Monday, February 20, 2006

A long Goodbye

I can’t stop thinking about my grandmother. My neighbor’s husband died suddenly. He knew he had cancer, he went back to work to wait for chemotherapy and he collapsed at work and died 4 days later. Joan Did ion’s husband died while she was making dinner.

My husband who is in remission from small cell lung cancer since May 2005 after a year long diagnosis/treatment nightmare has been sick for 3 days. Only one with a fever, but the noise in his lungs is like aluminum on a washboard. His fever reached 103 at one point. He wasn’t delirious so we are letting it ride since it’s a three day weekend. Last time this happened in August/September he was talking about how juicy bats are and totally out of it. I took him to the emergency room but it turned out to be a nightmare after the semi-deliriousness went away. When we were at the oncologist last month I mentioned the sound in his chest. The medical assistant had the stethoscope on Barry’s chest and had to take it out of her ears to hear me say, “That sound.” She said it sounded like a dry cough, but I sounded like a very wet cough to me. She sent him for an X-ray and gave him 2 meds. That was about a month ago and the sound has gotten to this. The infection that he has in his lungs has nothing to do with cancer except for his increased susceptibility so it’s not their function to take care of it.

When he was first feeling wrong I was very angry at both him and the doctors. Him because he was not enough in touch with himself to know that he was being fed a line. Sleep apnea was the best they could come up with. If you understand the current medical system there is no Dr Grueben who knew you since you were born. Who came to your house with 4 sick kids to give them the measles vaccine. I had to send him back again and again to make them find the cancer.

That’s what saved his life.

And this is our life now. I was so, so, angry at first for all the years I told him to stop smoking, but I don’t know if that would have made any difference because of hs family history. I was so, so angry that finally we were going to be able to enjoy the results of all our work and have some fun and as Ferlinghetti wrote, “right in the middle of it comes the smiling mortician.”

I was mad at the therapists available at the local hospital. The one available to me was an acceptor of my situation. I should go out with friends. I should find other interests. What kind of crap is that? I have never accepted anything in my life that I did not like. Why do I have to accept this? Barry does accept. He’s too conventional. He makes fun of me because I don’t walk on the grass or go up the down staircase or in the out door, but this …this conventional crap medical advice he accepts just like he accepted Sam’s pronouncement that “comrades don’t buy houses.”

Why would I call attention to myself by walking on the grass or walking in the out door?

That kind of stuff only makes your life harder than it already is. If you’re a white middle class man or woman may be you can get away with it. It makes you feel like Jesus to have yourself arrested and put in jail and have people have potluck fundraisers to pay your fines while you await the results of your sentence. All I can think of is that movie, “Romero,” and the beautiful young girl raped countless times, her tongue cut out, trucked out to a dumpsite and then shot. Democracy is not a moral principal. It’s a human right. American democracy only exists for the people who accept capitalism and see the brutality of its reach at home and abroad as an exception rather than the rule. They forget that Jesus was not arrested and let out so the community could have a pot luck dinner to raise his bail. He was crucified as a criminal.

So anyway, my grandmother died after having had Alzheimer’s for years. She was not herself for a long time. She didn’t remember her Danny O’Day which is what she used to call me because I loved the Irish songs so much. She wasn’t Irish as far as I know. Her dad was French; her mom was adopted and didn’t know what she was. My great grandfather Pierre Lambe was a housepainter and a painter of landscapes. My grandmother Pearl was the youngest of their children and the sickliest. She was 13 years younger than my grandfather. She taught me how to bake. She taught me to love potato pancakes and German potato salad and sugar cookies and Hungarian squares and bundt cake. She loved me in the way that someone who had been coddled and loved herself can love someone-with no fear and no reservation. I don’t love that way. I can’t love that way. When I was older I used to go and visit her. We would talk. When I was living with Barry she came to our apartment in Avenel and we went to lunch and shopping in Perth Amboy. That was before she walked over to the UPS terminal at Newark Airport and got lost, before she got lost at the Christmas tree farm, before she hit Danny when he was just a baby. Before the illness took over her life.

Barry’s illness has taken over our lives. He will not finish the bathroom. He will not come back to the way he used to be. My grandfather George Sackmann used to take me for walks and apple picking. He got sick and he turned into his illness, he became his illness. Barry has become his illness. He’s not Barry anymore. So I guess I can accept that Barry is gone already in so many ways and that what I have to do is make sure he is loved until the end. The memories I have of my grandparents were those of a child. The memories I have of Barry are as an adult. I chose him. It wasn’t an accident. I love him more than anyone in the world.