So today was the day I needed Shirley MacClaine, it was blister Sunday. One of my favorite passages in her book about walking the Camino, called aptly, "The Camino" describes her helping another pilgrim and lancing his blisters, and I can not tell you why that is the part I recall the best, perhaps it is just serendipity, as I was somewhat prepared for today's surgery. I sterilized the needle, following the tried and true techniques I have studied, took a deep breath, and did the deed. Turns out one poke was not enough, but I wasn't married to a general surgeon for thirtyish years for nothing, and I carried on with this home based semi-surgical procedure until the mission of not having an extra half inch of foot was achieved.
So, my other strong connection to Miss MacClaine happened as a result of watching her film, Terms Of Endearment. She played Aurora Greenway who became her beloved daughter Emma's advocate when Emma was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As Emma is in the hospital, needing pain medication, Aurora makes sure, in every possible way, that her girl gets the medication. Again, why I have always recalled that scene so clearly, I can not say. And then Neal got sick, and I channeled my own Aurora for the years of caring for this good man. The type of cancer he had, Multiple Myeloma, caused so much damage and pain to him, there are no words. Neal never complained, as his body was wrecked by chemo, by cancer, he was not going to lose his stoic ways, and never did. So, I got to be the translator for him, quite a turn about for us, Neal and I both spoke fluent Hospital, but he needed me to step up and let his care providers know more about his pain, he just could not. And that is what I did, for years, and in the last months, I went full Aurora. Neal and I had worked as a team, with oncology patients when we were starting out, which gave us the experience of discussing our beliefs about pain control for end of life care quite early in life. The only thing that changed was it was one of us needing the the other to take care of the us. His excellent oncologist, Dr Vempaty, listened to both of us, and when pain management was the only goal, it was my turn to make sure that Neal had every damn option that could possibly help.
Our hospice nurse, Lily, was and is one the kindest, wisest women I have had the honor of having in my life. She understood our journey, and treated our family with such kindness and respect. Neal wanted to be home, our kids. moved home, and with hands on help from my dear friend/sister Traci, we all found the strength to take care of him.
Nothing left to do but smile, smile,smile
( lyrics from He's Gone, of course, written and performed by Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, enscribed on Neal's headstone).