Tuesday, October 27, 2015

In which Sly goes back into the hospital and Primo and I lose all hope of having a summer

Oh you guys. Yesterday was excruciating. Primo and I drove the hour to see Sly. I took my computer because it was a work day and even though I was on funeral leave, my work and my deadlines did not go away.

I wanted to be done with Sly. I wanted to be done with might be the last time I ever see him alive. The man does not like me. He will not make eye contact with me. He will not even look at me.

I am over his not asking me questions because I realize that he shows no interest in anyone, although he did mention that he had heard that Tom Cruise might be gay and Primo and I were like, "Hello 1995." Other than that, I did not hear him exhibit any curiosity about any one or any thing.

True, he is very ill and weak and he is in mourning. I must grant him that. However, when Primo and I were cautiously approaching the topic of What Happens Next and discussing chemo, which we still do not know if he will have, I told him some about what chemo had been like for my dad.

Here are some questions I would have expected to get after mentioning that my dad died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and the chemo made him lost a third of his body weight and all his hair and he was so sick he could eat almost nothing.

1. Oh. Your father died of cancer?
2. When did that happen?
3. That must have been very hard for your family. How did you take care of him while he was going through chemo?
4. What did he eat?
5. How long after he was diagnosed did he die?

But no.

Primo and I put in our time - Primo was mad at me because I kept wanting to go. I kept pointing out to him that he had said we would leave by 3, 3:30 at the latest, but then we didn't leave until 3:45. We were supposed to have dinner at Stephanie's - I wanted one nice evening in my time there.

 I know, I know. The trip was not about me. But one nice evening? Is that too much to ask?

Primo said I was too impatient with a sick old man and I am sure he was right.

It's just that I don't think that being old and sick automatically gives someone the right to be treated nicely. I mean, there are plenty of bad people who live to be old and sick and they do not become good people just by virtue of their age and health status.

I am not saying Sly is evil - he is not - but I am saying that I am not obligated to overlook the past ten years just because.

"You need to be nice to him," Primo says.

"I am nice to him," I say.

"You are polite and cordial," he answers.

"That, pal, is the definition of nice," I said.

[My 17 year old niece has started calling everyone "Pal." She sounds like a fast talker from a 40s movie. I don't know where she got it.]

So Primo and I finally left and I did a little skip in my head - a little skip of happiness that I might never have to see Sly again - and drove back to the house. An hour drive.

Five minutes before we arrived, Sly called. They wanted to give him a transfusion because his hemoglobin is low.

OK. That sounds like a good idea.

Primo: Do you want me to come back up, Dad?

Me: (Say no. Say no.)

Sly: No. I guess.

Primo: I can.

Sly: I don't think so.

Primo spends the next hour agonizing.

I call my sister, who is a nurse practitioner. She tells us that it is not uncommon at all for an older person post surgery to have low hemoglobin. She says it is probably not related to the surgery, as that was a month ago.

"He might have been anemic already," she said. "Poor nutrition, all kinds of stuff might have him anemic now."

Sly calls again, says he feels fine, tells Primo no, do not come up.

Me: If I needed a blood transfusion, you better believe I would want you next to me.

Primo: Really?

Me: Even if I tell you no, you don't need to come, you need to come. I really want you there.

Primo: But why?

Me: Because I pass out when I have blood taken! And probably when I have it put in.

Primo: So even if you tell me not to come, you still want me to come.

Me: Yes.

Primo: What if I had something else I had to do?

Me: I suppose if you were going to the Rolling Stones concert, I would not expect you to miss it.

Primo: I don't care about the Rolling Stones. What about Dennis De Young? Would I have to miss him?

Me: No.

Primo: OK.

We decide to go over to Stephanie's anyhow.

We have a lovely time. My niece and nephew, who are just graduating from college, ask, "Why is Uncle Primo taking care of Grandpop and Dad is not? Uncle Primo lives a thousand miles away and Dad lives an hour from the hospital."

It is a good question. The answer is a combination of

1. Jack doesn't volunteer for things
2. Primo is a control freak who will not ask for help and will not delegate

Maria: Mom, I told Dad you were picking up the food for the funeral. He asked why you were doing it. He said he would have done it.

Stephanie: Because Uncle Primo asked me to.

Maria: That's what I told him. He said, "Well why didn't Uncle Primo ask me?"

Me: Because Stephanie called and asked what she could do to help.

After dinner, Primo and I took a walk on the beach. His stepdaughter called to ask how the funeral had gone, to wish him happy father's day, and to tell him that she was sending him a care package.

Primo has some good women in his life.

We got back to the house and started preparing for getting up at 5:30 to get me to the airport.

That's when the phone rang again.

It was someone at the hospital, telling Primo that they were admitting Sly to the hospital because he had gastrointestinal bleeding. (You don't want to know how they know that.)

This was 10 p.m.

Primo was exhausted. "I can't relax at all," he said. "This is what it's like. Every time I think things are getting better, they get worse again."

I called my sister right away. My concern is to relieve suffering for Primo. Any information I can get that helps him feel better is a good thing.

My sister, as usual, was stellar. Took our late call. Explained what the bleeding could be. "Could be the cancer has spread," she said, "or he has developed a bleeding ulcer."

These are not good options.

When Primo notes that Sly had had his first BM in six days two days earlier (I know - you always wanted to know this kind of stuff - so did I) and that he usually uses laxatives and yes, he is taking narcotics, she laughs. "Or he could have developed a hemorrhoid."

She continued. "They will probably give him antibiotics, take him off food, and scope him. I can't say a whole lot without seeing his chart,  but that might be what's going on."

Primo finally reached Sly. "If I have to go back there tonight," Primo said, "I will have a night without sleep."

Sly was cranky (I cannot blame him for that) but insisted that Primo not come up. Bless him for that.

Poor Primo was slumped over in exhaustion and quasi despair.

"If it is the cancer spreading," I said, "I want him to die right now. I don't want him to have to go through chemo. But if it's just a hemorrhoid, then I want him to get better immediately. This limbo has to end."

Primo just shook his head. "I am never going to get to leave."

He might not. Not for a while. Maybe we should just say goodbye to all our summer plans.


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  2. "Because I pass out when I have blood taken! And probably when I have it put in."

    Yes. When they draw blood they can do it with a 20 gauge but when they put it back in it's usually a 14 or 16 gauge and they're quite unpleasant.

    "What about Dennis De Young? Would I have to miss him?"

    Did you know they kicked him out of the band? I am outraged and refuse to see them on the moldy oldy tour!! Also JY looks like he's had way too much work done. It's scary sad.

    1. No, I didn't know that about DDY! Primo probably shares your outrage!

      Blood. I pass out. Period.

  3. I like Stephanie and her children. :) You guys have some good people around you, and I'm glad you can count on them!

    1. Jessica, they are the best. I LOVE MY SIL AND NIECES AND NEPHEW. They make going to Florida worthwhile. They are lovely, lovely people. (And Stephanie's dad is the sweetest ever - I wish he were my FIL. LOVE HIM.)

  4. These are times when I realise how much of a b**** I am. Because after all this mistreatment Sly dishes out, I would just go home and let the chips fall where they may. (If I were Primo I mean). I'd let Jack/Ted deal with it by the simple expedient of Not Dealing With It. "Can you visit?" No. "But you're not working" Done it for months, your turn. "But you're so good at it" Practice makes perfect. Try it yourself. "But I don't want to deal with icky stuff" Me neither!
    I would also not hesitate to let Sly have his hand held by someone else, since he is unable to be pleasant to my wife, which is such a nono.
    Hope this gets resolved! J xx

    1. Yeah, I am a bitch, too. Primo is so gracious and forgiving. I do get bugged that it seems that the only person he will ever argue with or show anger to is me, but then I remember that's because I am the one person he feels safe with - I won't punish him for expressing emotion.

  5. Wonder if Jack's kids might wake him up. They sound like great kids.

    1. They are fabulous kids. I love those kids.

  6. I am actually going to see Dennis De Young tonight, so I can only hope that no one calls me with some sort of medical (or other) emergency

    1. Anon, I hope you come back tomorrow and give a report of a great show!

    2. It was awesome! He spent the past few days performing in Epcot at Disney World (I feel like FL is a banned place on here haha). It was a short 6 song set, but still amazing. Come Sail Away was one of the songs that my dad used to play for me all the time as a kid so being able to see it performed was special. And he has an amazing stage presence. Everyone was just having fun rather than trying to put on a show which is always great to see

    3. Anon, so glad to read this! Primo is in Florida dealing with things - I copied your comment and sent it to him. Primo sings "Come Sail Away" very well. We went to a live band karaoke in New Orleans once. There were no other singers, so Primo got up right away. He asked for "Come Sail Away" and the band guys looked doubtful, but started playing.

      Primo nailed it. The band guys were smiling and giving him a thumbs up. It was a really fun experience.

  7. When Primo says he'd like you to be nice to Sly, maybe he means show warmth? Primo has good memories of his parents from his childhood, so he feels love towards Sly. But if all you have experienced is meanness from Sly, how could you feel any warmth or love? Being polite and cordial and helpful is pretty darn good.

    1. emma, he probably does mean show warmth. And I should try. But how do you be warm to someone who won't make eye contact with you? I know I should be the bigger person. I know.

  8. Remind Primo that, no matter how many times you rush to the bedside of someone who is critically ill, there's always a chance that you won't be there when they pass. No matter how much time you try to spend with them, you have to eat and sleep, and you can't know ahead of time which time will be the crucial one.

    You need to be able to forgive yourself for things beyond your control.

    I've made peace with the fact that, although my father's condition is actually improving, every time I see him could be our last. I've made peace with it because I try to remember that he (or I) could die at any time, the same as anyone, and while I can't be there 24/7/365, or even every day or every week, I feel like I'm there enough that we're in a good place, considering the circumstances. I won't have any regrets.

    1. CA, I think that's a good attitude. You do what you can and you make the time count. I am sorry that your father is not well.

    2. Thanks Goldie. At least he's only a half a day's bus ride away. My round trip for my upcoming visit is under $50 (not counting local transportation on either side), and I drive his car when I'm visiting, so there's that. And he tells me constantly to thank my wife and daughter for parting with me for my fairly regular visits.

      Another swallowing test tomorrow...keep your fingers crossed, he may be back on solid food soon!

    3. Solid food is a great goal! Your dad sounds nice.


  9. It's just that I don't think that being old and sick automatically gives someone the right to be treated nicely. I mean, there are plenty of bad people who live to be old and sick and they do not become good people just by virtue of their age and health status.

    I am not saying Sly is evil - he is not - but I am saying that I am not obligated to overlook the past ten years just because.

    "You need to be nice to him," Primo says.

    "I am nice to him," I say.

    "You are polite and cordial," he answers.

    "That, pal, is the definition of nice," I said.

    This. So.Much.This.

    I'm sorry, Primo, if you're reading this, and what I'm about to say hurts your feelings, but 'polite and cordial' is the best that can be hoped for in this situation.

    Actions have consequences, and Doris and Sly's actions -- a decade of treating you badly -- now bring on them the consequences of you not wanting to spend time with them (OK, Sly, as Doris is now dead, and spending time with her ashes would probably be peaceful), or being able to feel sorry for them in their old age and infirmity.

    I realize that Primo feels a love and affection for Sly, and that's great -- and Sly is very lucky! -- but you do not have that shared experience to make you feel love and affection for Sly, so, frankly, polite and cordial is the best that can be hoped for.

    1. See, that's what I think, too. You reap what you sow, right? If Sly does not have a bank of good experiences with me, there is nothing to draw on in the bad times. I try to keep this in mind as I prepare for my old age! Primo and I don't have children, so we better make sure we are nice to our neighbors and to our nieces and nephew!

    2. I think after "polite and cordial" comes "affection", and you can't demand that any more than you can demand love or respect, so if Sly wants those things, maybe he needs to finally figure out how to earn them. But then, demanding and extorting has worked for him so far with most people, so why would he start now?

    3. He has been able to bully his way through life, that's for sure.

  10. Watching your parents die is agony.

    1. Oh beyondbeige, I know. Even on my worst day at my worst job, I have reminded myself that it's a million times better than watching my dad suffer.


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