Mr. Scott, there are always alternatives --- Spock
Daughter's Log, Orchard Park, 041415. We are cautiously entering the final dimension for Dad after receiving a distress text from Alex. Garbled transmissions report the Captain is under attack from an unidentified alien; possibly the Klingons have returned with a new attack to transport brain cancer, diabetes, dementia. Our mission is one of compassionate rescue, and if necessary, confrontation with a hostile force.
My Dad has spent the last 18 months battling small cell lung cancer. He has an the fortitude of 40 men and 10 giants, battling these disease alone, living in the home by himself that he shared for over 50 years with Mom before she succumbed to cancer in 2011. He struggles to get out of the chair now and walk with his cane to the bathroom; dressing takes upwards of 30 minutes, shaving only attempted on the best of days. Yet through this all, he has been the Captain of his ship, setting the course and barking orders in 10 directions in 12 seconds before you can even grab a pen to write them all down.
Since May of 2013, he has battled a 3 month bout with pneumonia that was the prelude to the lung cancer, coughing wheezing, spiting up blood, 5 months of chemo, hallucinations from brain cancer that led to brain frying radiation, strength sucking body radiation blackening his back and most of his mind; projectile diarrhea, a constantly dripping nose and a 70 pound weight loss, and came back up each time, ready to swing for more. Until recently.
The text came late Tuesday from Dad's neighbor, helper and trusted companion, Alex that Dad was just not right, his speech is garbled. On my way, packing the bag, tripping, turning round and round in circles trying desperately to hurry, holding back the tears, trying to think logically where there is no logic, what to pack, work clothes, no work clothes? PJs? how long do I plan for? denial, rage, fear hitting me like a bunch to the gut from which I may never recover. It's back.
So my brother Ron and I begin to chart the course for the end, or is it really the beginning? I am back sleeping in my childhood bed, trying to provide what comfort I can at night, and somehow fit the new job in during the day. Thank God for great neighbors, my husband and my kids, now grown, coming to babysit the Grandpa who not that long along was babysitting them. Listening to him talk, in 2015 one minute, in 1958 the next and in the Dead Zone the one after that. Trying to comprehend hearing him say he's ready to die when they are just beginning to understand what it means to live.
I admit not knowing how to do this. I am a mother, a planner, a scheduler, a list maker, who thinks from the end and multi-tasks backwards; start dinner, do laundry, wash dishes, collect the garbage and talk on the phone while hair dye sits on the head for 30 minutes. Give me a target date and I'm in, even when it's 3 phone calls to make a doctor appointment, 2 more to cancel your own meetings, 3 more to arrange rides, one email tell your boss you will leave early, one text to your kids, one call your husband at work; only to receive a call one hour later that the appointment was moved to the next day. Refresh, do over, fix it all again in a new day of schedules.
I tell my kids to look for the good in all things. See the good. Flip the problem to the end and find a blessing. Easy peasy in one-off events; longer struggles and you need to dig deeper for the treasure. I think it's just the simple moments of life, the laughter, the hot meal, the friend phone call. Think of the comedian making the joke of the old man walking with the cane and realize, that now your Dad has the George Burns walk down cold.
I came home from work to see Dad dressed in a strange combination of multiple shirts and sweaters, looking rather like the guys from Animal House in the supermarket scene, you know the one where they wear 4 shirts bunched up to hold the steaks and food they steal for the party? And as I look closer, I see my white work blouse, a scrunchy knit with puffy rows, sticky out from the layer of sweaters, and I burst out in laughter. My Dad the comedian. Maybe I should buy him a few more colors to go with his PJS.