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(Pink Floyd reference)

(Part 6 on dying)

To be straight up front, I am wondering how this salsa con queso is going to deal with me after I’ve had some sleep. I do not know. It is Medium, which would be no problem for the great majority of you, but it is pretty much cutting edge for me. We will see.

If I bleed to death that way, I suppose it would be poetic justice.

Meanwhile, we are talking about death and dying. I was told in June of 2007 that I had 10 months to live, maybe more, but to expect nothing more. Ten months.

I’ve mentioned that.

I was dying. The strangest thing is that while the initial announcement blew me away, I was not truly overwhelmed by this. My wife was. My daughter was. My son in law was. But I sort of shrugged my shoulders and said, okay, let’s move on.

But you have already read this story.

The real story is this: they were wrong.

I wasn’t dying. I had one small node in my lung, not the shotgun pellets they first thought were there. And I was not dying.

Even when they decided to take that one node out of my lung, I was not dying.

But my father-in-law was. Imagine that! My wife, as a nurse, is permitted to sleep in my room every night, and all of a sudden her dad is in extreme duress in another hospital!

She works her magic, and gets him shipped to the same hospital I am in, her hospital, but it takes forever, and I think I am out before he even gets there.

She is staying with me, night and day, day and night, and still trying to find time to see her dad, and to care for her mom, who can’t drive anymore, and her brother, who has Cerebral Palsy but does very well with it, and now her dad is in the hospital, close to death, apparently, as is her husband, suffering from a staph infection that they are still trying to figure out.

She is a busy lady.

Oh yeah, and she is trying to get some hours in, too.

It turns out that I get out before her dad. I went in before him, but I get out before him too. The real irony is that I went into the OR for my second operation, for the staph infection, the same night he went to the ER at another hospital. My wife thought, ok, he (me) is going into surgery and then into ICU…I can sleep at home tonight with the dogs (no comments please). And then she is alerted that, that very night, her dad is in the ER at another hospital.

Wouldn’t want to be her!

My wife said later that the only time she feared for my life was during the staph infection business. She is the nurse so I will take her word for it. There was no fearing for her dad. She fought with doctors and whomever, but he was not coming out of it. COPD. Look it up.

I went to see him, as I was out of the hospital and walking again, and he wasn’t looking good at all. He would die within 48 hours I think. I held his hand, told him that I would take care of his little girl, and that I would take care of his wife and his son. It would get done.

He was not comatose. I think he knew what I was saying. He squeezed my hand more than once.

We didn’t start off so well, Harv and me. His daughter was too young for someone like me, or so he thought (she was legal, folks!). Maybe it was my age (I was three years older than her…she was 10 and I was 13); maybe it was the suits…he didn’t seem to like the suit types; maybe it was that I was quitting a job where I had just been promoted to assistant manager, so that I could go up to New Hampshire and write the Great American Novel. Oh, yeah, probably that last one.

I do not blame him. Now that I am a parent, I do not blame him.

He would ‘go to bed’ before 5 PM if I was coming over for dinner, just to avoid me. I thought it funny.

There are lots of other good parts of this story; suffice it that he came to love me. I took care of his daughter, I loved his daughter, she had a roof over her head, she ate well enough, we had his grandchildren. Whatever it was, he came to love me, and I came to love him.

And then, in the midst of my own problems, he died.

He gave me a ponytail palm not too long before I ended up in the hospital. It was like getting Excalibur handed to me directly from King Arthur. That’s what it felt like to me. I truly loved the man. No pretense, no BS. Just Harv.

And now, no Harv.

To this day, I do not know how my wife did it, how she handled it all emotionally. But she did, and so did her mom, and so did her brother, who worried me most.

Part of it, I thought, was that she was too busy with me to give it too much thought. I now think I was wrong. I think that as you get older you learn to grieve differently. Young people tend to think it is the end of the world, while older folks have been there and done that, that sort of thing, not to shortchange the grief. We simply know better how to deal with it as we mature and experience it.

I am not saying that it is ever easy.

I do miss the man. I held his hand there, in that hospital room, while his eyes stared out into space. He was leaving, and I knew it. But, unlike my mom, I am almost certain that he could hear me, and that when he squeezed my hand he was answering me. He knew I was telling him that I now had the watch, if you will, for his wife and his son. I would take care of them. He could trust me to do that. He knew that. He squeezed my hand.

And, a day or so later, he died.

I am done talking about death. I have overdone it probably, even though I really feel like I have not even hit on the salient points. But enough of death. We are not about death but about life. I needed to talk about death for myself, and for all of those caregivers who are fearful of losing someone or who have lost someone. I felt compelled to talk about it and to give it its due.

But enough of it. Let us move on, celebrating the fact that we are alive, surviving.