no more down and outers

16 08 2008

Orange juice.  Chocolate ice cream.  Cranberry juice. Three things that we never knew him to like.   A fan blowing on the face.  Hanging up things we can’t see.  Carrying on one way conversations.  Using invisible tools. Two blankets and freezing cold.  Watching two “bugs” battling on the wall.  Twisting up an entire blanket.  Perfectly still.  Not breathing for as much as  30 seconds.  Talking.  No talking.  No eyes open. Mouthing every word to Amazing Grace as the chaplain played his guitar. Trying to sit up.  Not moving a muscle for the entire night.  Bright blue eyes staring through you.  “I’m just trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing…”

But we are quiet. We are at rest.  We’ve all read the booklet left us by a hospice nurse.  A folder full of pamphlets  – but this ONE…we must read.  Yeah right.  Do you know how much information is coming our way?  But these people radiate such an energy of calm and a quiet “in charge” that their lead must be followed.  They have not been wrong yet.  They do death.  That little blue book explaining the signs we will see – our only touchstone that this is really happening.

So after almost 48 hours in a hotel, conferring with the committee – I drive back to home home for a couple of days or less depending on the situation.  The time in the car was typical except I kept thinking of all the times that I tried to imagine how I’d feel on this particular trip.  When the doors to the hospice center closed behind me, I walked out into the courtyard where all rooms have their windows overlooking plants, flowers, trees, statues…from outside, I leaned into the window to his room and peered through the slated blinds.  Just as I’d left him…just as he’d been all day.  They said we’d have days like this following days like yesterday.

Yesterday there was some activity that we had to play along with – feeling as if we were entering into the game of charades mid-stream.  It was fairly easy to pick up the cues and roll with it.  Lots of visitors – some expected and anticipated, others a surprise.  Playing the part of gracious hosts at a party we didn’t even want to be at – never wanted to host.

As exhausting as it was for me – it was harder on Billy.  The afternoon shadows were lengthening and he still had words for my brother-in-law, “are there going to be any more down and outers?”  Down and outers…we laughed quite hard.  He was tired too.  Too tired.  So much so that today there were barely any words or even a hint of understanding when he was being spoken to.  Maybe it was the perfect time to say good-bye – I didn’t have to deal with an answer from him or look into his eyes and wonder if he even knew who I was.  

“I’m going home to get some clothes.  If you fall asleep before I get back, it’s okay, I have the key.  I know how to get in.”  And I was out the door.

Half my trip home was more NPR – then I put in some cd’s.  Natalie Maines summed it up best. 

These walls have eyes
Rows of photographs
And faces like mine
Who do we become
Without knowing where
We started from

It’s true I’m missing you
As I stand alone in your room

Everyday that will pass you by
Every name that you won’t recall
Everything that you made by hand
Everything that you know by heart

And I will try to connect
All the pieces you left
I will carry it on
And let you forget
And I’ll remember the years
When your mind was clear
How the laughter and life
Filled up this silent house…

Not to worry – there won’t be more songs…we have better things to talk about tomorrow!