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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 24 - Prickly Pair

We're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday today.

Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

And sometimes,as a caregiver, you will feel like you can't do or say anything right.

You show compassion, you're condescending.

You respect the abilities your mate still has, and you're demanding too much of a sick person.

You try to help, and you're taking away work your mate can still do.

You let them do something on their own, and you're accused of not being willing to help.

You can't win.

It's tempting to answer back sharply, in anger, because you're doing your best, and you do care. Too much, it seems like sometimes.

But the thing to remember is that you're not the target. The fatal illness is a constant companion, at times cruel, and at times casually nasty. It can be a trained torturer, or something akin to a mean-spirited teenager, offhandedly ruining what little sense of accomplishment can be gleaned from the bad days that inevitably come.

The illness is a presence, and it's not a friend. But it can't feel remorse, and it can't be hurt.

Your mate wants to give back pain for pain, sometimes, and you are often the only target available.

It's hard to respond in calm compassion, and refrain from putting up walls to protect your heart. When you're hurt, it's natural to shield yourself. You've got to, anyway, for the separation to come.

But the separation isn't here yet, and believe me, the person who's looking into that scary place of faith and mystery feels awful for hurting you, because, in many ways...you are all he or she has.

Can you be big enough to absorb the blows? Can you be resilient enough to let what feels personal drift past, because it's not really personal at all?

It's worth trying, because that's the only way to avoid regret later. You will...once your mate is gone and the dust is settling - you will question whether you were kind enough. It's human nature; we pull back to avoid the pain of loss, and in that retreat we sow the seeds of later heartache.

To some degree, you can't avoid this.

But to some degree, you can. The seeds of retreat come from denial; your spouse is here now, and their hostility, superimposed over the impending loss, is much more real that what will happen next week or next month or next year.

Terminal illness is not entitlement, and you have to stand your ground. But you have to try to stand it in warmth.

So breathe deep, and hold out your arms, as if you're forgiving a child throwing the mother of temper tantrums.

Because we're all kids, and we're all afraid of the dark.

#BlogBattle - Spaghetti Eastern

Time for this week's short-fiction #BlogBattle, hosted by Rachael Ritchey, with the keyword...wait for it...SPAGHETTI.

Uh, really?

Well, OK

Spaghetti Eastern

"Who's hungry?" The Dude's voice came over the sidetone in the headphones, and over deep metallic rattle of the tracks, and over the background rumble of the V-12 engine. Tanks are not quiet.

I almost spoke, and then thought, well, let the kids decide. We were just finishing a road sweep, showing the Vietnamese the flag, and letting Charlie know that Uncle Sam was not averse to putting a large steel target on the downrange side of the Great Southeast Asian Shootin' Gallery - bring your RPG's, and have at us! But the run had been quiet, and we'd be back inside the wire soon, to face the kind of breakfast that could qualify as a war crime.

"Ah am. Ah've been hungry evah since ah got heah." Sonny's voice reminded me of fried-chicken evenings and watermelon Saturdays. "They messmen cain't fix nuthin' good, nohow."

Biff, sitting on the edge of the loader's hatch to my left, atop the turret, looked at me before answering. I nodded.

"I could use something different," he said hesitantly.

The Dude's voice belied his smile. "All RIGHT! Coming up on the right, ladies and gentlemen..."

"Ladies? Where?" Sonny was stuck inside the turret, in the gunner's seat, his only view through the gun optics/

"Look in a mirror," said Biff.

"It's a metaphor," I put in. "He's talking about the female side of us. Don't you read Psychology Today?"

"Psycho…uh, Psyco-logic today? It got cennerfolds?" asked Sonny.

The Dude was slowing the tank. "Sure it does. Sigmund Freud in a leotard.”

“Sigmun…she Swedish? Swedish broads?”

“Nope, Swiss. Blonde, everywhere.”

“Y’all got one I kin borry?”

“Sure, Sonny, in my footlocker, soon as we get back.”

“Oh, man,” said Sonny.”Swish!”

Biff looked at me, nonverbally asking permission to roll his eyes.

The Dude changed the subject. “Okay, on the right you'll see the finest culinary establishment in I Corps...the one...the only...'Tran's Villa Italiano'."

Biff and I looked right, as the M48 started pulling onto the shoulder, tilting a little as the right-side tracks left the pavement. Tran's was a run-down concrete building like a dozen others lining the approach to the wire, open at the front, with rolled-up steel shutters for nighttime security. The proprietor lived in the back with his family.

Sonny asked, “Hey, TC, kin I come out and git some air?” He had no hatch, and spent most of his time looking through the sight. Only dedicated shooters wanted to be gunners, and Sonny wouldn’t trade with anyone. I slid out of the hatch to perch on the gypsy rack that held our personal gear, on the back of the turret. Sonny popped up, and perched on the edge of the commander’s hatch. He pulled off his helmet, and upended it to let the seat drip out. “Hooeee!”

As the tank bucked to a stop - smooth stops aren't easy - a Vietnamese man of indeterminate age, wearing blue shirt and trousers, sandals, and, incongruously, a tall white chef's hat, stepped from the shadows. He beamed. "Dude!"

The Dude shut down the engine, and answered in Vietnamese. The conversation sounded at once like a feverish market-haggle and a joyous reunion.

It was more of the latter, actually. When the Viet went back into his eatery, The Dude came up on the intercom. "Tran's an old friend. When I was on my first tank, before I came to Ship Of Fools, we used to stop here all the time. You guys are in for a treat, and it's on the house. Spaghetti!"

Ship Of Fools? That was the first I heard that our tank had a name, and I wasn't thrilled with the choice.

Sonny beat me to it. "Ah ain't no fool. Mah momma allus sed she dint rise up no fools."

"Exactly," said The Dude. “So we’re naming the tank to pay homage to Katherine Anne Porter. That was her book.”

“She were Miss March, weren’t she? An’ she done wrote a book? Man, I’ll pay ‘er…how much?

“Homage,” said The Dude promptly. “Ten bucks. Just give it to me, and I’ll send it to her. She’ll send you an autographed picture.”

“Ohhh, man,” said Sonny.

"Right!" In my mind's eye I could see Sonny, the best gunner in the company, smile in satisfaction.

I sighed. Ship Of Fools. It could be worse. I guess.

Tran came out, with four steaming plates of spaghetti, and…my heart caught in my throat, four cans of Miller High Life, the beads of water on the outside telling of their welcome chill in the sauna that was Viet Nam.

He handed the plates up to the Dude, amid a flurry of Vietnamese…which suddenly sounded a lot friendlier to me.

The Dude bowed formally, and turned to hand Biff a plate, then Sonny…and as TC, I was served last. It smelled perfectly delicious.

Then Tran handed up the beer. The Dude said, “Hey, Sonny, I can’t drink and drive…want mine?”

Sonny looked like he was going to kiss the man, and that wasn’t pretty. “Well, golly…thanks!”

Biff looked at me, and winked. “Miller’s not kosher. My rabbi would kill me.” He offered the can to Sonny. “Here.”

Sonny shook his head. “Hey, how’s he gonna know? He in the Nam?”

“Rabbis know everything.”

To put a bow on things, I said, “And as TC, I really shouldn’t drink. Command responsibility.” And I felt as if my heart would break, as I gave Sonny my can. “Your lucky day, I guess.”

Sonny looked around at all of us, and there were tears in his eyes. He tried to say something, and choked.

“Better drink it now,” said The Dude. “Fresh and cold.”

We’d have to pour Sonny out of the tank, when we got inside the wire.

But at least he’d be ready to meet Psychology Today.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 23 - And There Is Joy

When you're dying, it's easy to focus on pain - for it's a physically unpleasant process.

It's easy to focus on heartbreak - because the places you love will, before too long, mot hear, and eventually not remember the sound of your voice, or your familiar footfall.

It's easy to focus on loss, because other lives will go on, and you'll become a photo in an album, a video clip watched with decreasing frequency until the very electrons that form your image lose their cohesive grip.

Yes, you'll be with God, but God placed us here because this life is something of value/ Not only for its formative powers, but because of love and feeling and sentiment.

After all, Jesus wept for sorrow at the news of Lazarus' death.

But there is also joy.

There is joy in the love of my wife...nit the Hallmark-card sentimentality, but eh love that says, what you still can do, you do...and I will be here to help.

There is joy in the clear frosted blue of the high sky, just before the bladelike heat of another New Mexico summer day.

There is joy in the breeze that may bring the rain, the smell of ozone on the air.

There is joy in writing, in ideas imperfectly committed to...uh, well, not paper, exactly. The digital age has sure changed some well-used phrases!

There is joy...the highest kind...in steadfast friend whom I may never meet, offering support and love that I've never before experienced.

There's joy in watching Chris, a labrador whose best friend recently died, learn to play all over again with a Pit named Sylvia (whose picture you may find on this page!). But ylvia's idea of a fun game is "Let's scare Chris to death!"

She's a marshmallow, but he doesn't know that yet!

Joy is the Breath of Heaven.

And it is a choice.

We can embrace joy. We can part the thickets of pain, take the machete of courage to the vines of fear, and uncover that long-forgotten treasure, overlooked when doctor visits became a bigger part of life than dancing.

Joy awaits our return, patiently, and without reproach.

Just like the father of the prodigal.

Just like God.

We're linked to Tuesdays@Ten.


We're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday today.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dream Pig {Five Minute Friday}

Time for another Five Minute Friday, hosted by the wonderful Kate Motaung. Today's timed writing-challenge keyword is DREAM.

This will be a short post...probably won't even fill the five minutes...and I'll take a break from the series about dealing with a dying spouse.

Why? Because today was truly ghastly, and I came close enough to making the transition from dying to dead..Bleeding that simply would not stop, and savage abdominal pain. (No health insurance, and the doctors have told me there's no more they can do anyway. SUch is life, but I would wish this on no one.)

And pain meds don't even touch it. Morphine, not Tylenol.

So, here goes...

When I hear the word 'dream', I think of the catchphrase, "Dream Big!"

And them my mind takes one more step...to Wilbur, of Charlotte's Web.

Wilbur, the Dream Pig.

The sweet, innocent creature who aspires only to a life lived without the shadow of the smokehouse.

All he really wants is to live...and so do I.

I want to see the sun come up tomorrow, and I'm afraid I won't.

I want to hold my wife. I want to at least talk to my dogs...even if I can't walk them.

Like Wilbur, the Dream Pig...

I want to live.

Please, God?

We're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#BlogBattle - It's All The Rage, Back In The World

Here we are again for the #BlogBattle, hosted by the HUGELY talented Rachael Ritchey. This week's short-fiction keyword is RAGE.

It's All The Rage, Back In The World

Oceanview’s a nice name, conjuring up sweeping vista of a sandy shoreline fringed by breakers, and a sapphire sea. Quite the place for a vacation.

Well, maybe not, because Oceanview is in the dunes just inland from the South China Sea, at the top right corner of the Republic of Viet Nam, hard by the DMZ.  The dunes are lovely, yes, but they’ve got enough unexploded ordnance in them to start a small war, to go along with our medium-sized one.
And, of course, on the other side of the DMZ  you’ll find the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam. 

Oceanview wasn’t even a firebase, having no organic artillery. It existed to monitor the DMZ, and call in naval gunfire, and tube artillery from Con Thien and the Rockpile, to give Charlie’s infiltration efforts a gold star for effort, but a red “x” for execution.

Charlie didn’t much like Oceanview, and its protection consisted of Marine riflemen and a section of tanks; the tanks rotated out every week.

We arrived for our week on a day I don’t remember, because days of the week really didn’t matter – only DEROS did, for Sonny, Biff, and me, that day was further off than was worth thinking about.
It was even further away for The Dude, since he’d volunteered to extend for eighteen months. We thought he had a Vietnamese girlfriend somewhere, since he spoke what sounded to us like fluent Vietnamese.

“Nah,” he’d say when pressed. “I’m staying because this is the only place that makes nuoc mam like Mom used to.”

So The Dude – a blond-haired blue-eyed California – had a mother who fed him that hallmark Vietnamese delicacy…fermented fish sauce. Interesting, or completely fictional, and in Viet Nam, did it really matter which?

Oceanview’s only recreation was taking the occasional shot with the main gun at NVA fishing a few miles up the beach, past the Z. The 90mm cannon wasn’t ranged for those distances, but with the tube elevated and the tank parked upslope, it was possible to lob a ballistic shot into the right area.

No one ever hit a fisherman, or probably ever would. That made the game fun. Killing the poor jerks would have been a drag. But we sure scared some, and there were some Olympic track hopefuls  we sent roostertailing through the sand for the shelter of the trees.

This was really Sonny’s forte, and he could get a guaranteed underwear change every time. If they wore underwear.  And with Biff’s brawny help loading, he could get three shells in the air before the first one landed. And so went the week, on Uncle Sam's ammo dime.

Which was why the general’s visit was less of a pain than things like that usually are. Broke the routine.

The general arrived in an APC, escorted by – thank, God! – our relief. He was a shiny Marine two-star with a polished helmet and a polished pistol belt and a wrinkled uniform that looked slept in. He had a nice smile, and he was jovial when he came by the tank to say hi.

Well, until…

“Private, exactly WHAT is that thing around your neck?”

The Dude grinned. “It’s a little pendant, general. My mom sent it to me. Wanna see?”

The general said, “It’s not authorized, son. You’ll have to take it off.”

The Dude fished it out, looked at the shiny dangly thing, and showed it to the Brass. “Aw, c’mon, man, it’s small. Might lose it in the tank. Dig?”

I’d never seen a general turn that color before, nor make that kind of sputtering, stuttering sound. 

“Why, you…”

He was interrupted by a scrEEEECH – CLANGGGG!!!!!!!!!

Bad news. It was a B-40 rocket, and it had bounced off the tank’s hull. Nice that it missed, but it meant that there was an RPG team out there, and they were even now reloading. A second miss was unlikely.

The tank was parked side-on to the wire, revetted hull-down, the gun tube pointing left. Sonny and Biff were into the turret as quickly as they could move, and I jumped into the TC’s cupola, grabbed my binoculars, and started scanning for the team. I hoped the next rocket wouldn’t take my head off. That happened, sometimes.

There! Movement in the low scrub, by a distinctive bit of shrubbery, fifty yards away. And they were fumbling, probably tired from having infiltrated through the Z the night before.  “Sonny, I have control, track with the sight, big bush, looks like a tit with a nipple.  Under that.” I rotated the turret with the override handle, walking Sonny onto the target.

“Ah gots ‘em. Biff, y’all wanna up some canister?”

Cannister is like a three-and-a half-inch diameter shotgun shell, good for turning folks into pink mist.

“Up!” Biff clanged shut the breech.

“On the…”

And then time stood still, for I saw to my horror that the general had moved around to the gun side, and was standing in line with the muzzle brake, a short horizontal  tube that made a ‘T’ on the end of the main gun, and deflected combustion gasses sideways, to reduce recoil. General Shiny was going to be really unhappy in a second.

Then he was gone, tackled by The Dude, and pinned to the sand, flat.


The gun boomed, and flames shot out the sides of the muzzle break, lighting off The Dude’s blouse. He rolled off the general and onto his back, to douse the flames.

The RPG team was gone. Cannister sure cured clumsiness.

General Shiny got to his feet. He was caked in sand, and his mouth hung open. He looked at me, and then looked at The Dude.

“Okay, son, that THING around your neck. Let’s have it.” He spoke at a shout. Tank guns are loud.

The Dude knew when he was done. He slipped the chain over his head. The medallion said “LOVE” in two-stacked letters, the “O” leaning.

“It’s all the rage back in the world,” he said sadly.

“All the rage,” said the general. “Yeah.”

He reached up to his collar suddenly, and unpinned a star. He held it out to The Dude. “Wanna trade?”

Your Dying Spouse 22 - Sex

Today we're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

This isn't quite as hard a subject as it might be, because, to a degree, sometimes a large degree, illness and medication will combine to make the issue of physical intimacy a moot point. They can make sex uncomfortable, or impossible.

But not always, and that's what we're here to talk about today. Rest assured, though - we won't talk about the mechanics. You're reading this, you should already know that stuff.

To begin with, the physical relationship you had before the illness hit is going to determine what happens in the last months or years of life. If the relationship was good and mutually satisfying, that can continue, and should, for as long as possible.

If sex was awkward or nonexistent when your spouse was healthy, there may be a temptation to try to overcome the problems "while there's time".

It's in many ways a laudable goal; the physical part of a marriage is important, and making an attempt to heal the hurts - including emotional and spiritual differences - can be a vital part of the process, for both caregiver and soon-to-be-dead-dude-or-dame.

It can also be a nightmare, if it goes wrong, and has the potential to introduce a huge amount of tension into an already charged situation.

Sexual problems in a marriage are usually indicative of deeper issues, and terminal illness is not a magic wand of good feeling and compassion that will sweep them away. If you want to work at the "make it better while there's time" option, I strongly urge the involvement of a counselor, because the reality of a limited horizon puts on the pressure like you wouldn't believe - pressure to be compassionate, pressure to br gracious, and pressure to perform.

Aside from being an important part of marriage, sex is for many (probably most) people symbolically life-affirming, both in its procreative purpose, and in the physical and emotional lift it can give.

But when someone's dying, there are some specific factors to consider.

First, there's the ewwww! quotient. While most terminal illnesses are definitely not contagious, we all  have that little seed of doubt...that "what if?" Education (and a talk with your spouse's doctor) should lay this to rest, but it's best to admit its potential presence. If fear causes reticence, your partner will surely feel it, and the experience will be tinged with or ruined by that barrier.

There is also the possibility that illness and/or medication can cause bad breath, body odor, weigh gain or loss, skin dryness or discoloration, hair loss...the list goes on, but you have to be aware of this, and have some sort of idea how you're going to deal with it without making your mate feel rejected, and gross.

Next, what if he/ she dies 'during'? It happens. Not often, but again, a talk with the doctor is essential. There are jokes about men feeling like, well, it would e a good way to die...but that's mainly fiction. No one wants to die of anything, and the thought of having sex knowing it might be fatal - and having the feeling that the prospect is real rather than macho posturing - will tend to cool a man's interest.

Then there are performance issues. We usually think of impotence and erectile dysfunction, but even more basic, there can be loss of libido in both men and women...but this loss of libido can be accompanied by emotionally-driven desire.

Here' it's important for you, the caregiver, that this may not be just a desire for physical release - it may be a desire for you, heightened by the sense of impending loss.

Tough stuff, eh? Not what you imagined in the first blush of awakened emotions and hormones.

So...what to do?

  • Christians have it sort of easy; the Apostle Paul was quite clear that abstaining from sex for reasons other than limited times of worship, or illness that prevents it, is wrong. You are supposed to try to be available. In the real world, that means that you, the caregiver, should ideally try to overlook the problems that you're able to overlook. You've got to know what the limit is, but you are enjoined to try.
  • I'm uncomfortable, as a man, in giving the above advice to women, because so many women have felt used by an insensitive husband, and all too often Paul's words were used to coerce, not to grow companionship. If that describes you, or describes a significant portion of you married life, counseling is vital. You're called to mutual sharing in marriage, but not to the martyrdom of your heart. You don't have to destroy your feeling of self-worth, just because your husband's now dying. Death may be tragedy, but it's not entitlement.
  • Be patient; physical changes can make sexual activity much slower, and can curtail it unexpectedly...your mate may ask to stop from fatigue or pain, or may just fall asleep. Don't be offended. It's not about you, and it's likely to be embarrassing to him or her.
  • Be flexible in timing, if you can. There is the possibility that this time, when your husband asks...it may be the last time he's able. This is personal; it happened to me.
  • Be adaptable in the mechanics. What worked before may not work now. The important thing is that the experience is mutually satisfying, yes, but also that you, as the caregiving spouse (emphasis added) may have to be the guiding light and hand, and no, I'm not trying to be funny. This is the real world.
  • Pay more attention to atmosphere, and use things like scented candles and scented massage oils. A pleasantly wholistic experience may go a long way toward enhancing performance and enjoyment, and offsetting performance 'problems' in men. Men have some pretty mushy emotions, sometimes. These may well come to the fore now.
  • Never criticize, because a fragile ego comes with terminal illness (and many medications). If sex was lousy and boring, and your husband asks how it was or you...lie. Honesty, here, will gain nothing, and can knock out a prop to an interest in life.
  • If you need to talk to a counselor about your feelings, feelings that you can't share with your mate, do it. This is not the time to bottle it up. Just be sure that your counselor is trained, and is of the same sex.
What can you add? What have I missed?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 21 - Tomorrow Will Come

Today we're linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

Probably the hardest thing about being a caregiver is knowing that your job is going to end...and you'll be going on in life, for years or decades.

And that person with whom you pledged to build a life and a future will be a memory, and will recede further into the past every year, until time makes the details of your life shimmer and fade into the distance.

The hardest thing is reaching this knowledge while your mate is still alive, and possibly still energetic and full of life. You see the present in its vitality, and you simultaneously see it truncated, and overlain...and buried...by new experiences.

Hard to do, especially when you may be torn, as well. Torn between the desire to preserve the present within your life as something of a memorial...

...and, deep down in the places of your heart you don't yet want to visit, the desire for this to be over, and to move on.

This is not wrong.

It may feel cold, and disloyal, and it may go against the Hallmark Movie version of life and death, but looking toward tomorrow - even one that feels crippled, like a team going on without a vital player - looking toward tomorrow is HOPE.

Still hard to live with, though. How do you do it?

  • First, don't talk about it with the soon-to-be-dead-dude-or-dame. For me, being in a house that will before long not hear the sound of my voice is hard. Having it emphasized really, really sucks.
  • Second, don't find a sympathetic single-person-of-0the-opposite-sex to share this with. Heightened emotions can lead to words or actions you'll regret,, and perhaps more important...you may destroy the possibility of future happiness with that very person, or, because of guilt, with someone else.
  • Third, do find a grief support group before you need it, and talk to the facilitator about what you're going through now, That now is what hurts.
  • Fourth, don't make proclamations or concrete plans of any time (beyond those that are legally or financially necessary). Don't announce to your circle of friends that you'll never remarry, or that you intend to keep everything 'just as it was'. I certainly don't want my wife turning her house or life into a shrine; were you in my shoes, I'll bet you'ld agree...am I right?
The most important thing to realize here is that you can, and probably will have feelings about this process, and about the future, that run contrary to the preconceptions you may have developed through the years.\

\Please, don't be cruel to yourself. Please be understanding, and compassionate.

You're important.

And your future happiness is important.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 20 - Fear of Death

We're back with Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung, a five-minute writing exercise centered on a keyword; today it's FEAR. (You might be interested in a previous post I did on the subject...click here to see it.)

Today we're also linked to Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

OK, go!

There's an old joke about a man who walked around New York City clapping two sticks together. When asked why, he said it was to keep the tigers away. When it was pointed out to him that there were no wild tigers within about 8,000 miles, he said, "Well, see how well it works!"

Fear of death is like that. As Christians, we're not supposed to be afraid of that Last Enemy. It's easy to do when you're pretty sure you won't die within the next few days, or weeks.

But when it's real, it can be quite different.

How can you deal with the fear of death in a husband or wife who's dying? What can you say, to help them across that chasm of dread, to find sure footing on the other side?

Not much, as it turns out, because this is the time to listen.

Eventually, your mate will want to talk about fear, about the uncertainty that they may be feeling. Is it all real? Is there an afterlife more real than this, that'll make Earth seem like a dream?

Listen, and be a reassuring presence. Don't interrupt. It's tempting, especially when you hear doubt, but hang in there...because usually they'll work the doubt out by themselves.

But sometimes you'll get the question..."What do you think?"

Here's where your job description of 'caregiver' really comes into play. Thius is the time to put Care first, and not worry about intellectual honesty of true witnessing.

If you're a committed atheist, and you're asked, "Is there anything after?", for Pete's sake, don't say, "No."

For one thing, you don't know that.  It's what you believe; it's not a statement of fact.

For another thing, it's cruel to take away the smallest shred of hope.

If you're a devout Christian, don't start into a description of your vision of heaven, courtesy the Book of Revelation. It's not the time to start talking about Streets of Gold, or foundations of precious stones, or the Court of the Most High.

Just keep it simple, and say, "Yes."

And whatever you do, don't say something like "I envy you...soon you'll be dancing before the Lord!"

I guarantee you, someone who's dying will gladly trade places, if you say that, and let you do your dance first. No one really wants to die.

But be assured...for the vast majority of the dying, fear does pass, and is replaced by a calm acceptance, on a foundation of faith. It may not be the dancing-on-the-streets-of-gold variety.

It just says...I know we'll meet again.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

#BlogBattle - The Money Frog

It's time for #BlogBattle, a short story challenge centered on a keyword, hosted by Rachael Ritchey.

Today the unlikely keyword is...wait for it...FROG. Yes, really.

The Money Frog

When 50 tons of metal moving at 30 miles per hour on steel cleated tracks is compelled to come to a quick stop, it's bad for the road, not to mention the folks inside.

And thus, on this warm and humid Vietnamese morning, our M48A3 tank tried to do a handstand as the driver trod on the brakes. Chunks of asphalt filled the air, and the protesting roar of the engine was almost drowned out by the protesting voices of the Vietnamese people with whom we were sharing the road.

They tolerated our metal monsters with uneasy grace, but come on...a tank doing a panic stop?

The loader, Biff, had been sitting on the edge of his hatch, and was now sitting, bewildered, straddling the main gun tube. I'm sure he wondered how he got there, but I couldn't get a word in between his commentary on the situation to explain. He was impressive - for a quiet Jewish kid from Long Island, he sure knew a lot of swear words.

Down in the turret, Sonny the gunner was moaning incoherently, but that wasn't too worrisome. Moaning meant that he was alive - he'd probably bashed his head on the sight - and since he was from the Deep South, he was usually incoherent, at least to the rest of us.

Which left The Dude.

Enthroned in his solitary driving compartment, on the tank's centerline, The Dude (if he had another name, we'd forgotten it) had sole control of the brakes. So it wasn't hard to fix blame.

He beat me to the punch, and I heard a hiss in my headphones, followed by, "Hey, man, it wasn't my fault!"

I sighed. Vietnamese were crowding around us, holding their bicycles and Vespas. Some looked at the shredded road, some looked at us, and an enterprising young man set up a pushcart to sell Cokes. I could only guess what they were saying, but The Dude was the only one who spoke any Vietnamese, and he was talking again.

"Couldn't hit the frog, man!" He could have called me sergeant, or sarge, or TC, for Tank Commander...but he called everyone Man, which was probably why his rank bounced from E-1 to E-2 and back. He was a terrific tank driver, but military courtesies were beyond him.

"Frog?" That was a new one. Last week he'd run down a VC RPG team, and what a mess THAT was. And now he broke a road - and some of our noses - for a frog. Interesting.

The Dude's head popped high out of his hatch, and he looked back at me. "The FROG, man! In the road!" He swept his arm out in a grand gesture that looked like it could have parted the Red Sea, or at least the South China Sea. The sweep encompassed most of the surrounding landscape.

"I see no frog." It paid to humor The Dude. When he went into a sulk, he did strange things, evil things, like eating peaches.

NO ONE ate peaches on my tank, They were bad luck.

The Coke vendor was doing a booming business with the unanticipated block party. He caught my eye, and held up four bottles, a question in his eyes. I shook my head, no. Americans frequently got Coke laced with powdered glass. Made the perennial runs a colorful experience.

The Dude climbed out of his hatch, leaving the engine running (these things could be a bear to start), stepped back to the turret, avoided a roundhouse right from Biff (the momentum of which launched him from his gun-tube perch, and onto the fender), and grabbed my shoulder.

"There! See? Ch'an chu!"

A large frog squatted peacefully in the road, twenty feet ahead of our left track. I could see his sides going in-out-in-out as he breathed. He looked happy. A half-pound frog stopping a tank, yeah, I guess I'd be happy too. "Ch'an chu?" I asked.

"The Money Frog. He's lucky. Can't run over him, man. We need all the luck we can get."

"Well, I guess, but you think he can be lucky somewhere else? We don't want to sit here too long." The crowd was thinning out, more rapidly than just loss of interest would account for. and the hair on my neck started to lift. I wanted to get moving.

The Dude jumped down to the roadway, stumbling on a piece of asphalt as he landed, and started walking to the frog. "Sure, man, I'll move hi..."

He froze. Then he said in a quiet and serene voice, "TC, get Biff into the driver's seat, and reverse the hell away from here."

Biff heard as well as I did, and slipped through the hatch. When The Dude acted normal, times were serious. I heard the engine rev as Biff tested the throttle, vibrating the tank.

"Dude, what is it?"

"I just tripped a mine," he said.

Some mines have tilt or plunger detonators that work when they return to their original position, after having been moved. The Dude was a dead man, and he knew it as we stood, four men and a tank, on a suddenly empty road.

"Can you see what it is?" I asked. If it was a toe popper, he'd only lose a foot, and maybe his balls.

The Dude looked up at me, his expression a mixture of pity and scorn. "TC, what kind of mine is Charlie going to put on an MSR?"

He was right. It had to be big. "What can I do?" I asked. Biff's head was out of the driver's hatch, and he was listening, too.

"Do what I told you. Back the hell away. And button up."

"I'm so sorry," I said. And I was.

Biff dropped into the seat, and pulled his hatch shut. I took one last look at The Dude. He was looking into the distance, a slight smile on his lips. And then I dropped down, closed my hatch, and closed the loader's hatch as well.

Biff gingerly started the tank moving backwards as I guided him, looking through the aft vision blocks on my cupola. He couldn't see anywhere but ahead.

The explosion, when it came, rocked the tank with a ground-swell, and punched at its bow with concussion. It was like a small boat taking an unexpected wave on an otherwise calm sea.

Looking out the forward viewing block, I could see a smoking crater spanning the road, at least ten feet deep, and I wondered what happened to the frog.

Your Dying Spouse 18 - Today

Today we're linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday - check it out for some great links to posts on marriage, and life!

No secret that I've lost a lot of ground over the past week or so; pain has taken on a new and particularly virulent quality, and no amount of posturing can get one through the fact that some things are very hard to bear. And some things cannot be borne. It's sobering.

Nonetheless, I have today, I have this moment in order to choose to do something constructive.

So, as a caregiver, do you.

The road ahead may be very dark, and unpleasant, and even frightening. But try not to look that far ahead.

God made the world round for a reason, that we might have a horizon, something we couldn't see past.

Look at what's around you now, and try to live in this moment. Don;'t think about blood chemistry or MRIs or the meeting with the oncologist next week.

Concentrate on the pleasant things around you - the kids playing down the street, the hummingbird at the feeder, the way the sunrays slant through the clouds. Make these small vacations, and fold them into your heart, for visiting later.

Take a few minutes to enjoy a coffee and a doughnut and a good book. Step out of your reality. It'll be waiting when you get back, believe me.

If your spouse isn't on board with that, if he or she is worried and depressed and needy...

Do it anyway.

The primary rule in lifesaving is not to get pulled under, yourself, by a drowning swimmer. You can only help if you're free to do so, and not enmeshed in someone else's struggles.

Even if that someone is your husband, or wife.

And sometimes, you can't help at all, and being pulled under becomes a futile act of solidarity, a sacrifice that may look noble in the moment, but destroys the potential good you could have accomplished.

Sometimes, you've got to swim away, out of reach of those flailing arms, because your life, your happiness is worth something.

It's not cruel, although you may be called cruel, for smiling when your dying mate is in the depths of despair.

It's not heartless, though you may be called heartless for enjoying a cup of coffee while your beloved is on an IV.

It's simply the realization that this is your today, and that you don't have to throw it away.

You can stand by someone's side, ready to help, and you can still smile.

That smile will make you stronger.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 18 - Meltdowns

This was my planned post today, but in a bit of of lovely serendipity, it was also the subject for my friend Anita Ojeda on her brilliant blog, Blessed But Stressed. Give her a visit, won't you? And please include her in your prayers, as she'll be facing surgery tomorrow.

We're also linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday, and Coffee & Conversation.

When someone you love is dying, it's hard...harder for you than for me, the soon-to-be-dead dude.

I have to worry about getting through the day, and that's it. Survival is my primary focus, and to some degree I take advantage of the fact that I get a pass on some things. No one really expects me to be a scintillating conversationalist, or to be interested in their Fantasy Football achievements (what IS Fantasy Football, anyway?).

If I zone out in the middle of a conversation because I'm bored rigid, no one will call me on it.

But Barbara...oh, dear. She has to function as a caregiver, and she has to function in The World, where the death-at-your-elbow paradigm of the terminal caregiver's life is assiduously ignored. (If I refuse to contemplate death, it won't happen to me, eh?)

She's caught exactly between the transcendent and the temporal, and it's tearing her up. And she has meltdowns.

And she has the right to them, in whatever form they serve her best.

Sometimes they seem as though they're directed at me;that's natural, and it's OK. Something caused this change in her life, the ruination of her hopes to grow old with the man she loved.

Being angry at a bunch of rogue cells is a bootless enterprise, like trying to kick down a three-strand barbed wire fence.

Being angry at God works, but in the end it's not 'serious'; God knows, and she knows that God knows that it's just a temper tantrum, from His perspective. His love will wash away the tears.

In time.

But now they're flowing, they hurt, and they need a target.

In the absence of other targets, I'm it.

And that's OK, because it's my job - one of the few responsibilities still gainsayed me, in this parlous state- to take in the anger and the sorrow and the venom,and let it pass through the filter of grace.

She needs a safe place to have a meltdown at the end of the day. She needs to exercise the anger, and not keep that blind Samson shackled to a pair of columns.

I can do this.

If all of the philosophical and religious stuff I've written mean anything, if they're not just highfalutin' gas, this is the place to show it, if there's ever a place.

Dying is easy. You just get worse every day, and fight hard every moment.

Carrying those who will be alive and remain...that's hard, because it's truly the call of Christ, to live the servant's life, to accept the coming sacrifice and give it before it's demanded.

I can be the caregiver to my caregiver.

And ensure that none of us walk alone.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 17 - New World

Time for Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung. It's that cool invitation to write for five minutes - by the clock - on a keyword. (And we're also linked to Wedded WednesdayThe Weekend Brew, and Testimony Tuesday.)

Today's word is WORLD.

And here...we...go.

A terminal prognosis for your mate opens up a whole new world...not necessarily one you wanted...and brings sunset to an old one.

It's OK to mourn the life you've lost, looking into a future that's likely filled with doctor visits and medicine schedules. It doesn't sound like fun, and it's not.


There can be changes in attitude that make the process seem more like a beginning than an end.

I'll explain this from my point of view, rather than trying to put it in the third person. In the comments, let me know what you think of that, OK?

I see life in more vivid colors now. Yesterday and today (June 10 and 11, 2015) were two of the most painful I've experienced, and I just didn't know how to cope. It was kind of like being cut in half, just below the ribs, while having a coronary.

Worse than being shot in the back.

Worse than being hit with a golf ball, full force from twenty yards, right in the balls.

Worse than going over a jump on a horse, losing my seat, and landing on the pommel.

I have to carefully work and move and even talk around the pain, with a sort of exaggerated care that's not only physical, it's also spiritual.

This pain is a sort of epiphany. It makes me want to be a better, and kinder person. It makes me want to love on a higher plane.

It's so bad right now that there's no energy for a Why Me, nothing to spare for anger or resentment.

And I just want to be the best version of myself. Not because I feel I might die tonight (that's not impossible).

It's because I want to live.

I see life in more vivid colors.

The color of death, and the color of life.

The color of mercy

The color of forgiveness.

The color of Grace.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different...#BlogBattle!

I came across this writing challenge on Anniehow's blog, linking back to Rachel Ritchey, the hostess.

It throws down the gauntlet of writing a short story centered on a keyword. And today, the word is ROPE.

Well, why not? Can't be writing about dying spouses ALL the time.



“Well,” the old rancher said, “you’ve got a rare skill. I ain’t never seen a Jeep forty foot up a tree before.”

I gritted my teeth to keep from saying something snippy that would send the old guy and his big ranch-truck over the horizon. Holding my tongue is not something I’m good at. Besides, while the stupid vehicle was indeed up a tree, the tree was at the bottom of a slope that must have been great for skiing, in winter. I’d just slipped the wheels off the edge of the road, gravity took over, and the Jeep’s last bounce had carried it up into the branches, engine still running.

“Y’all are lucky I come along. Sometimes this road don’t see no traffic for, what, two weeks?” He slipped a plug of tobacco under his lower lip, and then offered me the can. “Chaw?” he asked, and smiled. He had about six teeth.

I’d seen  people use chewing tobacco in the movies, and pinched off what I thought was a manly amount, and raised it to my face, where for a second time stood still, and it hung there,  ropy and malevolent, like a bug that I was about to eat that didn’t want, particularly, to be eaten.

Oh, heck, I thought. It can’t be all that bad. I popped it into my mouth, and forced the lumpy thing beneath my tongue.

“Wow,” said the rancher, when I stopped retching. “Looks like y’all went all the way back to yesterday’s breakfast.”

“Ugh,”  I said, drooling unspeakably into the dirt.

“Wanna try again?”

I shook my head, and the ropy drool shimmied like….uh, oh.

“Didn’t think y’all had more to give, son. But ya sure did.”

He leaned down, and put a rough hand on my neck. “Y’all jest stay there, an let me git yer Jeepy, all right?”

I nodded. “Keys are in it,” I said, idiotically. I had left them in the ignition when I went over the side as the thing left the road.

Moving my head wasn’t a good idea, so I didn’t see what he did, but I heard him reposition his truck, humming to himself. Then there were scrabbling steps as he went down the slope, and some clanking noises, from far away.

And then the rancher was back. For an old dude he went down that slope, and back up it, faster than I could have. Maybe chewing tobacco gave superhuman strength, or something.

“All ready now,” he said cheerfully. The truck’s engine had been idling, and its note changed.

Interested, I looked up, and saw that a winch on the front bumper was pulling in a wire rope that led over a short length of log, and down the slope.

Aha, I thought. He’s attached it to the Jeep, and he’s pulling it out of the tree, pulling the tree over. Poor tree, but I want my Jeep.

Dizzily, I sat up. I wanted to see the last act, see my wheels come up over the crest. The guy was good. Had to be the chaw.

And then he stopped the winch, and slid down the slope again. Mystified, I crawled over…the world was still at an angle to where it should have been…and peered over the edge.

The wire rope wasn’t connected to the Jeep at all. The tree had been gracefully pulled down until the wheels were touching the ground…and as I watched the rancher drove it out of its leafy embrace.

He stopped when he was clear of the branches, and waved to me. “Y’all kin come down now!”

I didn’t want to lose any more dignity than I had, but walking down the slope was impossible. So I slid. On my butt. There were a lot of sharp rocks, and Calvin Klein never designed his jeans for this.

“Well,” I said, dusting myself off as I stood. “I’m impressed.”

“Twaren’t nuthin’. Jest got the tree to take a bow.”

“A bow?”

“Sure. Like a singer, after a song? You’ve seen people bow, sonny?”

“Uh, sure.”  Trees taking bows. “How’d you know it would bend, and wouldn’t break?”

He fished into his pocket for the can of chewing tobacco. After examining it carefully, he suddenly threw it to me. “Why, heck, sonny. I planted ‘im. He’ll bow for his daddy, any time.”

He pointed along the base of the slope. “Jest foller the scree-line till you hit the road. About a mile. Or maybe three.”

He grinned his six-toothed grin. “An’ enjoy the chaw!”

Your Dying Spouse 16 - Someday

Today we're linking with Tuesdays@Ten, hosted by Karen Beth. It's an invitation to write on a key word or phrase...and today's offering is...

Someday I will...

We're also linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

You can run out of Somedays, far sooner than you ever thought you would.

When the cancer comes back, suddenly that trek in Nepal or rafting down the Colorado becomes something you might have done...someday.

But that's really small potatoes, compared to the joys of intimacies of daily life that suddenly come into the long shadow of death.

The things you'd planned with your spouse can so easily drift away into the mists of a future unrealized.

There are museums in Albuquerque that we'd planned to visit, and could have, until about eighteen months ago.

But now I can't ride any distance in a car without crippling pain. Getting there, yeah, I can do it, but I won't be any good except for going directly home.

But there are success stories. When we knew I was in trouble, and that things were not going to go well, Barbara suggested that we take the aerial tramway up to the Sandias, and walk around as I might be able. We'd been planning to go for a long time; but things kept getting in the way.

So one morning Barbara said, "We're going to do this, now!"

It was an odd feeling, knowing that this would be the first and the last time for this. But we went, and while it was tough going, it was worth it.

A good memory, and at the gift shop we spent more than we should have for a carved wooden mask. What it's supposed to represent, I don't know.

But for me, well, I call it The Someday That Came.

(As an audiovisual bonus, Mark McGrath and his band Sugar Ray covered this very well in their song and video Someday. Please give it a listen.)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 15 - Faith

This was originally going to be the first topic I covered...it's taken a bit of thinking, and the hamster can come off the wheel pretty quick, sometimes.

We're linked to Inspire Me Monday.

We're also linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

The fact of a limited life-horizon can change your spouse's faith, sometimes quite drastically...and it can be both puzzling and upsetting to you, the caregiver.

When you realize you're going to die in the finite future, and not in some misty other-decade, transcendent issues can become more sharply focused. It's no longer, "Am I saved?", and "Is the fragrance of my life pleasing to Christ?"...it's now, "Is all this real, and will I be around, in some form, after I pass beyond the wall?"

It's not an easy thing to face...that the faith you might have shared with your husband or wife now seems to be diverging. The epiphanies you may have shared in praise and worship might now stop with you, while your mate sits beside you, with a quizzical look.

First, don't panic. Yes, I'm using that word deliberately. Shaken faith can be contagious, but in this case you know why the faith has been shaken. It's not aa theological exaamination of "why does a good God allow evil?"

It's personal, and it's fear-driven. And, as such...and please forgive me for putting it this was...it's irrational.

Looking into the night, when you've got that malignancy inside you, and suddenly being afraid that the dark is all there is is exactly like the fear experienced by a child when the lights go out, and are there monsters under my bed?

The child knows that there are only dust-bunnies, and our foundation of faith is not, and should not be, dependent on circumstance.

So don't panic. Stand fast in your faith.

Second, don't preach. Listen, and when you're asked questions (and you will be asked, because the dying want above all to be reassured) be ready with substantive answers.

Don't quote Scripture, chapter and verse. Scriptural tags are always simply a spur to faith, and not a basis.

Tell the stories instead. Illuminate the wisdom of the Psalmist, and the shrewd, loving compassion of Jesus. Make it relevant; Make it both human and holy.

How? Describe the stuff that makes sense...the washing of the feet, for instance, and the model of the Saviour as servant. We complain about stinky feet wrapped in shoes all day. back then, street guttering...if it existed...was an open sewer, and the animals used as beasts of burden left their mark, so to speak, along every thoroughfare.
Not a cool place to walk in sandals.

And not something you...or I...would want to clean.

That doesn't have anything to do with death and life thereafter, but what it does speak to is how much sense Christianity makes. It's not some nasty ritual before a bloodstained idol. It's a common-sense approach to divinity.

Third, of you mate disagrees or closes down, let it go for the moment. There will probably be other opportunities. Jut don't push, because pushing creates resistance.

On a personal note...what has worked for me, as a way of sustaining my faith, is logic. In no particular order, here are the high points:

  • Jesus definitely lived. He's mentioned not only in Scripture, but in independent historical accounts whose veracity is not in question. We also know that Herod the Great and Pontius Pilate were real, and recent evidence points to a real Caiaphas.
  • The local traditions built around the places where Gospel events took place go back nearly to the time of Jesus. They are not a much-later accretion.
  • The Apostles were intelligent men, and were willing to risk death for their creed. I have to believe that people were not so fundamentally different then; it would take a lot of faith that what one is saying is real to be willing to die for the principles of a dead Jesus. It's indirect evidence that the Resurrection really happened, and that it cemented their faith.
I don't need the emotion of faith and worship, or modern-day miracle-workers. The evidence points to the happening of something quite extraordinary, two thousand years ago, something that changed the world...and the most logical explanation is the Scriptural one. Mass delusion simply does not make sense.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 14 - Gift of Days (Five Minute Friday)

Back again with Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung. We're also linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

Today's keyword, for five minutes of exposition, is Gift.

And we're off...

In his lovely book Illusions, Richard Bach wrote that there is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.

While it may be a stretch to apply this to having a terminally ill spouse (a stretch to the point of lunacy, perhaps), hear me out.

We live in a time continuum with a fuzzy end...the days we have stretch out into the mists of distant tomorrows, and we can't see the finish line.

With terminal illness, we can. We may not be able to judge its exact distance, but every day brings it a little bit closer.

And so, our lives can, if we let them, become something like a pile of rocks, scattered through with jewels.

We're down to the jewels now.

Every day can be something special, something to savor, because it's one of a small number.

A limited edition, if you want another metaphor.

This is certainly not an invitation to engage in bathetic sentimentality, watching the clock tick down. Far from it!

It's just something of which to be aware, the awareness that can come with a lovely vacation to a place you're not likely to be able to visit again.

Because when your spouse is dying, you won't pass this way, or this day, again.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 13 - If Only

Today we're linking up with Wedded Wednesday at Messy Marriage, so please visit for some really good marriage tips!

We're linked to The Weekend Brew, as well.

We're also linked with Karen Beth on Tuesdays@Ten. Please drop by her site for some other takes on the keyword for the week...

If Only.

They're the two biggest happiness-killers in the language.

If only I'd worked harder to help her quit smoking.

If only I'd encouraged him to eat better.

If only he hadn't ignored the symptoms until it was too late to change things.

If only I'd been more patient with her when she was in so much pain, and so needy.

If only he wasn't such a macho jerk, and would accept my help with grace! (That describes me.)

If only things were different.

But they're not.

The life you are living, today, is the only one you have, and none of the If Onlys is going to change anything.

A sneaky excuse I've used to justify them is that they'll act as a spur to better actions and thoughts in the future, but an excuse is what it is. You don't need to invoke the self-flagellation of vain regret to do better.

And in the end, that's what If Only really is, a hair shirt that we put on because it feels good to feel bad. It feels virtuous to feel guilty over our imperfections.

And often, we hope that someone will come riding to the rescue, noticing that we're down in the mouth, and make us feel better about ourselves.

Nasty...but wait, as they say on the informercials, THERE'S MORE!

If Only invalidates what's good in the present, and, truly, everything down stream from the moment "I would have changed".

No one wants cancer, or heart problems, or anything like that. But the challenge, indeed the requirement for both caregiver and patient, is to make the best of the moment at hand...

...and to value the good moments that have passed, even those spent in illness.

Two of those are sitting at my feet as I write. Their names are Josie and Reebok, and they are The Rhodesian Ridgeback Sisters. (Reebok has sneaker-white feet, in case you were wondering.)

If I were not ill, they would be dead. They were saved in the last moments of their lives, precisely because I was not at work, because I was too ill, by then, to hold a job.

Not only does If Only attend to the impossibility of turning back the clock, it is a slap in the face to the survival of these gentle dogs that love us.

It's mathematical, really.

If Only = Ingratitude.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 12 - Go Easy

This one is for the Soon-To-Be-Dead-Dudes. So, Caregiver, try to find a way to share this.

Guys...and Gals...your caregiving spouse is human.

He or she will have off days, and days when things are said that you'll find distinctly unfair, and sometimes cruel.

Let it go. Just let it go.

You're in a fight for your life...I get that, I am, too...but we get to live with some fairly limited horizons. Our lives have narrowed to the struggle for survival, or juust having reasonable quality of life for the next hour.

But your husband or wife...that person has to take both the short view, for you, and the long view, for the rest of the family, for friends, and for him-or-herself.

It's like walking a tightrope with people throwing things at you, and there's no emotional safety net.

SO, yeah, sometimes things will be said that hurt. Your spouse will feel overwhelmed by the list of tasks that never seems to end, and will give voice to that resentment.

Let it go.

You're LOVED, and you're getting the best care that a flawed, sometimes weak, and often tired human being can give you.

And always, always say "Thank you."

You don't know how much that means...if someone has to get up to get you an ice pack because you can't walk...well, she's probably been up and down a LOT already, today.

She doesn't expect a thanks you, because it's part of her job.
But it doesn't mean that she doesn't want, or need one.

And touch...let your hand rest on theirs, for a lingering second or two.

Your love means something.

Your thanks are important.

And your patience is no less than what is deserved...and owed.