I got about three and a half hours of sleep last night. I probably only got that much because I went to bed early with a stomach ache. When Tom came to bed, I thought it was the crack of dawn and that he was getting up for work. I was wide awake. So I came down here to mess around for a little while. Four hours later I returned to bed in time for his alarm to go off. Three times. Worrying about missing my own alarm made it impossible to get back to sleep.
Corey, Mad and I managed to get out early enough for a stop at Starbucks before heading down the hill. And since there were no blinding blankets of fog in the pass, I even got to work about 35 minutes earlier than I'd anticipated.
The next three and a half hours were spent in a podcast training. By lunch some of the people had the software installed (step three out of about 117 on the agenda). As a rambling sort of speaker, I understand what was happening to the instructor, but great googly moogly! St. Fu, dude, St. Fu!
When I finally left the building to find lunch, I was on my own. I used some of that time to check in with Nance because Van Halen's "Jump" had just come on the radio. Ken loves Van Halen. He used to work with one of the brothers... a bazillion years or so ago.
Nancy has begun making a lot of the decisions that are going to come up over the next month or so. One of them being, "What songs do I put on the CD with the photos that will be shown at Ken's memorial once he passes?" My point had been that he should get some Van Halen, even if he's not going to "be there"... and yes, even if Nancy isn't the fan that Ken is. I tried to get her to put in "Hot for Teacher" since she does work in education. I was kidding. But what about Jump?! Isn't that sort of what he's doing here? Jumping from one plane to the next?
Why yes he is... and Nancy is having it as the last song.
In a heartbreaking way, my choosing this song for them is akin to the fact that Nancy chose the song that Tom and I danced to at our wedding: Celine Salon's "At Last." No joking when I say that Tom and I would have wagered any of our worldly possessions against the idea that Celine Dion would even get air time at our wedding, let alone be featured that way. We did searches for any version of At Last other than hers. Etta's? Too scratchy. Cyndi Lauper's? Guh! What the hell was that?!? Some no-name person I can't remember? Can't remember what was wrong with her version either... maybe that's the point. Nope, it had to be Celine. It has to be Van Halen.
***It occurs to me now that a post I thought I'd made earlier never really happened. So here's a brief update before I continue:
The other day Nancy called to tell me that Ken had taken a turn for the worse after our visit last Saturday night. I went to see him one afternoon this week. It worked out best for us all that I got there before Nancy and left when she arrived. Ken and I had deeper conversations than we ever have... probably than I've ever had with anybody, really. He was in so much pain and he let me call the nurse to get something for it (he was up in a chair and couldn't reach the button). A couple of times he mentioned how tired he was and that he just had to get stronger. I looked right at him, but he didn't make much eye contact during those moments. But boy did he get a little spark every time he said, "But I'm not quitting. I'm not giving up!" I told him I could see that in his eyes.
Ken said quietly that all the decisions had been made. My hearing's not excellent and despite the situation, it was out of context, so it took me a minute to grasp what he was saying. I just nodded. I told him that he has a lot of people who love him and who are praying for him. He nodded rather enthusiastically and said, "I know. It's a good thing too, it's the only hope I have right now."
It's times like these that I really wish I had a faith in something more than human abilities.
I really wanted to say so many things to Ken: Nancy will be okay no matter what happens. People around her will not let her hit the ground, we will lift her up no matter what happens. You will be okay, no matter what happens.
It does seem too much like telling someone that it's okay to die... when I don't have the right to give any sort of permission like that. But I wanted him to know... Nancy will be okay.
I didn't bring her up, but Ken did. He kept saying he doesn't want her to have to go through this.
"Yeah, well she feels the same way about you, ya know."
And then... somehow... I was able to say what seemed so important.
"You know, Ken, Nancy also has a lot of people who love her and who'll take care of her."
"I know. I know she does. Please keep an eye on her. I know you will. You do. You and a lot of people."
In the fog of the moment, I can't really remember if he asked me to promise or not. I just know that I did.
Somewhere in there, Nance called to say that she and Robin were almost there. They were taking my parking space because City of Hope is kind of a madhouse when it comes to parking.
So I gave Ken a couple of hugs and kisses through the mask I wore and promised, also, that I'd see him again.
It seems that I will have to be back out there very soon. Probably Monday.
When I spoke with Nance this afternoon she told me that she and their son, Kenny, met with the doctor. Her six year old granddaughter was in the car, so she had to be quite vague, but it seems that the main thing keeping Ken alive right now is the extreme frequency of blood and platelet transfusions. They aren't enough and he's losing the fight.
Kenny is getting married in August. Did I mention that already? He just got engaged a couple of weeks ago and asked Ken to be his best man. Ken won't be there. They're holding a commitment ceremony on Sunday in Ken's room. I guess the next day the doctor will talk with Ken about ending the transfusions.
How does a person... or a team of people in this case... decide which one will be the last? I can't express how relieved I am not to be part of that team. I do understand why it's the best thing for Ken... and probably Nancy... but I'm still... relieved.
One of the things I did after visiting Ken the other day was to contact someone from a local hospice agency that Nance and I work with through our program at work. I went there seeking guidance. How do you help the friend who knows she's too independent for her own good at times?
"What can I do for her? I can see that she's created a protective wall around herself and I don't want to be pushy, but I want her to know I'm her for anything she needs."
"The easiset and the hardest advice is to just be the best 'you' you can be."
"I can do that... my role with Nance has always been to make her laugh. It's not as easy as it once was, but sometimes I can pull it off without being too slapstick."
"Tell her she's doing a good job."
Today I got to tell her. It was all I could do to keep myself together and get the words out so she could hear them. I managed it. Barely. Long enough to get off the phone.
By then there were about 15 minutes before training resumed. I had a mini break-down on the balcony, pulled myself together as best I could and went back to the computer lab. A room full of people who know Nance and know what's going on. One woman saw my red nose and asked, "Shannon, have you heard anything more from Nancy?"
All I could do was put my hands up to stop the words from coming out of her mouth. Nothing was coming out of mine. I looked down and started to log in, but felt the tears coming hot and heavy, so I got up and left. And left my purse in there. I thought about texting one of my friends to bring it out, but of course my cell was in there, too. After nearly 20 minutes hiding in an alcove at the end of a hall, I made my way to my desk.
Since I did have other jobs I could do out of the office, I called one of the secretaries and asked her to go get it for me.
"I won't be disrupting them if I go in there right now?"
"Yes, a little, but not as much as I will if I go in there." Yeah, make it sound like I had a hissy fit or something. Way to go. "I'll explain when you get here."
Instead of the secretary, the woman who brought my purse was the one who had asked. We hugged and had a little talk before I sent her back in and headed off to finish up what has turned out to be pretty high on the list of saddest days ever.