“I’m not going to die next week, am I?”
Spring time, the time the earth in the northern hemisphere begins to wake from a long winter slumber is a time of hope, renewal and possibilities.
As we waited for the first day of spring on N. Mandan Street, we weren’t thinking about the first sighting of a Robin, we were concentrating on getting Joanie to eat some solid food.
Since she had come home from her office on the 29th of February, she hadn’t been out of the house. Her appetite had been non existent, and was subsisting on bottles of Boost, various sodas, and the occasional popsicle. There were, however, a few days when she began to ask for something more solid.
I began to send out more frequent updates to her friends and family. These emails were just notes about what she had done on one day or another, but I hoped they would keep people aware of the battle that was being waged inside our little bungalow. These emails also tell a part of the story.
“Saturday, March 15, 2008
“Just wanted to pass along some good news for the day. As she sat reading the paper this afternoon, she decided that she wanted a hot roast beef sandwich from Kroll’s Diner. I was dispatched to retrieve same, and so that is that. It is the first time in two weeks that she has even said such a thing, and I was quite pleased. She continues to amaze me.
“Thank you all for your concern and prayers, and I will try to keep you posted on things as they happen.”
“Sunday, March 16, 2008
“Just a note to tell you all that the week is starting out right and I am elated about it. Last night she did considerable damage to half a hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, which she had ordered, and this morning she asked me if we could have my scrambled eggs with cream cheese, chives and green onion, and of course I am happy to oblige. She also wants some English muffin toasting bread. I get to eat the bacon, but perhaps the smell will get to her. She continues to amaze and delight.”
“Monday, March 17, 2008, passed somewhat uneventful. I did get her to nibble on a few chips and some onion dip (one of our favorites) and she requested chili for dinner which of course she got. Her intake wasn’t that great, but the fact that she even expressed an interest in it was, I thought, encouraging.
“Now then, her Majesty did have one visitor today, and seems more than willing to have more of same. These audiences are held generally in the afternoons, and can be cut short due to her Majesty’s propensity to doze off in mid-sentence. I am assured it is not from boredom, but from some overwhelming desire to just get a little more sleep. So, those of you who are in the area are welcome, or even if you are not in the immediate area, but just happen to be so, or so I am told by Her Highness, to stop by. A call in advance would be most welcome to ensure that she is not inundated, and this precipitates another episode of the Mid-sentence Dozing off Syndrome. On the other hand, there is not guarantee of that in any event.
“We will be meeting tomorrow, or possibly Wednesday with the home health care servants to see what they can do to help keep Her Majesty comfortable, and she has indicated to me if she doesn’t like what they have to offer, “Wc can fire them, can’t we?” I indicated that, as Queen, she can fire anybody she wants to, and she seemed satisfied with that.
“That’s all for now. Until next time, I remain,
“Your, and her humble servant,
The home health care business came about as a result of a talk I had with Dr. Thomas, and he had suggested that we get this set up that way. He told me that it could be turned into hospice when, and if, Joanie would ever allow it. I didn’t tell Joanie that, but did tell her that it would help out to make sure that she was getting everything she needed, since I wasn’t a trained medical person.
One of the things I had always let Joanie lead on were the decisions that affected her life. I felt it was important for her to have the feeling of control over what was going on. Last year, it was her that had brought up the matter of power of attorney, and medical power of attorney that day at lunch. Nothing happened after that, and I didn’t pursue it.
One day earlier this month, she mentioned it again, and asked me if we should call someone to take care of those matters. I asked her who she wanted me to call, and she mentioned Casey Chapman, an attorney friend of hers. I called Casey, explaining what was going on and what was needed, and he graciously offered to handle the details. He would call in a day or two, and when the documents were ready he would bring them by to meet with Joanie.
A couple of days later, he called, and came over for the meeting. Joanie was on the couch, and Casey sat down at one end, explaining each of the documents to her in detail, and answering any questions she had. They did spend some time enjoying small talk, and because they were of opposite political persuasions, had a few good laughs. When he was satisfied that she understood everything, and she had no more questions, we signed the papers, and Casey left, telling us he would send copies of the papers in the mail.
I sat down on the couch where Casey had been and we talked about what we had just done. It seemed to me it had all been pretty matter of fact, until, she looked at me and said, “I’m not going to die next week, am I?”
That question stunned me. I never thought I would be faced with the proposition of having to answer a question like that.My heart sank into the pit of my stomach, and for a few seconds, that seemed much longer, tried to think of an answer that would make sense to her.
As I held and squeezed her hand, I could only say, “No, you are not going to die next week. Right now, you are very sick, and our job is to help you get your strength back so that you feel better.” I didn’t know what else to say, and she seemed satisfied. I felt as if I was going to throw up.
I went outside for a smoke, and wiped away some dampness that seemed to come from my eyes, in the early springlike afternoon. It was all so unfair.