Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Dread

Friday, December 19, 2008


Wake up look around memorize what you see it may be gone tomorrow everything changes. Someday there will be nothing but what is remembered there may be no-one to remember it.

-- Michael Dransfield

Last night I dreamed I was attending a business meeting. The type of ridiculous time-waster I used to be forced to participate in years ago when I worked at a real office with real people. We sat around a glass table on a deck atop a skyscraper. We were surrounded by thick railings and glossy plants in chunky pots. As I chewed on the end of my pen and went to my own happy daydream-place, I glanced down at the streets below. I saw water gush up the stairs from the entrance of the subway. The thick, forceful column pushed a handful of dark silhouettes of what I finally determined were people into the air before slamming them down onto the sidewalk. After that, they were still and looked like soggy, crushed ants. I slowly stopped my chewing, removed the pen from my mouth, and realized I heard faint screams. I looked up into the sky and saw giant chunks of rock falling through the atmosphere, leaving lazy trails of wispy, toxic smoke. I looked at the people around me to gauge their reactions and determine my own socially acceptable response. They quickly gathered their papers and belongings. They were going for the door to the inside the building. I was suddenly aware of the lovely warmth of the sunlight on the skin of my arms and face and the summer breeze that ruffled my hair.

I remained seated, attempted to accept my fate, and said, "I think I'll stay here. It would be a shame to die inside on such a beautiful day."

I wanted to see what was taking place, even though I was doomed, anyway. I was left alone.

Everything went blurry for a while, as dreams tend to do. Because I voiced my preferences aloud (always a mistake in my case), I soon found myself trapped inside the confines of the glassy building. There were tiny, white garlands of lights strung around poles for Christmas, and people sprinted in every direction. I thought how strange it was that I couldn't find the familiar block lettering of the required exit signs. I knew in my heart that I would never make it outside. I wondered what I would do when the power went out. It really bothered me that I couldn't see what was coming for me. That I would die in the ruins of a dark building alone.

Then I woke up.

My heart flailed inside my rib cage, and I marveled at the sharp feeling of adrenaline surging through my veins and arteries while the rest of my body was almost paralyzed and half asleep. That alone has to be hard on a person. I could hear my pulse pounding in my ears.

I think I know why I had that dream. Partly, anyway.

I hate the unknown. It's also difficult watching somebody die, like I fear my friend is. The more time that passes, chances are his diagnosis of ALS is correct. I'm still trying to grip firmly onto my previous toasty-warm cloak of denial. We had a really good day together this week, and it was easy to forget that his body is giving out. I made him chicken enchilada soup, and he even ate a sandwich I prepared without a problem. He rarely eats anymore because it all goes down into his lungs and causes infection, as his throat no longer functions the way it should. However, if you ignore the limp and the cough, it's pretty darn easy to forget he's sick at all. Yesterday, though, he told me that he was speaking in a meeting and had to excuse himself. His lungs are beginning to fail at a frightening rate. Each week seems to bring another subtle change. Changes I usually choose to ignore or have trouble visualizing at all. He is consulting another doctor in another state, but there doesn't seem to be much anyone can do for him. He lives on nebulizers, pills, and physical therapy, but nothing seems to slow the course of this disease.

There are still good days. Days during which I feel as if we are sitting out in the sunshine, telling stupid jokes and laughing ourselves silly. Just like we used to do when our lives were so different years ago. Back in the days before we thought about things like developmental disabilities or neurodegenerative disease. I don't like talking about his illness, especially with him. Most of the time I just think of other things. Sometimes we talk about him finding a way to send me messages when he's gone.

My tree is decorated, and I bake cookies. I go to parties with Brian. I love the fluffy snow falling from the sky like powdered sugar. It's strange doing little things and pretending that everything is fine when I know he is suffering out there somewhere on his own. But I do. I do all that I can afford emotionally within the limits of practicality, but I have a life to live here and other people to care for, even though I'm hurting deep inside at various levels all of the time. I hate that my life is going to change yet again in the near future. I hate change. I know what's coming. I don't know how or when, but it's out there. I just can't see it yet.

And it's leaving a smoky trail as it searches for its target.

(Update: He is in the hospital this evening with yet another lung infection.)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Collett, About the prep being the worst = definitely. - Laurey

3:14 AM  
Blogger camille said...

The unknown sucks. I'm so sorry your friend is having to go through this and I'm sorry you're having to watch it.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I too am sorry that this is happening. When i was around 12 a friend of my mothers who had cancer told me when she died she would watch over me and any children i might have and i could recognise her presense by a large butterfly staying close when i needed her. 3 times now Jaiden has had a rather large black and white butterfly flutter around him come to rest on his arm. I am sure its Margeret letting me know she is still here. It gives me great comfort.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Ava's Grandma Kim said...

I'm sorry, Nancy. It's so hard going through the motions when you really want to just sit and cry. You are a very courageous lady.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

I'm so sorry, Nancy. I'm thinking of you and your friend.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Ava Jewel Leilani said...

Your friend and you are in my thoughts.

8:05 PM  

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