|A notebook entry from Rob. 1.20.16|
This morning the house is very quiet. Rob's mother left yesterday to return to her home in Florida. My son and our guest, Robyn are each asleep upstairs. Rob has been sleeping soundly and wakes briefly. We talk a bit. Rob is so weak that his voice is hard to hear, his words difficult to discern. But when I ask, "So, you'll help me to cross over when it's my time?" He is quick to respond, "Yes. Get my brown bag."
I return with Rob's briefcase and put it on the bed near him so he can see it. He is too weak to handle it.
"Get my writing out."
I show him his iPad, thinking he may have written something on it. His computer. And he shakes his head, no, each time. At the bottom of the bag I find a small black Moleskin notebook. There isn't much written in it, but there is a prose poem/observation on the first page. It is dated, 01.20.2016 -- 2 days before the snow. I realize now that he wrote this after I had left that morning when we ate breakfast together. I show him the book and he smiles, settles a bit more and falls back to sleep.
What Rob can't know is that in four days from the dated entry he will be transported back to Morristown Hospital from Kessler Institute in Saddle Brook, NJ. I will call the nurse's station that Sunday afternoon to tell them that something is wrong with Rob. He is not responsive when we are on the phone and I have tried to talk with him all morning. Since Rob was hospitalized back in the end of August, I have not missed a day seeing him when he was away from home. Saturday, the day of the blizzard, was the first time I couldn't get to him and so I am anxious at his inability to hold a conversation. Meanwhile, Devon and I can't get the snow blower to work so we are digging out after the blizzard using shovels, with Dev doing the heavy lifting. I repeatedly call the nurses as my concern rises as the day moves along.
Rob is just not Rob.
Finally at 7 p.m. a doctor from Kessler will call to tell me he thinks Rob has a urinary tract infection and that he needs to be treated at a hospital. After a bit of back and forth, the doctor agrees to have him transported to Morristown where Rob's doctors practice.
Devon and I leave home for Morristown and because it is the night after a blizzard, the highway is fairly empty, but the emergency room when we get there is packed. By 3 a.m. we learn that it isn't a urinary tract infection that has raised Rob's temperature above 102 degrees and has him delirious--but rather another staph infection. This time it is the Picc line that is infected.
The first staph infection was caused by a surgeon at a different hospital placing an infected port into Rob's chest back in September. The second staph infection happened because Rob had not been cured of the first and yet cleared by the infectious disease doctor at that hospital to have his first chemo treatment. Within 6 days of the treatment, he developed a massive abscess in his chest--one I was told by the thoracic surgeon was dangerously close to the right ventricle of his heart. He lost his fifth rib during that surgery. The infection had mostly eaten through it.
As Rob sleeps, I read his writing, piecing together that this poem in some way may be his answer to the question -- how do we cross to the other side. Perhaps and yet perhaps not. It hardly matters. What does matter is to be of one mind with him through his words.
Here's what he wrote.
The old lady's forward movement
opens a crease, a small line of
organized light--a slip of
space just enough for a 4 year
old hand to slide a hand in and hold--
What is this? There's nothing
to hold but this hand is filling
with ______what? Cold, trickles
over hands and with a mind
of its own begins to bend
around hands now wringing
as if under a faucet flowing
Since 1985 Rob has kept a notebook. Such treasures awaits us. I think beyond today and take some small pleasure in the reading I will do after he has left. His words will live on.