Thursday, August 26, 2010

The prospect of facing a difficult decision is daunting. Who are we to say whether our brother lives or dies? But really, the choice was his when he decided to drink after being warned that further alcohol consumption would kill him. He chose this path, it is now up to us how he travels it. We have to walk beside him, make sure of his comfort and his care while waiting for the inevitable, and that's a hard seat on which to sit. Our conversations go in circles: maybe they can revive his failing kidneys, maybe his wits will return, but even so, without a functioning liver a human being can not survive, so what is the point of restoring kidney function or cognitive ability?  Round and round . Ultimately all of the options present that same troubling conundrum.  

Life is so much about choices, and never is it more apparent than when one is faced with a situation like this. Our choices are limited: doing nothing is not an option and yet we have little control over when we get information from the physicians; they are very busy with many patients, and so as we we wait for the phone to ring hours pass. And we have done nothing.Making the frustrating phone calls to seek information is a trying excersize in waiting as well. Long periods of time spent on hold, the same explanation to each person who answers the call, and ultimately the same response. Call back later, the nurse/doctor is busy/not in, leave a phone number, wait a few more hours. Has our brother regained his wits  or is he still mad as a hatter like he was when we left him? Is he asking for us, wondering why we are not there, not remembering the hours we spent by his bedside? Or is he oblivious, comatose, serenely sleeping with no idea of our angst over his condition?  

At this point in the day, it is too late to drive the hours it would take to get to him, having spent most of the day waiting for the promised doctor's phone call, but the instinct is to jump in the car and drive. The visiting hours in the ICU are very limited and our chances of getting in are slim to none. So we wait. And we worry. We question our rationalizations, our conclusions, and wonder if how we are proposing to handle this situation is the right way, even when we know there is no other way. We try to stay busy, but just hanging out the wash is exhausting, waiting for the phone to ring is exhausting, love is exhausting. The reassurance of other friends and family members takes the edge off momentarily, but doubt is sneaky and it creeps into one's thoughts on tip-toes. It is hard to be patient, very, very hard.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


 Our first date was as romantic as ever a date could be. I met Dan through my good friend Neysa. I was young, 21, and carefree at the time. Dan was a kind of serious guy, a musician, but he had a quirky side too.

I was having dinner with Neysa at her place. She  had invited an old friend from high school and he showed up carrying a guitar and a bottle of wine. We had a wonderful night, with Dan playing some original tunes, lots of laughter and a very nice tingle-y vibe between Dan and myself. He called me a couple of days later, and asked me to meet him that evening at Bull's Island by the pedestrian bridge over the river . It was early summer, the sky was a deep blue. The evening promised to be clear and cool. I had no idea what to expect, was not sure if this was an official 'date' but was intrigued by his choice of location and was looking forward to seeing him.

When I found him he was sitting on a blanket along the river bank with his guitar. It was still light out, and  when I looked  at his soulful brown eyes with their lovely fringe of lashes  butterflies started doing their fluttering dance in my stomach. He played a tune he'd just written, and we talked a little and sang together. Although he was so intent on his playing, so intense in his musicianship, he seemed shy when not playing, as if it was easier to express himself through his music.  His tunes were inventive and complex, now somber, now sprightly. I  relaxed, lying back to watch the stars peep out, delighted by this very private serenade.

Once  darkness fell, he stood up and reached down for my hand and said ~I want to show you something. We walked hand in hand to the bridge. It is a suspension bridge with lots of criss-crossing cables. The walkway was dimly lit  by  lights at the top of the arched cables. The air was damp and cool above the river, and there were moths and June bugs already dancing around the lights overhead. As we walked out onto the planks of the bridge, Dan said ~Look, and pointed at a section of cables along the span. I looked and at first I was not sure, but then I saw what it was he wanted to show me: Spiders. Spiders, Orb Weavers, everywhere, spinning their lace-like webs between the cables from top to bottom. Fabulous!  How did he know? How could he know that my mother was a biologist, had a 4H entomology club, that I am fascinated by the natural world in general and all insects in particular ?  I had not mentioned it, spiders not usually being first date conversation starters. I ran along the bridge from one web to the next, stopping to watch only briefly, until I reached the other side of the bridge. I waited for Dan to catch up.

~I thought you'd like this, he said with a smile. He took my hand and we slowly walked back. Halfway across, with the song of the river flowing beneath us, we stopped and watched  one spider spin his web, perfection in chaos, round and round until he finished, and settled by the side to await his dinner. We walked to the end of the bridge, now looking up at the canopy of stars.  I said ~How wonderful! Dan turned to face me, looked deeply into my eyes. ~May I kiss you? he asked. I nodded, speechless: no one had ever asked me before.   He leaned down and kissed me softly, his lips trembling slightly. I was left breathless, stunned by his gentle touch. He looked into my eyes and smiled, and it was as if the sun had come up, his face transformed from that of a serious man to a light- hearted boy. My heart melted and I smiled back. He took my hand and we walked back to collect his things. At my car, he took my face in his hands and kissed me again, another soft, sweet kiss.~Will I see you again? he asked. All I could manage was a quiet yes, and I got into my car and drove home feeling as if in a dream. That evening turned out to be the most romantic of my life.

We were together for some time after that. We laughed a lot, I went to his band gigs, sat in on practice, helped with his fledgling business. He wrote a lovely poem for me, about me. Our relationship was marked by it's kindness, the absence of turmoil, and a gentle love that I have always remembered. When we parted ways, it was as friends. I saw him again years later playing in a band at a party. We greeted each other warmly, and did a little catching up, he was married and had a toddler and was very happy. I was glad for him. That was 15 years ago.

Imagine my sadness when I heard the news. Dan died suddenly last week of a heart attack. After 30 years, I can still see his beautiful eyes and sweet smile. This loss saddens me deeply. I will hold his memory in my heart, and I will be forever grateful for the sweet gift of romance given to me: l will never forget the magic of that night by the river so many years ago.  Rest well, dear Dan.