Dark Thoughts

Saturday afternoon, humid and cloudy, rain possible, even another thunderstorm as we experienced last night.  Carol asleep in bed after the morning in her chair.

I have not been out to check my garden in a few days.  Last I looked the beans had not come up yet.  Each year I usually have to plant them two or three times before they arise.  I don’t know why. Maybe the ground has to reach a certain temperature.  I think the garden is going to have to accept my relative indifference to it this season.

Or not.

On Thursday when I returned from working for an hour or so at the community library I found the aide checking out the new book I had started reading and had left, as I always do, on the coffee table.

The book is a new biography by Erica Wagner of Washington Roebling, who took over the supervision of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after his father, John Roebling, the designer of that now world famous structure, died slowly, and painfully, from tetanus after refusing appropriate medical treatment for an accident that smashed his foot.

Clearly, I am somewhat familiar with that part of the younger Roebling’s life, having read David McCullough’s account of the bridge’s construction.  Of course, I am always interested in things related to my hometown of Brooklyn, and that bridge is central to Brooklyn’s identity.  At the time of its construction it was a ground breaking engineering miracle, and it is still a compellingly beautiful structure.

This wandering introduction does intend to lead somewhere.

So, here it is.

Naturally, as the retired English professor and present day writer that I am, I was perfectly happy to see the aide exploring the book.  I know she is taking college classes in the nursing program in the community college in town.  Wanting to indicate my approval of her looking at my new book, I started talking to her about the bridge.  Not surprisingly, given her aspirations to become a nurse, she was perhaps most interested in the senior Roebling’s death from tetanus.

Undeterred, I showed her how the bridge appears in the print of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade hanging over the fireplace.  She finally got the opportunity to break into my Brooklyn chatter to say, yes, she had seen the bridge herself years go on a trip to New York.

We are approaching the point.

Which I can articulate no better than to say in the words of the old cliché, what goes around comes around.

Looking at that print, then Carol in her bed not far from it, stirs my memory of that time, previously referenced in an earlier post, when she was living in Brooklyn and when I came in to spend some time with her, we would often dine in a café on Montague Street, and after eating, we would walk to the Promenade and sit on a bench very much like the one in the print and look out at New York Harbor, and of course at the bridge, visible on  the lower right, spanning it.

But I do not mean to dwell on either that or Brooklyn, although doing so is perfectly natural for me, and no doubt tedious to my poor audience,

Rather, I am thinking of other patterns of repetition.  This morning when I wheeled Carol into the kitchen, I was struck by the thought that my father, at about my age, wheeled my mother around because of her arthritic knees.  She was about ten years younger than he, as I am ten years older than Carol.

My sister, too, was wheelchair bound, as a result of crippling back difficulties.  My brother-in-law pushed her around in her chair.

One way of looking at these circumstances is to attribute them to coincidence, and leave the matter comfortably there.

But the way certain associations from the past continue to reassert themselves into the present offers the possibility of another explanation.


But that would suggest some kind of cause/effect patterning.

My mother and sister died young.  And Carol is in the grip of this hideous disease.

So I don’t want to go there.

Let’s just say thoughts to occupy a rainy afternoon.

And leave it at that.

Monday afternoon.  Rain continues.  I shut off the irrigation system.  Carol noisily but deeply asleep.  A good eating day so far, full breakfast, and, unusually, a  good lunch of a yogurt, protein bar, and glass of juice.  Ryan will likely be here later, and I guess we’ll go with pizza. I had thought about grilling some burgers, but that will have to wait for better weather.

Yesterday was Father’s Day.  I always take a low key approach to holidays, so I was not particularly disappointed that Carol could not share this day with me.  On the other hand, I was happy to speak with my three daughters, Danielle in Brooklyn Park (I take note of the name) Minnesota, and Tracy and Kerri from Kerri’s house in Woodbury, Long Island where she and her sister’s family gathered for a barbecue.  That provided an opportunity to receive greetings from grandkids as well.

Those conversations took place in the evening at a time when the long, solitary weekend was drawing to its close, so they were especially welcome.

But, as pleasant and welcome as they were, they also stirred up thoughts of my future.  Increasingly, I find it difficult to see where I will spend my remaining years.  Carol’s longevity might take that decision out of my hands, for she will be here, either with me in our house, as now, or in a facility.  In either case, I, too, will be here.

So, my thoughts this gray afternoon as to my future contemplate the possibility of Carol predeceasing me.

I don’t dwell on such thoughts.  They just seem apt in part by yesterday’s contact with my daughters, and in part perhaps because of the absence these past few days of the sun.

I do not know, nor does Danielle, where she will wind up.  I don’t think she feels the pull to come back here.  It would be nice if things worked out whereby she could live close to me, but that seems unlikely.

My New York families are rooted there.

These idea are beginning to whirl around in my head, so I will pause here to let them settle down.

Thursday evening.  I am keeping one eye on the NBA draft to see whom the Knicks will pick.  I don’t follow college basketball, so I have no knowledge, and therefore no preferences.  But I have been following the Knicks since I listened to games on the radio when they had players named Ray Felix, Sweetwater Clifton, and Ernie Vanderweighe, and I talked with my father about the chances of the team reaching a hundred points.  That was long, long time ago.

An eventful day, including a visit from the nurse practitioner who found Carol to be in good physical condition.  She congratulated me on the good job I was doing, and talked about whether or when I should consider a respite break of a week or two.  She understood my lack of enthusiasm for that idea now, unless I used it to take a trip, perhaps to New York, or Minnesota to visit daughters.  That does appeal to me more than banging around this empty house and visiting Carol in a facility.

Highlight of the day, though, was lunch with Archie an elementary and high school classmate back in Brooklyn, now living downstate but up here for a few days.  He raised the question of whether I would return to New York, something he has thought about.

Today is also Danielle’s birthday, and talking to her, along with Archie’s question, brings me back to where I left off thinking and writing a few days ago.

Which involves musing about my future.

My immediate future is clear.  I continue as I am now, perhaps with the addition of a respite trip.  In that regard, it seems to me that Carol has plateaued.  I don’t see much deterioration in her condition.  I recognize living so intensely in this situation makes it difficult to notice change, but still I don’t think there has been much.  In consultation with the nurse practitioner today, we fine tuned her meds, but nothing very dramatic.  We removed the anastrozole, the hormone suppressor that was part of her post breast cancer regimen.  Doing so was a hard headed concession to a possible recurrence of cancer in light of her being in the grips of her present disease.  Unstated was the  thought that should that happen it might just be better to let that disease takes its course.  We made a couple of other minor adjustments but nothing indicative of a change in her condition that had to be addressed.

However, beyond that clear present is the much cloudier future.

I am setting up a trust to deal with Carol’s needs should I predecease her.

That, too, is clear and necessary.

But what about the reverse.  Carol predeceases me.  I am ten years older, but in fairly good condition while her disease will likely shorten her life, by an indeterminate, and at this point, impossible to predict degree.

Some time ago, I thought, briefly, about her funeral arrangements.  I first did so when one or two people suggested to me that I consider hospice for her.  That suggestion, though I am sure it was offered with the best of intentions, has proved to be seriously premature.  My thinking about her funeral started and ended with the idea that I would arrange something befitting this place and her family background, which is fundamentally different than mine.

I am content to leave it at that.

And I’ll just peek into the room in which resides the vexing question of the arrangements for my own demise, in particular, where I want to be buried or at least memorialized for I am sure I want to be cremated.  Spending thousands of dollars on a coffin seems ludicrous to me.  In one sense, this ultimate decision is, of course, a matter of supreme indifference to me.  But in another way, one that I need to deal with, I should think about those I will be leaving behind.  Where should my remains and/or memorial be?

Here where Carol will be, and where we have two graves reserved for us, or Long Island where my family is?

Impossible to know where Danielle will be, and how would she feel if her mother and father were separated in death?

I confess I cannot come to a decision at this time.

So I will, again, shut that door.

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