All Things Must Pass

 

 

 

 

 

 

HDU_AllThingsMustPass_bwEven though I haven’t posted a blog since December, I have been writing like a mad woman. 

Today I write from a condo on the Texas coast in Port Aransas having arrived Sunday night.  The plan is to spend the rest of this week focused on cranking out the second draft of my first book – the ever elusive, The Mystery Behind The Masters.  Do you remember me telling you about that?  Do you remember me telling you it’s not about golf?  

A vote of confidence from the universe came this morning when I received word that another of my quotes made it into a U.S. News & World Report article on universities and education expectations

Hook would have said, “That’s great, babe. Now finish that book.”

At the risk of tempting deep grief to return and body slam me again, I feel I’m past the worst of the worst of the dark days.  How do I know?  Because I shower daily now and I never watch Netflix from my pillow anymore.  There are still early mornings when, as my mind enters into consciousness, I’ll slam my eyes shut so I can return to the unconscious and a world where Hook is not gone.   But I do that less and less and instead say out loud, “I know I should get up.”  The only one to hear is my Siamese, Gatita, who is passed out on the bed with me, and of course Hook who has become my invisible, grief drill sergeant. 

Take the Time to Grieve

If it had been me that died instead of my husband, he would have gone back to work within a week, two weeks max.  Hook would have put his head down and focused at whatever task was at hand, shoving any memory of me aside or burying it so deeply that any vision of me would have been blurred permanently.  I always respected that perseverance in him.  And, I’ve used that tactic before when my brother, Paul, passed away in 1998, and again when my father, Lou, died in 2011.  But it doesn’t work, it never has. 

When I was able to start getting out of bed again, I spent my mornings sitting at my writing desk, scribbling away in long hand with tears pouring out, wetting the pages, and capturing in words the anguish and regret of the last 18 months.  I begged for mercy that the grieving let up.  I begged for mercy that the grieving and Hook never went away.  I became ultra-evolved and certifiably insane in the same moment because I was aware of the world and all it could offer and rip away simultaneously. 

Since September 3rd, I have had the luxury of deep, private grieving.  I say “luxury” because I’ve met so many widows and widowers who had to return to work after only a month, some after only a week.  I shudder every time I think of how fuzzy and frail I felt in the months following Hook’s death.   Frail … those who know me wouldn’t ever use such an adjective to describe my personality.  But we’re talking spirit instead of body so yes, wounded and handicapped and frail would all be words that could have accurately described my soul — that piece of me that was and will always be tethered to Hook.

But not today, I don’t feel that way today. 

I realized that the smidgens of hope I gathered from the Texas coast during my Thanksgiving weekend did indeed grow. Even the four-hour drive down to Port Aransas this week was completely different than that drive I made last November.  Then, I could hardly contain the tears that began with the shopping for the trip to the packing of luggage and hauling out Hook’s green, man cooler – I don’t want to go without you – to swerving on the highway to grab after dirty napkins on the floor of the Jeep because I’d soaked through the clean ones in the console – You’re supposed to be doing this with me.

Four hours of crying is exhausting, and it doesn’t make for safe driving either. 

Before that November trip I would have said I felt hollow inside like there was a humongous hole in my middle.  I learned that Thanksgiving holiday that there wasn’t a huge hole inside of me but me inside the hole, a deep cave with no steps for climbing out.  Since dispirited, comatose states of being are not my norm, I was moved by instinct to make the trip to face the ghosts of the coast as I called them. I returned to the port where Hook and I spent holidays and long weekends and where he proposed on bended knee, asking me to spend the rest of our lives together.

In return for listening to this inner wisdom, the coast greeted me with clear water and clean sand but thick clouds overhead made sure I remembered it was still winter.  I’d already been walking an hour that first day when I turned to look back at where I’d come from.  I didn’t want to go back but I couldn’t walk forward either.  Instead, I turned towards the ocean and held out my hands, palms facing up, and with watery eyes and a cracked voice, I whispered, “Help me; please help me.” 

I didn’t know who I was talking to, God I suppose, maybe Hook a little. Mostly I think I was sending out a plea to the universe, because even though I’d felt empty of all energy, void of all passion, indifferent to interests of any kind, I was still in awe at the power of the water, the flow of the waves, the swoosh swoosh swoosh of the tide as it beat against the sand and washed everything else away.  

After a while I started walking again, walking away from the despair, walking off the loss, walking out of that cavernous hole. I wasn’t moving on from Hook but moving forward with me. On the second day of that trip, I saw the first rays of sunlight beam through the clouds.  It was brief but they stayed long enough for me to react to the warmth and respond, “I see you.” 

And that’s how hope happened.

I don’t know that I would have believed I could feel hope again. In fact I wouldn’t have known how cemented it has become since Thanksgiving if I hadn’t returned to Port Aransas this week.  There were no tears in preparing for this trip not while speed packing or even during the long drive.  (I didn’t even bother to grocery shop instead I threw whatever was in the fridge into the green cooler and figured I’d shop for the rest once I got here.)  When I ran out to the water on Sunday of this week, it took me about 10 minutes before I realized what was different:  There were no feelings of overwhelming loss, no suffocating fear.  I was outside of the hole. 

I know it’s no longer a matter of will I get through this but instead, how much will I learn, how much will I grow, and will it be enough.

Moving Forward

I wish I could write that I don’t cry every day anymore or that I haven’t gotten choked up today.  I do and I have and I will and I’ll continue to do so until one day I just don’t.   But the tears I shed now are more good-bye than don’t go, more resignation than come back.  I can let go of the debilitating grief without letting go of the love in my heart for Allan.  And although I still feel uncertain about building a future without Hook in it, I’m not so scared that I won’t try.  I’ll move forward more slowly than is my usual pace but I’ll still move forward.

When Hook and I celebrated our four-year anniversary last June, we returned to our wedding night place – a lovely bed and breakfast in Wimberly, Texas –  tucked away in the woods. Our room was on the second floor with a spacious balcony that faced the gorgeous Blue Hole.  We began our mornings and ended our evenings sitting outside on the cushioned chairs, listening and watching the wildlife.  On the second night, Hook started to talk about the planning of his memorial.  I had just stood up to return back inside.  When he spoke, I sat back down on the edge of the chair, staring blindly at the balcony floor, waiting to hear what he would say.    

“I want you to play that song by George Harrison, the one he wrote just before he died from cancer,” he said. “Listen to it as many times as you need to.”  

“You’re going to be all right,” Hook would always say in our late night talks. “You have to be.”

All Things Must Pass by George Harrison

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloud burst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It’s not always going to be this grey

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Port Aransas, Texas: My brother Dave, me, and Hook.

Port Aransas, Texas, 2010: My brother Dave, me, and Hook.

Allan William Hook: 9/3/2013

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Sericophorus wasp found in the Outback. Photo courtesy of Dr. Terry Houston, Museum of Western Australia in Perth, 2013. Emailed to Allan from Dr. Houston on Sept 1st, 2013.

Allan passed away this morning at 2:10.  With us at home were his best man, Kelly Scott, and Bill Quinn.

Obituary for Dr. Allan W. Hook


In lieu of flowers/plants, please consider a contribution to the Dr. Allan W. Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund: http://bit.ly/1KR8YDv (Choose OTHER for donation then type in HOOK ENDOWMENT)

READ about the Hook Wild Basin Endowment here:  http://bit.ly/135azzz

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Votary of Nature

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CLICK to hear The Band sing The Weight

A lack of time continues to creep up on me and this is a now or never post so I hope it ends up making sense.  In my last blog, I said I’d be writing about God and religion with the caveat that there would be no preaching, soapboxes, or soul saving. 

Given the enormity of these topics and the limited discussion of them with Hook, I wanted to share because you’ve been with us on this journey from the beginning.  You’re as much a part of this story as we are, at least that’s how it’s felt to me.

What is Votary of Nature?

Votary of Nature, in addition to being the title of this blog, is also the beginning of a haunting poem Hook chose to have read at our wedding.  (I chose Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 — not a predictable reading for a wedding either but not as evocative as Hook’s choice.)  As beautiful as I found the poem, I didn’t completely understand the honor of the words written at least not until these past couple of months.  Votary of Nature was etched on the tombstone of Thomas Say, an American Naturalist, considered the father of entomology in North America.   I’m not sure if Say wrote the poem or if it was written for him but it goes like this:

Votary of nature even from a child,
he sought her presence in the trackless wild

To him the shell, the insect, and the flower,
were bright and cherished emblems
of her power

In her he saw a spirit all divine,
and worshipped like a pilgrim
at her shrine

Before Votary of Nature

It was not an easy decision for me to marry a non-Catholic, someone I used to joke was a closet atheist but is probably more an out-of-the-closet agnostic.  But if labels and categories were based on how a person acts, then by most behavioral requirements of common religions, Hook would be considered a Christian.

I take my Catholicism seriously or as seriously as a consistent sinner like me can.  I am as drawn to my religious beliefs as I am frustrated by the organization of them.  I’ve been baptized, made my first communion, been confirmed all in the Catholic Church.  Although I do not always agree with the man-made hurdles of religions in general, I appreciate the desire for structure, the insistence of practicing the faith.  Some traditions I honor without thought, others begrudgingly so; regardless, I believe. I choose to believe without all the hard data.  But, I do not believe that anyone who is not of the Catholic persuasion or has never been baptized, communioned, confirmed, wetted down with holy water, ashed on the forehead with black smoot, or has stuck a wafer to the roof of their mouth to chew on later, said ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers, is any less likely to make their way into heaven than someone like me.  I need the ashes and the water and the wafers.  I need all the help I can get.

Forget what a man says and watch what he does.

Have you ever heard this saying before?  I’ve attributed this quote to my father, Lou, but I’ve always wondered if someone famous said it first.  Doesn’t it seem too obvious, too of course, for some philosopher not to have graced an audience with these words centuries before?  This saying stuck with me the entire time I was dating Allan.  It has been the perfect barometer for measuring the sincerity of a person, and it was with this benchmark of words that I watched what Allan did and forgot what he said.  Choosing to marry Hook was easy.  He may not have professed an allegiance to any religion (or even if God exists at all), but what he calls himself or how he has spent his Sunday mornings has been significantly less important than how he has treated others, how he has treated me. 

Until May of this year, I bowed to this wisdom.  Then Allan became terminal and I temporarily lost my mind.

Hook the Scientist

Organized religion and God and all the history and feeling that are wrapped up in these words are not topics even the best of friends might discuss.  They’re not subjects I’ve completely reconciled with myself as an individual let alone as a wife.  For the last 90 days, religion has been a trapped, solitary wasp in the Hook house, flying overhead, demanding to be released.   Once the final diagnosis of two to three months was made, I got scared for Hook thinking he was going to die never admitting that God might exist.  It wasn’t that Hook said, ‘God doesn’t exist.’  His position has been that he doesn’t know what, if anything, exists outside of what has been proven by data — the stance of a true scientist.  Something may or may not be — what does the research show?

Then several months ago, two of our loved ones, one on Hook’s side of the family and one on mine, coincidentally gifted us the same book, Proof of Heaven.  (A third person tried to loan the exact book just last week and I quietly declined.)  It was written by a scientist who professed a belief only in that which could be studied and validated with data.  The author, an M.D., had a near death experience and as a result wanted to share with the world that science alone cannot explain the mysteries of the universe.  That’s the short version. 

Out of concern for Hook, our loved ones wanted him to read this book.  For weeks, I pestered him about reading the book, placing one of them on his nightstand while the other sat on mine.  Sometimes he would pick up the book and pretend to read, but I knew it wasn’t something that held his interest.  With all that must have been going through his mind and all that he had to bear, Hook said nothing as I tried to shove religion and spirituality and a higher power down his throat. These were not the actions of someone who was supposed to love and care for him through his last days. But I was afraid.  I was afraid that somehow I was letting him down or letting God down or letting myself down, because I believed I was now tasked with getting Hook to acknowledge Jesus Christ while he was still lucid enough to do so. 

I honestly do not know what I thought would happen.  Except, asking Hook to read a book like that or reading it to him would be the closest thing to torture I could ever inflict on my entomologist.   I struggled with what to do:  Read, don’t read; Ask him to read, leave him alone.

When I found myself in that scared straight place of thinking I was failing badly as a fake Catholic wife (because let’s be honest – what could God have possibly been thinking to pair Hook with such a demented disciple like me?), I turned to the one place that holds comfort and wisdom for me, the one place that regardless of my rebellious religion misgivings, I still trust:  the Church.  I spilled my anguish out to a priest and asked for guidance on how to resolve the, Save Hook’s Soul dilemma.   This is the response I received via email:

If Hook is as close to nature as I think he is, then he has experienced more of God’s tiny glories than you and I ever will. Don’t worry about his “professing it”. Our God – the God of Jesus – does not require confession. He only asks love of us. Did Hook love? Then he has known the God of love, the God of Jesus Christ.

What Hook clearly doesn’t believe in is the “god” that has been presented to him by religion in this day and age. And that’s not his fault or my fault or your fault. It just is. But it’s got nothing to do with his salvation or with his being welcomed into the arms of the One who made him, along with the rest of the amazing creation that Hook has spent his life crawling around in.

Job 12:7-10. “Now ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds to tell you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of God has done this?…”

Hook has had some very good teachers about the hand of God. Who are we to say that he has not been listening?

Hook the Man

Reading the priest’s response brought on waves of gut-wrenching tears while at the same time lifting an enormous burden from my heart.  I was asking my husband to be inauthentic about who he was, has always been.  I was asking him to say words he did not mean, to announce something he did not believe.   But even all of that is not what snapped me back to a place of reasonableness and sanity and acceptance.  My reaction to the priest’s response was, in addition to relief, that of shame because in my overwhelming fear, I’d dismissed some validated data about my husband:

To say that Hook is a kind man is to remark that the sky is blue.  It is obvious, consistent, natural.  It’s not something he thinks about or has to focus effort to do.  It’s a way of being for him.  But his kindness goes deeper than that.  He’s a man who never seems to hold a grudge.  When he’s been wronged, he shrugs it off.  When he gets frustrated or ornery, his annoyance comes not from the person he’s interacting with but is born from the desire to do the right thing.  He is loyal, too, even when it’s obvious another may not be, even then he does not sacrifice that person or the relationship.

This doesn’t mean Hook is perfect.  He is not.  Oh boy, Hook is so not perfect.  Still, he’s inclusive rather than exclusive of those different than him even when he doesn’t understand them.  He’s a man who takes care with children and the elderly (I’m not making this up) treating both with a tenderness that seems to take others by surprise.  Allan is a man who is almost incapable of telling a lie.  He can tell small ones like saying that he wants to do something with me when really, he’d rather poke his own eyes out.  But if he fibs, he will eventually tell on himself with an indignant, “I can’t lie.  I’m an Eagle Scout!”  

Hook is someone who is, quite simply, joyful.  It would not be unusual for him to wake up singing on any given morning.  True, sometimes they were naughty songs (he will be a juvenile till the end) but who wakes up singing on a Monday morning?  Who wakes up singing on a Monday morning with terminal cancer and the end of their life near?   I hear his cracked voice, almost inaudible, through the audio monitors in his room, “My baby’s red hot, the other babies ain’t doodlely squat.”  He’s a gentleman while being a scoundrel, a jokster with the guys but the crabby professor in a classroom who’s kind of dorky but hippy and cool at the same time.  A man who would risk his own safety by driving his Jeep to the grocery store (only three weeks ago!!!) so he could surprise his wife with fresh cut flowers.  “I wanted my baby to have flowers,” he said.  (Imagine not my surprise but my horror when I realized he was out driving around.  For exactly ten minutes of my life, I alternated prayers of please-don’t-let-him-hurt-himself with please-don’t-let-him-hit-anyone.)     

And all of this, the total of Allan’s character, is embodied by the most endearing quality of all — his childlike approach to nature.  This appreciation for that which exists in the outdoors or all living things is to me quite magnificent.  Actually, Hook’s not into all living things – there are some Homo sapiens he would do without.  Still, he has a reverence for the history and future of nature, a constant inquisitiveness, a keen sense of observation as he explores and discovers with his eyes and ears, the life surrounding him.  It’s educational to watch him absorb his natural environment.  Even just sitting in a Texas backyard, Allan sees and hears all that is alive.  I used to think he had exceptional hearing but remembered how sometimes he had to ask me to repeat something or would lean in to hear.  I knew he didn’t have the best eyesight even with eyeglasses, but when we sit outside on the uncovered deck in the mornings, he’d point out birds or insects or changes in vegetation that my eyes or ears did not catch. 

This gruff, cigarette-smoking, lap swimming, solitary wasp loving, dirty song singing, crazy fishing hippy is more than just an entomologist, a hymenopterist.  He is a worshipper at the foot of Mother Nature.

I need to stop, because I am overdosing on Hook right now.  I’m writing all of this because he’s going to die.  He’s going to die, and there is nothing I can do about it except this one thing: Allow him to die the way that he lived. 

Hook is a blessed (my word not his) man.  He has said over and over again that he has no regrets, no last wishes, that he is satisfied with the life he has led.  From my view in the sofa chair next to his hospital bed in our home, I see that my husband has accomplished what most only hope to do.  He has lived the life God intended for him, to the best of his abilities, all the while treating others as he would like to be treated, forgiving selflessly regardless if you wronged him once, twice, or forty times.  The face that my old, ornery, obscene man shows the world is a face God already knows.

I look to my husband as a benchmark (minus the obscene) for how to live life completely, how to honor the gifts graced to us, how to nurture these and one another in a way that leaves a lasting mark on earth.  If I could act – be – half as good as Allan, I might just have a shot at heaven, the eternal glory I know in my heart to exist.  And if heaven truly does exist, then Hook will be on the fast track to it when he takes his last breath.  This I know the same as I know Jesus waits for us all.  And there you have it — my lying, cheating ways because I am preaching and from a high soap box, and there will be one soul saved but not the one you think.

When we married, some people thought maybe this Catholic girl was going to open Hook’s mind to a higher power, that perhaps I was going to help him redeem his soul.  But Allan’s votary of nature is more than enough for him and more than enough for God.   It has taken my husband’s illness, his inevitable death and my rapid-paced train of daily memories reflecting on his life to realize:  It was never going to be me who saved Allan.  It has always been Allan who’s been saving me.

Forget what a man says and watch what he does. 

Lou was so wise, and I am still learning.

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Calling for Hook Stories

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Professor Hook, 2010.

Do you have a story you’d be willing to share about Hook or Allan or Al or Dr. Hook?  If so, I’d love to receive it via email so I could:

  • Read these to Hook.  He seems to enjoy having me read to him just before he dozes off.  (I read to him all of the comments from the blog postings.)
  • Share them on a future post titled, Hook Stories (or Stories About Hook), something like that.
  • Include any photo you’d like to send with the memory.

I welcome all quotes, anecdotes, stories… old, new, funny, sad, long, short.   I’d have to OK everything with Allan before publishing and I’d probably make any R-rated stories PG-rated (where possible).    Otherwise, your stories would be shared verbatim.

Email stories (w/ photo if you have one) to:  rosemary@hookthetalent.com

How about if we say that you’ll email by the 15th of August?   This will give you some time to compose.  If you would, let me know how you’d like me to reference you, e.g. Bromance buddy from UGA or fellow student at Colorado State or …

On a separate note, next week I have a special blog post.  I’ve been writing it in my head for about a month on a subject of a delicate nature — delicate but positive —  something I hope everyone will be open to reading.   I wish I could tell you what the post will be titled but I’ve no idea.  I can tell you that in a roundabout way it is about religion and God but not in the way you might think.   There will be no soapboxes, no preaching, no soul-saving, just a sharing of who my husband is, has always been, and the mysteries we keep discovering together.

Until that cryptic post …wooooo…. send those stories of my wonderful husband if you would.  All old, ornery, and obscene memories welcomed of course!  (They may not get shared via the blog but I’m sure Hook will appreciate hearing them.)

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The Gift of Time

There was this whole story I was concocting in my head about how to lead you to the updated news.  Perhaps if I had cried less in the last month I could muster the enthusiasm and passion I normally feel, but since I’ve had to put my big girl panties on then I’m going to ask you to put yours on, too, so I can get right to it.

The Good News

Hook and I signed off on a gift to St. Edward’s University for the Dr. Allan W. Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund.  After much discHDU_waspmanussion on how to provide a legacy for Allan’s lifelong work with science and education, and to highlight the gem known as the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, we created this endowment with an initial gift of $125,000 dollars.

We felt wowed by the idea, the planning of it, and now the future of the endowment.  In a separate blog post, I’ll share more details.  For now, feel wowed with us.

The Bad News

For all the good wishes we have desperately hung onto, our positive thinking wasn’t enough to blink back the cancer from wherever it came from.   Was it the surgery?  Was it the lack of good guidance?  Or, was this how it was always going to end up?

Throughout this past year, Hook and I have believed he would recover and that he’d beat every statistic on the pancreatic cancer books.  We believed we were getting on a plane in August for Australia, and we believed we’d have a year like no other.  Well, we did have a year like no other, and for all the trials of the last 12 months, I know when to be thankful for life’s simpler plans.

Hook said, “Tell them Australia is still a possibility just not in 2013.”  For me, I can’t imagine anything more unimportant, more insignificant than whether we go anywhere.  My home is where Allan is; he is my adventure.  My father, Lou, always said, “Make do with what you have,” and so we will.

Whatever reconciliation the oncologist and I had from the last post is gone, gone, gone.  As of mid-May, Allan went back on chemo but with a different treatment.  The oncologist’s analysis:

  • Without chemo treatments:  ~ two months.
  • With chemo treatments:  up to 14 months.

“You’re now in stage 4” was his opener.

If you had asked me two weeks ago about our status, I would have blurted out the answer amidst a shower of tears and nose blowing.  Today I have a little more self-control.   Yesterday, I wrote to a friend that I can pray every day and I do, and I can keep believing in miracles and I will, but I see what no one else does including the doctors and I don’t have the luxury of denial.

But even knowing what we know doesn’t mean we give up.   We’ve decided that knowing what we know is its own gift.  There may or may not be a clock.  This estimate of months is guesswork at best.  All I have to do is re-read the story about John Betak who was given the “six months, get your affairs in order” pancreatic cancer talk but who is still alive today after eight years.

Then there’s the video of David, the pancreatic cancer survivor, who was told by his doctor to cash out his 401k and live it up because he only had six months.  That was more than five years ago.   David says he’s poor now but alive.

What’s that cliche:  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.  I never liked that saying.  Instead, I’m going to pray for a miracle, set aside time for Hook and me to write, and make plans we should have had in place anyway.

More Good News

On June 1st, Allan will officially begin his long-awaited, well-earned, 12-month sabbatical.  A “sabbatical” to some might conjure up images of goofing off or beaching it.   For a scientist like Hook and with his obligation to the university, he’ll use this year to conduct uninterrupted, focused research.   Allan easily has enough research projects to last longer than a year, but he has some specific works (what he considers his “life’s work”) he is determined to finish.

That Allan will have this year to do what he loves the most is an enormous gift from the universe.

Turning a Complaint Into a Compliment

As part of my Hook The Talent career management business, I host two different events every month.  One is an Ask The Coach forum where I invite in a local coach, usually a career coach, to do a Q&A over coffee with an intimate group of seven career changers.

Not intending to be in need of a Wellness Coach, I nonetheless scheduled one onto the events calendar thinking others might be in need.  Turns out, I was the one who benefited the most from Wellness Coach, Lauryn Sires, who comes from a science background but now specializes in coaching cancer fighters and survivors.   Her advice to the forum when dealing with a health issue for yourself or someone you love:

“When you feel yourself getting ready to complain, try complimenting someone or something instead.”  Lauryn said three things would happen:

  • You’ll catch how often you complain.
  • You’ll see the good/positive in a person/situation.
  •  You’ll start to express more gratitude for what you do have versus what you don’t.

I think the key is that the compliment has to be genuine. If you don’t really believe it, you’ll remain frustrated plus you’ll be insincere.  (My thought, not Lauryn’s.)

I struggled with this one relative to Hook’s oncologist.  I really did.  But I dug deep and came up with an authentic, deeply-felt compliment:

Let us all thank the universe for those individuals who consciously choose to become oncologists and cancer nurses and grief counselors.   These jobs see more death and dying than the average person could ever bear.  Some of these individuals are angels walking this earth, guiding us, loving us, caring for us in a way no other could or would want to.

Hook and I have tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and for now we will make do with what we have.  We will be thankful for the gift of time however much of it we receive. 

God bless you all for sticking with our story.

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From Room 232

The frustration with hospitals is that they are in the business of treating patients instead of people and those closest to the front lines, nurses and technicians, get caught in the political middle … but the body that pays is the one strapped to a bed completely dependent upon those around him.

FRIDAY late afternoon:  Our surgeon said he wanted Hook to be moved from the bed to a chair and that he “will make a note of it to the nurses.”  He said that the longer Hook stays immobile, the harder it will be for him to get moving.

SATURDAY 12:26PM:  The doctor ‘on call’ tells Kelly Scott (my stand-in) that Hook will remain in ICU until Monday.  This is longer than expected.  Later in the evening, long after I return to the hospital, I learn that the extended stay in ICU was due to some issue with Hook’s lungs.

SATURDAY 3:00PM Kelly Scott leaves to go pick up pizza to thank the ICU staff for taking care of Hook.  We find out later that Nurse Michael was off for the day, Nurse Stephanie wasn’t in yet, and Hook was going to be moved from ICU in a couple of hours.  So unfortunately an unknown team got thanked but I’m sure they earned it with someone else.  Note to self:  scratch future suggestions of pizza.

SATURDAY 5:00PM  I mention to Hook’s new day nurse, Norma, that he was supposed to be moved from the bed to a chair per the surgeon’s orders yesterday.  She says she will look for the orders.  Instead, two technicians come in and adjust the bed into a full sitting position.  This works for now but all of Hook’s limbs are swollen and our surgeon said it was important that by day 3 he be physically up and off the bed.

SATURDAY 6:00PM-8:00PM Hook waits in limbo to be assigned out of ICU and into IMC (Intermediate Care) because someone worse off than him needs to be in the ICU.  All of a sudden the ‘lung problem’ is “okay.”  Neither Norma nor Stephanie is allowed to claim Hook as their patient so I have no GO TO person to go to for help.   I ask again about getting Hook up and out of the bed to anyone who will listen and I’m told I have to wait until a new nurse is assigned which we are told will be Vance, oh wait, no, that is the technician not the nurse, but wait some more, it won’t be Vance but Mark or Kyle or some other random name.  Our new tech does not end up being any of those people.

SATURDAY 8:00PM The ICU floor nurse barks at me to give them space in the room because a team of 4 have entered to prepare Hook to be moved to a new bed. I’m actually okay with this because it means someone is in charge now.   I don’t leave the room as Nurse Ratched demands because not one of the people in the room has been someone who has been attending to Hook for the past 72 hours.  They’re asking each other questions that sound like they hope someone in the room knows the answer.  I helicopter the entire process with a watchful eye as they wheel Hook to his new room:  232.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY 8:00PM-4:00AM Nurse Daniel introduces himself as our new night nurse.   Throughout the night, I whisper stories to Daniel about Hook:  who he is, why he’s here, what he does for a living.  When Hook is awake, Daniel shares why he decided to be a nurse:  “I wanted to help people,” he said.  “I know that sounds trite, but I really enjoy it.  The first time I saw a cranium being cut into, I was hooked.”  I hope Daniel is not a fan of Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

SUNDAY 5:00AM  I introduce Nurse Daniel to the infamous Elton John song, Daniel.  Hook has a Norman Thayer moment when he grumbles, “How can you not know the song, Daniel?  You know Elton John dontcha?”   I intervene with a rub to Hook’s head, “He’s from a different generation, honey,” and Nurse Daniel responds, “Oh, is it an old song?”    I glance at Hook and give him the squinted eye that says he’s not to respond, but he mumbles something about Bernie Taupin and what’s the world coming to when people don’t know Elton John songs.  My baby is back!

Correction:  Nurse Daniel knew who Elton John was.  He just hadn’t heard the song, Daniel, before.   

SUNDAY 6:00AM-8:00AM Nurse Kate introduced herself as our day nurse.   She has a master’s in nurse administration, is interested in training, and she teaches from time to time at Austin Community College.    After Daniel brings her up to date on the stats, I bring her up-to-date on what needs to happen:  get Hook up and out of the bed.   Kate said she can’t do that without a doctor’s order and I run through how the order should have been put through 24 hours ago and if it wasn’t, will she please call the surgeon and get the order.  Kate seems sweet but hesitant to pick up the phone and call the surgeon.   I can’t have a nurse who’s afraid to call the doctors.

SUNDAY 9:35AM  Kate has been in and out and she’s getting the basics in order.   Hook has been moved around on the bed but these are non-ICU beds so they cannot be manipulated into a full sitting position.   I’ll give Kate until 12Noon to pick up that phone and call the surgeon.  I have the surgeon’s cell number from his business card but I think it would be better for the nurse to call.

SUNDAY 10:00AM Kate has talked to the on call doctor and has gotten the approval to at least move Hook into a physical sitting position on the side of the bed.   If he doesn’t feel drowsy, he’ll be moved onto the recliner.

VISITING HOURS:    None in Room 232 and I would hold on sending any cards to this room either because Hook will only be here 2-3 days before he is moved again.  But if you send a card to the P.O. Box 151240, Austin, TX 78715-1240, I’ll be sure to pick up.

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