At the risk of sounding morbid, tonight, 12-July-1995, twenty-one years ago to the day, there he was and was not: The He that he was was gone from a body that only knew how to keep itself going, to hell with the vacancy.
A terrible in-between where he was no longer responsive and would never ever be again. If you think this was going through my head when I was there dispatching the only duty I still had — hitting the button on the home-pump every fifteen minutes to send another bolus of morphine into his body, each time
hoping wondering if this would be the one — THE ONE — that would finally settle his body and end that which had ended a couple of days before.
It has occurred to me for a moment to try to hack the home-pump, which was locked in and locked down to a certain dosage and a certain interval, ostensibly to prevent patient abuse. It was only a moment because the only things I had left to hold on to were medical protocol — and more to the point, medical ethics.
This was my last responsibility to dispatch for him. And I would do it by the book, I told myself. Irony had other plans, of course. Just before midnight (almost three hours from right this moment twenty-one years ago), I hit the button, delivering the morphine bolus.
I looked at the digital clock and it never occurred to me that Tuesday had given way to Wednesday, and that this date would be the date, The Date, and it would be permanent. And in a culture like there is in Northern California, people shy away from permanence. Lessons learned and all that.
I put my head on the mattress (all the pillows were under and around his body, his rangy limbs giving some macabre caricature of an abandoned puppet: I was never a puppeteer) and moments (to me) later, I opened my eyes to a clock that read 12:55am, the LEDs practically buzzing in the now-absolutely-silent room.
It happened and he was dead and there were things I had to do.
The only time I even flirt with Absolutes is when they are also labelled: Temporary. Intrepidity is what was required of me and I knew each and every thing that I needed to do, y’know, Before.
I kissed the cold, cold forehead of my forever man. His warmth was imagined, of course. Or maybe I had enough for both of us.
Then it was time to dispatch the last two things I would have to do: wake Allen’s sister, who had been here at home for a couple of days and leave her some time alone next to him. And call the Coroner.
Everything was off inside me. Not off-kilter, just OFF. Running on adrenaline, hind-brain and muscle-memory, I went through all the meds that were in the house so that the coroner could destroy all the opioids and other Schedule-3’s. It was strongly suggested by my always-wise mother that I not be in the room when the Coroner’s office carried his body out: that was something I didn’t need to see, she said. And I knew it was the right thing, too. And that might have been the first thing I did primarily for myself in well over two months. That decision more than anything was my final goodbye to him.
After it was just Patty and me, Patty called their mother in Colorado. It was not a long phone call. Vivian was a woman who knew economy in words as well as life, generous as she was anyway.
And after, I suggested that Patty get some sleep. I went to the bedroom and there was the shape of him, in dents and bumps on the pillows and exhaustion alone forced me to strip the bed because I didn’t have anything left in me.
I did, however, sleep for four hours on the living room sofa. That’s 4x the number of hours I’d slept in a row in at least a week.
So what happens when all that intrepidity has no cause to remain? Terror and trepidation.