Friday, January 9, 2015

A change of perspective

An update to Wednesday’s post: My dad is just fine. It turns out that he had “fluid overload,” and fluid in his abdomen was putting pressure on his lungs. They gave him a diuretic and now he feels much better.

In light of that, the plan to go to Durango was back on.

He and I passed the five-and-a-half hours in comfortable silence and happy conversation. We have always gotten along. At the terminus, I took a luxuriant bath and slept like a dead person, then woke up and had lunch with him and a couple of his friends who had been a big part of my childhood, who I remember very fondly. They apparently remember me fondly, too. This makes me happy.

After that, I sought out my favorite teacher of all time, Tom Byrne. He taught my sophomore and senior English classes, and he was one of the first teachers who made class fun.

Well, I don’t really remember high school that well, but however it happened, he is both mine and Branden’s favorite teacher, and we are both among his favorite students.

Tom hasn’t been doing so well for the last few years. He’s a young man, but he has brain cancer, and after several years of doing pretty okay, it’s starting to get the better of him. He’s in hospice now, which means that, for those of you who are like me and didn’t know exactly what that meant, he’s given up on treating the disease and his treatment is now focused on treating the symptoms, trying to make sure his remaining time is as comfortable and rewarding as possible.

He used to love to travel. In fact, he just got back from Hawaii last month. Sadly, at the end of that trip, his state took a sharp decline and it seems likely, now, that his travel days are over.

I still call him Mr. Byrne to myself and Branden and my parents and really, anyone not him. He wants me to call him Tom, so I do, but when I say “Mr Byrne,” in my own head, that’s an honorific. It’s like calling someone “sensei.” I honor him.

He was very happy to see me. We sat and talked about travel and books and people and cats. Then we went on a long walk and talked more about people and books and Durango and school. Then when we got back, we sat and talked some more about my wedding to Branden, at which he was a guest. He said it was the best wedding he’d ever been at, and that he had been kind of blown away by the fact that we’d wanted to include him in our wedding photos. (For my part, he was certainly a high point of the whole occasion.) At this point, he seemed very tired and despite not really wanting to end our visit, I think we both ran out of things to say.

Then his cat scratched me.

The message was clear.

When I left, we hugged for a long moment and I kept in my tears—barely. I knew I was losing it and he probably did too, but I hate people who visit or call sick people and cry, like, “your illness hurts me! Quick, make me feel better!” I wasn’t going to do that to him. I got to the car and sobbed for a minute or so before starting it up and going home.

After that, I was really emotional and getting weepy at any old thing. My dad took me out to dinner, which was really nice, but I almost wasn’t fit to be in public. I kept a lid on it, knowing that my dad was doing his best to keep my mind off “things,” and he did a pretty good job. But it kept sneaking up on me a little. At any rate, I’m happy to be home, in my bedroom, behind a closed door for a couple of hours.

The main character in my book is named in honor of Mr Byrne. I told him so. He said he wanted to read it. I said of course.

On that note, I think I have found the way I want to begin the revised draft of my book. I think I’m going to try to write a little tonight. Thanks to everyone for your well wishes for my dad. Until Monday!

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