Friday, February 29, 2008

Little moments of tease

So, Marcie has been making her appearances again in my dreams. But there is a different feel to them now. For one, I am not aware that I am dreaming.

I have had several of these new dreams. There are no surreal or grand visions, no strange transformations of reality or unnerving sensations. There are just relatively simple little chats and cuddles.

The best one was one that happened last week after the crazy spring in our mattress drove me off the bed and onto the couch. I dreamed I was laying with my head in her lap as she sat "Indian style," a rare treat.

Oh, geez, I miss that simple little thing. So you know how it works:

I usually would slide into her lap as I laid on my belly on the couch, wrapping one arm around her hips and the other under her thighs, then lay my head down. She loved to keep a pillow on her lap when she sat, conveniently enough. She only let me when she planned to stay put.

I had a tendency to fall asleep there, actually. I did almost every time.

In my dream, Marcie was stroking my back and leaning down, holding me and kissing my head as she basically petted me. I rolled over on my back and admired her as she watched something on the television.

Her soft little cotton pajama bottoms and the warmth of her body under them always made me want to stroke her, if not always out of my enamored state then for the tactile pleasure of it. She smiled and blushed as I got a bit fresh, but did not protest.

"If you can't behave, you can go," she said, smiling and leaning down, kissing me and stroking my hair off of my brow.

"I don't want to behanve, but if you try to make me leave, I will tickle you mercilessly," I said.

She gave me her look of defiant warning, one of my favorites, and the play ensued. By the time I had her on her back with her arms pinned, we were kissing. I let her hands go and she stroked my back gently and looke dup with such loving eyes.

Eyes I knew. Eyes I very much wish I could stare into again.

"I love you, honey," she said, and smiled. Then a tear rolled down her cheek.

Then I "remembered" she had cancer, and she was under treatment. I kissed her tears and her nose and her face, gently holding her head and stroking her face with my fingertips.

"You'll be okay, baby," I said, holding back tears and gulping at the lump in my throat.

She smiled and nodded, then looked up at me with a strangely calm and happy face. "I am okay," she said. "You'll be okay, too, honey. You'll be just fine, I promise."

I kissed her lips and slid down, hugging her waist and settling my head just under her breasts, kissing her tummy. She stroked my hair for what seemed a long time. Though I did not drift off, she said "Honey, you have to get up."

I pushed up and she sat up and kissed my forehead. "You have to go to work," she whispered. "I love you."

She smiled and stroked my cheek. I woke in our front room, laying on my belly, her kiss of the phantom of it still warm on my forehead and the stroke of her hand's tingle not yet quite faded.

For once, I felt not just loved but undisturbed and not as bereft as I awoke, and I went to work happy and well-rested for the first time in months.

I hope these are the moments I can expect when I take our trip.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dreams upon dreams.

So, as I have been wrestling with dilemmas and working on the trip, the dreams have become very strong again. They are quite comforting at the moment, too. I intended to write about them tonight, but I have been busy on other fronts and needed to catch up with some friends.

I had an interview tonight for what appears to be a great project.Imagine a startup journalism site on nonprofit issues, growing slowly from a simple but professional, top-notch blog into a much more complex and powerful source of information on nonprofit work than currently can be found in one place.

I'm hoping I did as well as I might have. Make money, do good,all at once in one place? Sign me up! I'll let you all know how it goes. We'll see.

I need sleep. Good night, folks


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What riches for the moral?

Lately, I have been considering, or rather reconsidering, what eyes I look out at the world with. I have always been committed to playing fair, being good to people as much as I can manage and placing principle first.

I am beginning to think that perhaps such an approach may have contributed to losing Marcie.

During my time with Marcie, I did not do some things I now know would have paid off handsomely. Some of these would have brought serious detriment to other people, something I have tried to avoid ("First do no harm..." etcetera).

Others would have been unethical but not harmful to anyone in any direct way. But some I simply had to forgo because Marcie was not going anywhere. Marcie was in San Diego to stay.

I had offers of jobs in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, Portland and even British Columbia, but Marcie had her foot down. She did not want to leave her parents, specifically her mother, again.

I could have forced her to choose to follow or watch me leave, but I was honestly too smitten. Never mind that some of the jobs and opportunities were simply outstanding, replacing our two salaries at once. Never mind I have always hated the sunshine tax that San Diego levies with aplomb on all not related to the scum who own it.

I loved her and, even if I could win an argument, I could not stand to see her cry. So, I was trapped trying to negotiate a path that kept me happy with her and not so overwhelmed with frustration at the constant struggle to get a decent career going.

One consolation I had was that she always knew that I wanted to move on some of these opportunities. She was always supportive when I did not bury someone at a job after a big backstabbing took the rug out from under me.

"You're a pure soul, and you are better than that," she would say. "I am so proud of you and I am so happy you are not like that."

It is not much consolation right now.

I should have just gone and let her know I wanted her to come along but I would not wait. When I wanted to start a Ph.D., I should have refused to drop it as she wailed about the expense of school and her wish to stay rooted.

I sometimes feel that the jobs at several internet companies I was offered, including those very early on at CNET and a few with more business-oriented startups, would have greatly enriched us. Two of them had spectacular IPOs.

Why is this relevant now? Well, I have been thinking that perhaps not being in a better place with more money and a better life may have killed my baby. That process of thought has been stuck in my brain lately, those regrets and deep guilt teaming up on me as I consider my next moves in life.

I waver between keeping the faith and trying to find such opportunities again and simply going for the jugular on every opportunity I get, hurt to others be damned, ethics be forgotten.

Adding to this is a huge arbitration battle in the future over her death itself. I am a battler, and the only time she would become upset with me was when I would take up a crusade. There is no Mr. Nice Guy when I fight. I do not so much want to win as to thoroughly defeat, destroy and permanently debilitate my opponent.

I have never really lost when I have been in that coarse and mean mode, but I have had regrets. Cajoling and bashing at Kaiser for the best and most treatment worked, but was I even able to know about the best study medications at such a place?

Probably not. I wonder what I could have stomped around and, if not outright bought, strangled out of UCSD or John Hopkins. What could a few million have bought, and how fast would the problem have been detected? Would she be here making me some breakfast for dinner?

But then I come to the realization that my romantic proclivities got me into that regretful nostalgia. Do I really think that if I were involved with someone who loves me, the romantic side of me won't soften me too much to put my foot down?

Have no doubt that I will always have that romantic side to me. I write things about Marcie that will never see the pages of this blog. I have a chapbook full of innocent romantic notions that would make the most peurile and pedestrian poetasters sneer in contempt.

But I wonder if, barring the need for a soft heart (for a book tour and the writing of a book matched in tone with my love for her) and all those ethics and that whole purity business, I should not just seek every crappy dollar and crush anyone who stands in my way.

I have told a friend that the sun will likely set on romance as a guiding force in my life's decisions over the Atlantic as I watch from the Moroccan coast and the last of her ashes slips from my hands. Even my intended end to it sounds romantic.

More honestly, I am afraid that, should I ever fall so deeply in love again, I may not keep my eyes open and my will strong to tend to the opportunities that come my way. I don't want that to happen.

However, I acknowledge that I could find something enriching, or have one of my two provisional patents turn out to be valuable enough to secure whatever future I wish to have. Who knows? Maybe the book will be something with value in the market, not just my heart. I do intend to pursue higher degrees, regardless.

But if none of those pies in the sky are within reach, I want to start building up a pile of cash through more direct means. If I have to work in a field of relatively little appeal, or do it while stepping on people ruthlessly, then perhaps better late than never.

Perhaps I can join the scads of scum who redeem themselves with reviving that romance when they have had their fill, and somehow reconcile the moral body count and ethical boneyard in retrospect with some charitable grunts.

Then again, maybe Marcie would have left me long ago as my foot was down and I said I was going with or without her, or when I started leaving people in the lurch for a buck, or when I started applying my crusading ways to my business behavior.

For now, the only thing that has been strong check on me has been the memory of her stroking my face on her little hospital bed.

"You get so mad, honey, but you always do the right thing," she said. "You are such a pure soul. It just breaks my heart to think you'd change that."

And even if I have my thoughts, her voice is still so strong in my heart that I can't unleash my long-dormant predatory instincts. Honestly, though, I think a few more solid beat-downs, a few more paltry paychecks and a little more pain will "help."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New friend

Another new blogger and visitor has popped in. Teej, who commented here, then I ran into on Lana Banana's site, may be connected to this site and could be the author? Welcome, Teej. Let me know if it's your blog and I will put up a link.

A disservice

I have posted stridently about romance and love, and I have been very supportive of an idealistic look at such sentiments. I want to acknowledge the people this outlook potentially does disservice to.

To the people who have been badly hurt after being taken in by pretty words, I apologize. Not everyone is sincere, and there are many scoundrels cajoling and carousing in the pilfered cloth of troubadours.

Just listen to your heart, and if it hears something wrongly, run away.

To the people who have honestly lost faith and settled, or have found some lusterless lifelong relationship in the mundane and unloving safety of someone familiar, I apologize. It is your choice to comfort yourself how you choose in this ugly world.

Refuge can be more important than comfort, and much more accessible. But settle well.

To those who have had their fill of romance and decided that more of it is far too much, no matter how little more there might be for you, I apologize. I understand you completely and I have been there with you. Romance is a burden.

It can be easier to appreciate what we have had and pursue something less taxing.

To the people who have spent so much of their lives in love and dedicated to it that they have forgone great things and feel the burden of lost opportunity, I apologize. You do not need my notions and insistence in them to coax you into further sacrifice.

Remember opportunity has its place, and true love should make room for it either way.

To those who have suffered as that great devotion was severed or stripped from them-their careful, loving ministrations spent on a phantom-I apologize. How can I, knowing what you have been through, call you jaded or cynical when you evade it?

We who truly love have a secret knowledge of its cost in this vapid, nasty world.

It is all I can do to advocate some try to adhere to romance and some basic code of the heart. But before I let everyone know where, after my duty to Marcie is discharged, I will focus my efforts, I wanted to cut some slack.

I'll likely need some, too. On all counts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Running on empty

As everyone who has read my archives knows, I took care of Marcie constantly from the day she needed help, months before she was bedridden, to the horrible moment itself. It was not just tough on the heart, it was tough on the body.

Before Marcie fell ill, I had rediscovered and reawakened to surfing. Nothing was more relaxing than a long ride on a wave, and I did not care if it was on a fish, a longboard, or a bodyboard. That is, until I saw how much fish and longboards cost.

I may never return to it, or I may flee back into it as the water warms and the gently rocking waves urge me to relax in the cool womb of the Pacific. I just don't know. I do know that when things were very tough, a precious few hours in the water recharged me.

Marcie was not a beach person. But as for my surfing, she loved it and told me how much she enjoyed how very "attentive" to her I was after long session in the waves and a shower.

In time, as her needs grew, such hours were scarce. I managed to squeak a few in here and there, quickly stolen moments of forgetting, all taken before worry and panic drove me back to her.

When she was bedridden, I was relieved to the beach only when a friend or family member showed. Usually, I did not want to leave anyways. I needed to find a new way to exercise. It was critical.

I gained weight after a near-death experience of my own. Due to a careless antibiotic prescription, I swelled and broke out in hives (I am deathly allergic to pnicillin and cephalosporins). I was placed on steroids.

I bloated like a balloon and hit 260 pounds. I began running.

I did not notice at first, but I slowly began to pare the weight off. I would run until I could not, then walk back. It was not far at first, perhaps a mile. Soon it was two, around Morley Field. Then three, around my neighborhood, on flatter ground.

As much as I hated it at first, I forced myself to run. To keep me running, I would thing of the last swallowed tear or the last indignity she suffered. It would drive me on a bit.

I came to run whenever I needed to cry but she needed me to be strong. The salty tears mingled with my sweat and gave me a camouflage of sorts.

Sometimes I ran very far, especially when there was much I had been trying to help her with or that had gone awry with her or our lives in general. Sometimes I ran home spooked, needing to check on her, touch her, kiss her.

I ran to stay alive and to feel as if I was taking care of myself as I cared for her. I ran to try to control my rage as nurses and doctors gave us little more than pitying nods and platitudes. These, too, urged my feet to move.

I ran because it was time for fight or flight, and all the fight I had was not saving her. Flight would not, either. But through it, I could leave the pain of my everyday existence and punish my body until its pain replaced the heaviness, the ache, in my heart.

I still do. It still does. It takes longer to replace the ache, though.

I may never return to surfing, even though I can get a board tomorrow, and a wetsuit, and just get on it. I tried to recently, but it brings back memories of her in our better times, and there is no loving redhead who is happy to see me when I go home.

And in a very acute way, that she was not there became very painful when I stepped out of the shower in that post-session stoke. There was no kiss and warm hug or cuddle on the couch for me, just my head and a beautiful picture of her, and her ashes and candles to light.

I know I will keep running until I run out of pain, until I run out of reason and I run out of time. I still have plenty of all of those, and memories of that time make me want to run away.

For now, I am content to run five or so miles, local and well-traveled. Someday, as is my wont, I will run and not stop until I have a reason to and a place to give that reason context.

Maybe that place will be someplace to surf. Maybe it will be a better place to run.

But maybe I will simply run out of time before I run out of pain and reason.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Keeping the faith

I am by no means a slow person. I tend to be actually rather quick on the uptake, according to most people I know. But something I was apparently well behind the curve on was Marcie's imminent demise.

Marcie's illness had been on a progressive-regressive loop. She would improve greatly over a long period of time, then she would lose a little ground or suffer a setback.

At the time she became bedridden for good, Marcie was prepared to have a little extra help around the house in the form of hospice nurses, as palliative care with our provider meant "waiting for about six weeks."

So, when her last setback came, I focused on her recovery. I stood alone on that ground until the end.

She had had her medication adjusted the night before and she was feeling good. She had some energy. Jane was on the way to see her the next morning, which we were both greatly looking forward to. Jane visiting was always an immense bolster to Marcie.

When she woke on her birthday, and I did as well, she asked for help. She could not raise herself from the bed. Her speech was slurred. I will not further detail that day's pain for now.

By the end of it, she was in a nursing home, I was being assured that the home would help her convalesce, including recuperation of her to an ambulatory state, and her medication had been changed again.

Just one of many changed, though. It drew my eye that it was the same one which had been changed the night before. That change was never explained to me.

I was foolish enough to believe the nurses and staff at the hospital would help her walk again. I was very wrong.

The first visit to her in the nursing home, after a drive up in an ambulance the day before, was horrible. It was only the next day, and she already was being neglected.

She had not been changed, an ignominious offense to her that I immediately remedied. It was only just more horrible that she had not been tended to in such an important and basic way than the fact that now she needed to be changed at all.

I read her chart. No Range of motion exercises had been done. None had been ordered by the doctor, the nurses explained.

I performed them for her, stretching her legs and toes, moving them back and forth, massaging them gently as she watched, occasionally smiling, tired. It took a lot of energy, but she tried. She did not want to, but did it for me.

The following day, I received a call from her oncologist, who expressed shock that she was in the nursing home at all.

"My god," he said. "I don't understand. Her radiology came back and all of her brain metastases have reduced in size 'markedly,' according to the report on the MRI."

This was hope. I expressed his thoughts to Marcie, who smiled a little, weakly, and demanded that I haul away all of her birthday belongings. She allowed to give her range of motion exercises and I swore to get her home.

Jane had to go back to San Francisco, but she had provided me with some comforting food and immeasurable moral and physical support. She had also given Marcie compassionate and beloved company in frightening times. She would return.

When Marcie was finally able to come home, Kaiser said that she would not be on her feet again. I was incensed. I checked her chart, and she had not received a single day's range of motion exercise from the nursing home. But she was headed home.

After I fought Kaiser to first provide everything she would need, from a hospital bed to a transfer chair for her shower and a commode, she was brought to the house by an ambulance. She was so tired.

At least she was in my care again. I did range of motion every day. Her nurse and other support staff came by when they were scheduled or after I repeatedly demanded it. But they were not enthusiastic about it.

They weren't alone.

I noticed the rituals beginning around me. When her mother visited, there were sympathetic smiles and silent strokes of Marcie's hand, no discussion or speaking. When others visited, they either whispered or did nothing but look down at her grimly.

I never surrendered her. Every day was encouraging words, range of motion exercises and constant skin care and love. Every two hours saw me rise from bed to shift her weight a bit and prevent bed sores.

She never developed a sore after the red, nasty, open welt of one she came home with from the monstrously negligent warehouse-as-nursing-home in Poway was eradicated. Her skin was constantly massaged and tended to.

I noticed that the nurses were not performing range of motion for her and asked why. One nurse said that I should probably continue it, but it was really not in her orders. Another said she was only for skin care and vitals, or changes.

The nurse started giving me the, "you know that she is pretty close now..." speech. I knew the speech well. I ignored it and kept working, feeding, cleaning, loving and tending to, hoping and straining for my woman.

The social worker started prodding me to read the "blue book," of how to care for one's loved one and understand dying from their perspective. I already understood and refused to further fall back on my hope for her.

I do not know who it was or how it came to be discussed with Marcie, but one night, upon my return from work and after her family had left, she took my hand and squeezed with all her might.

"I don't want to suffer, honey, okay?" she asked, slurring her words as tears slid down from the corners of her eyes. "Please, don't make them revive me if I die."

I knew Marcie's wished to not be revived very well, and I felt tears on my own face as I quietly asked "Why would you suffer?"

"Because you want to make me live and she thinks you'll keep me alive if I start to die," she said, biting her lip. "Please don't?"

"Ohhhh, honey, I won't make you suffer," I said. "I promised you that. Don't believe them."

"Okay, honey," she said, trying to enunciate. "I trust you, okay. But I'm afraid."

I enveloped her on the bed, carefully hugging her as she laid there until I heard her breathing slow and go regular, felt her little heart slow and the pounding of some horrible fear grow softer. She slept and I tucked her in.

I was afraid, too. She never saw a nurse unless I was there with her after that.

I did not have time to find out who had said such horrible things to her. Her condition changed and she started falling ill of pneumonia shortly after that day.

The county burned around us and I was ordered home by the school district because of the fires. Schools were shuttered.

I focused on connecting to Marcie whenever I could. The slightest stir in her bed brought me out to her and had me holding her hand.

Every word and every recognition of me as I spilled my love over her was a little moment of peace or comfort.

I hid my trepidation, but my heart was already in ashes, and the wildfires outside rained little echoes of my agony across the map as she faded.

I accepted the possibility but not the inevitability of her death in time. But when it came, I was still unprepared.

I knew when she did depart that I had been there to the end in the faith of her potential renewal, and I stood alone only because she, the last to leave, had no choice to make that would let her stay.

To that last breath on the 29th of October, I had held hope only for her to be my wife, whole and walking, loved and loving, smiling and vibrant, again.

It was better to feel the full brunt of the pain and loss at once. I saw the people around me surrender her. Some, family and friends, did so with little choice.

Others let her go with little honest effort otherwise. To this day, I cannot help but remember how fast those paid to aid us seemed focused on her remaining time and how much more she had, as opposed to how much more she could have.

But what evicts their dark shadow from my memory of that small part of our journey together is the support of our loved ones, her loving touch and the occasional moments of clarity, which we spent sharing our love and healing our last wounds.

We had a chance, and we did everything we could to make it matter. We succeeded in some ways more than others, especially where honoring her, us and our love was concerned.

I hope that some of that honor will be reflected in this, and my future, work.