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Monday, October 8, 2012

Be Prepared

I held my breath for weeks before our son's wedding. Would anything go wrong to mar the day? Michael's condition seemed to worsen in the weeks before, leaving me in a state of controlled panic, all the while planning my strategies to manage his mounting anxiety and weakness. Or was he merely reflecting my own turmoil? 

For two days just before the big day Michael's lips were fairly constantly blue as were his feet. His bowel activity, always the litmus test of wellness, ground to a near halt throughout the month leading up to the wedding. Pink dots on a calendar, specifically put aside for recording these momentous events, were occurring only weekly rather than the preferred daily frequency. Laxatives were once again added to his arsenal of medications, mostly ineffectual. I tried to prepare myself for catastrophe, praying that he not choose to leave this world in the days around our son's wedding. That's how certain I was that his time was imminent.

But, once again, I was very wrong. Apart from my having to repair a toilet mere hours before the event, there were no other calamities. I was able to get Michael dressed and ready for the event, all with the aid of Ativan once again ... for him, not me. I even managed to get his shirt and pants done up properly for this wedding, allowing for the tie that was missing at our daughter's wedding in May. He looked dashing and well put together.  I, on the other hand, had forgotten most of the jewelry I had intended to wear and had a hasty job done on my hair at the last minute by willing daughters.

Sunday night, after the house had emptied out, I collapsed. We both did. Michael's anxiety ebbed over the next few days, allowing me to withdraw the Ativan by mid-week. The pink dots started to reappear daily on the calendar.

For some reason, while all this nervousness prevailed, I arranged to look at a small house, imagining a life on my own. I also made an appointment with a local cemetery and funeral home to start planning and paying for our final ceremonies, and I met with my religious community for a chat.  I was doing what I always do: I was being a good Girl Guide, assuming I could be prepared for anything and everything that might come our way. If nothing else, the frenzied activity surrounding all this planning kept me busy and distracted from the worsening situation at home.

But life settled down and resumed the normal quiet drone of chronic illness. I felt I had at least faced the next hurdle by starting the funeral plans. I was feeling calmer.

Then I had a dream. I was visiting an old friend and former neighbour who recently lost her own husband. I entered her house through the back door into her kitchen, as I had always done when our children were small and we nearly lived at each other's homes . We visited then I left the same way I had come in. This time the back pathway turned into a narrow bridge over a violent torrent of floodwater. Suddenly my sister was by my side and we were both leaning over the railing to marvel at the surge beneath us. I momentarily wondered why she was there, dead now well over a year, but I was happy to see her. She laughed at something then backed up on this narrow walkway only to step right off the unguarded edge, falling straight down into the maelstrom. She and I screamed. In my horror I watched her carried downstream, knowing with a certainty she was dead - again - but I still frantically yelled out to her to swim to the riverbank, to save herself, my voice swallowed up by the noise of the rushing water. I was bereft  -  and then I woke up.

I cried, curling myself up into a ball, grieving all over again for her loss. I haven't had a watershed like that for a very long time so I let it go, soaking my pillow, carried uncontrollably down that stream by my own grief.

I don't think I'm as prepared for what is to come as I am fooling myself into believing.

*Adi Holzer, The Flood, 1975