Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Tough Six Months

"Stop the world ... "

I hinted, several posts ago, that my year is getting off to a difficult start. I don't wish to beat a dead horse, but in the following paragraphs I recap the last 6 or so months, in more or less sequential time.

After battling cancer for four years, the dear friend of my wife's and mine, Loretta, died. Ellie stayed at Loretta's, to both continue caring for the cats ( which we have since brought home ) and more easily carry out her charge as Loretta's Personal Representative ( in laymen's terms, the executor of her will ). A mutual friend of my wife's, mine, and Loretta's, also named Loretta, died.  Ellie's brother and sister-in-law, less than two weeks into their stay in Arizona for the winter, cut their time way short as Ruth fell quite ill with the flu and Jim's dementia symptoms acted up. Before leaving Arizona, Ruth fell and broke her hip, requiring their two daughters to come to Arizona to retrieve their dad. On Christmas Eve day, I learned that a good friend of mine has inoperable brain cancer. The day after Ellie moved home from Loretta's, Ruth went into the hospital with what we thought was a bad case of the flu; she died two days later with what turned out to be a toxic case of sepsis ( blood infection ). Though Ellie and I were less than a week into learning the nuances of living together again, we hosted Ellie's sister from California and her husband for the week they were here for Ruth's funeral and some other family business. Jim was living at an Assisted Living facility that was clearly not well-suited for him, and he wanted out, immediately, if not sooner, and was verbal about this. We traveled the thirty miles there several times a week, to spend time with him, to take him to lunch, to get him out of the building for a short while. This was good and helped him, but seeing his intense dislike of his living situation was emotionally draining. In the meantime, his daughters and his sister in California made arrangements to move him to a facility in California ... the place is close to where the sister lives and much better suited for Jim's condition. It wasn't going to happen for at least two weeks after a daughter told Jim of the plans, and he could not wait. Another good friend of Ellie's and mine, a male friend in this case, died. He was eighty-eight and not in the best of health. We saw him and his wife periodically, and he and I got together as well. We treasured whatever time we spent together.

This all causes me to say, with feeling, "Stop the World, I want to get off."  
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Cause for Clouded Optimism

“I am really xxxxed.”

“Hey, how are you, Mic?” I asked cheerily, after determining he was awake, though alone, and resting comfortably in his hospital room.

“Not too bad, pretty good, really … under the circumstances.”

“Under the circumstances … “; I wondered.

Mic and I are friends. We were computer techies at a company called DecisionOne, from which I retired just over four years ago. We knew each other as colleagues for quite a while, got along well, but did not socialize. We had grown fond of each other.

Benjamin is my blog partner and friend. He tells people I got him the job at DecisionOne. Truth is, I didn’t have that much clout, but I do take credit for telling him about the opening. We spoke a great deal after he started, and agreed to stay in touch, as had Mic and I, upon my retirement.

Briefly, then, the three of us became monthly attendees at a local eatery. Just a simple buffet; no liquor; nothing fancy. We’d arrive just before the dinner cost kicked in, saving a few bucks, and stayed until after closing. At least once it got late enough they asked us to leave.

A few meetings ago, I noticed Mic’s lips were somehow not moving normally. It reminded me of what I think my mouth looks like when I’ve had Novocain. “No,” he said, “I haven’t been to the dentist.”

I asked Benjamin whether Mic’s lips seemed somehow out of synch. “Yes, you’re right.” We did the Face Arm Speech Time stroke test; all seemed normal.

Benjamin’s text came several days later, “Has Mic texted you? He’s having brain surgery tomorrow.”

I texted Mic immediately, and visited him Christmas Eve morning, two days later.

“So, Mic, what are the circumstances?” I asked, as I turned from him to put my jacked and hat on a chair against the wall.

“Brain cancer. Inoperable.”

Perhaps I should have expected this. I did not; it jolted me with the force of a death sentence. This lovely man who’d become my monthly dining companion, my friend, with two kids in school and a wife. Brain cancer!? “Oh, Mic,” I said, pulling a chair up alongside his bed. “I’m so sorry.”

“Me, too.”

Rather dispassionately he divulged the details. His wife noticed the same lip disparity I had; she rushed him to the doctor. The tumor is on the underside of his brain, away from the skull, so is inoperable. All they can do is try to control its growth with radiation and chemotherapy, and hope for the best.

Throughout my visit, he kept his sense of humor ( “I’m in good hands. The doctors here are cool, and the nurses are … not.” ), his positive outlook
( “My family will come here this afternoon and we’ll have a nice family Christmas.” ), and his optimism ( “I’ll do the regimen and we’ll see what happens.” ).

Another friend stricken by cancer … inoperable. I am saddened immensely; for him, myself, his family. We had just gotten beyond the initial stages of friendship. I met his wife last year; with him saw his daughter in a play the cast of which won the right to perform, and we had spoken of seeing another, similarly obtained right to perform play, this spring. He recently appraised me of some more of the details.

We’ve dined together once since his diagnosis; our time was nearly normal. We are planning dinners; there will be more. The background is different though. We spend our time knowing it is precious, against a backdrop of, as Mic himself not so genteelly put it, “I am really xxxxed.” And we live with that.

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