osodecanela: (Default)
It's blazingly hot here today. We're in the midst of a heat wave and it's now 102°. It is at least a dry heat; were we dealing with a humid heat, it would be more than stifling. I had wanted to get out and get some landscaping done, at the very least get the weeds knocked down, but the morning got away from me and it got just too damn hot to do that now. Maybe early evening will be bearable to do so.

I was listening to the moth radio hour last night as I drove home from Santa Rosa. Given that today is Father's Day, the stories they featured were all father related. The bulk revolved around new fatherhood, but the final installment was by a young man who as a graduate student abroad, lost his father suddenly. It focused on what he learned about his father during the morning period after his death. I nearly had to pull off the road.

I was physically present in the room with my father breathed his last, along with my mother, my sisters, and an an aunt & uncle. My father was dying of leukemia, then only a few years older than I am now. It was the culmination of a 13 year battle. Up until a few months prior, I had been in denial that my father would succumb to the disease. It had been a chronic leukemia & he'd had health crisis after health crisis for over a decade in and after surviving each of them, he'd gotten back up and went back to work. I'd been called home too many times, that he had had a "terminal" event and I would be needed to help with funeral arrangements, only to have him sitting up and reading the newspaper in his hospital bed upon my arrival. There are chronic leukemias where the patient survives 30 odd years with the illness. Most of my father's aunts and uncles made it well past 80. My grandfather didn't retire until 90. I honestly expected my father would do the same. However, 2 1/2 months prior to his death, the leukemia became acute.

At the end of June in 1995, Pop called and said, "my absolute neutrophil count is under 100." It was his way of telling me, "This is it." My response? "I will be there this weekend." It was Thursday afternoon. I caught the redeye the following night. I was able to arrange for cross coverage; 2 rent-a-docs, actually a married couple just out of their residency came in and worked my office for the duration. Nearly 3 months later. my father died on September 26. I returned home the beginning of October.

This time together left us time to talk and to simply be with one another. When Pop died, we had each said what we needed to say; we had no unfinished business with each other. A few days before he passed, I said to him not to try and hold on for us, that if it was his time to go, we would miss the hell out of him, but we would be OK. I said it, because it was something I thought he needed to hear. He was suffering. I was lying through my teeth. My inner child, the little boy within me, was not ready to say goodbye to daddy. He still isn't. 22 years later he is still hurting, & he is still grieving.

There was much I learned in the process of losing my father. Four days before his death, his calcium levels became dangerously high, not a rare side effect of his malignancy. The residents working at the hospital (an Ivy League medical school no less), responded by opening Pop's IV line wide, pumping him full of fluid, and chasing it with a diuretic. I was sitting at his bedside reading, when I noticed Pop hop out of bed for the third time in half an hour to take a leak. Now as he was not a diabetic, that made me look for the why & seeing that his IV line was wide open, I went to the nursing station to find out why. There the resident, not realizing he was talking to a fellow physician, informed me that if he didn't do something about my father's hypercalcemia he was going to die. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. I responded, "I'm sorry, but is treating his hypercalcemia going to cure his underlying leukemia, which is killing him at the moment? He is still continent and neither needs nor wants a catheter. What you are currently doing to him is not going to lengthen his life significantly and its decreasing the quality of what time he has left. Please, Stop it now."

The day prior to his death I bathed him. He was too weak to be able to do that for himself. I was my honor. I knew the end was close, and I knew that at the funeral home that there would be a ceremonial mikvah, to cleans his body one final time. I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had allowed him to feel clean while he was still able to feel it. I heard him say it. That I could do that for him still gives me some solace.

As a physician, I thought I understood death. With my father's passing, I realized I understood nothing. In my youth I struggled to be my own person, to individuate from my parents & see our differences. It was in losing him that I finally came to see how much of my father remains within me. I have his gregariousness, his sense of humor, and even the timber of his voice (though thank God I don't need a basket to carry a tune as he did). I have his flat feet and his lousy eyesight, as well as his insanely low cholesterol (likely the reason most of my his parents' generation made it into their 90s). I came to recognize just how generous he was with me emotionally, how much he was in my corner. I recognize that I had, no, have his unconditional love and that's what sustains me in enduring his loss.

To each of you reading this a happy Father's Day. And to you Pop, I love you. I wish I could hear you say it again.
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A friend became a mother in the Spring of 1995. I had known her mother particularly well; she had died in a horrific car crash a decade earlier, a crash my friend and her sister survived. They were then 21 and 20 respectively. We were both at a week long conference together not long after she had the baby, and I, never one able to simply sit and listen without taking notes, kept my hands busy instead with yarn and a pair of knitting needles. By the end of the week, I swaddled that infant in a freshly made blanket and handed him back to his mother.

I sat a few seats behind his parents at a memorial service for him yesterday. He died last month of a drug overdose, at 21.

I wept. The loss was not mine, but I wept for the loss of his life. I wept for his parent's pain, now having buried their only child. I wept for him. I wept for the loss for our community.

I wept in silence. And there I sat in the back, next to my husband, between 2 of our 4 godchildren, kids we've had some hand in raising as 'it does take a village'. Kids I now held close to me, just a little bit tighter than I had before.

And in my lap was my knitting, yarn lightly tensioned and needles flying, but this time my yarn was damp, as tears rolled down my face and on to my project below. I sat and remembered my joy in creating a blanket 2 decades ago to mark a new beginning, full of promise and hope. I wept for such promise squandered and lost, and for those left behind to pick up the pieces.
osodecanela: (cam capture)
Troy was dying.

I was supposed to be working on paperwork yesterday. Instead I drove to Santa Clara to say goodbye.

He was awake when I arrived. Groggy from the very much needed pain medications, but could respond to questions and could on a limited basis interact. I spent several hours sitting there, holding his hand. [livejournal.com profile] ogam got there from El Paso shortly after I did.

Oggie walked me to the car at 6:30 and I walked into the house just past 9 last night.

I awake this morning to two texts, one from Oggie and the other from Troy's ex, [livejournal.com profile] blktalon. [livejournal.com profile] steeleheart joined the ancestors at ten minutes to two this morning. He did not die alone. Friends had organized a vigil and one of them was there at his side, right until the end, another hand to hold in comfort.

A painful journey is over and a friend is gone, way too soon. Rest in peace, my friend. Rest in peace.
osodecanela: (cam capture)
I'm grateful it was fast and relatively painless. My mother-in-law had didn't appear to suffer.

When my dad was in his dying process from leukemia 20 years ago, he often said there was much to be said for having a stroke & just going out. I had to remind him there was no guarantee a stroke would finish him. Oddly enough Annette's stroke happened on the 22nd, what would've been Pop's 86th B'day. She never regained consciousness. We withdrew the tubes the morning after X-mad & let nature take its course. The funeral was Tuesday. We have the gigantic week long Yahrtzeit burning in the kitchen.

I remember when I was 8 or 9, remarking to my Bubbie that my other grandparents had the same 'juice' glasses, not yet understanding what they really were, the glasses that held memorial Yahrtzeit candles; she smirked and told me someday I'd had a set of my own. Sadly, now I do, though they're much more generic in appearance than were hers.

I cannot have OJ in the morning without thinking about my father. Or my brother-in-law. Or Bubbie.

And I guess now, Annette. To be frank, I would much prefer to have them still present in my life, than juice glasses.
osodecanela: (Default)
A moment to remember those beloved who have gone before me:

Murray Bloom
Lily Freeman
Sam Freeman
Joe Bloom
Dora Bloom
Anne Greene
Morty Greene
Sidney Freeman
David Bloom
Norman Roslin
Barry Hershkoff
Bob Green
Philip Sias
Dorothy Haines
Laszlo
Aaron
Isaac
Lucas
Dawn
Nathan

In my heart, a small stone lays on the marker of your final resting place; you are gone, yet a piece of you remains within me, where your soul has touched mine. My love to you, until we meet again.
osodecanela: (Default)
I first met Ron in the early 90's while surfing AOL. We met in a chat room for gay men north of SF. We lived on opposite sides of the same county, I on the Russian River, and he an hour and a half away in the town of Sonoma. We became fast friends.

We had much in common; a love for the visual, for color and composition. We were both partnered gay men, though his was not a happy marriage. When Ron and I first met, I had been with LJ 13 years, while they had been together for a dozen; he was was contemplating leaving the relationship back them, although it would take him another 6 years to do so.

In 2000, he met the love of his life, I think also via the internet. William was in Atlanta on the other side of the country. Within 6 months from when they first met, Ron relocated to be with him. They were good for each other. Their temperaments meshed well and for the first time I could remember, Ron was in love and happy. I was thrilled, but horrified. What if it didn't work out? Atlanta? An openly gay man living in the deep south? Northern California chauvinist and Jewish mother that I am, I was worried. I needn't have been. Emotionally, Ron thrived there.

I awoke this morning feeling uneasy. The cat decided I needed to have my bare shoulder kneaded with his kitty claws at half past six. I rolled over and looked at my phone for the time. There was a missed call from an Atlanta phone number, that had come in 15 minutes earlier. As cell reception at the house is spotty, I decided to wait to check the call until I was on the road for work. However, in the pit of my stomach, I already knew something was dreadfully wrong.

William answered the phone, when I called. He was composed, but somber. Ron had suffered from some major medical problems over the years and had been in the hospital not long ago. Last night, he suddenly felt short of breath. He passed out and William called 911, then started CPR, but without success. Ron was gone by the time the EMT's got him to the hospital. He was 63. This August they would have marked 10 years together.

As I sit and write this, that Ron is gone is finally beginning to hit me emotionally. I'm not shocked, but it was unexpected. I'm grieving, not just for Ron, but for William, who I came to respect and appreciate for the good man he is, the man who took my friend away from California and did what no one else had ever done. He made him happy, and for that, I'm grateful.


This was taken by William of Ron and I during their last trip to California several years back. We were out by Goat Rock on the Sonoma County coast, just south of where the Russian River meets the sea. It sadly was the last time we saw one another.
osodecanela: (Default)
It'll be a week tomorrow that Aaron died. I keep expecting to turn around and find him shadowing me. I keep expecting to walk into the bedroom after my shower and find him lying on my side of the bed. I'm still having a hard time, and the tears still come when I don't expect them, but each day gets a little easier.

Arjuna is amazingly helpful. I find I'm hugging him often and not pushing him out of my face as much when he decides I need doggie kisses. Noah however is treading very lightly since Aaron's passing. He's even more skittish around the pup, with no Aaron, the Protector to defend him.

For each of you who've extended your warm thoughts, prayers and condolences, my heart felt thanks. Your words and wishes have given me a degree of solace & have made this loss just a bit easier. Please accept a psychic hug from me to each of you. Please forgive me for not thanking each of you individually, but I'm still quite raw inside, and even writing this brief missive has left me choked up internally and very misty.
osodecanela: (Default)
I'd wanted to start this post with a photo, but my computer has been acting up ever since I updated to the latest version of Internet Explorer. I'm now getting much cozier with Firefox. Even though it is proving to be a better web browser for me, I'm still having trouble uploading jpgs. My words will just have to suffice.

A few minutes past seven Wednesday morning, I was packing up my laptop to head off to work. I had CNN on, and both dogs as usual where right at my feet, as I tried to get things together. There's something about a large dog in a small or crowded room. They're almost always underfoot. Aaron got up and lumbered into the next room, I assumed either to head outside onto the deck or to get to his dog food. A moment later I heard a thud. LJ went to see what was wrong, and returned a second later.

"We just lost Aaron."
"What?!?"
"I said, we just lost Aaron."

He had simply fallen onto his side, and had died. Just like that, with no real warning. He'd clearly aged markedly in the past year, but no, other than his arthritic hips, we really had no clue he was about to leave us. I'd smiled at him and scratched his head just a couple of minutes earlier. The night before, he and the puppy had run out on to the deck after the cat, the puppy to chase Noah, and Aaron, ever the protector, rushing to get between the two of them. He had moved as though the arthritis wasn't bothering him much. Aaron turned 11 early last June; he was a big dog, and all too often they're not blessed with long life.

I'm not dealing real well with this loss. I've spent much of the last two days crying on and off, trying to focus on work, trying to cope. Tears have come at times without warning, which is damned disconcerting when I have patients to take care of. Arjuna, the pup, who's also Aaron's nephew & who turns a year the end of September, appears both lonely and needy. He's gluing himself to LJ, and to me. When Sarah came to clean today, he followed her from room to room the entire time she was there.

I went into town Wednesday morning to find a day worker to dig a grave, on our land not far from the house. Arjuna, who's rarely phased by anyone we bring to our home, took an instant dislike to the man. He barked at him, even growled; he kept out of his reach, and stood guard as the man did his work, watching his every move until he was finished and Aaron had been laid to rest.

Aaron was in many ways a remarkable creature. As a young beast, he realized that when we joined hands in grace before meals, it meant we were going to eat. It was common for him to nudge his way between two people sitting at the table and for him to put his paw up onto hands clasped, as we said grace in silence. As he aged, it was not rare for him to sit in front of his food bowl and not eat, until you held 'paws' with him for a moment. That done, he would eat. This wasn't something we'd trained him to do, but rather something he had decided to do on his own, much like getting between the cat and the puppy, making sure no one got hurt.


I know I should be grateful that Aaron's death was mercifully fast and that he had no time to suffer.

I know I should be grateful that I'll never be faced with the agonizing decision of putting him to sleep.

I know I should be grateful for the 11 joyful years he brightened our lives with his unconditional love.

I know I should be grateful, for this remarkable creature who gracefully shared his life with my husband and me, but somehow, I'm not feeling grateful right this moment. It just hurts too bloody much.
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Spring has come to the Bay Area, well Summer actually, though I doubt these rather extreme temperatures will last. It was in the 90's today for the second day running. I'm in San Francisco till tomorrow night for continuing medical education.

Drove down last night, and stopped at Bill and Ticor's for supper and a massage. Good food, good company, good friends and a good rub - absolute heaven. Thereafter, I headed down to the city to crash with Ruth (the friend who officiated at our wedding last summer). She lives about 1/2 mile from my seminar. Classes were solid, as usually is the case with this organization. They specialize in updates for primary care providers; much of what they offer is sponsored by Harvard, UCLA & the U of Wisconsin. The colleague who usually crosscovers my OB when I'm out of town, but could not do so this week, happens to be here as well. I do enjoy sitting with her; she's good people.

I'm a bit ticked with myself. I packed a pair of sandles, thinking that might be a good thing for my tootsies. My eczema on my toes has been making me nuts, as of late. Unfortunately, they're all I brought with me for footwear and they've already caused a blister on each foot. Decidedly not a bright move on my part.

Had a chance for coffee with Dwayne here in the Castro, after my classes were over and before he took on his evening massage clients. Short visit, more of a tease actually, but it was good to connect with him, even if only briefly. Thereafter, I parked myself at Starbucks on 18th (aka"Starbears", to log on to the complementary wifi. Needed to reload my Starbucks Card in order to log on (t'was down to $0.15), and sitting here it hit me. The last time I sat at Starbucks was with Sarah the day her Mom died.

Sarah is a dear friend, who's mom (all of 4 years my senior) died Jan 2nd, as I arrived to visit her at Kaiser. Her death was mercifully fast for someone with lung cancer. I had not expected to be there when she passed. More importantly I had not expected Sarah not to be. She and her sisters were taking turns keeping watch at their mother's beside, and Sarah had taken the night shift. She had only gone home to sleep 4 hours or so earlier. She and her sister are still working hard to cope. While their father and step-mom (both of whom were there when Chris passed) were nearby, Chris raised them as a single mother. I think of her often, and yes, I still get misty when I think of her.

My thoughts tonight are with friends who're dealing with pending losses and tragedies. One is likely to lose his grandfather soon, a grandfather he adores. Another friend has gone home to care for his father who has gone onto hospice care. The third friend is dealing with issues of domestic abuse in her extended family. She is fortunately not the victim, yet the knowledge is rubbing salt into old wounds, to an extent re-opening them I fear.

More, I cannot ignore how struck I am at all the handsome faces of the men around me, and just how many show the brand of the anti-retrovirals. I am greatful for it's presence, yet saddened by its need.

And so I shall sit and hold these good people in the light, in the hope they will become whole again.
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Yesterday would have been Russ' birthday [livejournal.com profile] rock_bear. In many ways it still feels very strange to think that he's no longer in this plane of existence. I miss his observations, and regret I never had the chance to meet him in the flesh. My sense of loss is miniscule in comparison to those that knew him well.

To those of you who miss them, particularly one koala lover, my heartfelt condolences.

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