My temperature had been rising through the day. 101, 102, and by the time we hit 104 it was time to get to the hospital. Saturday night was not easy and now I was learning to balance another person’s feelings into the mix. It started off with a simple lie, I’m feeling okay. It might just be something with the medication. But as the numbers went higher, that lie was becoming more pronounced. Other’s had run to the store and I had convinced everyone, including myself, that an hour or two wasn’t going to kill me. If something were wrong, people were a phone call away and at max a 10 minute drive back.
The teenage companion thought she would just stay behind and do some school work. Hey, empty house for the most part. No one to complain about her bouncing around the room with her headphones on, pretending to complete that Algebra homework. For her a small lie, for me a slice of heaven hearing that dancing, prancing noise. Then I needed her help. Call someone please, I can’t focus on the keypad. The bouncing had stopped, that bit of adult needed to come out and play for a few minutes.
Time sort of stood still and passed without my noticing. Delirium took a pretty good hold and I only remember getting in the car for the drive. The brain took over and just did what it could, protected me from something and got the basics done. By the time I could focus I heard some crying from the other side of the curtain. 13 had become 40 really fast, but she needed to return to being 13 again. Some of the misrepresentations we had been making came full boomerang. It was one thing to know I was tired or just needed to have a test done, now she was experiencing an Emergency Room visit we hadn’t really prepared her for.
It took most of the night to get my temperature down, ice packs and a cooling blankets in partnership with painkillers and other drugs. Kathy was pacing the floor trying to understand if she should tell my mother more than the simple things. Lary had a temperature we couldn’t bring down, but otherwise he’s fine. [another lie that filled the weekend] It had been tough to convince my parents to let me stay 300 miles away from them, but they also knew Kathy would protect me as best she could.
Sunday I faced the music in the form of a very upset 13 year old girl. We’d talked about how it was tough at times, and that I would stumble and fall during this medical adventure. I thought I had explained what was going on the best I could, but even now I know that is a lie. Honesty was the only thing that was going to save me, maybe save her from this nightmare we currently were sharing.
“Sit here on the edge and let’s talk.” Susie hadn’t been prepared for this, no one really is. Every visit, even when you learn to expect them to happen can be a new test of your mental conditioning. There have been so many good questions coming from her about me, my life, what the past held, and what the future might bring. I know there were some white lies in there to protect her feelings, to protect mine as well. Talking about my ex, the kid wasn’t something you did with a child. But sitting in this room, hooked up to various monitors, she needed to hear things from me not the other adults.
Truthfully, I’m not prepared for these talks. I never got to that stage with my own child, so the learning curve has been steep. “Susie, you know I came here to have some work done on my head. A little bit of something burned from my brain?”
“Yeah, I read the book Gram gave me. We talked about a few things, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how I can help you Lary.”
“You’ve done everything you could.” No lie there, she’s done more in a short period of time than some adults have been able to muster. “This is the part where I have to help you. I stayed in Boston because I can’t go home. Being there is more painful than being here in this awful paper-thin robe. Your family can offer something that I desperately need right now, protection from me.”
“What, that doesn’t make sense?!!”
“Your grandmother treats me like her own child, you guys are family to me in a way no one else can be. I can be weak here and no one makes fun of me for it. I can fall down and every time they will put out their hand to help me back up. Remember how I told you people treated me differently after your aunt died? Now I’m trying so desperately to protect you from knowing everything that is happening, I don’t know if I can stay here.”
“You are thinking about leaving?”
“All the time. I don’t want your grandmother to be going though this, talking on the phone meant I could hide things from her about how I was doing. Here I can’t. I’m a wounded dog looking for a place to crawl and lick its scars.”
The lies were about to come out of my mouth again when Kathy walked in the room. “You’re here until Tuesday, no fighting this. Bloodwork says you picked up something.”
Great! “Susie, look at me for a minute. I wasn’t around when you were younger and I honestly don’t know the answer about how much longer I can be here. Not just Massachusetts, but anywhere. We don’t have a good plan in place, yet.” This was a lie, I know they don’t have a single answer for me but she doesn’t need to know that. “It’s important you know that I always knew what was going on, more than just cards and presents on holidays. I love your family. I know they love me. It’s important you hear something from me, I will love you no matter what you do, no matter what you become.” No lie there!
It’s now just a room full of blithering, crying people. What was hard to say yesterday became easy. Drugs, crazy brain trying to melt itself, but I needed to be honest with her. Let Susie hear the words, even if I never say them again to her.
“Your family had dreams that once were broken. At times you are those dreams fulfilled.” I reached over and just gave her the tightest hug I could offer, I’m weak from all of this. Emotions are more draining than the cancer. Susie just rests with her head on my knee, Kathy walking out of the room balling her brains out. Damn, I think the past and the present collided with anything the future can be.
It’s sometimes easy to tell a lie to an adult about how I’m feeling. The text messages between my mother and I are proof of that. I still haven’t spoken on the phone with her since Mother’s Day. I know at some point I’m going to die, hopefully there are years in that number rather than months, but it will happen. Doctors don’t lie, but they can be wrong?
Lying to a kid is not an option. We don’t tell my nephew large parts of life, but he’s 6! Susie is old enough to understand. She’s in the room right now, having opted to do a half day from school. No one cares, it’s the last week and finals are over. The only reason she’s even going in later is to attend some program for incoming 9th graders. But I can’t lie to her, kids don’t understand so many things and all the adults telling her different things only makes it worse.
There’s a lot riding on my relationship with this child, someone not even of my blood. Her family is my family in every way that matters. I love them, no matter what, they will always have my love. No lie there, blunt honesty.
She’s going to learn Backgammon tonight. This is were I get to be a little deceptive, a that’s where I’ll draw the line with her. Boardgames!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Truth or Dare.”