The Other End of Sunset

Thursday, February 22, 2007

These books are all arranged by subject matter...

Well, I had an interesting weekend. Want to hear about it?

I guess you must, or you wouldn’t be here.

First, thanks to those of you who suggested interpretations of my Stevie Nicks lyric. Was fun for me, even though most of the discussion was off-net.

I spent the weekend in that lovely city in the Southwest. But that much, my OtherEnders, you knew already.

I am having a hard time at the moment. I am really missing JR. It never stopped, but somehow the empty feeling in my stomach went away for a while. It was less physically painful. Kind of like her little recovery in May of last year – stuff got better for a time. But the time right after her “recovery” was worse; it is worse for me now.

Do you all know that story? She had a surgery to put a stent into her hepatic vein. A clot had made its way from the tumor into the vein that flows through the liver.

I think it’s a vein. It might be an artery. And I think it might have a different name. So, in other words, I know it is a big thing that carries blood through the liver. And that’s really all I know. Pathetic. Anyway.

// Side note: “In Your Eyes” is playing on my iPod. Doesn’t match my mood – actually, reinforces it. Must change. Hang on, I'll be right back.

Thanks for waiting, I'm back now. //

Anyway, the clot had caused backpressure in her venous system, which led to fluid building up in her legs – she was VERY swollen, and in constant pain. It was awful. I'd rub her feet and ankles – we thought it caused the swelling to go down. It didn’t, but regardless, it made her feel better. The texture of her flesh was awful – it was strangely squishy, and oddly cold, and didn’t rebound when you pressed. I could see imprints of my fingers after I massaged her. It felt kind of like those awful stress balls that they used to sell. And it was agonizing for her.

This period was when she told me she was no longer afraid to die, she was afraid to live.

// Side note 2: “Girlfriend in a Coma”, the current selection, isn’t much better than Peter Gabriel… //

So, the drainage doctors – who are not the oncologists, but worked with them on her case – figured out that she had this clot. Not uncommon in advanced liver cancer, I'm told. So, she went in for surgery. They put a stent in – a coated one, for those of you playing the home health game. Two days later, the swelling was gone. This was in late April or early May, I can’t remember.

Suddenly she was much better. We went out for Cinco de Mayo – the really sweet picture of me kissing her is from that night. Have you guys seen it? Anyway, she and I and her mom and my best friend had dinner at the local Mexican restaurant. A couple of weeks later, all of Team Indiana went to her next oncology appointment. The oncologist was amazed at the progress she’d made. He told her that she probably would live at least through the summer.

We went to LA – on a private plane, she wasn’t strong enough to do the airport thing – but she got to see Santa Monica again. And I got to hold her hand. She was in a wheelchair to save her strength. But she was there. And smiled at me. A lot. I told her lots of things on that trip. It was a great time. I rolled her down the boardwalk, to a spot between Venice and Santa Monica, and sat on the berm and listened to her, and told her stories, and told her I loved her.

We got back to the house after that trip, and she got worse. First, Team Indiana went on its witch-hunt against me, and left. Then, she got weaker. The pain didn’t return, but her strength left her. She died in the afternoon of June 23rd. You can all go read that posting if you want the gory details of her death. I can’t bear to repeat them here.

When I called her oncologist the day after she died, he apologized – “I didn’t mean to give her false hope.” He was very upset. A good man, in a very hard field.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that hadn’t given her hope, at all, he had given her fear. She didn’t want to live beyond her time, and she thought her time was up. She was afraid she’d live to be a burden on us, on me.

He didn’t need to know that. He needed to feel that he had helped. Because he did. So, again, I lied.

You make me feel like a bullet
A bullet in the gun of Robert ford
-- Elton John


Whenever I left her, I would kiss her, and tell her not to be afraid, and that I loved her. I called her “babygirl”. She loved it that I always did so. She loved the regularity. She always knew what I would say. When she was in a good mood, she’d mouth it with me, a little binding ritual between us, the two victims of cancer, the lovers, the partners. Sometimes she’d nod impatiently – she was wonderful, but not the most patient person in the world. Mostly she’d just look at me and smile, staring with those eyes of hers as if she wanted to extract every bit of me, every feature, every blemish, every hair out of place.

I should have done the same. I can’t really remember what she looked like sick – although most of my pictures of her are from that time. I remember what she looked like at the Summer Picnic, or our Holiday Party. I wish I had more pictures of her. I wish I had more memories of her. I wish I had gotten to have more of her.

She also loved being called “baby”. She was a VERY strong woman, and an ardent feminist – although she didn’t like the word. She was as good as the best person in her field, male or female, and better than most people in the world, male or female. She didn’t want her gender to matter.

At work, anyway. She often told me she wanted to be “a girl” too. She wanted me to hold her coat, and sign the check – even if she was paying – and stand between her and the street. I was raised in the South. Even Satan has manners, in the South. I am rude, abrupt, and generally unpleasant most of the time. But I knew how she wanted to be treated, and I did reasonably well at it.

Even so, I didn’t really understand.

It’s amazing how many things I was too bloody stupid to understand. I am so angry with myself over it. How many things I got wrong because I didn’t get it. And I shall never have another chance to get it right.

I'm sorry this is such a yucky posting. I don’t mean it to be.

Perhaps I learned something from Jeanne being taken away from me. I take more pictures now. I try to be in the moment, not the future. I try to appreciate my luck, and the gifts I have been given. I try to do things that I may not like – such as go on vacation to a beach – and sometimes I really enjoy them – such as going on vacation to beaches.

But I'm very, very sad at the moment. And it’s interfering with my life. Let me tell you a story about it.

I went to a basketball game with my best friend last night. She and I have gone to quite a few games, in that lovely city. She started with NO idea how the game worked, but was willing to give it a try with me. She’s a quick study, though. She understands the calls, and can yell about mistakes now. And she seems to really enjoy the game, which is very cool for me. I love professional basketball.

No, I never played, even though I'm freakishly tall. And no, I am absolutely no good at the game. Nope, can’t dunk either. Are we almost done with this line of questioning? Nope, I don’t like Bobby Knight either.

// Side note: the person in the seat next to me is having a pantomime conversation, with quite emphatic expressions, with a friend of hers who is about 10 rows up in the plane. It’s funny. I can read the emotions, but not the content. How appropriate. //

So, anyway, she and I were courtside at a professional basketball game. We were so low that we couldn’t really see the other side of the court, because the players are too tall and the perspective is wrong. Cool! The Suns won – of course – and Steve Nash was great to watch – again, of course.

On the way out of the parking lot, traffic was just stopped. For a long time. It started moving, and I started to pull out of my space to merge in to the traffic. This car pulled forward to cut me off. I never thought she would actually hit me… but she did. She swerved over to cut me off more effectively, and clipped my bumper.

The bumper of my best friend’s Jaguar. With the license plate referring to an angel – referring to JR.

Wait. You guys don’t know that story.

JR had a car she loved – a Jaguar XK convertible. A lovely car for a lovely blonde woman. A great mix of sexy and powerful – her AND the car. When JR was dying, she decided to give it to my best friend – they were friends as well. In fact, JR kind of saw my best friend as her little sister, and wanted to coach her, help her, protect her.

As a final gift, JR gave my friend her Jaguar. It was a birthday present for my friend, but was also called out in JR’s will, in case JR didn’t live to see the birthday.

JR and I had gone out for ice cream, and were driving home. She asked me what I thought she should do with her car. I said “it’s your car, what do you want to do?” She hemmed and hawed, in a manner that I had long since learned to understand. She had an idea, but was worried I wouldn’t like it. So I proffered a suggestion – I asked her about our friend. She jumped up, and laughed out loud and said, “I was thinking that! I want to give it to her, but I was worried!”

“Worried about what, babygirl?”

“I don’t want her to feel bad, I want her to enjoy the car as much as I have. I don’t want to make it into some bad thing.”

Good point – I don’t think people view “gifts” the same way as they view “this got willed to me”. So we decided to give it as a birthday present. I think the subterfuge made more sense in theory than in practice – my best friend is pretty smart. Jeanne gave her the car while we were all at mass. Jeanne’s last time at mass. My best friend figured out what was going on – and wasn’t able to say anything. She just cried. Jeanne looked at her with the serenity of Mona Lisa, a little knowing smile on her lips; I think she was ready to go.

She died a few days later.

Anyway, my best friend and I were in the Jag last night, when the little girl hit us, to keep us from merging in.

Yes, I should have recognized she might hit us, and I should have just waited. It was stupid. I was stupid. But I didn’t wait.

And when the cars touched, all I could think of, all I could see, was Jeanne’s dead body lying on her bed, and that smile she was wearing when she gave the car to my friend.

And I came unglued.

Completely unglued.

I jumped out of the car, yelling like a madman. I think I slightly scared my best friend. I definitely scared the little 16-year-old girl who was driving the other car. She burst into tears.

I can’t blame her.

It’s just a fender bender. But it wasn’t only that in my head.

It was desecrating a shrine.

It’s just a car! What is wrong with me??!?

2 hours later, police reports filed – documenting a total of two scratches on the cars – and a lot of blood pressure later, we left. We went to get some food – I can’t eat at sporting events – and had a great conversation.

I told my best friend a lot of things about Jeanne that I had never told before. I apologized to her for some things I did, and some things I failed to do. I was honest. Simple and honest.

I spent the whole meal in tears. It was embarrassing. The poor waitress had no idea what to do. So she kept refilling my iced tea glass. That was fine with me. That was the best thing she could do for me.

After dinner, I called SL, and told her about my awful dreams. More simple honesty. I think I freaked her out a bit, as well.

Guess I'm a freak right now. But I felt better to get some stuff out of me. Is it bad for the people who had to listen to it, to experience it with me?

Is this all bad for you, who read it?

I wonder if JR is really annoyed with me, right now. She didn’t like it when I was feeling sorry for myself. My tattoo itches. I am just feeling sorry for myself. I need to stop. Maybe she’s trying to tell me to relax, to breathe into it, and to get over myself.

We are on descent now, into Oakland. It’s bumpy, and cloudy outside. Iron Maiden is playing on my iPod.

Sunlight, falling on your steel.
Death in life is your ideal
Life is like a wheel.
--Iron Maiden


So, what will the wheel bring up next for me, for you, for SL, for my best friend. I wonder if I’ve gotten one of these lyrics slightly wrong – if so, HJP will tell me. He will also tell me to come to LA and ride my Benelli. He’ll be right on all counts.

There’s no music playing in my head. The silence is deafening. I can hear my heart beating. Thus, I don’t have an ending quotation.

Perhaps you should write it for me. I'll be thinking of you all, and trying to avoid people in parking lots.

Peace.

6 Comments:

  • How about this:

    I could live without so much
    I can die without a clue
    Sun keeps risin' in the west
    I keep on wakin' fully confused...

    --the Replacements, "Within Your Reach"

    It's actually good to read about a total stranger's mourning for another total stranger. It makes me feel less alone in my own, different, but essentially similar sadness.

    By Blogger Shifra, at 10:29 AM  

  • Your titles are becoming…more interesting.

    Your blog has given me a peek into your world, as I suppose every blog does to some extent, and to experience vicariously (in a very limited sense of course) this deeply personal event in your life.

    Thank you for pointing us newcomers to the original post of how Jeanne died; I’ve been wondering….

    I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of someone dear to me, dying. People die of grief; the suffering of losing a most beloved can be (tragically) unbearable…this paralyzing fear, in a way, led me to reading this amazingly helpful book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, “Death: The final Stage of Growth,” which I cannot recommend enough. Dr. Kubler-Ross was also one of the chief pioneer’s of the hospice care now widely available in our country.

    by Rumi:

    The day you were born
    a ladder was setup to help you
    escape from this world

    - Lena

    By Blogger Lena, at 1:19 PM  

  • Well my friend, what can one say about this that has not been said before? It sucks but one must go on? Life is hard, and harsh, and unfair, and sometimes you feel it is nothing more than the space between weddings and funerals, but each day you still have to get up and do it all over again. Why? maybe that's our duty as human beings, maybe that's our responsibility as life carriers.
    I know it does not bring you any comfort, but I see no other choices. Live your life fully and have no regrets, that's all one can do.

    By Anonymous thenakedsingularity@gmail.com, at 1:34 PM  

  • You know, there are no rules in this world, when it comes to experiencing loss, like you have. There is no right or wrong timeline. It seems to me, judging by your blogs, you loved Jeanne very much. There is no greater gift, in this ephemeral life.

    By Blogger Lena, at 8:07 PM  

  • Douglas,

    You ask is it all bad for us too. Not for me. It is beautiful. I saw you speak today at Qualcomm and came to the web to find out more about you and google and so on. And I find a love story. A sad sad love story.

    Thank you for your talk today, and especially for this blog.

    By Blogger Michael, at 7:48 PM  

  • Lyrics we got... how 'bout this by Bruce Cockburn:
    There you go
    Swimming deeper into mystery
    Here I remain
    Only seeing where you used to be
    Stared at the ceiling
    'Til my ears filled up with tears
    Never got to know you
    Suddenly you're out of here
    Gone from mystery into mystery
    Gone from daylight into night
    Another step deeper into darkness
    Closer to the light
    Walked outside
    Summer moon was nearly down
    Mist on the fields
    Holy stillness all around
    Death's no stranger
    No stranger than the life I've seen
    Still I cry
    Still I begged to get you back again
    Gone from mystery into mystery
    Gone from daylight into night
    Another step deeper into darkness
    Closer to the light

    This is from the Dart to the Heart album.
    It's good to read you... the process pushes us onward.
    Terry

    By Blogger Terry, at 3:56 PM  

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