Monday, June 19, 2017

(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All

In brotherlier times

Struggling to get through today after having a 5th Dimension experience that didn't see me nodding off until 10 a.m. this morning (to be at work by 1 p.m.). Not sure if one of the four prescription meds the urgent care physician assistant prescribed me for my ongoing sore throat and respiratory problems was to blame -- antibiotics, cough suppressant, steroids and nasal spray -- or if post-traumatic stress was the culprit. I only know I started thinking about last June when everything in life changed and my mind couldn't turn off. As some of you know, my brain works very chronologically -- which is why friends and family have to defer to me when trying to recall if they were married/divorced before/after such-and-such event happened in their lives, and why I was able to write a memoir off the top of my head. As I've gotten older, though, my mind is a bit more cluttered. So I've gotten in the habit of writing important dates down -- even becoming high-tech enough to use my iPhone calendar. 

Damian reminded me that a week ago was the one-year anniversary of Larry's death -- which is why we were offline last June 12 and didn't really process the Pulse massacre until later -- so I opened my calendar in bed around 3 a.m. (when I'm normally nodding off) to look at the life-altering string of events that followed only to find Apple keeps the previous year's calendars but erases what you did on those days. (Another intuitive feature by the slave-labor lovers?)  And that just seemed to send my brain reeling. 


I eventually confirmed that our one-year meetiversary with Harvey -- then being marketed as "Marlowe" -- was on June 19. Exactly a week had passed since we said goodbye to Larry and I just couldn't stand another minute in a cat-free home. So after perusing some critters online, Damian and I wound up stopping by the Kitty Kind shelter (in the Union Square Petco) to see one in particular where it was love at first meow. (Later to be eternal love with virtually no meows but multiple bites.)

After poring through some emails with the adoption agent, Marie, I confirmed that we picked Harvey up two days later -- after a home inspection and not without Damian stopping by to visit our boy on June 20 -- on the 21st. (Damian remembers all of this, but he was asleep and having my notes erased left me feeling very anxious.) What this was all leading up to, of course, was that I knew the same week the new love of our lives entered was the same week my brother called to tell me about his diagnosis. While the exact date he told me makes no difference in the big scheme of things, at 5 a.m. it suddenly and inexplicably became paramount. I started flipping through 2016 calendars, trying to remember what day of the week it happened. I knew I was at work monitoring SEC filings when my brother and I were emailing as we did almost daily and he suddenly said, "While I have you, give me a call when you have a chance." This was very out of character -- we have communicated electronically (when not in person) almost exclusively for decades except for major holidays -- so my first thought was something big like a job change or move was happening. (He and his wife had been flirting with the idea of early retirement, splitting their time between Capitol Hill and the Wyoming house that belonged to her grandmother.) And then he just said it, with no preamble: "I have cancer," with a this-is-more-of-a-nuisance-than-anything emphasis on the word cancer. The fact that he sounded more annoyed than scared combined with the enormous progress in cancer treatments immediately convinced me it was going to be OK -- this speaks well of medical advancement considering we were afraid to be a in pool with someone who had The Big C when I was a kid -- so I fully expected him to say he had Hodgkin's Disease (lymphoma) and that he'd suffer through some chemotherapy but everything would be fine in the end. But that's not what he said. He explained that they'd found a tumor the size of a tennis ball on his liver -- as well as two golf-ball-size masses and "countless others throughout" -- and before I could finish offering him half of my liver so everything would be OK as I still knew it would be he said that virtually no one gets "just liver cancer," so his doctors were nearly positive it had metastasized from somewhere else, and that his pancreas or bile ducts were the leading contenders and that both options were very, very bad. The whole horrific scene kept replaying in my head -- how I ran to a more secluded area of the newsroom and collapsed against the wall sliding to the floor; how I tried not to let on how scared I was but knew my big brother already knew exactly how I was feeling since he was already apologizing to me for putting me through this (no, Bill! -- and yes, I just used a semicolon). And for some reason I just needed to know exactly when this fucking nightmare took place. The search feature on my personal email account isn't great -- especially on my phone -- but I remembered that I had contacted my brother Terence that evening to check in on him. Once I discovered our correspondence, it suddenly came back to me that it was a Friday -- everyone was dressed especially casually that day because so many managers were already on vacation or something -- and my colleague Yogi sweetly suggested I tell our boss what had happened and immediately go home, which I did. It was June 24, 2016. June fucking 24 -- three days after our furry little friend moved in. That mystery was now put to bed, but my mind was never more awake. The minute Bill told me he was sick I naturally wanted to go see him. As I considered going down my parents called to say they were driving out and should be there by Fourth of July weekend, a mere week away. I remember I had already volunteered to work that holiday, but after telling my boss what was going on she kindly rearranged things so I could be off to go to Washington that weekend into week to be with everyone. I had blogged about the family all being together, but as I was lying in bed I knew there was a missing piece to the puzzle that I hadn't recorded on social media.

With date stamps on photos, Apple didn't disappoint me this time -- so I confirmed that after initially postponing the July 4th weekend trip my heart couldn't wait another second when Sunday of the holiday weekend rolled around. So I had jumped on a train and showed up unannounced at Bill and Jacqueline's house to surprise him. Bill was asleep when I got there, so Jacqueline and I had a sweet moment in the entryway before she roused him to say a surprise had "arrived" for him and I went into his bedroom and gave him a big hug. (Listening to my heart and going was the best decision I've ever made in my entire life.) 

I've since learned that my brother found out about the tumors on his liver -- after not feeling right for a year and being tested for many digestive-related things -- on June 13, the day after Larry died

Terence had spent time with Bill the previous weekend, so it was great to have some alone-time with him, watching Wimbledon and just being normal for a little while before things got too serious. And with that I finally closed my eyes and went to sleep for a few hours, with Harvey on my legs and Bill forever in my heart -- and filed away in the right section of my brain for the night. People say obituaries and memorials are supposed to help bring finality to something like this. But I still so much just want this to not be true. 

Harvey's too squirmy for a selfie, but he did get to meet his Uncle Bill when he was in town to see "Hamilton" for his wife's 50th birthday

You don't have to look far to figure out why this post is titled the way it is!  I've got the '70s soft-rock bug, too! (Via Jacqueline's FB page.) 

One of Harvey's preferred hangouts

1 comment:

John Mc said...

Touching, (bitter)sweet, post. I feel for you, Kenneth.

And nice package cameo in the pic of Harvey playing with the red, white & green toy. Damian or you?!

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