Friday, March 07, 2008

weird days

The Sober Husband has been gone for three nights so far, keeping a vigil by his friend's deathbed. The friend's wife, who had her heart set upon getting her husband's condition stabilized enough so that he could be brought home from the hospital, gave up yesterday. It was very, very hard for her, but she issued the order to stop treating her husband's cancers. Today he will be taken off his ventilator, and he is expected to die soon.

This difficult decision made it much easier to spend time with poor Dan. Previously, with everyone valiantly and energetically trying to save Dan's life, the Sober Husband was required to wear surgical scrubs and a mask at the bedside. Now anything goes, and the dying man's bed has been lowered so that it is easier to touch him (previously he was kept up at a level making it easier for the staff to work on his mostly unconscious body).

Now that the end is near, the dying man's family is returning, so the Sober Husband's presence is less vital. I am so proud of him for being there this week. He consoled his friend's wife and told her, when she was crying and doubting herself, that she'd made the right decision, and he spent so much time alone at the bedside, holding his friend's arm (the actual hand was covered with medical devices).

I don't know when he'll be back. He has decided to stay up until the end. Meanwhile back at the homefront, the children are fussing and missing him. Lola insists that he is coming home today, and I'm not looking forward to her disappointment. I told her gently that he's not, but she dismissed me airily. "Daddy SAID. Daddy SAID he is coming home today. He SAID."

If you ever have to die of cancer and wish to be surrounded by loved ones, let me recommend the Johns Hopkin to you. The Sober Husband has been treated quite kindly by the staff and even put up in a special house, steps from the hospital, for family members of cancer victims. We had worried that as he wasn't technically family, he'd have issues getting into the hospital, but a red carpet was practically laid out for him. Dan's wife told the hospital in advance that the Sober Husband was coming, and so he had not only full access but also assistance from the staff in getting a spot at the family house. The doctors, nurses, and technicians have also taken time out to explain to the Sober Husband (ever curious and the son of a doctor) what procedures they are doing and why.

The only issue is internet access. The Sober Husband had previously intended to work while away, but the internet access is so weak and limited that he has been unable to do a thing. He reads email over his iPhone but is unable to program (or even to read this blog, which has been blocked by Johns Hopkins' firewall as a suspected unsavory site. This gives us a rare opportunity to talk about him behind his back, but under the circumstances, I'll pass. If he were off on a pleasure trip without blog access, no holds would be barred, but now I've got nothing but love and admiration going on for the man).

We have a trivial illness here. Iris and Lola had headaches and low grade fevers yesterday and so were kept home from school. Irritatingly enough, for the first time in my six years as a co-op workday parent, I was called yesterday to do a mandatory substitute shift. I didn't even get upset or worried; I simply called the director and said, "I just can't do it. My husband's out of town at a friend's deathbed, and I'm keeping the kids home with fevers." Our old director would have been inflexible, but the new director said kindly, "Oh, Carole, sometimes things happen. I'll work the phones and figure something out." This was such a happy change from three years ago, when I was dropping off then-preschooler Iris Uber Alles on my way to the airport to go to my teenaged nephew's funeral. Teary-eyed and semi-crazy, I stopped by the office to tell the then director and office manager that I had been unable to find anyone to cover my workshift and I was leaving right then for the funeral. I was heartlessly instructed to take the roster with me and make calls from Denver until I could get someone lined up to work my shift. (By the way, I didn't make those calls. I refused. I was too busy wrestling emotionally with my family dynamics and my grief over the senseless death, so my phone calls were limited to venting to my husband over my sister's incomprehensible behavior and crying long distance). I did send out an email yesterday to the pre-k parents offering bribes to anyone who could cover the shift (I offered cash, a traded workshift, homemade pies or ice cream... I did stop short of offering sexual favors, though), and then I devoted myself to watching "Spongebob Squarepants" with the children, feeling their foreheads as requested, and taking calls from my husband when he wanted to talk.

Today I'm keeping Iris home again, but we'll have to venture out to a grocery store at some point as we're out of milk, bread, and other basic necessities. The children were stymied without their normal toast and cereal for breakfast, but I introduced them to the joys of cold pizza for breakfast. It feels so strange here, waiting to hear of the friend's death and staying home with the querulous children.

The six cats currently residing here have formed a sort of pack. Evidently once the number of cats in a home exceeds the number of humans by a ratio of 2:1, herd behaviors emerge and the bonds between individual humans and specific cats break down. Thankfully I have plenty of cat food on hand, so I needn't worry just yet for my personal safety.


hokgardner said...

Hang in there.

BTW, what did you think of the PR finale?

hughman said...

a herd but still a teeny kittenish herd i'm hoping.

Missy said...

Have either of your two daughters taken to singing the Sponge Bob songs?

I'm addicted to hearing my younger sing the Sweater song. She's never been the best singer, but she hits every note dead-one. I'm truly addicted and beg for it.

On the more serious side, it made me feel better to hear about the Johns Hopkins being so kind to the Sober Husband. I have a feeling that people in such positions know how to recognize and reward true relationships, not just the ones that are "official."

Anonymous said...

Your hubby did an amazing thing by standing by his friend till the end. I lost my dad to cancer in August and if it weren't for the friends that stood by me day after day I don't think I could have made it. My family was great but it was truly the friends that got me through it.