Saturday, July 17, 2004

When you're making other plans 

I was planning on blogging something on the Brown Equal Terrorist weblog tonight, but something came up. Suffice it to say that it's fascinating and at the very least you should read the artist statement. 'Nuff said.

What came up was Hiker. He gave up on the chemo Wednesday night and currently has some sort of fungal infection that spread from his sinuses to his brain, blinding his right eye in the process. Nobody's expecting a miracle. (Though I must point out that one is still possible. I may not be hopeful, but I'm never hopeless.)

Noodles got an e-mail about it tonight, aroung 6:15. We've got another hectic weekend planned and she was feeling a strong urge not to wait until Sunday evening to go visit him. She called me at work to tell me the news and ask if I wanted to come pick her and the girls up and tag along. Having learned to trust her hunches, I took a long lunch and did just that. I got to experience rush hour on the 520 expressway for the first time in years. Bleh. Anyway, I finally made it home, the ladies piled into the car and we ventured over to Swedish hospital. We were told that we had to put on a hospital gown and wear latex gloves in order to enter Hiker's room. Biker sent out her mom and Tyker, and they took the girls over to a visitor's lounge while Noodles and I robed up. Why she did this, I don't know, but hey, I wasn't going to quibble. While all these arrangements were being made, Poodlepums cracked a couple of jokes, like a true Hamburger. I had actually been slightly worried about her. She had been uncomfortable the last time we visited Hiker in the hospital because about a year (two?) before that we had gone to visit a friend from church at the hospital and found out that he had just died. She had been worried about a repeat performance, though obviously that never materialized. (Ah, the emotional scars we cause our children...) This time, however, she seemed to be cool with it all.

Anyway, I'm drifting again. Hiker's brother and another family friend were also in the room. Hiker was asleep, which he's been doing a lot. Biker woke him to tell him that we were there. He acknowledged our presence, but soon drifted off again. Biker then gave us the lowdown. It was quite a change from last time, when the undercurrent of conversation was about fighting the damn leukemia. Now it was Hiker's death. .... I hated writing that last sentence. .... Biker seemed rather peaceful about it all, though obviously there were moments when her coversation was punctuated with sorrow or weariness. She's set up camp in the hospital and she's not leaving until Hiker does. They had considered bringing him home, but the doc talked them into staying at the hospital, where nursing care was always available. At least Hiker had been able to move out of his previous hospital, which, according to him, had lousy food.

Oh, yeah, that brings me to the next point. At about the middle of our visit, Hiker suddenly woke up and had to go to the bathroom. He did so, and then Biker offered him some peaches which he had ordered earlier. With Biker's and brother's help, he adjusted himself and the bed to an upright sitting position. He had one slice of peach, attempted to start a conversation with us and... drifted off to sleep again. It was like a microcosm of the whole ordeal. He makes the effort to live his life, even though it's a struggle and even though the triumphs are small. He hardly was able to say a word to us during our visit, but to quote Noodles, he said volumes with his eye. What an amazing creation you made, God, this spirit that burns undaunted by the crumbling flesh!

Anyway, we visited some more and eventually the kids came into the room, too. Hiker didn't awaken again, but their presence added a lighter spirit for the rest of us. Eventually we left, doffing our protective gear and scrubbing up afterwards. (I'm assuming it was to protect the other oncology patients on the floor.) It was like venturing to a different world--from the hospital, where Hiker's family is focused on him, his comfort and his passing, to the outside where thousands of other lives were being played out. Friday nights have always been slightly surreal to me--with the world seemingly engaged in the weekend while I'm still working--but tonight was even more so. We drove home through the warm summer night in relative silence, and I sped back to work in the same. (Well, I did sing out the first verse of "Amazing Grace" at one point, but I kept the radio off.) If this were an elegant essay, I would make some sort of point here. But this is a weblog--my weblog, with no pretentions of quality--so I'll just let the rambling peter out and (yawn!) go home to bed. Life goes on, death goes on, .... um, whatever.