Monday, June 08, 2009

He gladly stopped for me

So if you know me, you know my way of working out a thorny emotional problem is to write about it. Here goes, but I warn you, my thoughts are a mess:

My uncle is dying. This has been going on for a long time, as has my not thinking about it. There was a diagnosis years ago, then chemo, then remission, then a spot of cancer here, then there, a handful of surgeries, more chemo, then a sudden decline just recently.

But all of this has been just background noise in my life, which has been completely taken up by a beautiful little girl, colic, toys, sleep schedules, immunizations, daycare colds, babyproofing, and all of that. Just to give an example, we went to KC over Memorial Day weekend, and had hoped to see friends while we were in town, but between the schedules, needs and desires of my parents, my brother's family, who was off the following Tuesday to South America, and the baby, there was no way. It came down to seeing friends or getting home in time to start the week with a slightly cleaner house.

Yesterday was the first time we've had a truly clean house in months, and it's already messy again. Seriously. I love my to-do lists because they mean that when I sit down at night to drink a beer and watch a little TV, I know exactly what it is I'm not doing. Because we are never, ever done. And I suspect I'll never really be done ever again. There is always laundry to do, bottles to wash, a deck to blow clean. There is always something.

How, then to carve out time to do something unpleasant? Even when he was healthy, he's a lot of work. I can't, for example, remember a spending over an hour with him when the N-word didn't come up. Like a lot of men, his good side is in his actions, not his words, and those take a lot longer to come to fruition. Everything bad there is to know about Jiggs, you'll know within a few hours of meeting him. The good takes a lifetime.

In truth, though, I would have found excuses not to go see him even if he was a saint, or a great comic, or otherwise a joy to be around, because I have made enough of these visits to last me a lifetime. I know it all by heart: the smell of iodine and disinfectant, the sallow skin and sunken features, the occasional k-chunk of the morphine pump during the inevitable lulls in conversation.

I don't know what the right thing to do is, except this: whatever my dad needs from me. He's losing his older brother, and it's my job to help him. Whatever that means.

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Hi Mike,
I recently went through something like this with my maternal grandfather. I think you are on the right track when you say you will do whatever your dad needs and then I'd add, whatever (if anything) you need beyond that.

My grandfather was also a very hard man to see the good in, though not as much with grandkids. But conversations were much like you say your uncles are/were. And there is a history of some bad issues with my mom growing up.

So, what I did when this came up was be there to support my mom. This ended up meaning more than I thought it would and was a real struggle for me. But it was worth it, what it ended up doing for her. I even had to spend the night in hospice a couple times and it was so difficult but I knew it was what I needed to do.

So sorry you are going through this. Remember to focus on the bright and wonderful things in your life as you work through it. Like you said, that beautiful baby girl is so amazing and it's great that you get together with people this weekend to celebrate her first year of life.