July 13, 2002

Warning: Really Really Long Dreary Entry

It's 11:30 PM on a Saturday night.

The house is quiet.
The kids are actually home and in bed (!) with summer colds, courtesy of their work at a local day camp.
It's way past the Housemate's bedtime and I've done all the useful things I'm going to, for the day.

I'd rather be playing backgammon but I need to write this.
Not want to.. need to.
Much easier to keep it inside but I know it won't go away.

The "it" is actually two things.

(And for those who'll say things happen in threes, I don't want to hear it.)

This began on Thursday morning when my friend Annie called. Annie and I often have lunch (do lunch?) on Thursdays before she begins work at a local pediatrician's office, but this week she called to say she couldn't make it.
Her mother is in the hospital.
Something about congestive heart failure, blood thinners, and a hemorrhage.

Not just in the hospital, but in the cardiac intensive care unit.
The same one where my father was the day before he died.
I know Annie's parents, and her sisters, and most of her extended family better than my own or Housemate's family. They're part of the community and really like family to me.
Just a few weeks ago, Annie was talking about her father, who is in his upper 80s and was recovering from a bout of pneumonia. She naturally dreads what's bound to happen in the not so distant future. The mother is still in her 70s and as much a bundle of energy as anyone I've ever seen.

I could picture Annie and her sisters hovering in the narrow corridor outside the cardiac unit. The corridor with the row of pay phones and the ancient elevator - it's in the oldest wing of the hospital.
The walls are painted blue, in my mind. I don't know if that's actually so.

I remember the inside of the unit with beds shoved into every possible corner, and some not curtained off at all, in the middle of the large room.
I remember how my father looked, hooked up to all the machines and how I very quickly learned to read what the numbers meant.

We brought the kids in to visit that day, for the last time.
One of my Stepsisters brought in Stepmom but she became hysterical and they had to leave.
Times like that, losing your memory can actually be a blessing.

It was only a day - and I was only there for a few hours - but it all came rushing back with that phone call.
I will be there for Annie as best I can be. All the memories and feelings are for this journal, not for her, now.

The latest word on the Mother, this evening, is that she's holding her own.


Of course all that isn't enough:

On Friday (yesterday) I received an email from the wife of an old friend.
The old friend that I wrote about almost a year ago.
The friend that, after 34 years, I still have a fighting relationship with, albeit from a distance. We haven't seen each other in eight or ten years and he's been overseas much of that time, as he is now, in Europe.

His wife wanted to let me know that he'd had a cerebral hemorrhage while travelling for work and has been in the hospital since the end of May.
He was paralyzed on his left side and also survived a pulmonary embolus (blood clot), the treatment for which could have caused another stroke.
He is by now recovering and his mind is ok (or as ok as it ever was) but he is expected to be in hospital for several more weeks.

This man is just 51 years old. He is my oldest friend, the only one from my childhood, if 17 can be considered childhood.
We have put each other through more bullshit than any two people should be expected to endure but keep coming back for more.
For instance, in one of the few emails I received from him last spring, he accused me of being a "mother martyr".
I don't even know what that means.
Of course I won't go into what I said to him.. it is my journal after all.

It's very hard to express what his illness means to me. There are so many levels.
On the surface of course, he's only six months older than I am and struck with an illness that one associates with being old. I know it's not necessarily so but knowing things doesn't help much.
He was always complaining about feeling old. Perhaps a premonition.
I can imagine what he's thinking and feeling; his wife said he was "depressed" but also fighting to recover.

I'm usually good in a crisis. I can put aside my own feelings of panic and do what needs to be done. But in this case there is nothing I can do, so the panic takes over.

He has a wife, a daughter, and is in the place he wanted to be. He has not included me in his life except on the fringes, as I've done with him. There is no sense of responsibility or duty here.
But as I can't visit, call, or communicate with him in any way I have only my own imagination to correspond with, and my usual method of finding the positives in a situation is failing me now.
He is recovering and time will take care of everything. That's about all I can tell myself at the moment.
I never thought I might never ever see him again... or at least not have the option to.

Do I feel better yet?
No.
On to the backgammon.



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