And Then This Happened (Plus and Update on Mom)


Okay, so an update on Mom’s condition. It’s just easier to do it here instead of call a bunch of people.

Two or three days ago (I’ve really lost all sense of time) I was in Texas with about 150 of my friends preparing for an annual prayer ceremony that I take part in. I have come to mark my years by this ceremony, more than “New Years,” more than my birthday, more than any other time of year. I usually turn the phone and computer off completely for the ten days I’m there but this year, because of all that’s been going on with Mom, I had to check in a couple times a day with Chad and Krystle (brother and his wife).

Mom and I had had a talk about my going to the prayer ceremony. I even, at one point, told her that I felt like if I went, she’d cross over to the other side. She said, “Well if I do, I do.” I reminded her that I have a pretty refined intuition and that I was more than willing to forego the trip this year. We also talked about whether or not she wanted to live longer. It was a loving and mature conversation based on some things she said to me on a recent late-night trip to the emergency room. It was one of those “I’m just so tired of this, I wonder if it might not just be better if I went on to the next life” conversations– where I listened and she talked.

I live in a different relationship to death than most people. Most of that is based on my spiritual beliefs. I see death as a comma and not a period. Also, I am a 49-year-old gay man who remembers a time before we’d heard the word “AIDS.” I’ve been to war in Iraq. And I’ve been in the recovery community for most of the past twenty-five years. This ain’t even close to my first time at the rodeo. I have buried a few people in my life. I told Mom that if she felt like her mission here on Earth was done and she was ready to move on, I would support her in that intention and love and support her in any way I could through that process. She has been very sick for a long, long time. But if she wanted to live longer, see her grandchildren more here in this life, I’d fight alongside her with everything I have to help her stay alive. She said she’s not done here. That’s what I’m doing in this intensive care unit with her tonight and for the past three nights. She’s going to get healthy again with God’s help and I’m going to do my part too.

I’ve told y’all this before but she wanted me to go to Texas. We both felt that my being there was where I could help the most– with my prayers and the prayers of the other folks at the ceremony. I don’t regret going and even during the few days I was there, I felt like important prayer work was set into motion. But when Chad texted and said, “I think you should come home, I believe you would regret it if you don’t.” I knew that he thought Mother was going to die and no matter what she and I had talked about, my brother wanted me home and there is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for him. And in fact, if she were dying, I would want to be with them. She and I have the rest of my life to Dance together in The Arbor.

My brothers and sisters will walk into The Arbor for four days of prayer and fasting starting tomorrow morning. It breaks my heart that I can’t be there with them. There’s always next year I reckon. Please drink water and eat healthy food on their behalf for the next four days. They are out there praying for all of us.

Now that I’m back in Alabama, it looks like Mom may be sticking around for a while longer and, while I’m telling the truth about how I feel about missing Sun Dance, I’m very glad I came back. There are ways that I can be of service to my mother that only I can do. I’m currently sitting here by her bed gently putting her hands back down by her side each time she tries to pull the naso-gastral tube out. She’s now attempted to do that about a hundred and fifty times. Bless her heart; I know it must be driving her crazy. I’d give anything if I could suffer for her instead of just beside her. Hopefully the tube can come out tomorrow. They’ve taken her off of the ventilator and she’s breathing on her own again (well, with O2 supplementation). Even the world “ventilator” scared the shit out of me but she had just gotten to a point where she was working so hard to breath and still not getting enough O2 so they put her on the ventilator for a couple of days to give her body some much needed rest. They took her off of it this afternoon and so far it seems that it was a very good idea. She looks so much better. She is taking a long time to come around but as Chad reminded me, that’s usually the case when she’s been under anesthesia. It takes a ton to put her under and a long while for her to completely come back to Earth.

Okay, that’s about it for the report on Mom’s health. I sure do appreciate the (literally) hundreds of messages of support we’ve gotten. When I get downhearted, I just start reading the cards or “liking” the sweet comments on Facebook. I really do appreciate it. We appreciate it.

Oh, one more thing. They tried to admit me to the hospital today! Can you imagine?! About two weeks ago, I was having a killer workout at the gym. My arms were full of blood and I had the Nine Inch Nails crankin’. I went over to do some pull-ups and I felt something sort of explode in my forearm. The adrenaline was pumping so I just kept going and fired out a couple more sets before hitting the showers. That night, I noticed a large bruise popping up in that arm. Over the next couple of days it turned dark purple and then started to fade away. I figured it was done. But over the past few days, it started to hurt more. During the past two nights staying here in the hospital and helping move Mom around, it really started to stab pretty bad. I have a ridiculously high pain threshold but by this morning, I’d just had enough and headed on over to the VA. I told the nurses here at the CICU where Mom is that I’d be back as soon as I could.

I won’t bore you with the whole long story but essentially it went something like this: I showed up at the VA emergency room with throbbing arm, chest, and back. They did x-rays, sonar, blood work, and pee-pee test. As it turns out, I have a large tear in the belly of my right forearm muscle and a sizable hematoma there. The concern is that it will solidify. My arm already feels like marble and I’m not talking musclehead hyperbole.  Something’s wrong with it. Somehow two weeks ago it got hard and won’t go down. It reminds me of those Viagra commercials that tell you to call your doctor if you get a woody lasting more than four hours. Honey, the last person I’m calling if I have a four-hour woody is a doctor (unless he’s hot and even so, I have sort of a sexual aversion to doctors now, haha). But in this case, it’s a pump and not a woody and it’s my arm and not my crank. Oh yeah, and I almost forgot, the one swollen foot is now both feet and they were the size of softballs by the time I got to the ED (Emergency Department, not the condition treated by Viagra). Okay, I’m obviously deliriously tired and I have to go back to wrestling Mother over this mask/tube dispute. Let me wrap this up:

After the doc at the VA delivered the diagnosis regarding the painful arm and told me that they’d be referring me to an orthopedic surgeon (I thought they just did bones) she said something about my liver and gallbladder and told me they wanted to admit me for observation. Just then, the hospital gown and IV made sense. I told her that while I appreciated the excellent care and conscientious concern, I was just simply too busy to go into the hospital to watch my gallbladder which, as far as I knew, had made no complaints in the first place. I promised to follow up in a couple of days at the clinic, come back to the ED if anything gets worse, and see the surgeon when they call. I  also told her that, in fact, I already had hospital plans for the night with my mother. I suggested that, so the whole IV thing wouldn’t be wasted, they squirt enough morphine in there so that my arm would stop hurting long enough for me to take a deep breath or two. Gratefully she agreed with that suggestion but respectfully rebutted my follow-up plea that they leave the port in and let me take the bottle of morphine with me. I gave them back their stylish gown, put back on my tank top, and headed back to Mom’s hospital…

…which is where you find me now, a gentle rain falling against the windows of the darkened hospital room. Rows of beeping machines with colorful lights helping me stand guard by her bed and looking like so many droids. My iPhone has buzzed a few hundred times while I’ve been writing so it’s now time for me to start answering texts and telling this story as many times as my throbbing arm will allow between bouts of helping Mom remember why she’s not allowed to pull that tube out of her nose.

See y’all tomorrow.

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