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Monday, August 24, 2009


This morning I woke with a feeling we're closing in on Jr's last breath. I sat a few minutes dropping some tears thinking about Jr going up yonder to live in green pastures. I have two overwhelming feelings, joy and sorrow. Joy to know Jr will soon be in the light feeling no pain. Sorrow for myself and everyone who cares about him. I waited a few minutes before looking in on him. When I looked, he was lying on his back under the covers, stretched full length on the bed, hands folded over his heart. Naturally, coffin was my first thought. I looked to see if he was breathing. He was. I spoke to him. He was awake. He said heard dogs fighting in the night. He got his gun "and put sand in their asses." He heard people talking.

He wanted to get up, but wanted to stay in the bed even more. I brought him a bottle of ensure, which I do when I find him awake. I thought his intestinal tract was empty before, but this time it's a void for sure. Every day all week a b-m. By now he's flushed. Over the last week he's had no intake but an ensure a day, a few times 2. This morning I had to change a depends on him, which turned into the cussing ordeal of the day. As always, I tore up 3 latex gloves getting 2 on. Jr was on the bed wanting me to tell him what to do. I told him be still, I'll be quite a lot longer, don't know when I'll get started. Finally, got the 2nd glove on and the air bubbles out of the tips of the fingers. Found some fresh depends, pulled one out and a little plastic sheet kind of thing to put under him on the bed.

What an ordeal. To get the first ones off, I couldn't make the tabs work, so I just ripped them off, cussing all the damn way. Then had to wipe his butt, not a thrilling thing to do, but it wasn't as bad as I always imagine. Every time I do that, I think of Butthead calling Beavis Ass Wipe, and the thrash death metal of Anthrax. It at least puts a smile in my thrashing mind. Even though my mind runs away with itself, I feel a humble grace deeper down that tells me this is the best thing I could be doing with my time right now. It's the same humility as foot washing. This part of my mind has to bear with the other part of my mind that freaks over feces. Even though the part of the mind that freaks knows with certainty at the same time there's nothing to get weird about. Then I settle down and do what needs to be done with no problem.

I tore up 3 depends trying to get them on him. I said, "Let's just put regular underpants on you." He agreed. They went on easy. He rolled onto his side, head on the pillow, pulled blankets over himself and eased into that place where he spends most of his time now, between asleep and awake. It's a humbling time for both of us. Not humiliating, but humbling. I think of my friend Pat, who lives in upstate New York. She did this with her dad, and they never had the best of relationships. She did it despite that. She also took care of a friend in the City while he was dying of AIDS in his last several months. She left her family both times. I think of her daughters and the compassion she passed to them as realism, not just a pretty word about morality.

At least 10 years ago, it took awhile getting there, I resolved a question I'd carried for some time about service to humanity. I think we commonly call it, making the world a better place. Every once in awhile I hear somebody say, The world would be a better place if everybody would this or that or one thing and another. Everybody is not going to do any one thing but eat, shit and die. Whatever it is, aside from those 3, it's not going to happen, so it's a useless, pointless thing to say or think, when not even everybody has heard of the Beatles.

Another way to look at it is that my world, the world composed of people I know, people I see in the course of a day, relatives, like that, is a very small world compared to the world of 3 billion. If I shift my focus from the definition of humanity such that it's composed of everybody on earth, to one, which is still humanity, it's suddenly manageable. When somebody in my world needs help I can provide, it benefits my world, making it more like what I want it to be, one where people help each other. When I do it, then my immediate world is helped immensely, the world I actually live in. It's a small world where words, deeds and individuals have meaning.

It's been a good day, altogether. After the crazy morning of frustrations, one on top of the other, Jr perked up, wanted something to eat, something to drink. He wanted to look for his billfold, pistol and liquor bottle, wanted to know if they were where he left them. The pistol is a nice .22 that makes a fairly loud pop for a .22. He asked me if it was loaded. I asked him to hand it to me. I took the magazine out and the bullet in the chamber, handed it back to him and said, No, it's not loaded.

My apprehension was that he has so little control over his fingers now, and he's forgotten where the safety is, how to kick out the magazine, everything about it. I didn't want it firing in his hands while he's fumbling with it. It was a little testy feeling to watch him fumble with it loaded. I know. Sounds sexual. But it aint. It's lethal. This isn't symbolism. It's a gun ready to go off when the trigger is disturbed. Bang bang, you shot me down. Bang bang, I hit the ground. Bang bang. Cher?

The gun, the liquor bottle and his billfold are the 3 items he keeps track of. He can't use any of them anymore, but they are the items in the house he wants to know where they are at all times. He wants me to know where they are too, in case he forgets. I let him creep around in the wheelchair, watch him wedge himself into a tight spot he'll have to back out of the same way he went in. I sit and read, watching him out of the corner of my eye. He's too slow to watch without jumping out of your skin waiting for the next movement to happen. I see it as good exercise for arms, shoulders, elbows, wrists and a good exercise for mind, something to figure out. He prefers taking half the day to me taking the handles of the wheelchair and getting him to where he wants to be in a jiffy. No. He wants to do it himself. Doesn't want to be an aggravation to me. I tell him he's not aggravating me. It's what I'm here for. He'd still rather do it himself.

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