So the family has come and gone, daughter and grandsons from California and Texas. It went well. Blake basked in their affection.
Now he is in bed #3 on the Elder Care floor of a Toronto hospital, bombed out of his mind on hydro-morphone and offering acute observations: the doctors are being much too cautious; this is a total waste of time; they are not managing his pain – he can still feel it, not a 9 anymore, but even so a 3. In short, he has better things to do.
He sleeps and startles suddenly. “I’m awake,” he says. “What happened?” I ask. “I don’t want to lose control,” he says.
On Monday, the Palliative Care Team will come to assess his needs between 10 a.m. and noon. We will be there – Alice, his friend, Daniel, his son, and me, his ex-wife.
The traffic on this Feb. 23rd, 2019 was brutal. Two hours each way from my western suburb. I listened to David Bowie as I crawled along the Lake Shore. And cried.
Blake, as followers know, is my ex-husband, who has clung to his perch in spite of stage 4 cancer for the past 8 years.
The procedure involved unconsciousness, an expert with a needle and the spine. Enough to make most people break a sweat. Not curative but an aid to strength and pain relief.
At the same time, his far flung family had decided to come visit while he was well enough. Our daughter had arrived the night before the procedure, and his two grandsons are expected next week.
I elected myself driver in spite of the dreadful weather and my own advanced age, on the grounds that Julia had just landed back in Toronto and needed to reacquaint herself with it before she took the wheel. We picked up Blake and his live-in friend/caretaker. The two women bundled him into the front seat beside me, and we headed across Dundas, that narrow, rail-slick street, across Yonge, University and Spadina, through Chinatown to Toronto Western Hospital. I dropped them at the front door and went in search of parking. It proved to be half a mile away down an icy side street. But this was my beloved Blake, so I limped on.
Needless to say, it took all day. Julia and I were used to surgical waits, so we had come equipped, but his friend Alice had not. While the two of us were content to slip into our books, Alice craved conversation. Not even CP 24, divided screen and all, could engross her.
So we made our way through the day. We had fled the pokey day surgery waiting room after Julia discovered the neurological waiting room with its space and comfort and natural light. Eventually, we were allowed back to sit beside our patient. Time passed. Shifts ended. The doctor was paged many times. We did our best to keep Blake’s spirits up. He confessed to feeling depressed. I suffered ever decreasing blood pressure from sitting and dehydration. At the point where I felt as if I needed a gurney myself, he was suddenly released. Julia went off to the lobby to deposit a loonie and get Blake a wheelchair.
Yes, dear reader. We were not in Valencia nor even Bakersfield anymore. We were in good old Canader where you don’t get a hospital bill but you do have to pitch in.
I reversed my slippery walk, paid $25 for parking, wended my way down snow-filled one way streets and arrived back at the covered entrance. And waited. And waited. And waited. And had horns blown at me. And waited.
Then Alice called. Blake’s phone was missing. I hadn’t seen his phone. Alice hadn’t seen his phone nor had Julia. But Blake swore he had put it in his shoe, which he and Julia had locked up with the rest of his clothes. When they came back to post-op, I sat beside these shoes, 10 1/2 white trainers with velcro fasteners. I had not seen a phone in either one. So – God forgive us – we told him it must be at home. Well, they told him, because he adamantly refused to be wheeled out of the lobby and I was still deep- breathing while blocking traffic.
Both Julia and Alice called his phone repeatedly while Julia raced back up to Day Surgery and searched. Everywhere. No ringing cell phone to be found.
When Julia wrestled him back into the car, Blake was spitting mad at the three women who were calling him demented and he unafraid to express it.
But it’s an old phone that needs to be replaced and surely he – a computer expert – had backed it up. No, he hadn’t. His life was lost.
I wound my snowy way down the back streets and out into the rush hour traffic and construction of an ever darker, wetter Dundas St. Voices were raised.
At last, I found my way down to Schuter so that I could turn back north onto Blake’s one-way street. I heaved the car up over a snow berm and sat there, while Julia levered Blake out of the car. I was breathing deeply when the dashboard indicated an incoming call. From Blake’s phone. Ah, we were right! It had been at home all along.
But no, dear reader.
Upon entering the house, Alice began calling Blake’s phone. Blake was sitting on the stairs. Alice was up on the landing. Julia was just inside the door. They listened to the ringing. It seemed very close. It was Julia who worked it out.
“Your foot is ringing,” she said.
They began to pry off his right shoe. As it came loose, it glowed bluely deep within.