Friday, October 23, 2009

Everything Changes

Yesterday I went to see Z. I think it might be the last time I ever get to see her. She is otherworldly now and I can't even say goodbye. She told me she was leaving Utah to visit her two oldest boys, her granddaughters. She says she'll be back in a couple of months. I doubt I'll ever lay eyes on her again, but since she can't admit that this is it, we can't really say goodbye. She seems so deeply delusional about her cancer and it's metastasis, the time so short, and she has ended treatment. She would not agree with me that she's ended treatment, since she's started treatment with hash oil, but it seems like palliative care to me. It seems like her version of hospice without ever admitting to herself or me or her children that she is close to death now.

Months ago she said she only wanted "positive energy" around her. She didn't want to hear anyone say, "You're too sick to be out of bed, too sick to scrub the fridge, you should be waited on, taken care of." And yet, she was too sick to do much of anything. Everything was such a life-sucking effort. Her youngest son and his family moved in to her house to take care of her. But I don't think she really let them take care of her. I went to see her one day and she was scrubbing the fridge, furious that it was so dirty, such a mess, so obviously needing to be done, yet she had not asked the kids to clean it.

Another day, a couple of months ago, she wanted fresh pita, hummus, yogurt, and halva from a Middle Eastern market just a few blocks from her house. Her daughter-in-law was now living with her and not working. But it was me she asked to bring her what she craved. I'm not sure she ever gave them the chance to help her, to care for her. The few things I did for her were so insignificant, and yet they always made me furious with the kids. To me it seemed as if they were living with her and not caring for her, not making sure she had whatever she needed or wanted. I have been mad at them, mad at her, mad at the world.

Ms M works at the University Hospital. She brought Z's medical records day before yesterday so I could take them to Z yesterday. It was so sweet of her to take her lunch time to go up to Huntsman and pick up all the records Z wanted to take with her to California, just in case she changes her mind about further treatment. Ms M has lived in my big house for five years this October. She has the run of the place. And I don't recall ever getting really angry with her until yesterday.

The night before last when she brought Z's records out to my place she had a glass of wine and spent some time visiting with me. When she got ready to go home she discovered that her roommate had locked the back door. Ms M borrowed my keys to let herself in and I said to her, "Don't forget to bring the keys back this time, I have a doctor appointment tomorrow and then I need to go see Z." She forgot. So when I got ready to go to the doctor there were a few moments of panic until I found the spare key to my car. I left my house unlocked. It wasn't such a big catastrophe, but it pissed me off. It was the second time she'd borrowed my keys to let herself in her house and forgotten to bring them back. Ordinarily I don't go anyplace so it wouldn't be a big deal. But yesterday, when I got back from the doctor appointment and grocery store, rushing to carry the bags in, unload them and hurry to Z's to see her for the last time, Ms M was sitting at the picnic table smoking. She was taking a break from leaf blowing. As I passed her I said, "You didn't bring my keys back to me. Not cool!" She said, "Sorry, I forgot. I'll get them now." I was loaded down and kept walking back to my place. I put groceries away, hurrying to get my chores done to go see my old friend for the last time. Ms M did not bring the keys out to me. I had to go pick them up from the picnic table where she was still sitting. Again I said. "Not Cool!" She said, "I was going to bring them to you." I said nothing. I grabbed the keys and left. We have not talked since. She is the last person in the world I would want to alienate. But in all the years we've known each other I have only been angry with her a couple of times. This was one of them.

When you're old and your best friend is dying, you are forced to face your own mortality. And in an instant, everything changes when you realize how very alone you really are.