Staying Out Ahead

Friday, December 23, 2011

Two days before Christmas. I have all sorts of observational minutiae ping-ponging through my head about life, holidays and Dave. I’ve been writing but not posting because I can’t seem to get anything finished. My feelings are more complex now and more difficult to articulate. I’m sure it is all exacerbated by the holiday ____. (I’ll stop at “holiday” because there are too many roads to follow on this thought.)

I have a lot of empty trails behind me this week. I finally mustered up the energy to try to shop. I hate to keep alluding to the SCDS but it really is a part of my everyday world to cope. Stores are stimulating enough this time of year with sounds of overhead music, toys and demos; the aisles are full of stuff, great gifts, and end caps saying buy me; and if it is past 11:30 am add traffic, people and more store clerks and … Oh, too much. Even with a list I found I could only seek out a single item at a time. After a couple of hours, I was done. I worried about leaving Dave. I had no efficiency. Plus, I needed groceries.  This tangible gift-giving is just not going to happen this year. It saddens me.

I have hung our three stockings –Dad, Mom, and Leah–  in the bedroom. I have the minimum of tradition covered for Christmas Eve. This will have to suffice. Even Leah has fallen ill this week. An almost holiday tradition for her, as she has had her fair share of the “week before” activity-stopping colds over the years. I’m thinking we’ll be piled up in bed watching a good, long movie in the near future! (Muppet Christmas again? That works at any age.)

We will hold a pot luck this weekend with all the kids and extended family. Yum, a Mexican Fiesta as a nod to my Tex-Mex roots. I am surprised to hear how many people here in the Northwest do the same. It won’t be tamales, but we’ll have a delicious taco and fajita bar, easy to pull together.

Along with the inner ear challenge of disequilibrium and autophony, I have been limping around with a bad hip for the last month. I suspect the constant stair climb has not helped. I’d have a morning that was fine, but then “tweak” it in a painful way in the afternoon. Or maybe I’d wake up limping only to find that walking around helped. Yesterday, I finally decided a cortisone intervention was needed, just to break the cycle. I notice Dave has been spending too much time worried about me and I have spent too much time chasing pain. It was one of those I-didn’t- know-how-bad- I-felt-until-it-was-fixed moment. What a relief to get the injection.

For each of us, staying ahead of all the pain is the goal: emotional, mental, physical. After a week of dragging behind, this morning I am optimistic. I can look forward to the day, weekend and even next week again rather than trying to focus on today, the next few hours or even minutes.

How is Dave? This is such a tough answer. About mid-week he awoke from an afternoon nap and said, “I feel better.” Boom. And he looked better. The swelling in his foot disappeared.  He had been sniffling for a few days and that stopped. Could he have had a bit of a cold? Or was it that the increased pain med and oxygen finally kicked in? Are we back to being out ahead of some of the symptoms again? Ahead of the pain?

The big question to me is whether I was pessimistically seeing changes this past week. I do know his overall health trend is downward; the serpentine ups and downs submerging into the depths.  It really depends on what moment you walk into his day. Alert. Sleeping. Clarity. Mid-thought conversations. Stable and independent. Weak and needing assist. This process is very fluid right now. Visitors also exchange with me a mixed glance of knowing (sadness, emptiness, loss?) that there is a change. I can see that this time is as confusing to them as to me. I have no answers. I have nothing to add in words. We all wait and watch together. And then we don’t. Do we? How much can we/should we read between the lines?

Dave’s sense of time is notably off. It is marked by pill talking more than the calendar. I almost wonder if his suspension in time is part of his longevity against cancer. I once read that all mammals have about the same average number of heartbeats in a lifespan. So the smaller animal with a faster heartbeat does not live as many years as a human with a slower heartbeat. Hmm, if I extrapolate that to people, then athletes with a slower resting heart rate theoretically have a longer life than strung-out high heart rate humans. Obviously there are a huge number of factors to change the equation, but all things being equal… Anyway, Dave has always seemed to have a slow methodical tempo to life. I wonder if this time, too, plays into his mental and physical capacity for passing the projected timeline with calmness. Observational minutiae on my mind.

I am going “into the moment” now. Now what gets done is just that. I wish all my friends, family and blog followers a beautiful and peaceful weekend. Be sure to take a minute for yourself to honor and do what helps you through your grief, loss and memories. I know I will.

4 replies
  1. Marty Tousley
    Marty Tousley says:

    Very dear Joan, I am thinking of you and holding you and your beloved Dave in my heart, as I wish you peace, love and light this Christmas and in the days ahead . . .

  2. Jan Rodelander
    Jan Rodelander says:


    Thinking of you and Dave still and praying the Christmas blessings are yours to have and keep near. I am encouraged and constantly admiring your ability to write and share your feelings about these things in your life. Love to you in the season.


  3. George
    George says:

    Once again, late in the evening last night, Debra, Daniel, Kristin and I were driving home from midnight services and I had the instant that happens every year right about the same time. I usually see someone walking through the night or I see someone coming out of a bar or even see an open bar. At that moment I will be transported back to a cold and dreary Christmas Eve in Olympia where I spent one of the most miserable nights of my life with someone that I still treasure to this day.

    I am thankful for all that has come my way in the intervening years and count my blessings by the gross. That night reminds me of how it could be and to never take anything for granted. Though we haven’t had much, if any, contact since then I never forget. I always remember. I always think of David and our long ago friendship and that sad and lonely night. You are not forgotten and you will never be forgotten as long as I am alive. The way you are going, you may outlive all of us…

    Please know that I love you and keep you in the deep recesses of my heart. You were there when nobody else was. I am surrounded by wonderful family and great friends and love my life. I just had a thought…I think you are hanging in there just to watch how the clowns running for president in the Republican party are going to sort themselves out. I know I don’t want to miss it!

    Merry Christmas David. We both have more to be thankful for than we deserve. Rest assured that next Christmas Eve at some moment in the late evening I will think about you, say a little prayer, hug my wife and shed a bit of a tear.

    Love to you and your family on Christmas 2011,



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