Tuesday, March 04, 2008

the Sober Husband mans up

When I met the Sober Husband, he had two very close, long-time friends whom he'd grown up with in Chicago. The three of them had a Peter Pan thing going on. Although they were turning thirty, they were all single, never engaged, no girlfriends in sight, and no serious careers, either (with the exception of the Sober Husband, who'd finished up a Ph.D. and was doing a post-doc). One was even still living at home.

The Sober Husband was the first of the lot to grow up, taking a perfectly good drunken litigator and turning her into a Drunken Housewife by impregnating her and buying her a house. His friends were rather appalled at all that domesticity but, years later, followed down that path as well.

Now at age 42, one of these old friends is dying of cancer. He has metastasized lymphoma, leukemia, brain tumors, and I don't know what else. He's being kept sedated, but reportedly when he wakes, he pulls at his ventilator and other equipment until he's talked down, whereupon he goes back to sleep. (This really gets to me, as I came to during surgery once. It was like those alien abduction experiences people rant about. There were blurry figures in white bent over strange equipment, and I felt so trapped and panicky and just instinctively started clawing at the tubes going down my throat, and the nurses and doctors shouted harshly at me, "HOLD STILL! HOLD STILL!" It was nightmarish, and then thankfully I lost consciousness. I think my surgeon was nervous I was going to sue him, but the day after the surgery, I felt so much better that I didn't bring it up when he came by my room in the hospital to check on me).

Anyhow, it's not as if we have the money or the time, but the Sober Husband is manning up and flying out to the East Coast tonight to spend some days by his old friend's side. I've never been close to this friend, but I can't bear to think of him waking up and freaking out in the hospital. I'm so glad the Sober Husband will be able to be with him. Sad to say the friend's wife, brother, parents, and in-laws all took time off work already and collectively need to get back to work (and their own lives occur in different states, aside from the wife).

The biggest sacrifice here will have to be made by our own Lola/Cupcake, who is accustomed to sleeping in. Lola will have to get up and leave the house at 7:45 with me, as I can't leave her home alone while I drive Iris Uber Alles to school. (The other sacrifice is unspoken; I was daydreaming of a trip to Bruges for myself and was mulling over a sort of proposed marital treaty, involving certain things to be done in exchange for a ticket to Belgium and a block of childfree time).

The husband is positively dreading this. He hates the thought of seeing his friend in this position. My point of view is that there is little point comparatively in going to the friend's funeral; funerals are for comforting the survivors. Spending time in the hospital comforts the dying person and is a huge service that can be done, the last chance to do something for a loved one. The Sober Husband is going to play some old "Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy" episodes for his friend as well as be there to comfort him when he wakes.

I'm proud of him for doing this. So many people are weak and selfish in life and won't go to hospitals. "It's just too depressing. I hate hospitals," they say with an air of self-discovery as though they were unique in a crowd of hospital-lovers who just can't be pried away from the sides of sickbeds. It also sets a good example for Iris and Lola, who will hopefully some day be willing to suck it up and sit next to their old mother's hospital bed.


Unknown said...

My condolences to you all.

Last March I visited my sister for the first time in about three years - since my brother's wedding. She'd been diagnosed with cancer and it was spreading. I went for a 4-day visit, saw all the folks from my father's first marriage.

A month later I was back for her funeral, and to a one my sister's friends all thanked me for coming -she hadn't stopped talking about my visit the whole time.

And we had a chance to say good-bye.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Thi, I'm so sorry about your sister. My belated condolences.

I don't think the husband will get a good farewell; his friend just isn't awake enough to hold a conversation. However, I think, to indulge in some psychobabble, it will be closure for him. He'll know he was there for his friend at the end, when the friend needed him. Eh, I'm sure it will be stressful and horrible, but I've been supporting/nagging him to do it. It just seems like the right thing to do, and his job is so flexible that it's easy for him to fly out (only the money is not easy, sigh).

Anonymous said...

My good friend, who lives in another state was recently diagnosed with ALS.

She has been, in the last six months, losing her muscular functions. Her left hand is useless now, she can barely walk with a cane.

It does break your heart to see someone you love looking down the barrel at death and all you can do is let them know how much you'll miss them when they die.

I'm sorry for the SH's loss, but I'm pleased he gets to go and say goodbye.


Silliyak said...

It's a small consolation at a time of loss, but i believe it to be true that that which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger/better.

hughman said...

i'm no stranger to hospitals and i know how they hold so much emotional baggage.

regardless of how aware his friend is, by the SH just being there will make a world of difference. the SH should talk to him and if possible touch him. we humans respond to the small things.

hokgardner said...

Your husband is a good man. And you are a good wife for making it possible for him to go.

Vodalus said...

My grandfather died of Alzheimer's last March. Most of his last mobile days were spent in a confused haze and he recognized no one. But when his body gave out and he could do nothing beyond lay in his hospital bed, it was obvious from his face that he recognized whoever was with him. He would grow terribly agitated if there wasn't someone holding his hand.

It was terrible seeing him in this condition and in a lot of ways has turned me against "hospice" care (he died of thirst due to an inability to swallow and intentional denial of IV fluids). But at the same time, it was amazing to see what a difference it made when his children and grandchildren just held his hand.

If I had to choose again between being there for the last days and being there for the funeral, there's no question that the funeral would lose.

hughman said...


i agree. the power of touch is amazing and way undeerated. there is an energy we extend that is not of this world.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Well, he just left for the airport, and it was good he's doing this. The friend's wife called and said that because the friend has acquired a dangerous virus, he can't be kept sedated (no, I don't understand this at all), so now he's in extra need of companionship. The Sober Husband will be at the hospital tomorrow morning. We'll miss him very much, but it's more important for him to be of comfort to his friend.

I hope each and every one of us has a good friend by us if we're ever that ill.

the Drunken Housewife said...

P.S. to Kim: the Freewheeling Spirit has a loved one suffering from ALS. What a horrific disease that is, unthinkable.

Unknown said...

DH, thank you.

I have an odd relationship with my siblings. I'm the son of the second marriage, and 4 when they first met me (being born on the other side of the world, and all that). I have no full siblings, having lost my mother at 9, so they were always just brother and sisters (not halves) in my mind. Yet I grew up four states and five hundred miles away.

So I love them all fully, yet the acual loss might be easier as they were never there growing up for me.

Hearing the incredible stories of my sister, who was a caring, loving and devoted mother of three and spouse, and hearing how much she appreciated my visit, makes me appreciate the times I did visit them even more, and wish I had been able to more.

And I'm now over a thousand miles
away from all of them.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Vodalus, my condolences on your grandfather's passing.

I agree with you and Hughman that touch is so vital. I see that with children: they really are helped by being snuggled when they're upset or hurt. Sometimes we really need to have our hand held literally. I'm glad my husband will be there for his friend.

Trouble said...

Oddly enough, I think we do these things not just for the person who is dying, but also for the people who are left behind.

I imagine this is hardest of all on this man's wife, and I'm glad SH is there for her.

Anonymous said...

Carole -- I predict that Anton will be very grateful that you talked him into making the trip to be with his friend.

A few years ago my husband and I took a relatively short flight to visit his only (appx 10 yrs older) brother who was living in Stanford medical housing while recuperating from a lung transplant. (The lung disease was brought on by a genetic condition that was passed on by his father who was not my husband's father.) Although it was clear that Ray was still very much in a state of recuperation it was great to see him looking healthier than he had looked in years. Unfortunately, not long after our visit he developed an infection and it became apparent that the outcome was not going to be a good one.

My husband comes from a rather dysfunctional family consisting of six siblings who have four different fathers among them. This group of supposed adults reacts to emotional situations in ways that make absolutely no sense to me. When it became obvious that Ray was within days of dying I browbeat my husband into making another trip down to Stanford and taking with him the only sister who had not seen their brother since the transplant. (This sister is a very inexperienced traveler and they're all completely spineless when it comes to difficult situations.)

Ray died within 48 hours of my husband and their sister's arrival but they had a chance to spend quite a bit of time with him as he drifted in and out of consciousness and believe that he was only holding on in order to see his sister one last time. This experience clearly touched my husband and occasionally when we talk about his brother he mentions how thankful he is that I talked him into making that second trip.

Even though the situation totally sucks I hope Anton comes away from the experience with positive feelings about it.