I sit here in the hospital room with my laptop on my knees and watered-down iced tea on the community sink. The air hisses as it blows through the canula tubes, through his nose and into his infected lungs. Medical students are in the hallway, discussing his diagnoses. I hear only snippets over the daytime TV he is watching in an effort to be distracted from new reality.
It’s like we’ve hit the pause button this week. Snooze on life. There hasn’t been much work. Not much fun. A lot of sitting and waiting. A lot of keeping my cool when I hear doctors with sympathetic faces say things like, “likely cancer,” “we just don’t know,” “we just want to make it through right now.” Insensitive people on the outside ask me, “This is it for him, huh?”
Sometimes denial makes it easy. Denial makes it easier to believe that bad things don’t happen. That his shortness of breath is just temporary. That your parents will be healthy forever. That smoking and bad air and chemicals aren’t that bad for you. But here we are. In this week. Being asked if I’ll allow him to be kept alive by a machine, and for how long. I’ve seen a machine breathe for him when they thought he just couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve been put in charge of his keys, his wallet, his paperwork, his life. It’s weird. Scary. I don’t want this role.
There have been the bad nights, where doctors hope he will make it. And he has. He wakes up. He talks and laughs. He makes jokes. And it’s a weird feeling because he has no clue. He doesn’t realize just how bad it might be. He doesn’t remember your hand on his chest and you telling him to breathe, in and out, as he panicked. He doesn’t know what he looked like with the tube shooting into his mouth. He doesn’t know about the crowd of doctors who nodded and looked you in the eyes when you asked if they thought it was cancer. He doesn’t remember our spine-clenching tension in our backs as we sat and stared at him for those days when he just lay there. He doesn’t know exactly why you care so much about getting the results back from that test. Until you tell him that you were frightened and that he almost died, and he understands a little bit more.
So we wait for his strength. And for those results. The days include staring at the closest of family and friends, a comfort I couldn’t do without. We laugh quite a bit. We have salad bar dates in the cafe. We watch a little Netflix’d Johnny Depp on a bedside laptop. Today, we watched space shuttle Endeavor fly past our hospital window on its way to its final resting place.
So I continue to sit here, my tea now gone. I give phone updates to relatives who think I’m not sharing all the details. I sit and stare at the corners of the room. I pray. For his recovery from whatever diagnoses we haven’t yet heard. Because they just keep coming. I try to be thankful for this time to sit and stare at my friends and family. For Maggie, who brings care packages with magazines, Vitamin Water and medicine. For my aunt, who brings him homegrown tomatoes. For our dear, dear friend who loves him too much sometimes and asks all the right questions. And for my aunt, who is a rock and a friend, even though she just spent two years watching her husband lose his battle to cancer … I hate that she’s back here, replaying those memories so soon. When I get tired and this chair feels uncomfortable, I think of the 70 days she spent with his in the hospital last year.
We keep saying, “You do what you have to do.” You get through it, you deal with it and overcome it later.
So, friends, this is where I’ve been. Living one of the strangest and scariest and humbling experiences I ever had.
I feel almost strange sharing these photos (all taken with Hipstamatic on my iPhone). But this space has been documenting my history for several years now, and this is certainly a new part of me. It’s not an experience I want to remember, but I don’t want to forget it either. There have been a lot of lessons. A lot of emotions. It’s been a lot. Feeling emotions is how we know we’re still alive … which, I am quite thankful for.