December 16, 2017… The day life changed.
It was a Saturday when we got home from Kateri’s MRI… or CT Scan (don’t know which, but one of those types of things)… at around 3:00pm. Kateri’s head was still hurting so she laid down in the spare bedroom to try and take a nap. She had been getting headaches the past couple of months which had become increasingly frequent and less tolerable. In the summertime, I remember her telling me she would see stars… but not the same as when you stand up too quickly or bang your head on the underside of a counter. Headaches and stars… that’s all they were at that time.
Two…ish hours later, at around five something, the phone rang. It was her primary care doctor asking to speak to her. I brought the phone up to her and sat next to the bed as I listened to her side of the conversation. She was calm. She spoke clearly. She took in information and relayed the information to me that was important at any given minute… but all I really remember hearing is, “They found a mass in my brain and you need to go get anti-seizure medication.” I didn’t cry. She didn’t cry. There wasn’t any significant outburst of emotion at that time. There wasn’t any freak out by either one of us. All there was… was an immediate need to get a medication that would help whatever it was that was happening in her brain. So I kissed her… we held each other for just a moment… and I went out on a snowy Saturday night to find a drug that my wife needed for her survival. It was a moment in my life in which I knew exactly what I needed to do… even if I had no idea what was going on. The task at hand was clear as day… in the middle of an evening snowstorm. My wife… my Kateri… needed me. Not to scratch her back, not to make her dinner, not to shovel the driveway or pick up some dirt for her flowers. She needed me… she needed her husband to go out into the world and find something because her life… her life depended on it. So I did.
When I walked into the drugstore in town it was immediately apparent that the pharmacy was closed for business. The lights were off, the windows were closed, there wasn’t anyone in sight with a lab coat on. One of the two young girls working the registers up front also informed me that they were closed and all I recall saying was, “But my wife needs anti-seizure medication.” So I got back in the Jeep and drove to the grocery store… hoping their pharmacy was open… it wasn’t. This is about the point where the gravity of the situation started to punch me in the chest. I exited the store, spoke with Kateri on the phone and decided she was gonna call the doc to see where we could go to get the prescription filled while I looked up pharmacies in the Upper Valley on my phone… then I waited. The snow was coming down at a pretty good clip and I’m sure there were all sorts of thoughts going through my head. But sitting in that parking lot, all I really remember is Keith calling me as I waited, not having any answers for him, and feeling a sorta numbing panic start to set in. I knew I would get the prescription filled that night, but living in a rural setting just made it so that I would have to travel further away from Kateri in a moment when she needed me close.
I ended up having to drive 45 minutes south, in the snow, in the dark, trying to comprehend what it was I was actually doing. I don’t remember if the radio was on. I don’t remember if there was much traffic. I don’t remember seeing the flashing lights of a plow truck. All I remember seeing is the lit up sign of the pharmacy saying it was open 24 hours and having a sense of relief that I had made it… I was gonna get Kateri what she needed… and soon I would be on my way home to our little red schoolhouse… to be with her. Of course, when I informed the pharmacist of who I was and what I was picking up, it was a little nerve racking when she told me that they don’t work with “that” insurance anymore… they didn’t renew the contract or something… yup. Fortunately, she was a wonderfully compassionate woman who went above and beyond to help out a stranger in a time when that stranger needed help.
I don’t remember what happened after that. I know I went home. I know I spoke with Keith. I know I held Kateri and wished that this wasn’t happening. I know I was scared, but I can’t picture any of the specifics in my head… it’s a blur. It was three days before we heard the diagnosis of Melanoma… six days before I hopped on a plane to spend time with my family for the holidays… and nine days before Kateri spent her last Christmas in our little red schoolhouse… without me.
(We were both going to go out to Idaho for Christmas… and I know it sounds horribly sad that Kateri and I weren’t together for the holiday… and it is… but everything went the way it should have. I’m sure I will fill you in at some point.)
Widower Thoughts and Notes:
- Wow, Kateri did A LOT during the holidays!… I’m festive, but sheesh… definitely not up to speed.
- If you’re a widower and you go to work on the first anniversary of your whole life being sorta torn apart… prepare to be absolutely useless.
- The house is festive! It makes me feel good to have decorated for the holidays… even if it isn’t quite to the level it has been in the past.
- I’ve come to realize that I need time alone to reflect and to take care of myself… but not too much time because loneliness sucks balls.
- I keep buying candy… I have bowls of candy (some might say 6 bowls) and just keep saying, “It’s the Holidays!”.
- Yes, I blared Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” on the drive home tonight with the windows down (a balmy 32 degrees) and cranked it up way past 11. No, I’m not a hairband type of guy, but just went with it… and then sat in the driveway until JT finished “Can’t Stop the Feeling”. (same station… back to back… go figure?)
- I went caroling last night… it was an absolutely wonderful experience… and I met the oldest lady in town! Mary Jane, she’s 98… and said my hands were cold… as she tried to warm them up in hers.
- All… ALL of the plants are still alive!
- Always remember to look for “Festive to the Left!”… but sometimes it’s on the right… or all around.
- And simply… try to be good… to yourself and others… all year long.