Today’s post is not what I normally write about. But I read what I wrote to my husband, who said it was good writing. Of course, he was under the influence at the time, and may also be prejudiced, but I’m going with it...so here you go:
January 30, 2018, approximately 9 am
Confessions of a....well...at this point I don’t know what to call myself. I just thought I’d give fair warning of what I’m about to write. I’m sitting here in the VA hospital in San Francisco, waiting. Am I a wife? Spiritual counselor? Caregiver? Probably a bit of all of them, and more. I was thinking earlier that I didn’t sign up for this. “This” being accompanying my new husband to hospitals. I thought we’d get married and ride off into the sunset, him on his motorcycle and me on my horse. We’d enjoy this last portion of our lives exploring new territory and new levels of each other. We had a beautiful wedding a little over a month ago, and I honestly never thought it would happen, although I Ionged and hoped for it to happen. And in spite of working at weddings in one capacity or another for 30 years, I guess I never really deeply considered what getting married really means. But a dear friend reminded me. I did indeed sign up for this, when I said “I do.” This led to me wondering how many people consider what they are signing up for when they call me and say they want to get married. It’s a commitment. A big fat hairy huge commitment. For someone like me, who has never really known or experienced the more traditional trappings of family, and who has fiercely defended and fed her independence, getting married at 63 and making this commitment is a big deal.
So here I sit, in a hospital, wondering. I’m in and out of tears, and not quite sure why, as this procedure is not major. He’s got cancer, and they are doing what they call a “chemobilization” to zap just the affected area, not his entire body. But it feels like major surgery, complete with fasting, checking in to a hospital, hospital workers wandering around with those little hats and booties on. He’s already thoroughly pissed off a nurse by drinking coffee. They didn’t say fast from everything, they just said don’t eat after midnight. Geez.
So now they are doing whatever it is they are doing; they said they would call me in in a few minutes. This is the “pre” part apparently. I have no answers yet as to how long this will take, where I should wait, what I should do, etc. A few days ago I asked him how I could serve him best through this and he said, after a moment’s thought, ‘“just be there.” And I responded, “does that mean hang out in the hospital room with you, or not divorce you because you are sick?” He laughed, and I laughed with him. No, I won’t divorce him because he is sick, but it’s a bit of a private joke between us. The last time we went through this we weren’t married. He was not being nice, and it turns out that’s a pretty firm boundary of mine. Meaning a deal breaker. Treat people abusively and I’m outta here. He was and so I left. So this time I told him I would be there for him, but if he started verbally abusing the hospital workers I would leave the room and return when he could be nice.
There was a lady in the waiting room with me, she told me she was going in for surgery this morning and shared that same morning, her mom back in Tennessee had three strokes. She was in tears. I put my spiritual counselor hat on and comforted her as best I could, all the while thinking that Floyd and I didn’t really have it so bad after all. Why this lady chose to confide in me I’m not sure, but that sort of thing happens all the time. People make little cameo appearances in my life, share their shit, I offer what I can in support, then they go away. Guess that is part of what being a spiritual counselor means.
In my role as caregiver, I know without a doubt that I must care for myself first. I have worked long and hard with my own co-dependency stuff. I learned pretty quickly that there is as reason they tell you on airplanes, “if cabin pressure is lost be sure to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” It is a metaphor for life: care for yourself first or you will be unable to care for others. I’m not into martyrdom. So as soon as I find out what the timeline is, I will be plotting ways to care for myself. I’m in a beautiful city and want to visit some of my favorite places and take photos. I need to eat. I want to spend some time writing and reading and researching, and I can do all of that in his room after he get done with this “procedure.” So I will, for now, wait to be called. It’s a bit like life: sometimes we do the next indicated right thing, and wait to be called. I’ve waited, and been called, many times in my life. It’s always worked out well when I followed the call. I will follow it again.
The outpouring of support and love that I have received is awesome. And I am so incredibly gratified, and somewhat surprised, that I have no problem accepting this support. Bring it on!
So...those are my confessions for now. More to come.
So.....Floyd is in a little room with a lot of machinery, having a “procedure” done. They talk about it like that, they really do. And I’m the “escort.” They let me come in the machinery room for a little bit. I asked what they called the room. They said it was the IR room. I forget what that stands for. They took his pulse about 18 times with this little machine that broadcast the sound of his pulse all over the room. They did it on his feet, and marked each spot with a little green X. I asked why, and she said it was so they would know she took his pulse, for a baseline. In case his pulse stopped. GEEZ. They gave him a warmed up blanket, telling me they kept the room cold because the machines needed to be cold. Okee dokee. I didn’t know machines had needs. Guess if you are a scientific sort you bond with your machines and want to see to their needs.
I’ve been to the hospital cafeteria. It’s a wonderful place, with an awesome view of San Francisco Bay. Since Floyd and I have been off sugar for a week now, I am finding myself naturally attempting to eat healthier. So instead of getting bacon and eggs and hash browns with an English muffin and a ton of butter and jam, I got a veggie omelet. It was pretty good. Did you know that hospital cafeterias usually have pretty good food? In another lifetime I was married to a guy who was basically institutionalized (meaning he was more comfortable in a....ahem.....controlled environment than out in the real world) and he taught me about the benefits of eating in hospital cafeterias. We always learn something from the people in our lives.
In about a half hour I will proceed to the designated waiting room. Yes, they have told me where to go and when to go there. Apparently the “escorts” are to be treasured...they told me so.
It is occurring to me that this could be part of a book. Somewhere I’ve got a sort of biography started that I plan to publish when certain people are no longer living on the planet in human form. If that sounds mysterious, it really isn’t. It’s just that I have no wish to cause distress to people in my life who were not aware of everything that has happened in my life. I can wait.
I’ve been sitting in the designated waiting area with other “escorts” and other vets awaiting “procedures.” People are amazing to me, I love to watch them. One lady walked through having a very good conversation with her service dog. It looked like he made a good listener. Another lady wanted to speculate on whether or not I got my jacket from Nepal. I didn’t. Another lady was fierce in her defense and care taking of her husband. Angry lady. Husband wasn’t angry. He just went with the flow. They just came in and told me that they would be wheeling him through in a few minutes, and I should follow when they did. Okee dokee. Continuing to go where and when called....
Floyd is napping. He seems in good spirits and for that I am thankful. The first thing he said to me when he saw me was, “I need to brush my teeth, pee and eat.” They wheeled him into a hospital room where I was once again fascinated with the machinery. They had him on an inflatable raft thingy....plugged that sucker in and inflated it in two seconds flat, then moved him from the gurney to a hospital bed. I found myself wishing I could have one of those doo hickeys to inflate my bed when I go camping. BOOM! Bed inflated! Apparently the machine he is hooked up to does not like to be moved, so it was acting up in the process of moving him. By the way, his room was flooded with no less than 5 people attending to various wires, machines, and other things. Anyway, the machine......they slapped it around a bit until one guy said it didn’t like to be moved, so they put it in one place and reset it and apparently that made the machine happy. And I am once again fascinated with these people and their attachment to machines.
This is an interesting place, this VA Hospital in San Francisco. I know they do good work here, but boy....this also seems to be a place where street people congregate. They have these little “smoking booths” outside that are usually packed to the rafters with guys smoking and talking shit. I shamelessly eavesdrop where ever I go (something to remember if you are ever talking shit about someone in my presence) and noticed a lot of crazy street talk. One guy boasting about “coming up on 8 months of sobriety.” If that was the case, his body was VERY full of drugs and alcohol when he sobered up because he’s still, well, he’s still intoxicated. The poor guy he was talking to was sober and sane, and trying to escape but couldn’t go very far because he was waiting for the bus. People watching is a wonderful way to pass the time.
I find myself back in my old “city”energy here. I used to live here. I used to go places normal people didn’t go to, and I went there at all hours of the night. So I developed street sense: constant awareness of surroundings, constant escape routes just in case, always on the alert to defend myself, with ways to do so. I was walking into the hospital with dinner and noticed one of the street people bumbling around. He seemed a bit angry, so I veered off into the middle of the street, where I wouldn’t be boxed in by a bus and a building with him on the same path. He noticed me and his angry rambling turned into interest in me, a lady walking alone in the dark. I readied to use some rusty old defense skills while I walked faster and reached a well lit place, where it turns out, there was a cop who smiled at me and made it all safe again. My life today is so different. If I’m alert to anything out in the pasture or on the dirt road, it’s watching for coyotes. But it is amazing how that street energy comes back to me so quickly and easily. And I think how life used to be, living that way. And I’m grateful I don’t live that way anymore. And I’m sorry for those who do.
Meanwhile, Floyd has had a couple of adventures in his hospital bed, but I won’t violate his privacy by describing them. But basically all is well, and we should be able to eat soon. As his nurse said, “a hungry man is an angry man.” And isn’t it interesting that I used the royal “we.” GEEZ. I can eat anytime I want, but I chose to wait and share dinner with him. Shhhh...don’t tell the hospital staff, but Floyd has requested pasta and I plan to order some up for him.
8 pm: home...well, what passes for home right now, a bedroom in an AirBnB rental. A long day, one in which I didn’t really do much, except that I did. I wrote, and I read what I wrote to Floyd, and he said that was some very good writing. Which made me puff up my feathers. I was there for him. Somehow it is important for me to be able to say that. Because yes, I did sign up for this.
I’m the sort of tired that makes sleep a long time coming. Sort of wound up and punchy. So I will stop writing now. I think that he is fine and will continue to be fine. Me too.