Autumn Days

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Morning again. I didn’t sleep so well last night. Nothing in particular; just awake from 3:00 – 4:30. Dave took his pills and I must have awakened by that. It’s during this time that I can hear my inner noises. Pulse, breathing, too warm, too cold.  Should I get up and work or write?

I am still regrouping since the event on Friday. And what a great time we had! I couldn’t have been more pleased. There was a nice mix of family members and their extended families, faculty and colleagues from Evergreen, students, friends, and musicians. Leah and Addy emcee’d. I met two faces I haven’t seen in years – at least 20, so the surprises were truly unexpected. We set up a Skype link on a laptop from the event to the house and Dave was online for three hours. At times you’d find a line of people waiting to talk to him! The crowd estimate is somewhere between 125 to 150 people.

We raised $2800 between the silent auction, raffle and door donations for the David L Hitchens Scholarship in honor of Frances M Rasmussen. It may top $3000 as a couple of donations are still uncounted. This amount will double with a grant from the Gates Foundation to TESC. I think the entire family was pleased. We have established a great base fund that will begin awards for Fall, 2013. Wow. I am touched by the outpouring and love that continues to find us.

I managed to hang in there much longer than I had anticipated. Although I had some definite dizziness and moments of noises getting to me, overall I fared well. The night air was nice enough to take a short walk around the building when the sounds began to close in on me. When the disco lights on the dance floor appeared I knew it was time to go. Moving spots are no good for someone challenged by light and sound! Once I was safely in bed, I seemed to still be moving and I had a headache like with an overdose of alcohol, but I know it wasn’t the two Sprites I drank. Just another face I haven’t met in 25 years – a feeling of hangover – this time induced by the SCDS.

I am satisfied.

If I died today I would be at peace. Peace that I have done everything I can to provide the platforms for anyone across time and space in Dave’s life the opportunity to say hello (and goodbye) again. All the trails of documents and pieces of puzzle to create a picture of his life are here, recorded and available for posterity. (Well, there is one career story still untold, but I am beginning to think maybe it is best at rest, not revisited.) We truly hosted a life and legacy party: the honoring and celebration of Dave’s life. I wouldn’t even call this “throwing one’s own funeral” which I understand is a small trend, because I’ve never been to a funeral like this. It is more the retirement party that couldn’t happen, but did anyway. At least that’s the story I’d like to tell.

Six months. That’s how long it takes, in my opinion, to acclimate and find grounding in a new job. Six months to begin to feel any new “normal” and competence –  job, lifestyle, loss, change. We are past the six month mark since hospice has become our normal, and there is routine that has come of this time. That we get a routine together at all is amazing. Most people are tossed into the throes of widowhood or the undetermined long term caregiver, with change as the main ingredient. But six months after shocking news, the shake out of visitors, support and day to day normal become apparent. Routine. I’ve learned the job. I am comfortable with what and how things get done. Who comes when and for how long. The discussions are not so intense. The tears are more silent. I speak the lingo. This is how we live and cope.

I feel the fog of October. I am slowing with the lower air pressure, the shortening of daylight. Maybe it’s the Autumn of Dave’s life I feel. It’s the slow creep of change into hibernation. With the beauty of brilliant color comes the eventual pallor of naked landscape. Life is being sucked out all around us. I am melancholy with a desire to curl up and hibernate myself, if just for a few minutes a day. A little self-indulgence and self-pity goes a long way. I worry about having another new normal to adjust to when this chapter is over.

For 23 years I have stood next to the person who has lived with and through many medical challenges. Today I am, for the first time, really looking at my own mortality, my own challenge. I have to accept a chronic condition exists that threatens my lifestyle. I have been healthy and active most of my life. I probably haven’t had a cold to speak of for several years. Other than some migraine headaches, there is nothing remarkable about my medical history.

It may be the first sign of my own autumn, this syndrome that has me preoccupied with whether I can walk a straight line or if someone else hears what I hear. I’ve lost the edge between inside and outside as if my body is now fuzzy not solid. I wonder when I will or can decide that enough is enough, in fact so much so, that having someone open up my skull is worth the risk to get rid of the problem. I laugh at the absurdity and cry at the unfairness. I marvel at the complexity of our human bodies. I read and sponge up information about this rare disease but it doesn’t really change a thing. I count as many manifestations that I have as I count the ones I don’t have. For now, thank goodness, I am still on the milder range of symptoms.

I remind myself that I have to take my life and Dave’s life for what it is, as it comes. Gratitude. Today. Sometimes five minutes at a time. We have a few days of sunshine that is reflecting the brilliant flames of red, yellow and orange Autumn leaves. Maybe hearing a heartbeat isn’t so bad. It is a sign of life. My life, for now.

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