The Other End of Sunset

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reopening old (cauterized) wounds

I have my own life.
And I am stronger than you know.
Still I carry this feeling.
When you walked into my house
That you won't be walking out the door.
--Stevie Nicks

Somewhere, Young Mr. Caspersen is laughing. I did it -- I think for the first time. I quoted Stevie Nicks. Yup, the singer I described -- for years -- as the most beautiful woman in the world. I haven't seen her in a long, long time. Hope she still is.

Regardless, YMC used to think my love for Stevie Nicks was completely hilarious. I mean, I'm the guy with Black Flag on my iPhone. But I also love those cheezy 80's songs -- "Leather and Lace", "After the Glitter Fades"... aah. Memories.

I used to have a set of passwords based on lyrics from Stevie Nicks songs (or, sometimes, Fleetwood Mac songs). The art from a particular 80s album was my Xlock art on my SunOS workstation at Princeton. (I only had a green screen text terminal in my office -- and my office mate and I were envied about that!) But eventually I moved myself into the part of the lab where we did studies so I could (a) have some space to myself and (b) have a nice X-windows monitor. Then we bought Macs. With big screens. The rest is history. But I digress.

// Side note: I'm writing this in a breakfast cafe. There are two older men having breakfast two tables down from me talking about an announcement my company just made. Weird. I'm unfortunately wearing a branded sweatshirt. I'm hiding the brand as I type this... No, I don't know anything. No I can't talk about it. Yes, I think we should follow the Geneva Convention. Sorry, what was the question again? //

You take what you get
and you turn it into honesty
--Avril Lavigne

YMC is an amazing guy. Smarter than both of us together, he is. Has forgotten more about music than I ever knew. And a fair technologist as well. Loves his kid. All to the good.

But the best thing about YMC? A summer job he once had -- he worked at a country club growing up. The men's rooms at said club, like all men's rooms in general, had urinals. No, I'm not going to go into another digression about urinal design. Go read the older post for that. Instead, I'll talk about YMC's job.

Most urinals have a tablet of some strange chemical in the bottom, that smells odd. I don't know what the chemical is, but I do suspect it is somehow terrible for the world.

Sometimes the tablets are just exposed, sitting there in all their blue (or sometimes white) glory for the world. Sometimes they are in little plastic cages. Not sure what the cages are supposed to keep in (or keep out ...), but still sometimes they are caged.

The cages have little round wings that keep the tablet in place. I haven't seen all that much disturbance in the tablets-of-blue-power, but let's ignore that for now. They are sometimes caged and winged. So be it.

The best part of the tablet cages is that they sometimes have little spinners on them. Like the arrow spinners in children's games. No, you don't spin these arrows with your hands. Yes, you figured it out.

Urinal games. Very, very weird niche market.

Yielding an even stranger summer job -- you could be the guy whose job it is to reset the arrow spinners back to the top center -- everyone should get a fair game, yes?

Indeed. Fairness in competition. Network neutrality, as it were. And, to close off this stream of consciousness, YMC spent a summer assuring fairness in the Uri-lympics.

Nowhere to go but up from that particular vocation.

And why, for God's sake, am I telling this story. No, I don't know either.

You will wake up tomorrow
and wrestle the sorrow
that holds you down today
- Melissa Etheridge

I have a work friend who is in the middle of a family tragedy -- another cancer caretaker. I stopped her earlier this week to ask her how things were going, and we had a brief conversation. She's a trooper.

I told her some things about Jeanne -- like how I thought I was ready for her death, and was all prepared, and at peace with it. And how that was totally wrong. I wasn't ready, and so, I think, the time I spent "getting ready" was probably a waste of time. Time I wish I had spent being with Jeanne, not preparing to be with her ghost.

Telling my work friend that I wished I had video and audiotaped Jeanne while she was sick, just so I could hear her voice a few more times. Maybe record her telling some of our stories. But I didn't. And I wasn't ready when she died either. All in all, perhaps a poor time allocation.

Yesterday, I worked from home and noticed that I was pretty sad -- tearing up at stupid stuff, and generally being non-communicative. Everything reminded me of Jeanne, from the music on the radio to random snippets of conversation. I was in fairly bad shape.

I didn't connect the two at first. Looking back, I should have. I guess all those feelings were sitting there, under the surface, just waiting to be tapped. And once the black stuff comes oozing out, it takes a while for it to stop.

I miss her. But I don't think about her every day anymore. Just most days.

We said we'd send letters
and all those little things.
They knew we were lying,
but they smiled all the same.
Seemed they'd already
forgotten we came.
-Toad the Wet Sprocket

I took my Dalmatian to the vet yesterday. She gets these little cysts -- then she gets some part of her body shaved, gets them removed, and wears an Elizabethan collar for a while. She hasn't had any removed since Jeanne got sick. Maybe that part of her went on hiatus? Anyway, Minnie (that's the Dalmatian, for those of you playing the home game) has two on her left leg. So she's going in later in the week.

Did you know that Minnie's liver failed about 3 years ago? In retrospect, I wonder if she got contaminated food -- out of nowhere, she got jaundiced and ultimately went into ICU for a long time -- think "in the vet's ICU for weeks". Her fur is white (with black spots). When she was sick, her whole body was yellow tinted -- jaundice is amazing. She was weak and tired and scared. When I walked into the room, she'd wag just the tip of her tail, and struggle to crawl out of her cage to curl up on my lap. I would hold her, and pat her hair, and keep her warm with my body.

After a week or two, she stopped eating. Jeanne called me at work in tears to tell me that the vet had called her. That's usually the last thing, especially for my little trash-hound Minnie.

I flew home, and met Jeanne at the vet. In the meantime, she had called our super-dog nanny Rose. Rose showed up at the vet with beef heart. Whatever "beef heart" is, it was meat, and apparently convinced Minnie to eat it. Rose had chopped it up into little chunks, and hand fed Minnie for a couple of hours. And Jeanne signed up to do the same thing. For however long it took until Minnie would eat normally. So for the next 14 days, I went (every night) to the grocery store to pick up some strange piece of meat. We did start mixing in chicken after a few days. I guess we were worried about Minnie's cholesterol? Three times per day, Jeanne would sit there on her knees, hand-feeding little cubes of meat to Minnie. I did it sometimes.

Anyway, that was more cooking than I had ever done in my life. But it kept Minnie alive. And after almost a month in the Vet's ICU, she came home.

We bought the vet a machine to stop bleeding (apparently, there are special cauterization machines, who knew?). They do a lot of emergency surgery at our vets. So, they needed this machine, and couldn't afford it. So, to say thank you for their treatment of Minnie and letting Jeanne basically live in the ICU with her while I was gone, etc., we bought them one.

Ironically, it was only a few weeks after the machine arrived at the vet that we noticed the rash on Jeanne's back. That rash was the first external sign of Jeanne's liver starting to fail. The jaundice came later.

And not long thereafter, I'd walk into the room at the end of the hall, and Jeanne would struggle to raise her head, with a smile on her face, and I'd curl up next to her, keeping her warm with my body. And I hand fed her many times.

The vet's publishes a newsletter. An issue of that newsletter came out, shortly before Jeanne died. There was an article about Minnie, getting better, and how she was now helping Jeanne through a liver issue. I didn't save the article, but it did make us both cry.

But Jeanne didn't get better.

I'm finishing this post on an ugly red chair in my living room. I bought it the same day I bought the sick bed. It is really ugly. But it's built for two people. I'm sharing it with Minnie right now. She's grunting, and just leaned over to kiss me.

It's sunny today, but cold. Winter is here again. It rained all night last night. Somewhere, it's warm, and nobody is sick, and everyone is healthy. I hope you are there.