Wednesday, June 4, 2014
It's morning. I come downstairs and do what I always do. Coffee. Pull up the window shades. And this particular morning I talk with my friend L who is flying back to Hawaii. How long have you two known each other, the nurse asks. L and I laugh. Three days, she says. But she's known Dan for 50 years, I say.
I tell Dan I'm taking L down the street to catch a shuttle that will take her to LAX. Tell him I'll be right back. Kiss his head. There's activity under his eyelids, and he tries to say something.
When I return I sweep the floor, stopping by his bed, which is in my living room, to kiss him or lay my hand on his head. I tell him I'm back. That his daughter is upstairs. That his family will be here soon. Friends too, maybe, I say. I unload the dishwasher as quietly as I can. Drink coffee. Take out the trash. Throw in a load of laundry. These are the things that need doing even when there's someone you love lying in your living room actively dying. A hospice phrase. Actively dying. Right now, it seems like Dan and I are dividing that phrase in two.
I talk to him. Read him some of Jack Gilbert's poems. Then I turn my attention to the piles of things on my kitchen island. I take cookies out of their bags and arrange them onto plates. The candy that L brought from Hawaii into bowls. The strawberries that K brought into a bigger bowl. Bright red into green. Beautiful opposites. I peel all the stickers off the bananas so they look prettier. Are these the things a person should do when someone you love is actively dying just across the room? The nurse suggests a basket so all of the morphines and other medicines can be tucked inside instead of strewn across the counter. I pull one out. Perfect, she says. Thank you, I tell her.
Then I settle onto the couch. Open my laptop. I am actively living.