Friday, July 08, 2005

Missing That Spot

Damn. Woke up at 3AM again. Water trick only gave me a nightmare about some homicidal hillbilly chasing me down a dirt road. I was an FBI agent investigating a disappearance, and I was checking over this old pickup truck for clues. Found the skin-imprint of the side of someone's face in the passenger side window. Like the person had leaned against it for a week. But instead of taking notes or anything, I whipped out a bottle of 409 and started cleaning the window. The hillbilly started shouting at me and chasing me away.

I wonder if my inner-hillbilly (i.e. basic, simple, gut-reaction) is hesitant to move on. Maybe the FBI persona is my more analytical mind - trying to purge the memories of the past, but this simple beast doesn't want the truck clean. I know vehicles can symbolize our direction in life. Perhaps part of me wants to move ahead without "imprints". Or maybe part of me wants to be rid of the survivor's guilt - the question of whether I did enough for Sam in the final days of her life - while the primal needs to hang onto it.

The amateur dream interpreter in me says, "internal struggle." Big surprise.

I do often examine the whole guilt issue. Did I do the right thing by letting her go? I could have called 911 that night and had her shipped off to the hospital. They probably could have kept her breathing for awhile longer. But then what? And what for? Her wish was to go peacefully at home. She waited until we were alone together, and might have even gone while I was sleeping, had it not been for the final breathing (aka the death rattle - terrible name, but very apt), which is pretty singular in its qualities, and I was already on edge. Her liver had shut down, poisoning her brain with ammonia. Her heart was still strong, her lungs still clear - which is likely why it took her more than 3 hours of active shut-down. Unfair for a body to fail piecemeal like that. It was torture. As her husband, her best friend, every fiber of my being was pushing for intervention. Save her. Do something to save her. What kind of bastard sits there and lets the woman he loves most in the world die?

Even then, part of me was reminding those primal instincts that this was what she wanted. There was no cure, and three years of medical intervention had made no dent in it. Don't get me wrong - I don't think she wanted to die. She always thought she'd have about six months before it would claim her. Ordinarily, she'd be right. But the constant chemo had worn her out. She had nothing left to fight with. I had to remind myself that she didn't want to die in a hospital with tubes and sensors in her, beeping machines, doctors prodding her, nurses taking her blood. I guess I wouldn't either. I contrast that with my dad going out in a blaze of glory, several medics working him over, intubated and the whole nine yards (to use a nautical phrase). My gut instinct is that it wasn't his preference, and that makes me sad. It's one of the reasons I chose not to go see his body in the hospital. I wanted to remember him the way he was when I last hugged him, caressed his face and wiped a tear from his cheek. He was warm - he was alive.

Sam's situation couldn't have been more different. The last time I touched her face, she'd been dead for 2 hours and the folks had come to take her body to the UW. I kissed her forehead, and it felt like clay. Cold and lifeless. When they'd taken her away, I went back into the family room where the hospice bed was, and absentmindedly picked up my neck pillow I'd given her to use the previous night. It was still warm, and it smelled like her. I carried that pillow around all day, so that every time I felt like I was missing her, I could bury my nose in the pillow and get her scent. It's amazing how primal that sense is.

Now, what I miss most is touch. I miss holding her hand. She had beautiful hands. Just like with the pillow, I used to bury my nose in the crook of her neck where it met her collarbone. That was my favorite spot. Her scent was strong there. Her skin was soft. She liked it a lot when I added that to a random hug, and she often did the same thing to me. The act was so tender, and wasn't anything we'd get in trouble for in public. I miss that spot. That spot, to me, was home.

No comments: