Whatever god there be—or spirit, or entity, or faceless multinational or computer program—or is it Robert Heinlein’s Time Corps that watches over little orange tabby cats?
All I can say is “Thank you.”
This is the day he wasn’t supposed to be here, and he’s sitting on the bed with his feet propped on my leg. His fur is soft again, instead of matted. His eyes are no longer sunken into his head. He runs instead of walking. He jumps instead of waiting to be placed on a chair or bed.
Day 2 – Back to Work
Lazarus woke me up around 5 this morning, wanting to go out. He seemed fine, and I figured he just needed the litter box. Of course he’d already had diarrhea on the rug. No blood, at least. And it means everything is working in his digestive tract, which is huge.
It also means that we now have two aging cats who aren’t always using the litter box. In the other room, Oreo, who had become somewhat incontinent, had urinated on Ethan’s bed.
As we were getting ready to arrive at the 911 Center to begin a week of fairly stressful testing of new technology, Renee settled down onto the bed, shaking her head. “I cannot take another thing.”
She was right. It’s been almost too much. We were both feeling pretty broken.
After a late Saturday night, it was not easy to roll out of bed at 6:30, but Dr. Hutt had told us that one day of hospitalization ended at 8:00. We’d spent about $2,600 so far, and knew we would need more as the days went on; so we wanted to be sure to get Laz discharged by 8:00.
It was not a good morning. I will not go into why, but, frankly, I had no patience. When a family member is ill, possibly dying, even if it’s a four-legged family member, it puts things in perspective. It also drains your emotional resources. I was in no mood to take responsibility for anyone else’s feelings. My own were too much for me.
Anyway, we got to the vet and they brought out Lazarus. He had a Fentanyl patch in a shaved spot on his back. It seemed to make him walk like a drunken man. That worried me, because the patch said it was applied at 11PM, and Dr. Hutt had said it took 12 hours to kick in. Would this get worse?
My very brief post two days ago hit the low spots of a couple of very bad days, but, as these days are still going and their events are foremost on my mind, I’ve decided to share them with you. Not a happy story, and I don’t know its ending as I write this. But it’s a story, and the characters in it are special to me. So here goes.
So I’m sitting in the family room, having just dragged myself out of bed on a Saturday morning. I’d planned to take it easy. I’d been going and going with house renovations and work, and I decided, before my 1PM call to sign autographs at one of our local bookstores, I would just eat breakfast, talk to my wife and get my books ready to sell.
Lazarus shuffled into the room. Lazarus does not shuffle. Lazarus waltzes with grace and purpose, looking up at you only enough to let you know that he has arrived, and he is now in command of the operation. Today he shuffled, and he didn’t look in command of anything. He moved tentatively toward a square of morning sunshine on the floor, but didn’t seem particularly enthused about it.
When I got up this morning, this was the furthest thing from my mind. Two days ago he was bashing his head into my feet while I was trying to work, and I was saying, “Dammit, Lazarus, knock it off!” Last night he seemed very tired. This morning he wasn’t hungry. Tonight we know he has liver cancer and is bleeding into his abdomen. We don’t know the how, the why, or most of all the when. But he’s leaving us. Fourteen years went by too fast. Hope these last days slow down a little. At least, on his meds tonight, he’s not hurting. Tomorrow he may be able to come home and spend his last days with us. However many there are.
Is 50 years old today, we’ve decided. That’s based on the day we moved in. We narrowed it down based on my brother’s memory of watching the first game of the 1967 World Series at our temporary home at the Valencia Motel, and subsequent games in our new home. (Amazing what the memory retains!) My sister remembered we moved in on a weekend, and that narrowed it down to Sunday, October 5th, 1967. I was but two, so I had nothing to contribute to the discussion.
Correction: We pulled the wrong day out of Google for 10/5/67. 1967’s calendar was actually identical to 2017’s. So the move-in date was probably October 7th. This is an early announcement, then. The house’s birthday is this Saturday.
The house is pictured here in early 1969. Note the tar-paper-covered hole where a bay window was planned. It’s still not there. 50 years later, this unfinished house is back on the road to completion.
There’s a story in there somewhere, you say? Actually, there are a lot of them…
October 4th, 2017
Today is your 95th birthday. I know you wanted to see it, and more after it. I can’t say that I wish you had seen it, not in the state you were in those last few months. But I wish you have lived as long as you wanted to, and that you could have enjoyed living. I guess that was the problem with those months—you weren’t enjoying them. I don’t think you were enjoying anything.
I took you to the doctor in January, after you’d spent three or four days of Christmas week in the hospital. We knew you had a failing aortal valve in your heart, a condition called aortal stenosis, where the valve becomes to stiff to open and close the way it needs to. We knew you were not a candidate for surgery. We did not know, until that day in the doctor’s office, that you had so little time left.
When your new doctor explained to us that your life expectancy was six to twelve months, I wasn’t sure what I felt. I looked at you. So often in the past I looked at you to give me the answer, to tell me how I should feel, to tell me how we were going to get through this. I knew that, this time, when I looked in your eyes, I wasn’t looking for those answers. I was only looking to see how you felt about being told you were about to die.
And when I saw you, I knew how I felt. I knew my heart was breaking. I had picked you up and driven you here. I had put on your flannel shirt, buttoning the cuffs exactly the way you liked them, tied your shoes, zipped up your coat and placed a step so you could get into the car. It was like getting a toddler ready to go somewhere. It was like bringing an innocent, frightened child to the doctor, to be told he was going to die.
Two months ago, in honor of July 4th, Peter J. Tomasi, one of my favorite comics writers, together with Patrick Gleason, offered up a two-part Superman story called “Declaration.” Lois, Clark and their son, Jon, take a tour of the United States to visit historic sites. On this trip, they meet the Dowd family, who, for 154 years, have celebrated the birthday of Thomas Dowd, their ancestor, at Gettysburg. Thomas died in a military hospital and his body was never recovered. The story brought tears to my eyes, and not only because Tomasi and Gleason told it so well.
You see, I have a Thomas who fought in the Civil War. His name was Thomas Rathbone, and he too died in a military hospital. He was my great, great grandfather. His body, too, was never returned home. Over a century later, some of his descendants journeyed to Ashland, VA, to place a marker on a mass grave where we think he was buried.
The fictional Thomas Dowd fought for the Union army. The very real Thomas Rathbone fought for the Confederacy.
The boys are in my corner, at any rate.
Really. I’ve been hiding in a corner for all of 2017. You’ve barely heard from me at all, unless we had specific business to transact, or a family event to attend together.
Well, I’m coming out of my corner. Some. A little ways, maybe.
I want to tell you why I’ve been in hiding, but I don’t want to say too much.
I don’t really consider this vague-booking. Vague-booking is making a statement on Facebook (or, I guess, other social media) that grabs people’s attention, but doesn’t tell them what the hell you’re actually talking about. “I’m really upset with you. You know who you are. I think you suck.” That’s vague-booking.
Well, first, this is my blog, so I think that disqualifies my somewhat cryptic content. Second, I’m not hiding information from anyone because I want to taunt them, or because I’m trying to be mysterious. It’s just that I’ve gone through a hell of a lot in the past few months. A lot of it was painful. I’m not ready to talk about it in public. I may never be ready to talk about it in public.
My Dad isn’t here to spend Father’s Day with me. He died on May 6th, at the age of 94. This past Tuesday, we buried him in his native North Carolina mountains, after a funeral at which I delivered the eulogy. So, in honor of Father’s Day, here’s what I decided to tell people about my Dad:
That’s me on the blanket. My father is the one who’s obviously old enough to be my father.
The topic of today’s lecture is Snell’s Law. Snell’s Law describes the relationship between the angle of incidence of a light wave as it passes through a transparent medium, and the resulting refraction of that light. Which is a fancy way of telling you why sunlight looks different when you see it from the bottom of a swimming pool–because the light comes through water and twists and bends before you see it. Which is another way of saying that the way things look depends an awful lot on what you’ve come through before you see them.
Col. Charles Edwin Wilson Sr., US Air Force Retired, Physicist, Engineer, Teacher and researcher… my Daddy… came through a lot. And it definitely shaped how things looked to him.