Sunday, September 17, 2017
As we were wheeling Jacob to CAT scan, she looked at Jeremy and me. Do you have other children? she asked. No, I said.
She shook her head back and forth making a tsk tsk sound with her mouth. I don't remember much about her except she was heavyset and hopefully close to retirement. She had large wet eyes lolling with pity. Our plight made her exhausted.
We moved on quickly. We had somewhere to be. Also, the only way through this was through it.
Later, after all of the screaming, crying, testing, surgery, pathology reports, meetings with oncologists and more imaging, we had a lay of the land. Jacob's prognostic indicators were high. His tumor type was exquisitely sensitive to chemotherapy. The neurosurgeon in particular had a lithe way with words.
I carried Jacob's good prognosis through a lot of places. I took it over to that long, ugly hallway where the lady gave her sorry assessment of the three of us. I slapped her again and again with Jacob's good news. I didn't do this for real, but it's vivid in my mind anyway.
Much later, after all was said and done and Jacob had landed on the wrong side of the prognosis, the not a home run side, the sorry side, I realize that the lady was indeed right. But it was not helpful to write Jacob off so early on. She shouldn't have done that.
But yeah, skipping over the optimism, the treatments and the clean scans, she had it correct in the end. She can still go fuck herself because one thing I learned is that hope based on solid evidence is never wasted.
It's odd to think of her now. I imagine her laying her head down one last time, welcoming death, weary from years spent in that hospital, witness to people like us.
It was her time. She's in a better place now. Stuff that people say when someone dies from natural causes at more or less the acceptable time. Things we never hear about Jacob, at least not out loud or within earshot.
From the archives:
The Best Thing Someone Never Said To Me
Friday, September 8, 2017
The table was long, sleek, black and low to the ground. It evoked mid-century optimism by way of IM Pei. Like half the stuff in my own apartment, it was from Ikea. The table was a mess.
Do you mind if I rationalize this table for you? I picked up the expression from my mother-in-law. First her daughters started using it, then it spread to me. It was perfect for the situation at hand.
Sure, he said.
First, I cleared the items from the table. I placed everything on the floor. I then used the all purpose spray I found under the sink and some paper towels I brought over that day.
I went over it a few times until I was satisfied with its matte, clean surface. My handiwork also created a reassuring and invigorating aroma.
I then sat cross legged on the floor doing one of my favorite things. I commenced putting like with like.
I started with the meds. All of the pill bottles went together. Then I dealt with the medicinal and topical creams.
I checked in with him to see if he was due to take anything. He forgot to take one of the meds, so I brought over some water and he did that. I made a mental note that he wasn't great at keeping track of this stuff and needed ample reminders.
Business cards were next. I put them all together, making a private plan to enter the doctor and social worker information into my own phone, surreptitiously, while he was napping. You never know when I might be here flying by the seat of my pants, needing to call one of these professionals on his behalf.
Receipts were arranged in a neat pile.
All of the obvious trash went into a small plastic bag I brought over so I didn't have to get up and down. I gathered the empty Gatorade bottles for recycling.
I put all of the tiny wind up sculptures, the ballpoint pens and post-it note pads together. That was easy.
He had quite a pile of unread New Yorkers and alumni magazines. New Yorker with New Yorker, alumni magazines with alumni magazines. Would he read any of them? I knew better than to ask. We had a silent, tacit agreement that we hoped so.
A lot of his people were sending letters, cards and gifts. I put those together in a sensical fashion.
Now it was time to deal with the marijuana.
There was a pipe or two. Obviously those went together. I gathered up the tiny ziploc bags of smokable weed. I put the stuff together that was meant to be steeped in tea form and drank. There was a viscous liquid in a plastic container with a lid that he said was disgusting but he didn't want discarded. There were these small cubes that you're supposed to eat. People sent him those from places where marijuana was legal.
Everything was sorted into lovely neat piles. The table was clear, clean and waiting. It was time for the finale.
I brought everything from the floor to the table. I arranged the grouped items in a way that had an intrinsic sense of order, paired with a welcoming artistry along a bit of whimsy thrown in.
This scene was repeated again and again on subsequent visits. The activity had little variation in days to come. Sometimes objects joined the group and needed sorting. Someone else took the receipts and filed them elsewhere.
Some items were rendered useless by later circumstances. Some things became more important and were brought closer to him once he started spending more time in the bedroom.
Table management kept me moored. Sometimes he sat with me and chatted. Sometimes he went into another room, at my suggestion, to have private space for an important call. He might be sleeping. Only once did he leave the apartment.
It went on like this, week after week, then day after day until things shifted irretrievably and the table no longer became central for him. After the unthinkable happened, it became moot. Finally, the table left the premises. It was either gifted to someone, or donated. I don't remember which.
From the archives:
The very second you lost me
What I know, what I don't know
Lying In Wait