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?
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.
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.
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?
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.