Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taken For Granted

The time changed the day before. I was aware of that. Still, knowing that I would be walking through the park, with its low lying trees, posed a problem.
As I walked, I was mindful of the sharp branches hanging below. You could poke an eye out with one of those things. Wow, I can't see anything really. I take for granted that I can just avoid those trees and branches in the light of day.
Having sight is something we all take for granted. That is, until it is gone. Can you imagine not having sight...or smell...or taste..or hearing...or touch?
These are things we always take for granted. I always have. I have always had great health, and keen senses. I have never had a problem with any of them. But as I approach my 50th birthday in a few years, I take note of my sight which is weakening and possibly other senses that will fade as time marches on.
I always thought I saw everything well. But I did not. I never saw a time coming when my mother would not be a living being on this earth. I took that for granted.
I arrived at 11pm, just after my hockey game. I knew almost instantly that this would be the last night my mother would spend on this earth. I had taken for granted that she would always be part of my world, but that fantasy was now shattered with the reality that she was on her last set of breaths.
I was greeted by a somber Harvey. He knew, and I knew.  We all knew. The time had come. It was what my mother had wanted. Harvey was in tears, holding back tears that he couldn't hold back. He was taking this harder than anyone. I loved my mother, but he has spent the last 20 years with her, day in,  day out,  while I only saw her a few times a year at gatherings.
Harvey handed me the pamphlet. 'How to recognize the signs of imminent death'....or something like that. As it turns out, it went almost exactly like the pamphlet said it would.
We had gathered just a week before to meet with the doctors. Myself,  my sister, Harvey, my mothers brother Stanley and the doctor. We let my mother speak her piece. She said she had given up. Could not take it anymore. She wanted it over. She wanted to die. We all agreed if that was what she wanted, we would not stand in her way. The decision was made to stop all her prolonging medications.
Later, in the hallway, the doctor told us it would be about 2 weeks before the cancer overcomes her. At first, there was very little difference. She got slightly worse, gradually, but really she was already pretty bad, so it was not a large difference. The doctor assured us that my mother would get whatever she needed and would not suffer.
The weekend before she died, I was the one to stay with her most of the time. It was clear she was suffering badly. She was not allowed to eat or drink, as they felt she would choke. Even a bit of water or melted ice cream did make her gargle and cough a lot. However,  she was thirsty and hungry. She begged me for some water and some food. I was not allowed to give her any. That was heartbreaking. You always take it for granted that you wont have to see the person who brought you into this world, who protected and nurtured you in your time of need, suffer the way I saw her suffer.
Watching her die was tolerable, watching her suffer badly was not. Rest in peace was truly a phrase that meant something to me now. Until she died,  there was to be no peace. In many ways she did not really feel anything as they had her doped up on so much morphine that she was basically asleep and pain free most of the time. But she did suffer, that was clear.
In many ways, she had lost those senses we take for granted.  She could barely see or hear anything. Her sense  of smell was weak. But she never lost her sense  of touch. I think we were always glad for that. At least she could still feel our presence, our hands touching her hands to reassure her that we were there for her if she needed anything. Mostly what she needed was care and company. That was something we could provide.
Harvey left to go home,  but wanted to be there when she passed away. I assured him that I would call him if I saw the time coming. He was only fifteen minutes away.
As the sun began to rise, I saw her time had come.  I called Harvey and told him it was just about time. He rushed back and made it about 15 minutes before she drifted away, slowly and peacefully.
Of course at that point I had mixed emotions. I was happy it was over. More than a year of intense pain, for both her and us was now over. But of course,  that person who was always a part of my world was now gone.
A year later, there are times when it doesn't seem real.
Last night I had a dream that I was stranded at an airport. I could not find my way to the plane. This lady was charged with leading me to the plane. But she got so far away that I could not keep up and got lost again. I saw the plane fly away and I had missed it. I was stranded again. It was almost like the lady did this on purpose. All hope was lost.
Within seconds, my mother appeared. The young healthy mother I always remembered and took for granted. She fixed it, like she always could. She led me to a new, better plane. We sat together and everything was alright.
Those days are gone now. My mother doesn't exist in the real world. I am a passenger stranded without a savior. I have to fend for myself now.  I took for granted that she would always be there to help.
I always took for granted that I would be able to see.  But when the darkness came,  I could not see that I took that for granted.
Life...and death, poked me in the eye and knocked me down.  My mother was not..and could not pick me up this time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fifteen Seconds

I tossed and turned all night. She noticed that I was not comfortable. Felt like something I ate didn't go down right. I chalked it up to indigestion. Not the first time that had happened. Would probably be gone by morning.
Just had to ride it out.
I knew just what not to say. I was good at that.

"Are you okay, honey"

"I'm fine, just something I ate I think"

As I awoke the next morning,  I was right. It was gone. I still didn't feel right, but the uncomfortable feeling was gone. I decided I should stop in for a doctors visit.

Sitting on the table,with that paper on top of the soft cushioned elevated examination table, I felt like I was wasting my time. I was fine. Just some indigestion. But she wanted me to have it checked out, and rather than argue about it, I appeased her and went. Better to just agree than tell her what was really going on, for years.

After the customary stethoscope and prodding and testing, the doctor concurred. Just a case of indigestion. Run along now and try not to eat so close to bed time.

Got ya doc. No more late night sandwiches with heavy carbs. No more plates of fries right before bed. Lucky for me I didn't have to tell him that these episodes were frequent and the chest pains were a lot more severe than I let on. I kept that to myself. I had made it this far, why speak up now?

The band played as we ate our food. It was a very nice,  calm late November Saturday night. Crisp cool air as we approached the bistro. The place was already buzzing. Gloria Peterson was about to play her acoustic set. Those that new good live folk music knew to come see her play.  It was a treat.
My wife ordered the Greek salad and then pan pizza.  I ordered the burger and fries. I had already downed two cokes by the time my dinner came.
The food was great.  So was the music. The night was going super. After the first set I received my third glass of coke. Kind of felt uncomfortable again. I guess the fries, plus the bread from the bun of the burger was getting to me again. I said nothing about that. Just excused myself.
Decided I needed to go to the bathroom. On my way back, just as I was about to re enter the bar area I felt a tinge in my chest. Had to gather myself for a second. About a minute went by and then I felt a bit better. Washed my face and hands at the sink and then made my way back to our table. I felt better and there was no need to mention it to her. Would only rile her up and make her worry. I never told her things like that. Never really told her anything. I kept it all to myself. The truth was these episodes had occurred for years, and just sort of went away. I got used to them and never bothered to mention  it. This last episode, the night before in bed, was one I couldn't hide from her.
The band was about to get up and do their second set, and I set out to eat the last little bit of fries left on my plate.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my arm. Then in my chest.  I grabbed for my chest and my breathing got short. I felt like someone had a bag over my head.
She noticed and cried out for help.
I leaned back and began to sink in my seat. I knew. I always knew this day would come. I ignored it because I wanted to avoid it. But now it was here. I kept it to myself and now I would die with the knowledge that I never spoke up, about so many things.
I knew. In my soul I knew. I only had a minute or so left. My time had come.
Now what? What should I do.
Only about 45 seconds left. The pain got deeper, I was focused on the pain. There was now hysteria around me. I heard others calling 911 for help. But it wouldn't matter. I would be long gone by the time the paramedics rushed here to pronounce me.
My eyes were open. I could see that they were trying to help me. About 30 seconds left now.  I am about to die. I know that. I have 30 seconds left, after a lifetime of chances to say what I should have said, I now had only 30 seconds to say what I wanted to say.
Some woman was on top of me,  pumping my chest, trying to help me. It wasn't going to work. About 20 seconds left now. She got off, it was futile.  I was fading away. My last breaths coming slower and slower now. I was still conscious and looking at my wife, who was holding my hand and crying hysterically. She now knew as well. It was over for me. Over for us. Just like that.
I've got fifteen seconds left now,  to say whatever I need and want to say. After a lifetime of chances, it boiled down to these fifteen seconds. To say all the things I've never said. Fifteen seconds.  That's it.
Trying to get the words out.  I have ten seconds left now. To tell her how I really felt. How sorry I was for all the hurt.  How it all came out of love. Ten seconds to undue all the damage I never thought I had done.
Five seconds left now. Starting to lose consciousness now. Trying to speak those words, but I can't speak. No oxygen and no breath. My time has come. I try to motion with my hands, but it's too late. My chest feels tight and I have one second left.
Then the stillness comes. She says "I love you". I hear that. That is the last thing I will ever hear. I can't say it back. It's too late. I had a lifetime of chances to say that. Now I have one second and no breath to say it. I never get that chance to say it.
It's too late for me. I am gone. I never got another chance to say what I always wanted to say. What I should have said a long time ago.

But didn't.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Afraid To Sleep

Life is very fragile. You can be taken away at any time. We all go to bed seemingly healthy and happy. It is always possible that we won't wake up. Die in our sleep.
I had a crazy dream last night. I was taken hostage by a former friend from high school.  When I say former, I mean not in touch with anymore. There was no bad blood. We just faded off, like so many high school friendships end up doing.
But I always had a feeling that he would be the type who could go off and be crazy. The kind that everyone would say after the fact was the normal one that they never saw it coming from. He just seemed too prim and proper and nice. Being his friend, I saw the other side of him sometimes. The angst. The frustration. It always stuck in the back of my mind.
In the dream, he had taken a few of us from our high school "circle of friends' hostage and forced us to play golf on holes that were out of sequence (I have the golf holes out of sequence dream a lot) at gun point. He was mad about something.  Not really sure what.  Maybe because we all remained friends to this day and he was not part of that. I don't know for sure what he was mad about.  I didn't dream that part. I just know he was mad, at least my projection of him in my dream was mad. Of course that means a part of me is actually mad, but that is too Freudian to get in to here.
As the dream progressed we all managed to escape.  I now had my dog, who was old and not that mobile, with me. She couldn't walk. But she was so sweet and loving that I carried her everywhere. I had actually done this in real life when she got very old.  It is a very vivid memory and a dream I have often. Not really sure why it was part of this dream.  Again, much too Freudian for me. She just was. That is all I need to know at this point. All I get to know at this point.
I hushed her quiet as we hid in a room. There were others there and they were attempting to hide me, so he couldn't find me. It was apparent that he had. I managed to get away.  I seemed to be able to go through the wall to get out. You have strange powers in a dream. You are able to go through walls but not able to get away from mere mortals. Such is the reality of dreams.
We were now on the street. Every direction we headed ended up at a fence that restricted further movement. Funny, I could go through the wall of the room, but not the fence. Again, not going there in this story.
Because the dog needed to be carried we were moving slow and he would always catch up. After about 4 dead ends he was now on top of us. He still had the gun and was about to shoot. He wasn't trying to kill me, but wanted to kill my dog. Just as he pointed the gun at me, he was actually about to kill  my dog. My precious dog. As the bullet left the chamber and headed towards us, in that instant, I woke up.
I couldn't run in the dream, and now as I awoke I had a horrible cramp in my calf. I tried to ride it out, but it was intense and wouldn't go away. Finally I rose to my feet, very abruptly and managed to move my leg in a position to release the cramp.
I had gotten up very suddenly. My wife, normally a very poor sleeper, did not move or react at all. That was highly unusual for her. She could hear a pin drop in the basement at 3am after she had been in deep sleep for hours.
I got back in bed and looked at her. She was out cold. Not moving either. Again, highly unusual for her. I touched her and no response. I touched her again. No response again. I didn't see her breathing either. I thought she might have died in her sleep. I touched her harder one last time and she awoke.
Falling asleep comes with risks. It might be the last thing you do and you have no idea that it will be.
It's like a friend with a gun chasing you on a golf course with holes out of order.  You never see that coming.
You can't protect your dog from death, even though it is inevitable and you try anyway.  You can't protect your wife or yourself from death when you go to sleep. If the crazy guy with the gun wants to take you, he will. If you wake up alive, he didn't want you bad enough yet.

Friday, November 4, 2011


The Days Of The Week

Friday- All hope is lost, another week has gone by, just like all the rest. I am resigned to the fact I have blown it again. It is now 2pm and I have not achieved what I wanted to. Just about ready to totally give up on this week. Did a few good things but hardly anywhere near what I wanted to. Almost 5pm. All hope is now lost. What to do?

Saturday- So many ideas in my head. Have to organize them. The faster I write them down, the faster the new ones come. It's going to be a good week. So much to do. So much hope to achieve some great things. I have a plan. I am going to write down my plan....tomorrow. Today I will just bask in the glow of my possible conquest of my lazy demon. I am the eternal optimist on Saturday. Saturday inspires confidence that Friday squishes like a bug.

Sunday- Feel great today. Sunday is all about euphoria and anticipation. Sunday is like 10 minutes before you take off your clothes to have great sex. Monday is just a short time away and I know I will do great things. I always do great things on Mondays. If everyday was Monday I would be Hemmingway..or Shakespeare. Got to find a way to make everyday my Monday. Sunday is now almost over. Have my plan and my schedule ready. I am going to stick to it. I am getting this done. No letting up this week. More is better. I am doing more. I really mean it this time.

Monday- Up early. No lazy sleeping in this time. Not playing my games today. Have a schedule and I'm sticking to it. Getting right to it. Nose to the grindstone today. Two blogs done by 11am. So far so good. Fifteen minutes to do the dishes and I am right back at it. Call up my story I want finished today. No stopping and starting. I am banging this baby out. Written and edited by 1pm. So far so good. Have not strayed off the path today. Monday is always a good day for me. Now back to my passion. My main script. So much work to be done on that,  but so much hope for it. One day, when it is all done, it will be a masterpiece. They will be talking about it for years to come. Like Psycho, or The Birds or any of the truly great movies of our generation. It is taking me forever to put it all together, but the pundits will spend days and years breaking it down. I know that. But first, need a break. Shouldn't take one because I know where it leads.  But,  I have been good all day,  so I deserve it.  Back at it by 2pm,  that is my criteria. Keeping myself in line. No chatting. No gaming. No watching videos. Just a quick 30 minute break for lunch and some yard work.
It's 2:15. Took a bit more time.  Who cares? Been at it all day.I deserve it. Ready to start writing again. Got to get to work on the script. But I have emails and private messages to respond to. Got to do that. Can't stop myself from doing that. It's 3:30 now. Monday the great is starting to slip away.  I smack myself back into gear. Internet off. Phone is off. Tv is off. Just me and the blank screen. Back at it. Only have 4 hours then I have to get ready for hockey tonight. Four hours is plenty. I should do more, but a solid 4 hours is a major breakthrough at this point.
6:30 now. Did some great things. Didn't make it to 7:30 like I had hoped, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Oh Tuesday, will you be my friend or continue to be my foe?

Tuesday- Woke up feeling tired. Hockey was hard on me last night. Can't really write much this morning. Need  to get some things done first. Okay, need is the wrong word. Don't feel like working. Avoidance is really the better word. I can just get started later. No worries. Monday was good. Monday is always good, so I can slack off a bit on Tuesday. I deserve it, right? I worked hard. Can't always work so hard. Anyway, who cares? I can do whatever I want when I want. So why be so hard on myself?
Wrote a blog, and banged out a cute short story. Yay me! Did about 20% of what I needed to get done. win again. But Wednesday will be mine. I own Wednesday. Tuesday's guilt usually carries me on Wednesday.

Wednesday- Feeling it this morning. Two more blogs done. Dishes done. Lunch prepared. All emails, messages and games caught up by 11am. I am back in the groove. Lunch time. Rut Roh! A break for lunch. That has always been my doom on Wednesday's before. Have hockey tonight too, so can't waste my time.  Won't be able to make up for it later. Ok, so it's 1:30. Said I would be back at it by 1pm. Writers lament. Surfed for a bit and got distracted. It happens. It happens a lot to me. Anyway, 1:30, back at it. It is what it is.
 Just get writing dammit!
 Enough lame excuses. Forced myself to write for a couple of hours. Needed a break again.
Man o man, I am pathetic and weak. If I were my own life coach I would kick my own butt until I made myself cry. But I am a softie when it comes to disciplining myself.
6pm.  Failed again. Wednesday, you beat me. Two bad days in a row. The exuberance of Saturday is a distant memory fading fast in the rear view mirror of the week. Still two days left to turn this ship around and get it done.

Thursday- Gotta chat with my friends. Have to, right? They are my friends, have to make time for your friends.
A bit tired from hockey. Two games in three nights is tough on this old body. And got another game tonight. Didn't even get up until noon. I am screwed and I know it. Have a blog and a story almost done from two weeks ago.  Going to just mooch off those two and make like I was productive today. Fooling myself is something I just love to do. I will watch some videos to do some research. That will be easy enough. Research is necessary, but also easy.  Writing is hard. This week has sucked. Another week has beat me. But hey, Saturday is within sight and I can convince myself that I will do better next week.

Friday- It's here. Failed again and life beat me this week. Hell, life beat me last week,  and the week before that, and the week before that. And for years. Still haven't achieved my potential. When does this foolishness end?
Anyway playing games, have to play my games. Can't be in the groove all  the time. Need a break. And anyway, it helps with my writing.That's what I tell  myself. I'm a smart guy,  so it must be true. And anyway, I wouldn't lie to myself, right?

Friday- at least I wrote this story. That's something, right? And Saturday is just hours away. Like the sun rising, Saturday always shows up and gives me hope for a better week ahead. One of these weeks I am going to conquer Tuesday.  Watch out Tuesday! The law of averages is on my side. I am bound to win one eventually.