in his remaining kidney, but it was in-operable.  I contemplated taking a leave of absence to support my parents.  My father was becoming very exhausted.  After his first fall he had to crawl back up.  I didn’t hear about that fall until two days later when he was not able to get up from the second fall.  As time went on he was not able to get out of bed.  It was around this time that it became clear that doctors would not be able to cure him.  Our mindset shifted from hope for remission to wanting to make him comfortable.
The expression that I use now is to describe this time period is the last ten days of his life, but at the time there was no certainty as to what would happen.  This was new and often fearful territory.  We had no certainty of how this might end, plus there were suddenly caretaker roles thrust upon us. I had no direct experience caring for a seriously ill patient, and my mom who had was not strong enough to do some of the more strenuous caretaker duties.  Hospice provided vital support in the form of a hospital bed and visiting nurses who showed how to care for my dad.  The social worker and nurse sat down with us and described the needs of a critically ill patient and also how the body shuts down at the end of life.
The end of life is a moment when relationships change.  I could see how this was a passage for me as well.  I had seen my dad as a constant strong point on which I could rely.  Now, I needed to be the one who was strong enough to be there for him and flexible enough to evolve in how I would be with him as a caretaker rather than a nurtured son.
Near the end he was not able to turn in bed and eventually he stopped eating and drinking.  None of this sounds appealing, yet this is where I wanted to be.  It is like a tradition my wife has instilled in me.  At the end of an evening we not only see a guest to the door, but also follow them to their car and wave until they pass out of sight.  As my father was about to leave this earth, the tasks of giving medicine, keeping track of his position, and readjusting the pillows helped me to feel like I had a meaningful role.  I was doing all of the talking as dad had stopped speaking.  This new world became smaller but also more intimate.  My desire to be an active participant in my dad’s care became clear to me when my mom began advocating for hiring home health care aids to come in and do the care.  She asked me to make the call and set up an appointment to hire these strangers.  I did as she asked, but as I did so, my heart felt pushed aside.  I don’t think I could bear to be a spectator to my father’s death.  Fortunately, their office was not open over the weekend, so that decision was delayed. In the meantime, I focused on caring for my dad.  
Saturday night we did everything we could to keep my dad comfortable.  We shifted his position and his pillows to prevent bed sores.  We carefully ground his pills and mixed them with water so the liquid mush could be administered by dropper.  When his catheter began to leak we were able to call a hospice nurse to replace it.  I recorded each detail of care with the time to make sure I was adhering to the schedule of care.  I set my alarm to wake myself every three hours so I could give medicine and reposition him as scheduled.  This continued at 6:00 pm, 9:00 pm, midnight…. from my sleeping spot on the porch I could hear my father’s heavy breathing.  When I woke up at 3:00 am a loud storm was raging.  I could not hear my father over the thunder and lightning.  When I went to my dad, I found him as before.  Breathing heavily, but not in any distress.  I gave him the medicine and repositioned him.  In that moment, with the storm raging outside, I felt the cozyness of this warm space and there was deep intimacy and unique privilege to be the only one awake in this darkened house caring for my dad.  As time passed, the storm moved on and day broke. By mid morning I was sketching out a painting of our time together from the night before.  He was no longer able to see, so I couldn’t show it to him, but the nurse said that hearing persists to the end, so I told him about it.  As the day progressed, more family members arrived until we were all gathered together.  Weeks earlier, we had planned to celebrate dad’s birthday that evening, which we did in a subdued fashion. I squeezed his hand and told him I loved him.  Later with everyone gathered around him, my father took his last breath.   The hugs of my youth could no longer reach him.  As much as I may have wished to cling to him, I had no power to keep him, and I had made peace with that.  I was grateful to have been there to say goodbye.

A Second Obituary

The first obituary was composed by Palmer; This one is written by son, Doug

Palmer Roscoe  Haynes lived a life of rural humility mixed with receptiveness to the world.  He began life on a sheep farm outside of Evansville, Wisconsin.  Palmer was born 7 years after  his brother Chauncey.  Palmer’s first school, Tullar, was a one room country schoolhouse.  When the farm failed, the family moved to Liberty St. in Evansville.  His desire to explore took him to Kansas, where he studied architecture and met his lifelong partner Lydia at Kansas State University.  Soon thereafter, the military sent him to Boston, after which he returned to settle in Wisconsin.  There, he took up his scale, T square and triangle to design schools, libraries, hospitals and churches.  In the early 1960s, Palmer became a dad twice over to Catherine and Doug.  It was a role he enjoyed.  Palmer’s openness and curiosity was fueled by hosting AFS students, especially Manuel, who shared Peruvian culture with him.  Later, Doug married JungJa who introduced Korean culture into the Haynes family.  Catherine’s spouse Betty has been a constant supporter of Palmer and Lydia.  Around the time of Palmer’s retirement granddaughter Hyunji became the youngest member of the Haynes clan.  She spent many hours playing and reading in the care of her Grandpa.  Palmer enjoyed the warm embrace of Christian community as an American Baptist.  Palmer’s faith pushed him towards social justice and pulled him into a broader love and acceptance in grappling with a welcoming Christian response to God’s LGBTQ children.  His work for the church was carried out with the patience and endurance of a seasoned runner.  In addition to being a runner, Palmer enjoyed sports in season.  For the season of shovel, he skied and for the season of swat, he biked and canoed throughout the state.  He also shared a passion for racquetball with his colleagues.  Palmer had an affinity for nature which eventually led him to take up residence in a wooded valley of the driftless area.  For those resources he held in trust, his stewardship was at a high level.  He took seriously the forestry of the small woodlots in his trust.  For decades he faithfully tended soil experiments in the Arboretum.  He was a dedicated bird counter for Cornell University and his passion for the Military Ridge Trail was integral to the restoration of the Ridgeway Depot.  As a poet, Palmer sifted words to remove the coarse bits until the fine grained truth of careful observation revealed a unique vision of Wisconsin life.  On June 6th of 2020, Palmer and Lydia celebrated their 60th anniversary.  He drew his last breath surrounded by family at the celebration of his 85th birthday.  

Remembrances are being gathered at and on the website of Gunderson funeral home.  The family will be holding a virtual memorial service  by zoom on October 10 at 10:00am.  Gifts in Palmer’s memory can be given to Porchlight inc.  or Friends of the Military Ridge Trail.


Palmer Roscoe Haynes

MOUNT HOREB-Palmer Roscoe Haynes, poet and retired architect, died Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, at home in Mount Horeb, Wis. He was born in Madison General Hospital on Sunday, Sept. 8, 1935. He often told his family: “If you stand on the south sidewalk and look up at the higher windows; that was the nursery.”

Palmer was the second born son to Roscoe Almon Haynes and Beth Miles Haynes, of Evansville, Wis. He completed two grades in rural Tullar School, graduated from Evansville High School and Kansas State University. He was a summer intern in the office of architect, John Steinmann, Monticello, Wis. As a registered architect he brought his own spirit to the offices of Weiler and Strang, John J. Flad, now Flad and Associates, and Potter Design Group, all of Madison.

Mr. Haynes as a youth sold November 11th poppies door to door because his father said he could learn something. Haynes volunteered 20 years maintaining Dr. Francis Hole’s research soil plots in the UW Madison Arboretum. Haynes was one of many players in restoring the Chicago and North Western depot in Ridgeway, Wis.

He is survived by his wife of sixty years, Lydia (Chambers) Haynes; daughter, Catherine Haynes (Betty Marshall) of Stoughton; son, Doug E. L. Haynes (JungJa Lee) of Madison; granddaughter, Hyunji Beth Lee Haynes (s.o. James Hegge) of Madison; AFS son, Manuel Talledo (Heuris) of Stockton; nephew, Matthew Haynes (Mary Aller); nieces, Debra Beth Smith (Phillip) and Dawn Hernandez (Roy) and their extended California families. Mr. Haynes is preceded in death by his parents; and his brother, Chauncey Almon Haynes and his wife, Joanne of Mariposa, Calif. During retirement Mr. Haynes regularly wrote and self published poetry, and said of each: “Of the creative processes, of architecture and poetry; the outcome of poetry is instantly more gratifying.” This is one of his poems from March, 2009.

stickers announce:
I’d rather be
and my favorite,
I’d rather be
here,    now.

A Zoom memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. The family is grateful for the support of Agrace HospiceCare in the final days of Palmer’s life.

Gifts in Palmer’s memory may be given to Porchlight, Inc., or Friends of Military Ridge Trail, PO Box 373, Mt. Horeb WI 53572.

Remembrances are being gathered at and at

My name,

my name is Palmer
I like my name

Greeted as Parker or Paul
the Palmer pronunciation
is often misinterpreted

When I visited to play with her son
Mrs. Patterson called me “Poly”
always a friendly  “Poly”

High school friends
It was “Chaunce”, my brother
I accepted the peer honorary

Friend Lew said I was “Mooch”
a comic strip character,
with unknown underlying meaning

Parmer was Dad”s pronouncement
once for fun, I told a friend
I was always, Parmer after that

Mom didn’t take sides on pronunciation
Bro was named for Uncle Chauncey
Beth”s lineage was included

Uncle Palmer was a Brooklyn merchant
his daughter, Beth, survived a serious illness
Roscoe’s lineage was included

My name is Palmer
I like the sound of my name
I like my name very much

Palmer R. Haynes

© February, 2015