Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wrist to wrist

It was 2 o'clock in the morning.
The phone was ringing.
As you shoot up in bed, you know the dreaded feeling. Someone is calling you with bad news, to tell you someone has died.

In this case, 'died' wasn't quite true. Someone had quit living, but he had not died.

It was my father. He had just come home from the hospital after being admitted for pneumonia. While in the hospital, lung x-rays show he had lung cancer. After having the lower left node of his lung removed, further x-rays showed bone cancer.

So, he was sent home to get better. And once he "got better" he would start radiation on his spine and neck.

Trouble is, he wasn't "getting better." He wasn't getting anything. He wasn't waking up, he wasn't eating nor drinking water. He wasn't talking nor recognizing anyone. He wasn't living. But he wasn't dead.

Every day we would nurse him, wash him, talk to him, and try to bring him back to life. At night, mom would sleep by his side.

She loved him all her life
And when she thought he might die,
She tied her wrist to his at night so that
his pulse would not flutter away from
her suddenly and leave her stranded.

-Lynne Alvarez

  I found this poem in a cheap magazine. It described every minute of every night for my mother. Every minute. Every night. I always envisioned their wrists lightly tied together so that neither one could move - or stop moving - without the other knowing it.

One day, dad awoke. He decided to tell Iilya and me the whole theory of using red tiles on roofs in Arizona. He knew the failure rate of flat-roofed houses, the wind damage caused to asphalt shingles, the termite infestations possible in wood shingles, the new trend of red tile roofs. He knew the pro and cons of each material. He talked and talked. He looked off into space and talked. And then he drank water - gallons of water.

And he wanted a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. He wanted to eat at the kitchen table. The next morning he wanted to shower and dress.

His clothes no longer fit. His 6'6" frame was only carrying 140 pounds. His rib showed and the fresh scar down his back from his lung surgery was rough and protruding. His bones were cold. His shoes were too big. He had to wear his pants with a belt AND suspenders.

But he had awaken. He was alive. And he wanted to talk. He wanted to feel the sun, to look into the sky, and to talk.

BUT, that 2 a.m. finally did come. It came 17 years later. Dad had pneumonia again. And one day, he died in bed. His pulse fluttered away. And mom was suddenly stranded.


giantspeckledchihuahua said...

Oh Brenda, I am speechless. I am so glad your dad woke up to spend 17 more years with his family. And so sad that the day arrived to seperate him from you (for now.) I hope cherished mermories can bring you and yours solace and the laughter you shared will soften the loss.

This is a beautifully written eulogy. Thank you for sharing that poem

Joanne Casey said...

What a tear-jerker, you have such a way with words, makes it even sadder.

Stella said...

You are a gifted writer, Brenda, and the love for your parents shines right through!

Jo and Stella

Gail said...

I have no words to convey the feeling i have from reading this piece.

My thoughts are with you and yours.

sealaura said...

oh Brenda, I too am glad your parents had more time together. I really have enjoyed getting to know you and your family via the images and your beautiful writing.

hugs from cali.

Alyce said...

This post was absolutely beautiful!

altadenahiker said...

I'm guessing this is his birthday or the anniversary of his death. Such warmth and love you bring to his memory, allowing us the gift of knowing him as well.

Thérèse said...

We often forget about the pulse in the wrist... when speaking about life and death.
A very touching evocation.

Willoughby said...

Beautifully written and very moving. What a wonderful gift those seventeen years were.

Barb said...

What a wrenching essay - but one of hope nonetheless. Your Father and Mother have given your Family a gift - dedication and love can never be taken from us.

Diane AZ said...

Beautiful and touching. I'm glad your parents had 17 more years together.

Lori Skoog said...

What a moving post....

BANJO52 said...

I'm late getting to this, so I'll just say "me too" to all these comments. You've made this an interesting as well as moving story. Like AHiker, I assume this is a special time of year (I've found them difficult, but also a trigger to memories, both good and bad). Hope you pass through it in good shape--as Salinger says, "with your faculties intact."

Brenda's Arizona said...

Thank you all! AH and Banjomyn, yes, it was an 'anniversary' of sorts. It is funny how I can prepare myself for the 'anniversary' of his death, but April 10 was the day he went to the hospital the very last time. The memory creeped into my thoughts and would NOT let go. "Oh, pop" I cried...

fran said...

I know the story of your Dad, but now I know it in a different way. You have a gift, Brenda. I love your stories & your pictures!

Sam said...

Wow... what a beautiful, if sad, love story.