Thursday, May 11, 2006

Spin Cycle

It's late, almost midnight; I should be in bed, but I've got one more wash to hang.

I can hear the washing machine, down in the basement, going through its cycles.

My father had another one of his accidents today, and I thought I had washed all the stained clothes, until I looked into the bathtub and found a soiled t-shirt that could not wait until tomorrow. So, once more, into the wash.

I see now that it's a Shania Twain t-shirt and I should probably resist the urge to make a joke about not knowing shit from Shania, but what the hell? It's late and I'm tired.

It turns out that my father may have cancer after all. Apparently I didn't quiet grasp what his doctor told me about the MRI.

I thought that test had given my father a clean bill of health, but all it did was show there was no cancer outside of his colon. Today Dr. Pearlman tells me that there is a 70% chance my father has colon cancer.

How did I get that one wrong? Maybe I was too desperate for good news that I blocked the little details. I don't know. But now we're thinking about having my father get a colonoscopy to verify the presence of cancer.

I'm personally against it, as the preparation and the test itself is quite stressful and, even if they find something, the doctors aren't going to perform surgery on an 84-year-old man with dementia. So why put him through this misery?

Dr. Pealman spelled it out for me: my father is terminally ill. He has Alzheimer's , which is a fatal disease, any way you look at it. Cutting him open or putting him through rigorous tests to treat other ailments is not advisable or worth the effort.

And it can actually shorten his life. We put off some kind of heart test a year ago when we learned the test could cause a stroke, and my father is still here (knock wood.)

But the doctor is leaning toward having my father get the colonscopy because there may be something they can treat that's not too invasive and would stop the uncontrolled bowel movements. It's a quality of life issue, he said, and we should try and address it.

Agreed. I'll have to take the day off from work so I can sign the necessary paperwork before my father gets the test, and if the worst happens, there's not much we can do is pray and keep my dad as comfortable as possible.

Not of this Earth

I spend a lot of time with that washing machine. It's been in the family for so long, I couldn't even guess how old it is. We got it when I was a kid, had a neighhorhood handiman tinker with it about 20 years ago, and other than that, it's been pretty much operating on its own. That's craftsmanship, I guess.

I've cursed at the thing, kicked it in the side when it butchered my clothes, or spread a smear of lint all over my dark clothes. But the thing kept going and, to be honest, it's kept me out of laundymats all these years.

The other day I got this brainstorm I'd wash three pairs of pants early in the morning, thus avoiding the chore when I got home that night and saving money on dry-cleaning. I noticed some lint on my pants during the first cycle, so I put them through again and this time they were absolutely covered in pulp.

I had forgotten to remove this little pad I carry around me at all times in case I get struck by a great idea. Well, it would have been a great idea to remove that pad from my pocket before dumping my clothes into the washing machine but it's a little late now. Hope I didn't have too many great ideas on that pad.

The irony, of course, is that I used to get mad at my father because he'd always leave tissues in his pants pocket, I'd forget to check and the next thing you know, all the clothes were covered in white bits of paper. It's impossible to remove and the only thing you can do is put the clothes through another cycle, and maybe a third, to get them clean.

So now I screwed up. I went upstairs put my father's pancakes in the microwave, forgetting to remove the plastic wrapping from the plate. Luckily, the plastic didn't melt around the pancakes, but like that business with the wash, I can't believe I did that.

I took my pants to my cleaner, failing officially to save time or money, and then I crossed the street on the way to the subway station, completely unaware that the traffic light was red. Luckily there were no cars coming or I'd be writing this from the intensive care unit. Once again, I can't believe I did that.

I became convinced I had poisoned my father with toxic Saran wrap fumes and I called Mary, his aide, babbling about checking to see if he was okay. As I heard myself leaving the message I realized how insane I sounded.

There's a concept in meditation about being present. I truly believe I was present during that morning, just not on this earth. My mind was somewhere around Pluto while my body was in Brooklyn trying to do the wash.

I had a lot on mind, including the fact that my sister wanted to borrow $4,000 from me so she could pay off her credit card bill and prove to the management of a new apartment building that she is a fine, solvent citizen.

Clearly, she has to get out of her current crib, as the Albanians who live all around her have turned the place into a zoo. But four yards from yours truly? Gosh, all that money can make for some bad feeling.

Well, I'm happy to say that my sister got the apartment. And I've even happier to say she's going to give me back my check, as they did not check her credit card bill.

I pretended that I had forgotten all about it, but I've never been much of an actor. And now that it's just gone past midnight, I realize it is officially my sister's birthday. Think I'll wait before I call her.

The washing machine has just stopped, so that's my cue to get down there, hang that shirt and get to bed. I get the feeling both me and the washing machine are going to be getting quite a workout over the next few months.


Babsbitchin said...

Rob, that's a jagged pill to swallow. With your father behaving as he does, do you ever wonder if you have it too and will be the same way? I do, my Grandma had it, I know but that was in 1974 and they called it water on the brain. I can't keep my shit together now and do really absent minded shit all the time. I have ADD and often struggle to get any thing done. But it does make you wonder, ya know?? I hope and pray for your serenity. If any one knows the road you're destined to go down it is me and I'll pray the Christ holds your hand the whole way, every step.

Rob K said...

Oh, thanks Babs, so much for your support. And yes, every time I forget something, every time I struggle to remember a name, a movie title, or an event, I say, oh, God, is it my turn? It's scary, but fear is our worst enemy, so if I'm meant to suffer the same way my father did, there's not much I can do about it. But I feel better knowing you're around.

Babsbitchin said...

I am here!

DesertPeace said...

I hope to God that the doctor is wrong Rob, but I do think you should follow his advice and get the tests done. Dad cannot go on this way... it's not fair to him or to you. I can see you not wanting to put him through any unneccessary misery and pain, but I really don't see you having a choice. I'm sure that if they can avoid that then they will, but you cannot allow the cancer to spread, if it is cancer in the first place.
I've said it before Rob, I'll say it again, you are a good son, the best. Dad is so fortunate to have you with him.
As your friend Babs said, I am here for you too! My prayers are still with you and your Dad.
Don't ever forget that.

Rob K said...

Thanks, Peace. It means so much to hear from you. We're going to do the test because we should what's going on here. If we can help him gain control of himself, that would be a great step forward. You're the best and God bless you and yours.

DesertPeace said...

Please keep me posted Rob.