Sunday, January 20, 2013

the usual

(originally written and sent 11/22/11)

hey-   (12:15 AM from a hospital room in my hometown of decatur, IL)

sorry for taking so long to get back to you.  I've been getting the updates from san francisco- really hard to know what to say in situations like this, other than that life is an unpredictable and cyclical affair and I think it's very generous of you to open up and share this ordeal with a whole group of people like you've been doing.

I've sort of been taking the opposite approach regarding my dad's health crisis.  he is 68 years old, has carcinoid cancer, has had it for 15+ years, but it's one of the slowest growing cancers there is.  he has had highly skilled doctors and highly skilled medications and treatments every step of the way, and it was only this past year that his health started to visibly break down.  the downward trajectory steepened about 6 weeks ago and then turned into a plummet about 10 days ago- he has plateaued somewhat, but at such a diminished level that it's difficult to be very encouraged.  however, for better or for worse, hope springs eternal with some of these doctors.  there are at least two potential "remedies" being discussed and readied to implement.  one is dealing primarily with symptoms, the other with the cancer itself.  I'm not always sure exactly how those two things are distinguished- they are certainly interconnected.  5 days ago my sister and I started discussing what his memorial service might be like, but as the plummet leveled out we suspended that particular dialogue.  not so much wishful thinking, as realizing that maybe we were being a little presumptuous.  of course these plans will need to be made sooner rather than later- oh well.  the "one day at a time" thing has been getting quite a bit of mileage recently, and I'm guessing that it might be the same for you and yours.  he's been in the hospital for 7 days now and it's not at all clear when he might change locations.  hospice has been discussed and the application process will probably be happening in the very near future.  

I have been spending very very little time on the computer.  I've never been a big user and when things are particularly rough I find it very easy to disregard it completely.  it's never become an important reality for me.  given what an insular and isolated lifestyle I seem to prefer, this makes a certain kind of sense.  I know that some insular, isolated people latch onto their computers in very desperate ways, as one of the few channels or lifelines to humanity that seems to be within their control.  if anything, computers increase my sense of estrangement.  I just have this uneasy, semi-apocalyptic sense that much of this technological infrastructure is either going to collapse or become extremely expensive and all the masses of people who have come to rely on it are...well, that is impossible to say.  hey, let's just take it one day at a time!       

even though he's here in the hospital, with extremely good care (these nurses are like the 21st century angels), my mom, sister, and myself  have decided, at least for the time being, to try and maintain a 24 hour companionship policy.  my mom is usually here from 8 am to 8 pm, and I'm here from 8 pm to 8 am.  my sister has considerably more going on than either of us, so she comes to town and fills in when she can.  she was just here for 4 days, she'll be here again soon for another 4 days-

for a lover of solitude, the night shift is definitely preferable.  except for my various caretaking tasks, it is very quiet and peaceful here.  my dad has shifted into a very non-verbal place.  I return home in the morning to a quiet and often empty house and often speak no words for 12 hours.  reading, writing, and nothingness.  that's what I started telling people a couple months ago if they asked me "what's been goin' on?" or "whatcha been up to?"  these stock questions have been driving me batty for years because I never knew what to say.  I realize now that people usually just want a pert, simple answer, so I say, politely: "the usual".  if they press further: "reading, writing, and nothingness".  if they ask what in god's name I mean by that or what exactly I've been reading or writing, I respond that I've been reading about reading, writing and nothingness; writing about reading, writing, and nothingness; but mostly reading nothing, writing nothing, doing nothing, being nothing.  (yeah, I do have a little fetish around that particular word.  my friends tease me about it.)

don't know when I'll be in madison next and the same probably goes for you.  I remember when we communicated last we said we'd share stories about our respective travels back in...october?  september?  well, the potential sharing territory just goes deeper and further now.

thinking of you,