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.