Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What Happens in Vegas

I worked the morning shift today. 4;30am-Noon. My old hours for 13 years. I've always looked forward to working that shift, but that's starting to fade. The only reason I'm typing is that I'm monumentally bored. I don't take middle of the day naps anymore, and my attempt today was disappointing. It's too hot for me to do anything outside for an extended period. It's also too hot for the dog to be outside for any more than ten minutes at a time, so a trip to the park is out. I don't feel like going to the gym, and since I went on Saturday and Sunday, today should be a day of rest anyway. The selections on television are abysmal. Say what you will about TV, but those who program it more than realize that those who watch between 1pm-4pm must have brains mushier than a cup of Golden Spoon peanut butter chocolate.

The old routine meant a nap from 1:30-3:30, followed by feeding the dog, catching up on news and waiting for the wife to get home. Today I gave up on the nap at 2:15. The dog was fed at 3. There's nothing to watch, and the news is all old to me. Obama's coming. I know this. There's a new Supreme Court nominee (more about that later). I know this. 90s all week. Oh, God, how I know that. I can sense my dog's frustration with my boredom, as my frustration makes me understand his. I'm leading a dog's life this afternoon. Sometimes that's good, but right now it's paralyzing. Pumpkin won't be home for at least an hour.  I consider myself an independent, but have I become so dependent on her company that I'm starting to lose the ability to enjoy my time alone? I had the potential to do almost anything I wanted this afternoon and the choice was to change the channel.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Ride Home

Steve died Tuesday night.

I had a feeling it was coming. My last post talked about the guilt I felt for not calling Steve since February 9th. Yesterday morning I took to Google to search under his name. The purpose was to check the obituaries in the Madison newspaper. Instead, I found that Steve had created a blog to diary the goings-on at his hospice. The entries were pretty regular, every second or third day. The last posting was three weeks ago. Something wasn't right

Not more than 15 minutes after looking at the blog- and the obituaries- Steve's stepmom called to say that he had died on Tuesday night, surrounded by family. The passing was peaceful, the pain finally gone. I learned that during his final days, Steve achieved his two dreams. One was to have an art fair, showcasing his work. That was held at the hospice. The other was to record a cd of original music. Both events were hits, with both the artwork and the cd (25 copies) selling out. Steve finished life with the same passion that I had seen in him when we hung out in Madison. Mission accomplished. Time to catch the bus.

Steve's stepmom told me how much he had appreciated my calls to him, even though those calls stopped three months back. Ironically, the blog entries would allow me to write Steve and comment on what great things he was doing. Even if I couldn't talk with him anymore, I was going to re-establish that line of communication. I feel terrific that he was so active in the time that led up to his death, but there'll be no shaking the guilt I feel for not being there toward the end. Funny how death is the hardest on those who haven't yet died

One more thing: Steve had told me that during the presidential campaign Barack Obama gave him a phone call. Steve was a big supporter and organizer for Obama in Madison. Word of Steve's condition made its way to Obama and the phone call was placed. Steve said Obama asked him how he could work so hard with such a debilitating condition. Steve told him that it was because Obama inspired him. Obama's response: "No, Steve. You inspire me". I'm not a fan of his policies, but that was a pretty cool thing to do. I just wish I had Steve's passion and drive. His reward? A one-way ticket North

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Friend Or Coward?

I last called Steve on February 9th. I knew it had been awhile, but not that long. Three months ago. Steve is someone I hung out with when I was living in Madison back in the early 90's. Steve's been fighting brain cancer for the past couple of years, and it's recently advanced to the stage where he's now in hospice care. Three months ago he was given six months to live. I've stopped calling. What am I afraid of?

The last time we spoke, Steve had gotten himself a bluetooth earpiece, as he was only able to use one arm. The bluetooth freed him up to do things like sketch and eat. It also meant a whole lot of background noise. It was tough enough to understand him before the bluetooth but with it, it became a much more difficult conversation. As I said goodbye, I said what I always said- "I'll give you a call next week". I haven't called since, and it eats away at me every day. I could pick up the phone right now and call, but I don't. Why?

(I've been sitting here staring at the word "why" for three minutes. No answer.)

I knew Steve had been as active at the hospice as a person can be. He'd been able to get around, had the biggest room in the place, and was living in his hometown, which meant constant visits from friends and family. Maybe I took heart in thinking that he's not alone and that I wasn't his only link to the outside world. Or maybe I'm just showing that I can't be a good friend to someone when they need a good friend the most. The easiest thing I could do today would be to call him. It would also be the hardest. 

See? There I go again. A friend of mine is dying of brain cancer and it's all about my problems, not his.
Steve passed away on May 12th. And I never called