I hate to complain but it’s a mad/sad morning

I have two empty hours until I get on BART for SFO to land by end of day in Tucson.  I’m sad and angry. Hate it, hate it hate it. I know it’s not his fault but I’m angry at David for dying. Might as well be angry at Stew too while I’m at it.  I want to wallow in my sorrow, to feed like a vampire on my anger. Fuck this “being” shit. I’m gonna “do”. Maybe go read. No. I’ m gonna go walk at the Marina. To change my chemistry.

Much better now. I even saw a hawk.

Trying to write about David’s shiva

This past Sunday night. It was a wonderful and heartfelt event with over 100 family and friends in attendance.  Rabbi David Cooper from Kehilla put it best: “community, community, community.” But I can’t get my act together to express how I feel. Perhaps I’m not ready to accept the reality of David’s death yet.  If anyone who was in attendance would like to comment, I’d appreciate it.

Note to self:  Cleaning up the mounds of David’s stuff will not make the pain of his loss go away any more quickly.

A visit from a tough old bird

When I walked outside the house this a.m.  a large black crow was perched on the lawn quite close to  me.  It flapped its wings, turned its head to look at me with a quizzical eye, cawed loudly then flew away.  I recall someone writing a piece recently for the New York Times in which she remarked on how those who die come back to us in the form of birds, especially near to the  death. I remember that being true for Stew, who visited my backyard in the form of a strutting wild turkey.  Perhaps I’ll see an eagle land when I next walk the Berkeley Marina but today, the first full day of David’s shiva, my tough old bird hangs out and talks to me right in my own front yard.

David is gone

It is with deep sadness that I tell you David is gone. He died peacefully at 2 p.m. Friday, November 21, 2014. At the end, David was surrounded by his nephews Jesse, Tonk and Rio, and by me and Jessica. David opened his eyes, perked up, took an in-breath, a tear rolled down his left cheek and then he died. A shiva will be held this Sundayg at 4:30 at the Common House, and continue during the week at my house. People have asked me about donations.  David was the primary instigator of a line in the Cohousing budget to support new capital projects. If you feel inclined to make a donation in memory of David, e-mail me at judygumboalbert@gmail.com. With deep sadness, Judy

Moving quickly

Everyone should know David is going down fast. In both the professional’s and my opinion, he is likely not to last more than a day or two.  He drifts in and out of consciousness but is able to focus a bit better in the morning – for example this a.m. he actually took part briefly in a conversation with a few cohousers about a savings and loan  board meeting at which something significant is going on; I don’t know what.  Apparently David will remain interested in financial matters until the end!

On the left side of David’s hospital bed are two painted wooden ducks from Korea that Yeonsil, David’s colleague from his work at Walnut Street, gave us when David and I married.  As I understand it, the tradition is that the position of the duck indicates the state of the relationship. The ducks can be moved by either partner.  Bills apart means dissent; bills together stands for happiness.  David can see (or could when he first arrived downstairs) one orange duck bill and one blue, nestled tight together.  Next to the ducks is a photo of David’s late sister Ella and next to her is a photo of David and me taken around the time we first met. With his left arm around my shoulder and his right hand clutching a vanilla ice cream cone, David looks as happy as I’ve ever seen.

David and I would often say that everyone needs a mammal. He and I were mammals to each other. When  I read Keith’s commen about how David had said goodbye to our bedroom before he was helped downstairs the night before last, it really got to me. Last night, alone in our bed for the second time, I reached out to stroke the flannel sheet on David’s side but my warm mammal wasn’t there.  Early this morning, David woke up briefly and smiled at me.  I could see such love shining at me out of his hazel eyes now yellowed with jaundice that, for the first time since this all began, I truly began to grieve.

Update: Tuesday Nov. 19

The hospital bed arrived around 9 p.m. last night, just after I got back from a lovely meal with David’s and my longtime friend Jeanne. Nothing like a perfectly cooked hamburger with no bun but truffle fries and a glass of white wine to keep my mood up!  It took about 30 minutes for my team of strong, burly men – next door neighbor Jeff,  neighbor and nightime caregiver Lloyd, and David’s late wife’s brother Keith, to help David negotiate our flight of stairs. From where I stood in the kitchen I could hear the laughter as all four made their way down, David shuffling inch by deliberate inch.   David sat down on the hospital bed, put his elbows out, one hand on each side of his chest, flapped his arms like the tough old bird he is and announced in a loud, clear voice, “The eagle has landed. ”

I, personally felt a huge surge of relief about this move. David is safe, comfortable and well cared for so I don’t have to worry during the night.  It’s also, of course, hugely sad. Plus -things do appear to be changing rapidly. At least as I observe it, David has reached the end of this plateau. He can no longer get out of bed. And appears to be on his way very quickly toward whatever will come next. David sleeps most of the time. When he is awake he seems able to focus his eyes and thoughts for briefer and briefer periods.  With longer and longer pauses in between.   But on those rare occasions when David is awake he still retains his sense of humor, delights in making jokes and sings snatches of the silly songs that he makes up.

How am I doing? everyone asks. I find myself comparing what I’m going through now to it was like to go through Stew’s death eight years ago.  I am older, I’ve  been through this; I know more what to expect; familiarity helps. A while back, although that time has now passed, friends who visited David really came seeking his sage advice about issues in their own lives. Same thing with Stew. The community I had in Portland is similar to Berkeley cohousing; except here everyone lives right next door. I can knock on someone’s door at any time, day or night – and they respond or come knocking on my door to volunteer.  A member of the Big Burly Cohouser Women’s and Men’s Brigade will arrive in an instant to assist.  For myself,  I’ve dripped morphine out of a syringe into to the space between two husbands’ teeth and cheeks to counteract pain. I remember feeling that same almost physical relief when the hospital bed arrived for David that I felt for Stew. In Stew’s case, the bed arrived on a Friday; Stew was gone by early Monday. I can only hope my sweet, wonderful husband and lover David can hang on longer than Stew did. I’m just not ready to be a grieving widow yet, for the second time around.



The hospital bed is coming

And this evening, Tuesday November 18, 2104, David will be helped downstairs for the last time and go into a hospital bed.  He asked that the bed look east. From now on Lloyd, a caregiver who lives in our community will spend nights with him.   David’s body is weak, his short term memory problematic but as far as I can tell his long term memory remains strong.  David’s decline over the last 24 hours has been dramatic. He’s sleeping a lot. Donna’s brother Keith has been a wonderful support today, as was Pat.   It’s very sad and all so bittersweet.

Our mood is upbeat but..

The little losses are revealing.  He chews more slowly when he eats. I had to move our rug from Oaxada with its geometric purple patterns out of the bathroom so David won’t slip.  I drew a line on David’s walker to measure  the height of the bathtub to make sure David can step up high enough to get in & out safely. If not, we’ve both agreed he’ll try to give himself a sponge bath sitting down, if he can’t, I will. (David is a good example of how the Dobkins are an independent & determined people who insist on having their say in everything that affects their lives.)  Still, David said this morning that his brain is slowing down.  I’d noticed that as well; the pauses between his words as he speaks take longer. Initially, I blamed it on the Mango Cannabis Quencher I bought at Berkeley Patient’s Group for $12 where, dammit, I forgot to ask for my 10% senior discount. So this morning I tried an experiment. I  didn’t add any to his juice. And that’s exactly when David noticed his slower brain.

I don’t plan on documenting every little loss, but I wanted you to know this is where we’re at   Some people call this a journey; a better descriptor for me is a forced march,  one that neither David or I chose. But in the meantime we both are doing well. We have  tender moments  and a lot of fun – especially when eating lox & cream cheese on a piece of bagel which at the moment is David’s favorite breakfast.

PS: From late afternoon to evening please e-mail rather than call. Especially if he’s had visitors, David takes a lot of cat naps & the ringing of both cell & land lines wake him up.  I will get back to  you as I can. Thanks!