Month 03, Week 03, Year of Diagnosis.
I’ve dove into work. Which isn’t a surprise. I’ve done that before. Steered toward a focus because it helps, because it’s something I can largely control. And I need that feeling of stability.
The third day after Helen told me about their diagnosis, it was easier. Largely because there’s little else to talk about; that we’re willing to go into when opportunity affords.
Helen told Carl; Carl seemed to be doing OK, as in as well as can be expected. I’ve noticed though that Carl helps out more and I’ve lamented to Helen that it only took a terminal diagnosis for them to actively participate in the care of the house they’re living in. Something that’s been a constant struggle for nearly four years. Carl eventually told Judes.
Since their diagnosis, Helen’s parsed the telling. At first it was largely strategic. I say that to mean that certain people at work were told because there will come a point Helen will stop working. Helen’s boss burst into tears, surprising them. Helen’s been told nearly each and every time that ‘it’s no fair.’
But I’m biased to the illionth degree in that regard.
The parsing has proved to be a good strategy. At least that’s my belief. It’s a draining process for Helen; the upside is Helen’s list is short now. Not much more to go.
We’ve used the time since Helen’s diagnosis to talk about wants and wishes. I mainly listen while I am often asked my thoughts. Helen’s spirits are high though. The macabre jokes Helen makes at their own inevitable expense prove it. It’s oddly soothing. A confidee of Helen’s told them they should throw a ‘Retirement’ Party. Helen likes the idea of throwing their own wake. I’ve pointed out that while only a handful of attendees would know the full meaning behind the retirement portion, the remaining may feel awful when everything bears out.
“I’ll leave that t’you, seeing as I’ll be deed by then.”
As I say, Helen’s humor is oddly comforting. I’m certain it’s because it shows a facet of their personality is still intact. And that is comforting. The Helen I know and love, is still as I know them.
Helen’s main struggle was telling their family back home. They wanted to fly home and break the news in person. Cannae make the trip in one day; it seems it takes two the way the routes are. Helen can’t do that. They’re barely able to complete a night’s labor. Up to this point, I think this has been the thing that Helen’s been twisted up about the most. It’s not something to email, and yet in some circumstances with our family and where they are, that’s been the best way to do it. Helen’s got to stockpile funds where they can. My salary is goan haftae pick up the slack. These are the things Helen’s worries about. I worry a little less as I’ve done that in the past, picking up the slack.
“I feel better.”
Those were Helen’s words after they told family back home. When it was ironclad Helen couldn’t make the trip, they called. There’s been a shower of plans made in the time since Helen’s told people, the calendar filling up quickly as it were. In a week’s time, we’ll have been to four art shows. Family are making arrangements to visit, after Helen stops work. It will be wonderful to see them, and like other reunion times, it could be seen as sad that Death is what is able to get the family on the same continent. Family’s always maintained there would be time to be sad later- it’s why our wakes are more like the planned Retirement Party for Helen. Plenty of time to be sad, that time is to celebrate the person gone on ahead. I thought it best Helen held off on telling them that they’d been entertaining the idea of drafting their own obituary. Even with our family’s views on the passing of a loved one, they could only handle so much laissez faire from Helen about her numbered days at the start. It’s possible they may offer in the future to help her draft it.
I haven’t confided in many friends. Like Helen, I told specific people at work, and it was largely strategic. I will, at some point, have to take time off and I needed to know what options are available to me. Like Helen, a semblance of a plan assuages when there’s a lot that will be unknown/out of my control. I told my team because we will need a plan for when I can’t respond to assignments. I’ve said it before, I have a great team. They have asked how I am, but have also been lovely with no inundating me with ‘how are you doing’ as well. It’s a kindness I won’t ever forget.
I am slowly getting to the rest of my family. Like Helen, I dwell on how to break this news knowing full well in the back of my mind, there’s no ‘good’ way to do so, apart from what ends up being the best thing for my well being.
I’ve been so focused on work and trying to build up an ‘ahead,’ too, that I’m exhausted when I’m home. I’ve had about two projects just languishing in the workshop. And I need a widget for one of my tools. The AC drain pipe clogged, so for a while Carl and Helen have helped me drain the pan and keep the unit on. Otherwise the flood switch trips and turns the unit off. Wasnae much surprised to me to learn that the draining for it was done wrong (i.e. lazily), so Carl’s offered to make that fix.
I’ve been largely OK, but this week crept up on me. I don’t like that feeling; it’s too familiar for when stress and ultimately depression crept up on me. Something I’m no keen on revisiting ever again. Every so often, some of that finality that’s on the horizon really pushes to the forefront. That’s the part I think I’ve been staving off, just because I know nothing’s gonna come of entertaining what-ifs. They’ve never taken the edge off of loss when it became real and not a ‘thought’ experiment that can be reset.