The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
This summer was the first time since Blake's birth in 2004 that we've really had to think about what we were going to do for childcare. He finished kindergarten in the spring, and he was the first of our three kids to be in the situation of not being in full-time, year-round daycare or preschool anymore. As we put together plans for what he would do this summer, my parents kindly offered to let him come to their house two days a week. Blake loved this. So did I. As an end of summer treat to themselves, my parents had planned to take a month-long trip to Lake Tahoe. They would have left this week. Another plan gone askew.
So, here is what happened, and there is so much to tell that I already know I'll leave some of it unsaid. I already told you about the infection of flesh-eating bacteria in his leg. It turns out that the reason his immune system was suppressed enough for the infection to take hold was because of what turned out to be a very aggressive case of leukemia. What followed that diagnosis was a week and a half of ups and downs. Papa took several days to regain lucidity, but he knew we were there with him throughout that time. When he started to wake up more, all of us were able to talk with him. Some days he would seem really strong. Others weren't as good. We were never able to start chemo treatments because his white blood cell count never fully rebounded from the infection. Another plan...
On Sunday the 21st, Papa had a heart attack. It wasn't as severe as the one he had last summer, but it was enough to weaken him even farther. Surgical repairs were out of the question, as were blood thinners, since his blood platelets were so low that even a minor bleed could quickly become a severe problem. The next few days went quickly downhill, until Wednesday. On Wednesday, all of the doctors who had treated Papa conferred with each other and agreed that while they could keep air in his lungs and blood moving through his veins, that was about all they could offer. Papa was removed from everything except medicine to keep him comfortable, and I spent his last afternoon with him watching old movies on Turner Classics and holding his hand.
Courtney and I took the kids and met friends for dinner, and then I went back to the hospital. Not directly, though. Papa had been asking for root beer floats for days, and I decided that he should have one, so I stopped at Sonic. When I reached his room, he drank all of the root beer in three long swallows. He thanked me, told me he loved me, and said to put the ice cream aside for him to eat a little later. And that's the last thing he ever said to me. He didn't get to eat the ice cream. Best laid plans...
I've already gone on for paragraphs just telling you what happened, and I haven't even started to tell you how I feel about it all. I guess if I had sense, I'd break this into several different blog entries, but I don't think I have it in me. I have to pull this band-aid off all at once. I already miss him so much. Every day I reach for the phone to tell him something. Throughout the whole hospital stay, even after we got the leukemia diagnosis, I kept imagining there would be more time. I don't feel like anything important went unsaid between us, but there was still so much that I wanted to do with Papa. We were planning a camping trip with the boys in the Ozarks next summer. I wanted to interview him and record his voice for the kids to have when they were older. I hoped maybe he'd be able to make it to Grandparents Day at Blake and Ava's new school. I just thought there would be... more. That was my plan.
Papa was Jack's favorite person in the world, no exaggeration. Jack adored him. He asks for him almost every day. Every time it's like a knife to my heart, but I know that it's nothing compared to the pain I'll feel when he quits asking. I'll show him pictures, I'll tell him stories, but he won't remember.
I think about how Papa's dad died when Papa was not yet 24, and I wonder how he did it. Who did he talk with about being a husband and a father? Who did he turn to when he needed somebody to be his biggest fan? I keep catching myself reaching for the phone to tell him things, and then feeling silly for it. I know that time will dull the ache, but right now it's still really fresh. I'll get there. It'll be OK. That's my plan.