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Perishable - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
As I obliquely indicated in recent entries, I've been spending a lot of time at the hospital this week. My father-in-law, who is a wonderful "papa" to my daughter and the best sports-watching friend I've ever had, went in New Year's Eve after experiencing shortness of breath on top of weeks of feeling extremely tired. I sat with him over the next three days watching college football bowl games, both because it's the sort of thing we like doing together anyway -- and therefore a way of increasing the dose of normalcy in distressingly abnormal circumstances -- and because it helped to lessen his boredom and loneliness. I happened to be there for numerous visits from doctors and nurses who all claimed to be baffled by his symptoms, since he didn't seem to have any of the classic heart or lung problems.

Yesterday afternoon, he came home. His wife called to let us know and to ask that we check on him while she ran to the pharmacy to get his prescriptions and the grocery store for the food he was looking forward to eating after days of being confronted by the hospital's incomestibles. Skylar and I had been planning to go to the park to play catch, but decided we could do it on our street instead. Before we started, we went to visit him. She showed off her baseball glove, which I'd spent the morning treating so that it would be sufficiently broken in to use. He'd seen her in the hospital, but was delighted to have her visit him in the comfy automatic chair where he spends most of his day. The hug they gave each other was magic.

"Don't put the glove on the sofa," he told her with a laugh, after she'd shown him how greasy it was. They bantered a bit before we went outside. Later, when we were switching from playing catch to playing with the huge, soft frisbee ring that Santa brought, we stopped by again. This time the hug was bigger still. We were just getting ready to check on him a third time when his wife came home, cheerily announcing that she'd gotten everything he'd wanted from the store.

When he called this morning, I thought he wanted to tell me whether the Cal basketball games were going to be on next week. He likes to check his satellite guide ahead of time so that I know when to come over. "How are you doing?" His answer took me by surprise. "Not well. Can you come over?" I told him I'd be right there, put on my slip-on shoes, and jogged over. The minute I walked in the door, I could tell something was amiss. Still, he was sitting in his chair, the way he does every morning. "Is Skylar with you?"

I told him she wasn't. "Good." He told me that I should wake up his wife, who was still sleeping in her bedroom. On my way back from startling her, I noticed that the bathroom was a mess. And then, as I looked at him more closely, I realized that he was in even worse shape. The same breathing problems he'd been having before being admitted to the hospital had returned, only exponentially worse. His wife came out and said that his doctor at the hospital had said that she should call 911 if he seemed to be having trouble. I told her that, yes, it was definitely time to call.

And then I asked her to fetch her nebulizer, so he could have an albuterol treatment like they'd been giving him at the hospital. At first, it seemed like it might not work, so I ran home for my manual albuterol inhaler and some towels with which to clean up the bathroom. I could tell that he wanted me to do what I could to restore his sense of dignity and make things easier on his wife. By the time I got back a few minutes later, the nebulizer was working, so I set to work on the bathroom. Within two minutes, the paramedics arrived.

I spent the next several hours with his wife in ER. They determined that he had pneumonia, which seemed improbable, since the lung specialist had given him a clean bill of health the previous afternoon right before he was discharged. I could see his panic as he struggled to breathe, even worse than when he was still at home. Eventually, he made it clear that he was willing to be intubated, because he was desperate to breathe. But because he was not stable, they couldn't fully sedate him, meaning that he had to cope with the intrusion of the tube in a conscious state.

He struggled so much that they had to tie his arms down, which led to his sensitive skin getting cut in a number of places. His discomfort was clear, but there wasn't much that the ER personnel seemed willing or able to do about it. It was horrible for me to watch, not only because I care about him, but because I've had many moments of respiratory panic in my life, particularly since moving to Tucson. In the end, I had to avert my gaze.

This evening, I drove his wife back to the hospital to bring his special knee-supporting pillow and inquire about what had happened to the favorite red shirt he was wearing when they'd brought him into the ER. Needless to say, no one at the hospital was interested in the latter quest. They did let her visit him in ICU, even though we had come at a time when no visitors were supposed to be allowed in. His male nurse was brutally honest, but projected a sense of competence that I found reassuring. "I finally got his blood pressure stabilized. But he's still in bad shape."

After we left the hospital, she told me that she was glad she'd gone to the store the previous day. "He got to have his favorite roast beef sandwich, just the way he likes it." Then she paused. "He's not going to be coming home in time to eat it before it goes bad. Would you take it? I know he wouldn't want it to go to waste?" I told her I would, trying to muster my usual enthusiasm for meat, one that he has always heartily approved of. Upon arriving back at her house, I went inside to move the soiled garments and the towels I'd used to clean up the bathroom from the washing machine to the dryer.

As I stood there, wondering what setting to use, she came into the laundry room and held something out to me. I glanced down at it, but couldn't tell what it was. "Isn't that something?" she said. When I looked at it more closely, I thought I saw mold covering a surface. "Terrible," I replied, almost inaudibly. "Well, you enjoy. I know he'd want you to have it." I looked again. It was the package of roast beef she'd purchased the previous afternoon, the one he'd used to make his favorite sandwich.

I didn't want to touch it. She took it back into the kitchen and added it to the bag of fruit she was also giving me to take home, the fruit she'd bought for him, the fruit he eats every morning like clockwork. Later, though, when I was unpacking the bag, I picked up the package of roast beef and let it drape coolly over my hand. It's in the refrigerator now. I want to eat the contents in his honor, but I'm not sure I'll have the will. But the sell-by date is approaching rapidly.

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Current Location: 85704

26 comments or Leave a comment
frostedfuckhead From: frostedfuckhead Date: January 6th, 2007 09:53 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I feel you guys. I spent a lot of time watching/listening to basketball/football games with my Dad during his last days. My Dad and I always got along best watching games with each other.

He struggled through two bouts of pneumonia in ICU... the antibiotics always won, for what that is worth.

It's really hard.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The problem, as you know, is that being treated in ICU often leads to other complications. And his medical condition was already very complicated. He was doing so well Thursday afternoon. That's what's making this hard. Of course, having to watch a drawn-out decline, as you did, is much, much harder, as we learned with Skylar's "Uncle Grandpa" back in 2001.

I'm glad to have had the chance to bond over watching sports. I know there are plenty of folks who think it's a little silly, but it was meaningful to me. Men, especially of his generation, often have a hard time communicating directly. When my own father sends me a newspaper clipping or tells me he's recording something for me to watch with him the next time I come home, I know that's his way of getting closer to me.
letter_2elise From: letter_2elise Date: January 6th, 2007 11:03 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm so sorry for all of this. I hope he pulls through soon.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I have to think of the worst-case scenario. And of ones that are bad, but not the worst. If he can get back home and enjoy Skylar's company some more, then he should get better. I know he wants to. I know he'd be a lot less interested in doing so if she weren't next door. Thanks for you support. What a few months your family and mine have had.
chrisglass From: chrisglass Date: January 6th, 2007 11:50 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I want more information on my labels.
A sell-by date isn't enough.
How long will it keep at home?
If I freeze it, can I keep it around longer?
And when do I, without doubt, absolutely have to let something go?


That aside, your recount is heart-rending.
I hope he gets over the pneumonia.


Hugs to the whole clan.

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I find it comforting that honey harvested during the days of the Roman Empire can still be reconstituted and eaten. Or so I've been told. Sugar certainly seems to last indefinitely once the moisture has gone from it. The flesh, alas, is extremely perishable.

Thanks for the hugs. We need hugs. Hugs are good, especially from someone who knows how hard all this is.
xxxpunkxgrrlxxx From: xxxpunkxgrrlxxx Date: January 6th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
oh wow.

i'm sorry. :(
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks. He had a great holiday, despite his respiratory distress. So that's something to hold onto.
danthered From: danthered Date: January 6th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I wish I had wise words, but I don't. This reminds me of our situation with my father in 2000. Hugs to all of you.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
We were thinking of you. It will be good to have you guys here in a week. Skylar is looking forward to having awesome visitors. We all are. And Fiesta is too, obviously!
From: ex_benlinus Date: January 6th, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm a big roast beef guy myself. I really like this guy. So both for your family's sake and the sake of beef loving mankind, I'm pulling for him. He sounds like a good man and a good friend.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm also a roast beef guy. And I like him. He's changed a lot, even since I've known him, and all for the better. That's hard to do, when you're older, so I have great respect for his ability to do that, while still staying who he always was in a fundamental sense. Thanks for your support. Kim and I appreciate it.
chefxh From: chefxh Date: January 6th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


beauty before him
beauty behind him
beauty to the right of him
beauty to the left of him
beauty above him
beauty beneath him
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: hozho

Thanks for this. I've heard this before. But it feels different now, deeper. I appreciate your support a great deal.
From: hipsandquips Date: January 6th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This made me tear up, I already left good thoughts on KDD's journal, but shall leave them here as well. You guys are amazing.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 6th, 2007 08:27 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It made me tear up, writing it. I always proofread my entries before and after posting, but I honestly couldn't read this one again. I'm sure there are typos, but they can stay there. Even the image is hard to look at.

Thanks for all your support. I saw the comment on KDD's journal. It helps to have folks check in. It really does. That's why I like LJ, even though it can be so frustrating.

BTW, I have music stuff brewing, but I've been delayed. There will be a mix etc. I love the one you sent me!
From: hipsandquips Date: January 6th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I've got a better sense of what she likes as well, I'll have to send you guys a mix via Linds or something.

Family health stuff always gets to me. I've been taking care of my abuelita for 8 years now...so I know how horrible it can be.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 9th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yeah, I gathered that you had deep personal experience of this sort of thing. It's so taxing. But there's something therapeutic about caring and caring so much, I think.

Mixes would be most welcome.
leela_cat From: leela_cat Date: January 7th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
We're thinking good thoughts for all of you. I've been there, done that with family members going in and out of hospital and it's incredibly difficult on everyone.

Hope you're taking care of yourselves in the middle of all this.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 9th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks. I thought of you when this all started, because you're a heck of a role model. I'm supposed to be in the Bay Area at the end of the month. I probably won't be in the East Bay for long, but perhaps you could join me with Steven and Robin for dinner. I'll keep you posted.

Congrats on making it over one bureaucratic hurdle without a scratch, BTW.
leela_cat From: leela_cat Date: January 9th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
We'd love to see you when we're in the Bay Area. If you end up needing crash space, we have a spare bedroom, three cats, and a very comfy air mattress (we slept on it for three weeks).

And that invitation is open any time, okay? We've even been known to put friends up overnight after a phone call from the airport that says "hey I'm here, can you come get me?"

And thanks.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 9th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks. I'm probably going to stay with Joel this time, but I can definitely see coming back sooner rather than later and staying with you guys would be grand.

Three cats are always welcome!
hollsterhambone From: hollsterhambone Date: January 8th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh Jesus. The meat story gave me heart palpatations.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 9th, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Me too. As I commented above, I couldn't reread this entry for proofreading purposes. I still haven't reread it properly. At least things are going slightly better, though the situation remains critical.
hollsterhambone From: hollsterhambone Date: January 9th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yes, I've been reading LJ with baited breath, waiting for something good to happen. I really, really hope it does. I'm thinking of you all all the time.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 9th, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Today's the day. Off the respirator in less than an hour. We'll see. I'm so tense I can barely breathe.
26 comments or Leave a comment