Routine Reminders

Sunday August 14, 2011

As the rest of the country is sweltering in record breaking heat I can see an armful of leaves that drop from the trees each day. Two mornings this week were foggy, a sure sign of Northwest Fall. It’s more like mid-September than August. The wardrobe is socks and long sleeves in the morning; t-shirts and shorts in the afternoon as the temperature swings as much as 30 degrees daily.

I’ve had a week of little reminders of Lucky dog’s absence: Well wishes and condolences from friends and family; bracing myself for stepping in dog water as I walk into the pantry; phantom sounds; thinking I need to go pooper-scoop; just wondering where he is – do I need to let him in?

Last night was the first night the cats followed their bedtime routine. (They sleep in the laundry room and we have a definite ritual at night – often they act like defiant children making me play “chase” and finally give up so I carry or walk them to bed.) Sniff, in particular, has been talking up a storm all week. He paws at me until I quietly sneak him a bit of food. Usually when I do this Lucky would come busting in to run Sniff off so he could eat the cat food. I’m sure Sniff was trying to bring Lucky around. Where is he? How do you explain to a cat?

On the other side I have been surprised to realize the additional stress Lucky’s health and care had on me. I am only better convinced that he was in worse health than I could see. No doubt this is a caregiver’s blindness, walking through the steps to do the best and provide ongoing service to our loved one, be it human or critter. I’ve seen it many times as a hospice volunteer, as an outsider with an objective viewpoint. Care and caring is what we do.

Death can sometimes be a relief.

We have passed the milestone of the six month hospice re-certification. (“Thou has passed the ambush of younger days.” ~Shakespeare) Time passages: From the dead of winter through spring and now the end of summer. It’s good to get our money’s worth! Recertification is simply a technical activity. Of course Dave still has need for hospice. He is sometimes an over-achiever, surpassing expectations. Actually, his will and zest for life and all that might be deemed the least bit interesting astounds me.

Back to school (we don’t start until after Labor Day) messages signal change. The other day, Dave said he had been dreaming of new curriculum, new programs for teaching. Then he lamented aloud about not needing to do that. Small things trigger the mind for routine activities.

September 11 will be our 28th Wedding Anniversary. September 13, Dave’s birthday number 72.  The sense of “our day” has given way to the tragic fall of the World Trade Towers and Pentagon crash ten years ago. Celebration seems so trivial when the country mourns for its freedom along with the innocent people struck down. September 11 is a date of how things change, how sometimes we cannot go back, how death and dates can cause grief to linger. Interesting that no one has ever said we should be “over it” after the first year. In fact, we honor the collective loss and memories every year.

But Dave’s birthday is a goal now. Let’s make it to his birthday. I know this is in his mind. He wants to be here. My gut instinct says he will be. But then what?

Holidays… Whether Dave is physically here or not, this season will be either the first or last. The first without him or the last he will be with us. How do you preempt those thoughts? I don’t think it can be done. The October through December months have been wrought with heath issues over the years. His Hodgkins Disease and spinal stroke, testing for cancers and finally this current lung cancer diagnosis were all Fall events. Holidays tend to create a hole for those who grieve. The “what’s missing” is too obvious. Should I acknowledge the loss, or should I pretend this is normal? Small things trigger the mind about routine activities.

Only 10% survive the first year with Dave’s type and stage of lung cancer. I don’t want to think this but I do. That will be in October. I’d have to look up the date. It’s not one I care to etch into my mind. The seasons and thus the circle of life march on. Both are predictable. Only the details change.

Fall is in the air.

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