Solemn Anniversary-Part VI


Now that he was sedated and the emergency had passed.  I was left with….what to do now?

Oh.  The in-laws are here, I thought with an internal groan.  They were outside lurking; probably waiting to pounce on me when I returned to the waiting room.

I should probably deal with that, err… THEM.

I didn’t want to though. I was sick of them.  I was sick of their interference; of their lacking compassion and consideration for me, for Gabrielle and even for Mike.

I was pretty sick of being in hospitals too.  There’s something about the piped in air that always makes me thirsty.  There is constant background noise that has become so familiar I don’t really hear it anymore.

The pages over the loudspeaker, the beeps from machines, people coughing, sneezing, moaning, etc.

The squeak of sneakers from someone who is out of sight or the squeak of the wheels on the gurneys.  Walking down any given corridor along with those noises is the sound of a TV set on—always too loud; or I would catch snippets of conversations between patients and their visitors as I walk past their door.

So much constant noise!

It is a lot quieter at night when the lights in each patient room have been dimed, the TV’s are off and visiting hours have ended.

Being married to a man who is in an ICU unit in the Veteran’s Administration hospital afforded me the freedom to stay in the hospital and completely ignore the regulated visiting hours.

So I continued to stand there next to Mike’s bed and listened to the rhythmic sounds of the machine helping him breathe—in and out, in and out.  I imagined someone might be able to fall asleep to that sound but for the beeping that went along with the rest of the equipment in the room.  I’ve never been fond of repetitive sound; in fact I utterly hate it.  After a mere few seconds of a repetitive sound, it doesn’t matter what it is—someone knocking on wood, the sound of too loud bass coming out of someone’s ridiculous car speakers, someone tapping, or something banging against the house…all of it sends me into near rage zone quickly.

SMM98MAH-Beyer-Metronome-musIt’s an odd thing I know as I used to fall asleep every night to the sound of a metronome that my mother used while playing her piano.  I could hear the notes she played but I could also hear that metronome, tick tick tick tick.  I didn’t mind that noise but it’s the last repetitive noise I can remember liking.

This time however my response was different to that repetitive noise caused by the respirator.  Perhaps I knew that as long as it worked Mike would still be alive and breathing so it didn’t bother me.

I looked out of the room into the ICU unit and could see two nurses working at their desks.  They weren’t chatting as is standard in a work place between co-workers.  They were working.  I’d see Zac look at the monitors in front of him.  Look up at a patient then make a notation on something, presumably the patient chart.  I watched him look at a monitor and this time turn and look in at Mike.  He saw me looking at him and smiled then got up and walked toward me.

He asked, “Are you ok?”  Yup.  NO!  But yes, I’m fine.

He looked around then and realized there was no chair in the room and told me he’d find one for me.

Before he left he looked at all the machines, wrote numbers on his hand instead of a notepad and then walked to his desk to transfer that information to Mike’s chart.

I remained rooted to the spot next to Mike’s bed for no reason that I could fathom other than I just didn’t want to leave and face “them”.

My cell phone’s shrill ringing startled me out of my paralysis and I answered it.

I am aware that it is a rule in hospitals to turn off cellphones but I never paid attention to that warning.  It made no sense to me after all.  The little signal from my phone is going to disrupt lifesaving machines?  Or make the power in the surgical unit go off?  Not likely; a hospital isn’t like an airplane is it?  The warning is the same but I never risk using my cellphone on an airplane…what if that warning has some validity to it?  Besides Mike worked in the cellphone industry; among other things, when he wasn’t climbing 1000 feet into the air on a flimsy tower to fix equipment, he installed “repeaters” in hospitals.  Little interesting boxes at each corner to allow cellphone signals to “bounce” from one to the next and around the corner, through walls and so on.  He used his cellphone all the time while in the hospital so I felt justified in ignoring any signs asking me to turn off cellphones.

I answered the phone and Jane was on the other end.

She told me that Mike’s parents were getting impatient and complaining.  They wanted to know what was going on.  Jane went on to tell me that, “Bob is looking for hospital staff to talk to.”

Hospital staff?!  Uh oh, that just doesn’t bode well from my perspective.

Ok, I’m coming.

I told Mike, I’ll be right back; kissed him on his forehead, left the room and the ICU unit to talk to “them”.

Jane was standing outside the ICU unit door as I exited.   I could see concern all over her face.

What’s the problem Jane?

She grabbed my arm and practically dragged me into the little waiting room we had previously occupied.

Jane said, “Bob is asking to see Mike’s Will.”

Oh for crying out loud!  Now is NOT the time for this shit!

“I told him it was locked up in your safe at home.”

Yes it is.

“He wants to see it.”

Tell him to fuck off!  Never mind I will.  (Bob did get to see a copy of Mike’s Will eventually, but not until several months later, in my response to a lawsuit, actually two lawsuits…but that comes later.)

I suppose I could make some sense out of Bob’s concern for this Last Will and Testament.  After all Bob only recently became aware that it even existed, maybe he wanted to make sure Mike’s “final arrangements” were dealt with.  Or maybe and more likely Bob wanted to see the Will to ensure Ryan would get all of Mike’s estate upon his passing.  Bob apparently had started moving toward the direction that Mike had one child and my two, Gabrielle and Austin, were non-existent, even despite Mike’s legally adopting them.   There really was nothing, or not much to put in the Will—to bequeath to our kids.  We were down to nothing.  In fact Mike was admitted to the VA hospital because they found us to be “indigent”, a necessary classification due to his not being active duty and having assets.  We had applied to the VA about six weeks previously and part of the application process is to list your assets, including any money you have in the bank.    After Mike’s second stay at UCLA Medical Center we had nothing left.

Bob knew all this of course because Mike told him. I overheard one conversation they had; Bob asked how we “were set for money”.  Mike told him, “We’re fine.”  We weren’t but that’s what he told his dad.   I knew a lot of that was pride. Mike wouldn’t ask for help, even though we probably badly needed it.

I went to find “them” intending to put this stupid issue of Mike’s Will aside or cast it off into never-never land and found them in the large waiting room.  Apparently they had not moved in my absence.

They didn’t look at me when I walked into the room, so absorbed with what was on the TV they didn’t notice.

I walked up to them and stood in front of them.  But suddenly found myself without words; instead of talking I went and sat down across from them without saying anything.

Teresa asked, “What’s going on?”

When I am tired, irritated or just fed up I tend to retreat into sarcasm as a defensive mechanism.  This situation didn’t change that and when she asked me that I wanted to respond with a question.  What’s going on with what?  The weather?  The economy?  Mike?  Or perhaps Mike’s Will?

But I didn’t. I tried always to maintain some decorum though I probably failed here and there.  She was Mike’s mother after all; that alone affords her a certain amount of respect from me.  That it is not reciprocated is irrelevant.

Well, you know the doctors were concerned for Mike.  They sedated him to do dialysis….

Bob interrupted me then, “I’m going in to see him!”

Oh.  Ok then.  Sure.

I told him that was fine, just push the button on the wall, wait for the doors to open and go in.  He’s in the first room on the right.

Bob stood up in a way that defied his age and purposefully walked out of the room

Teresa sat there for a minute unsure of herself, unsure of what to do; just unsure.  Eventually she must have remembered her son was in ICU, lying flat in bed dying of cancer; or maybe she just did not want to stay in the same room with me;  she got up and trailed after her husband.

I stayed where I was.  Tom was still there seated where I had left him.  Gabrielle and Robert also had not moved.  Jane found us, came in and sat down.

We all were silent.  What is there to say at such a time like this?  Finally I asked Gabrielle, do you want to go in and see Dad?

Tom, do you want to see Mike?

They both said they did but, “After ‘they’ leave.”

My cellphone rang and I answered it.  This time it was my friend Alina. She was calling to “check in”, to see how things were.  I then explained to her that Mike was in ICU and relayed the past 12 hours to her.  She started crying then and apologizing.  Alina is a single parent with a 3 year old child, living with her elderly and sickly mother.  But she apologized to me for not “being there”.  I told her its fine, your plate is full…she cut me off then and told me she was going to get a babysitter and come.

It was very late in the evening, or early in the morning depending on how one looks at the clock.  I told her not to bother, things are fine here.

Alina then asked, “Are his parents there?”

They sure are!  I called them on my way down the hill earlier.  They arrived a while ago.  Apparently, Bob wants to know about Mike’s Will.

In response, Alina said, “I’ll be there in 30 minutes!”

Alina knew about Bob and Teresa from my relaying different interactions, from my rants online, from some brief encounters she had personally with them and knew their opinion of me.  She was worried about Mike, but also concerned about Gabrielle and me.   I saw her as a life-preserver keeping me from drowning in the muck that Bob and Teresa caused, in addition to the cancer.

Still I told her that Robert, Tom and Jane were with me, just stay home now; come later.

Neither Bob nor Teresa had returned while I was on the phone and I grew nervous.  I had no rational reason for the nervousness but that I didn’t like how they were handling this whole thing with Mike and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving them alone with him for long periods of time.  I envisioned them whispering nasty comments about me in his ear.woman stressed

I got up to pace.  I wandered out into the hallway.  I stood at the door to the ICU unit.  I walked back to the waiting room.  I walked up and down the hallway, always ending back at the waiting room door.

They were in with Mike and this issue of Mike’s Will had been introduced by them.  It was late, I hadn’t slept since I could remember and my husband was maybe dying in the other room.  I didn’t know where Ryan was and Austin our other son has not been told of the latest developments.  I was almost out of tolerance; my patience had been exhausted long ago.  But my tolerance of Bob and Teresa was quickly waning.

Just about at the same time I was going to go back into the ICU unit, they emerged.

I looked at them, studied their faces, watched for a reaction.  There was none—no sign of their feelings, if they had them—no sign that they knew it just didn’t look good for Mike.  They showed no sign of anything.   Not then anyway.

They went back into the waiting room and sat down.  I had hoped, in a pathetic Pollyanna sort of way that once they’d seen Mike they’d leave.  Of course if it was one of my children in the ICU unit a team of Clydesdales wouldn’t be able to pull me away, so perhaps I was being unkind.  Neither Bob nor Teresa had anything to say to me then.

I remained at the doorway but looked into the room and addressed everyone; told them you can go in and see Mike now if you want to.

Gabrielle, do you want to?

I knew Tom would bide his time and wait for everyone else to go in before he would.

Robyn and her husband Matt materialized suddenly from wherever they had been all this time; I had forgotten they were even there.  They asked if they could go in.

Sure I said, go right ahead.  I gave them the same directions as I had with Mike’s parents.  Push the button, wait for the doors to open, he’s first door on the right.

I remained in the waiting room.  I sat there looking around; taking in the ambiance of the room or lack of it.   I wondered about all the other people who have sat where I was sitting.  Wondered about the outcomes of each case….good?  Bad?  There was no way of knowing really as I’m not psychic in any way. But the close locale of the ICU unit could certainly hint an outcome.

I found a spot on the wall across from me and studied it.  I stared at that spot without seeing anything.  I was lost in thought—wool gathering.   This was a technique I had learned from Alina during this whole experience.  When she was in a room full of people or just another person other than me and they were saying or doing something she found inappropriate or hurtful or rude or any number of things she considered were just “wrong” she would find a spot on a wall somewhere and stare at it with a slight frown. She gave the impression of listening and concentrating.  But she wasn’t.  She was tuning out.

I did that then…tuned out.  I sat and stared and thought about nothing except Mike.   I thought about Mike and those machines and what being in the ICU unit might bode.

Robyn and Matt returned suddenly.  Robyn approached me then.  She had something to say.  She told me that they had not been to see Mike or me because of something Mike had said a few weeks previously.  That they were both scared to come see him based on what he had told them.  That now he was sedated in ICU, it was “safe” to come see him.


She went on to relay a conversation she had with Mike that she claims he said he wanted to die and would be able to after he saw Matt one last time.

Ok, whatthefuckever!  That made no sense to me whatsoever.  Mike didn’t want to die.  He wanted to live, why else do we keep seeking treatment?  Why else is he in this hospital and the other hospitals?

I told her then, trust me, you and Matt are not the ones keeping that man alive whether medically or spiritually or whatever nonsense you might consider.

13-DeathReading your tarot cards, Robyn, is not going to tell you the outcome of this story no matter how much you believe.  You know why?  Because Mike and I don’t believe in tarot cards…well I do to the extent they are like a Ouija board—not good.  I’m putting my faith and trust in God ok?  And the medical profession, ok?  I’m not going to trust nor believe anything some paper cards laid out in a certain order that have interesting artwork on them might divine for Mike.

After that exchange Robyn and Matt left.  Though prior to this cancer situation, Robyn and I had been best friends—BFFs—but for some reason and to this day remains a secret Robyn holds near and dear to her heart, I never saw her again after that night; I spoke on the phone with her one time and I saw Matt once more.  They became someone I used to know.

Gabrielle and Robert went in together to see Mike.  I knew that regardless of Gabrielle’s reaction Robert would be there for her and comfort her, help her, talk with her.  He was a man who Gabrielle trusted…Robert was a pastor in his home country of Australia and while waiting for US citizenship to be approved he had signed on to work at a local church which Gabrielle attended.  Robert, through his compassion, kindness, intelligence (he was a college professor of mathematics) and patience got to know Gabrielle and our family.  He felt obligated and compelled to help us navigate these tumultuous waters.  I felt completely comfortable and at ease with Robert accompanying Gabrielle into see Mike.

I note that simply for the reason I did not feel that way about Mike’s parents.  I endeavored to never leave Gabrielle alone with them after what had happened the second time Mike was in UCLA Medical Center…

One thought on “Solemn Anniversary-Part VI

  1. My heart bleeds for you and for all you went through. To have people around you that make such a heartbreaking situation ten times more traumatic and difficult. I am truly sorry. How alone you must have been. You are a tough lady, I deeply admire the strength you have showing throughout these blogs.


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