This has been building up for some time. It explains our uncomfortable trip to Denver last month and his increasing shortness of breath. I’m disappointed with the huge, efficient University of Colorado Pulmonary center for not suspecting there was more going on than normal IPF symptoms. He lived for a month with a collapsing lung. After the Denver visit, he was so discouraged that he wanted me to cancel this last visit to his pulmonologist because, “what’s the use, they can’t do anything for me.” He believed he just had to live with rapidly decreasing oxygen intake until he couldn’t anymore.
Like riding a hair-raising roller coaster, it seems like we’ve been here much longer than we have. Twice they’ve had to reinsert the tube that drains excess fluid out of the lung cavity. He is in surgery again as I write, this time they will insert a larger tube. I come to Presbyterian Hospital in Espanola every morning as if its an old habit, even though it’s been less than a week.
I used to be a really good driver, but since we’ve been together, Standing Deer does most of the driving and I found my self confidence on the road waning. I never minded letting him drive because it’s a physical thing he can still do well, and he loves to drive. Now, after five trips through the canyon my body and coordinated mind have reconnected with space, time and the rhythm of curves and hills. The drive has become a meditative experience. Besides, the weather has been fantastic.
Two days ago, I walked out of the hospital in a state of sadness knowing this could be the beginning of the end of our time together. The gravity of his disease was no longer looming in the background to be dealt with someday. What a contrast with the beauty of the full on spring afternoon. The air and light reminded me of the best time of our life together in Cottonwood and Sedona Arizona. Memories came in with such force that I almost suffocated in them. We will never be able to hike those beautiful red-dust trails again. How grateful I am that the memories are as clear as if they are right now superimposed on the equal beauty of this Northern New Mexican spring.
Monday, before we ended up here, our week's calendar was full of meetings and appointments, then suddenly the calendar crashed. Its like being suddenly dropped in a foreign country. I wonder if that’s what death is like or could be like. Yesterday they moved him to ICU. That worried me. In his new room, he started hearing and seeing shadow people moving around the room, some were trying to talk. He said there was a man behind him who kept saying a word he didn’t understand. Out of curiosity and some concern, PQ had me call the nurse on duty. He asked her if anyone had died in this room. She said “yes, many have.”
They just brought him back from the third attempt to insert a tube below his lung to drain the fluid. Now all the tubes and wires have been changed out and he is going back and forth between sleep and semi-consciousness. He is seeing people walking and flying through the room again. This time he is tripping, moving his arm and fingers like he was playing an instrument.
I know he is taking the fight to a new level and I wonder if he will make peace with the reality of his situation. We aren't young anyway but in many ways we are happier than we were when young. That is the paradox. Each round is a revelation if we are willing to let go of the way things were before.
I’ve left the painting he started on the dining room table, along with all his watercolor pens, compass, eraser and ruler. I’m counting on him coming back to finish it. I know he will and I hope it will happen in this this body in this lifetime.