My Ideal Partner: Chapter 12

Chapter 12
Shower Games

In the spring of 2009, one of the aides who gave Bill his showers three times a week suggested we get a roll-in shower. This way, instead of transferring Bill from the commode to the shower bench in the bathtub, she could just wheel him right into the shower. Since I still had some money left over from Grammy Hinkley’s estate after paying off the mortgage on the house, I called A Plus Plumbers. I’d dealt with them before when we had sewer trouble. Jack, the firm’s owner, came with Garrie, a carpenter, to look at the situation and gave me a reasonable estimate. This was in the middle of April. In May, Dad and I planned to travel to Florida to visit Andy and his family in their new home. I arranged for the new shower to be installed while I was in Florida and Bill was at Sheridan Manor.
At the end of April, I was traveling home with Rose, another writer, from Casper, Wyoming, about a two-hour drive south of Sheridan, where we attended a poetry workshop. When we pulled onto the highway, I called Bill at Sheridan Manor to tell him I was on my way back and would see him the next day when he came home. After talking to him, I put my cell phone back in my pocket and reached for my bottle of Dr. Pepper I’d purchased at a service station before leaving Casper. Just then, my phone rang. “Oh, he really misses you, doesn’t he?” said Rose with a giggle.
Because I couldn’t read the display with a naked eye, I had no way to know who was calling so after flipping open my phone, I fought the urge to say, “Hi hunky poo.”
It was a good thing because the caller wasn’t Bill. It was Andy, calling to tell me that he and Kathleen were having marital problems. To make things worse, cell service on the highway was spotty, and we kept getting disconnected. A couple of times, Andy called back and poured his heart out to me but didn’t get far before we were both flung into the abyss of no cell service.
However, I gleamed enough from our conversation to realize that the last thing they needed was company. Besides, they were in the process of moving to another house in Jupiter, and when we visited them the previous year, they were also in the process of packing. It seemed like we always visited them at a bad time. After talking it over with Rose during the long drive back to Sheridan, I decided that it would be best for Dad and me not to visit the next month as we planned. When I got home, I called Dad and explained the situation, and he agreed.
I then called Andy, and it took some doing to convince him. We would have been a diversion for him, but the last thing Kathleen needed was a visit from her in-laws. After further discussion without interruptions this time, Andy reluctantly agreed. He and Kathleen patched up their differences, but a year later, they separated and eventually divorced.
I was actually relieved we weren’t going to Florida in May. After making the arrangements for the installation of the shower in Bill’s bathroom, I was increasingly apprehensive about strangers coming to our house while we were gone. Although I hated being around when power tools were used, it was good to know that I would be there while the old bathtub and shower were taken out and the new shower constructed and installed.
Bill still had to go to Sheridan Manor while this was being done since not even the toilet in his bathroom would be usable, and there was no way to get him into my bathroom. He took it in stride, especially when I pointed out that once the new shower was installed, we could occasionally take a shower together. We never did this because I realized later that I couldn’t have transferred him from the bed to the commode as easily as the aides from the senior center.
On a Monday morning in mid May, work on the shower began. By the end of the week, it was finished, or so we thought. Late Friday afternoon when Bill came home from Sheridan Manor, I wheeled him into the bathroom so we could explore the new shower together. We then discovered that instead of a roll-in shower, we had a step-up shower. Apparently, Garrie misunderstood what we needed. “This isn’t going to work,” said Bill.
“You’re probably right,” I said with a sinking heart.
On Monday morning, Garrie was planning to return to perform some finishing touches to the shower before it could be used. Bill’s next shower was scheduled for the following Wednesday. Before Garrie arrived, I called Bunni, our case worker at the senior center and asked her to come and take a look. To my relief, she determined that although he couldn’t be rolled into the shower, the aide could still position the bench inside the shower and then transfer Bill from the commode to the bench as before. “It’ll still work,” she said. “You just won’t get as much bang for your buck.”
I was willing to let it go, relieved that Bill could continue to be given his showers. But for the first and only time since his strokes, my husband took some initiative. He called Jack at A Plus Plumbers and asked him to give us an estimate on fixing the shower so he could be rolled into it. Jack and Garrie came the next day and quoted another reasonable price for raising the floor so it would meet the shower. This involved installing extra flooring in the bathroom. Jack and Garrie said they could start on Thursday and assured me it would only take one day. “I don’t have to go to Sheridan Manor,” said Bill. “I can just lie down and use the urinal.”
By this time, he figured out a way to use the urinal while in bed without making a mess. In the middle of the night, all I had to do was empty the urinal when he was finished. He eventually got to the point where he couldn’t do his business on the toilet at all and had to lie down frequently during the day to urinate and move his bowels.
Jack and Garrie were true to their word. They arrived bright and early Thursday morning and by late afternoon, the project was finished. Bunni came in the afternoon to inspect it, and to my relief, she said, “This is great. It’s going to be so much easier.”
The original floor in Bill’s bathroom was made of linolium. The extra flooring was tile, and the process created an upward slope from the kitchen into the bathroom which was easily negotiated with the wheelchair. However, the tile was slippery so I had to be careful when the floor was wet. I occasionally slipped and nearly landed on my back side when I encountered a wet spot I didn’t see. Fortunately, I never slipped while transferring Bill to and from the commode.
It was a relief having the new shower, especially since it made the aide’s job easier. In the fall however, she complained of pain in her lower back and thought it was caused by transferring Bill from the bed to the commode. Bunni came one morning and observed her to see if there was anything she could do differently that wouldn’t cause strain on her back. After watching the aide transfer Bill from the bed to the commode, she said, “I wish I knew how to build a better mousetrap.” I thought, okay, maybe we didn’t have a solution to this problem, but I had a great title for a poetry collection. Hence, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver was published in December of 2011.
Bunni called in a physical therapist to see if he had any ideas. Michael, whom I knew when I worked at Sheridan Manor, was now employed by an outpatient physical therapy program. After observing the transfer, he suggested a lift that would make the transfer easier. Bunni then told us that because of the risk of injury to the aides, her agency could no longer provide the personal care Bill needed until we acquired the lift. She gave me the name of a medical supply store in Billings, Montana, where we could order the lift, and Medicare would pay for it.
We weren’t left to fend for ourselves, though. Bunni contacted Sheridan Manor to see if Bill could go there just for his showers. Jean, the director of nursing, whom I also knew when I worked there, immediately called me and we arranged for a time when Bill could go there three times a week to get a shower.
After a month of red tape, the lift finally arrived, but we discovered another problem. It was a hydraulic lift, and because of the way our bedroom was set up, Bill had to be raised out of bed and moved a few feet to the commode before being lowered onto it. The lift was hard to push across the carpet without Bill’s weight. Pushing it with Bill on it would have been almost impossible. We needed thinner carpet.
My funds from Grammy Hinkley’s estate were pretty much exhausted after paying off the mortgage on the house and for the shower renovation. Fortunately, Wyoming Independent Living Rehabilitation, a private agency, had limited funds for such purposes. We applied for and received funding to replace the carpet.
This meant that all the furniture in the bedroom had to be moved out while the old carpet was removed and the new laid. Fortunately, the project would take only a day, and Bunni found volunteers to help us move the furniture. “All you have to worry about is taking care of Bill,” she said. “We’ll do the rest.”
She was true to her word. Early one morning in October, she arrived with a couple of strong guys, and everything was moved out of the bedroom in record time. An hour later, a crew from the carpet store arrived, and much to my relief, by one o’clock that afternoon, the project was completed and furniture and other items moved back into the bedroom. During the process, the living room was crowded with the bedroom furniture which made it impossible to get Bill to his recliner. Fortunately, he was content to work on his computer before going to Sheridan Manor to get his shower. He returned around lunchtime, and by the time everything was done, he was ready to lie down.
We then discovered another problem we didn’t foresee. Our bed had coasters which wasn’t a problem on the original carpet. With thinner carpet, it moved more easily which made transferring Bill more dangerous. Fortunately, Bunni had a solution. She called in another volunteer who put blocks of wood underneath the coaster so the bed wouldn’t roll.
At first, Bill didn’t like the lift because it suspended him in mid air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vise versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because of his lack of vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”
It took one month to get the lift and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill trapsed back and forth to Sheridan Manor for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”
Bunni assured us that Bill could continue to have his showers at Sheridan Manor indefinitely if he no longer wanted to use the lift, but I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50.00 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money in the end.” It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

My Ideal Partner: Chapters 10 & 11

Chapter 10

A Home of Our Own

 

            Bill might have fallen into a deep depression if it weren’t for the fact that his wife was now a published author. In August, Dad and I took another trip to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to visit Andy and his family. Bill went to Sheridan Manor for respite care, as he did many times when I was out of town on vacation or at writers’ conferences. Although he preferred being at home, he understood that there were times when I needed a break, and he made a few friends during his previous stays that made going there more bearable.

            In September, I started promoting We Shall Overcome. One of the things Laura helped us figure out was how to get Bill in and out of Dad’s car so we could go places with him when the minibus wasn’t running. Because most of my promotional events were in the evenings or on weekends, this made it possible for Bill to be by my side, as I signed books and conducted readings.

            One Saturday afternoon in late September, we returned from a book signing to find a message on the answering machine from my uncle in Denver, asking me to call him. My grandmother on my mother’s side of the family was hospitalized a few days earlier with pneumonia, and after what happened with Grandma Johnson, I feared the worst, as I dialed his number. My suspicions were confirmed when Uncle Jack told me that Grammy Hinkley had passed, and her funeral was scheduled for the following Thursday. I called Dad, and he agreed to drive to Denver to attend the service.

            The only thing that remained to be done was to make arrangements for Bill’s care in my absence. I wasn’t sure if the nursing home would take him on such short notice. When we went to New Mexico the previous month, I called the admissions coordinator at least a month in advance. Now, all I could do was hope for the best.

            To my relief, the admissions coordinator was sympathetic and assured me there would be no problem. He was an older gentleman named Bruce, and he hadn’t been there before. I told him we would leave Wednesday and drop Bill off on our way out of town.

            On Wednesday morning when we arrived at Sheridan Manor, Bruce was waiting for us. He escorted us to Bill’s room and helped me get him settled and unpacked. As Dad and I were leaving, Bruce said, “I’m sorry for your loss. Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of him.”

            When we reached Denver, I was once again pressed into service as funeral singer. Since I didn’t bring my guitar, and no piano was available, I sang “Amazing Grace” without accompaniment during the service. This time, I got through it without the urge to cry since Bill wasn’t bawling during my solo. Afterward, a reception was held at the church where the service was conducted, and after that, people gathered at Grammy’s house for sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Andy and his family came from New Mexico, and I was reacquainted with my cousin from Alaska whom I hadn’t seen in years. I also met Grammy’s friends I hadn’t seen before. I brought a few copies of We Shall Overcome and sold one or two of them.

            Dad and I stayed in Denver an extra day and had tea at the Brown Palace and saw a play in Boulder. Early Saturday morning, we had breakfast with Andy and his family and others at a pancake house before making the long drive back to Sheridan. We arrived early in the evening and picked up Bill at the nursing home. I’d called him every day from Denver, but it wasn’t the same as being together. Although I had a great time in Denver, it was good to get home, even if unpacking and settling in required twice as much work. Life continued on as usual.

            In the spring of 2008, John suggested I again try for a loan to buy the house. It was getting more and more difficult for him to carry the mortgage on our house as well as his own property. Since Bill’s credit card debts had been dissolved as a result of us filing for bankruptcy the year before, I figured it was worth another try. This time, I went to a different bank where I hadn’t done business before and was surprised by the helpfulness and optimism of the loan officer. She assisted me in filling out the loan application and said that because of our credit scores, there wouldn’t be a problem.

            Then one rainy May morning, as Bill sat on the side of the bed, clutching the pole, and I maneuvered the wheelchair in place so I could transfer him, he said, “I think the roof is leaking. It’s dripping on my head.”

            I placed my hand on top of his head, and to my horror, I felt a drop a moment later. My heart racing, I said, “What do I do?”

            “Put me in the chair. Then call John.”

            As I transferred him to the wheelchair, my mind was reeling. “You’ll probably have to go to Sheridan Manor until we can get the roof fixed.”

            “No, a roofer can put a tarp over the place where the roof is leaking until they can fix it.”

            Relief and hope flooded through me, as I dialed John’s number. When I told him what was going on, he promised to call someone right away. About twenty minutes later, as Bill predicted, a roofer arrived, and the leak was temporarily stopped. “Tell Suzanne at the bank,” Bill said. “She can add the cost of the roof to the loan.” Suzanne was the loan officer. When I called her, she said that was possible, but she would need an estimate. I gave her the name of the roofer John called.

            As it turned out, we needed a new roof, but Suzanne said adding that cost wouldn’t be a problem. Fortunately, the rain eventually let up, and our days became warm and sunny with no worries about the roof. It took three months to cut through all the red tape, but on a sunny day in August, Bill and I and John and Diane met at a local title company to close on the house. Because of Medicaid’s restrictions on property ownership, I registered the house in my name only but reassured Bill it would always be his home, too, and he understood. “Congratulations! You’re a homeowner,” said Suzanne after all the papers were signed.

            “My wife, a published author and a homeowner,” said Bill, putting his arm around me, as we sat at the conference table.

            “Oh you,” I said, leaning toward him and placing an arm around his shoulder. He planted a slobbery kiss on my cheek, much to the amusement of everyone else in the room.

            We planned to have lunch at a local pizza joint to celebrate after the proceedings, but Bill was tired so we went home and ate frozen pizza from Schwann. As we sat at the kitchen table, enjoying our first meal in a home that now belonged to us, I said, “We really need to figure out a better way to keep this house cool.”

            The house came with a swamp cooler, but it did no good when the weather was humid. Bill’s window air conditioner that we used in the previous house didn’t work here because all the windows opened sideways. “We could have ceiling fans put in,” Bill said. Our previous house had ceiling fans in almost every room, and it made a big difference, even when the air conditioner wasn’t running. “Wouldn’t that be kind of expensive?” I asked.

            “It wouldn’t cost that much, and we could have an electrician put them in.”

            “Shouldn’t we wait until we get the roof fixed?”

            “No, that doesn’t matter.”

            When I called an electrical firm, I was told they could install ceiling fans but didn’t sell them. Dad drove me to Home Depot where we picked out four ceiling fans: one for the kitchen, one for my office, one for the living room, and one for our bedroom. It took about half a day for a crew of electricians to install them, and our home was in a bit of an upheaval while that was being done, but it was worth it. Not only could these fans help keep our house cooler, but they could be reversed to keep the house warm during the winter months and cut down on heating costs. This made it a worthwhile investment all around.

            In the middle of September, the work on our roof began. It was a noisy, hectic couple of weeks while one crew tore off the old roof, and another installed the new one.  The crews worked from seven in the morning until seven at night, and during that time, getting in and out of the house was a challenge, depending on where the men were working. Fortunately, Bill didn’t need to be taken out for appointments, and for once, he didn’t ask me to park him outside to sit in the back yard where he loved to listen to ball games or talking books when the weather was favorable. I was also relieved it didn’t rain during that time, although the contractor assured me that tarps could be put down to prevent leaks.

            By the beginning of October, we no longer had to worry about raindrops falling on our heads while in the house. In November, I learned, much to my surprise and delight, that I had inherited a sizable amount of money from Grammy Hinkley’s estate. I paid off the mortgage on the house and put the rest in savings. On Turkey Day, Bill and I had a lot for which to be thankful.

 

 

Chapter 11

When a Caregiver Gets Sick

 

            In the six years I cared for Bill, I often wondered what would happen if I became too sick. After Grammy Hinkley’s death, it was a relief to know that Sheridan Manor would take him on short notice, but getting him there would have been tough if I were sick. I would have had to get him up, dress him, feed him, and pack his belongings in preparation for his stay. I couldn’t have called on the senior center for help because Medicaid wouldn’t have covered services from two sources in one day. Laura, who helped me when I took Bill back to the hospital after his second stroke, moved away several months after Bill’s recovery, and we eventually lost touch. I could only hope that one of the many aides who gave Bill his showers and cleaned our house over the years would help us out of the goodness of her heart, as Laura did. Fortunately, this scenario never occurred, but there were times when I couldn’t care for Bill because of health issues.

            In May of 2008, while we were in the midst of applying for a loan to buy the house, Dad and I took another  trip to New Mexico to visit Andy and his family. We spent a few days with them, and as usual, when it was time to leave, I was anxious to get home to Bill, although this meant getting back to the daily grind of care giving. But the night before we planned to leave, I came down with a violent stomach flu. After throwing up half the night, I was hardly ready for the long journey the next day. Andy and his wife Kathleen encouraged us to stay until I felt well enough to travel, and although I hated to put them out, I knew I had no choice.

            Kathleen left for Florida to look into buying a house since Andy recently accepted a position in Jupiter. This meant my brother was left to care for three children, two dogs, and two house guests, one of them sick. Despite having to work and take the kids to and from school and other obligations, he found time to do my laundry, fix me soup and toast, and make sure I was drinking plenty of liquids.

            I worried about the kids getting sick, especially since the two older boys, Dylan and Tristan, liked to use the computer which was housed in the room where I slept. I didn’t mind them coming in to use it, especially when I was sick because the diversion took my mind off my stomach. When they left, I admonished them to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water so they wouldn’t catch my germs. Either they listened to their aunt or were just lucky. In any case, they didn’t catch my bug.

            It was a Monday morning when Dad and I postponed our travel plans because of my illness. As usual, Bill was staying at Sheridan Manor, and Bruce, the admissions coordinator who was so sympathetic and helpful after Grammy  Hinkley died, was still employed. When I explained the situation, he said, “Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll take good care of him. You take care of yourself and stay in touch.” It was a relief knowing I didn’t have to worry about Bill, and although I longed to be sick in my own bed, I was thankful this didn’t happen when Bill and I were home together. After a night of throwing up, I barely had enough strength to get up and go to the bathroom and make the phone call to the nursing home.

            For two days, I was sick in bed, barely able to keep anything down. As usual, I called Bill often. I told him I wished he were here to hold my head when I threw up and massage my shoulders and neck the way he did when I was sick before his strokes but assured him Andy was taking good care of me. On Wednesday, I felt a bit better and miraculously, I was able to eat and keep solid food down.

            Dad and I left on Thursday to return home. I still felt dragged out and didn’t have much of an appetite, but Dad’s station wagon’s front passenger seat reclined so I was able to rest comfortably during the long drive home. We stopped for lunch in Alamosa, Colorado, and while I was in the restroom, I received a call from Bruce on my cell phone. I called the day before, and since Bruce wasn’t available, I talked to another employee in the admissions department who assured me the nursing home’s van could bring Bill home Saturday morning. “How are you doing?” Bruce asked when I answered my phone.

            “I’m feeling better, thanks,” I said. “Did you get my message? Can the van bring Bill home Saturday?”

            “That’s not a problem,” said Bruce, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Normally, the van driver didn’t work weekends, and if she couldn’t bring him on Saturday, he would have had to wait until Monday, and he wouldn’t have liked that. But as I replaced my phone in my pants pocket, I wondered if I should have left him there over the weekend to give me more time to recover.

            Fortunately, I felt much better by Friday, and by the time we arrived home early that evening, although I was tired after a long day of traveling, I felt ready to resume my role as a family caregiver. Bill came home as planned on Saturday morning, and it was so good for both of us to be together after being apart for over a week. Although I needed to rest frequently for the next few days until I felt sufficiently recovered, everything went smoothly.

Bill and I discovered that the beauty shop at Sheridan Manor gave the cheapest haircut in town. It served residents and their families. Michelle, the beautician, was one of my classmates in high school, and while Bill was recuperating from his strokes, it was great to have her cut my hair and talk to her about old times. After Bill recovered from his strokes and came home, she still agreed to cut our hair. She occasionally came to the house so we wouldn’t have to take the minibus to Sheridan Manor and wait forever to be picked up after a ten-minute haircut.

            One late December morning in 2009, I was sitting in the beauty shop while Michelle was cutting my hair. Bill sat in his wheelchair nearby, his hair already cut, waiting for me. Without warning, I broke into a cold sweat. My forehead felt clammy, and I had a sudden urge to lie down. “Are you okay?” Michelle asked.

            “I don’t know.”

            “I’ll get the nurse,” said Michelle, hurrying from the room.

            “Are you sick?” Bill asked with a note of worry in his voice.

            “I’ll be okay, sweetheart,” I said, trying to reassure him as well as myself. “I’ve had this before. If I can lie down for a while, I’ll be fine.”

            Michelle returned with a nurse who gave me a glass of orange juice, thinking my blood sugar had dropped. “I’m not diabetic,” I told her. “but thanks for the OJ anyway.” I drained the glass in several gulps but still didn’t feel better. When the nurse took my blood pressure, it was 70/80.

            “Who’s your doctor?” she asked.

            I gave her my physician’s name, and after she got off the phone with her office, she said, “Dr. Bennett says you should either go to her office or to the emergency room right away.”

            “What about Bill?” I asked. I didn’t have the strength to get out of that chair, take Bill home, get him situated, then go to the doctor’s office.

            “He can stay here,” said the nurse.

            “I don’t know if I can make it,” I said.

            “I’ll call an ambulance,” said the nurse.

            After making the call, she took Bill out to the lobby to get him out of the way. When the paramedics arrived a few minutes later, my blood pressure had shot up to 170/80, but everything else seemed normal except for the fact that I was still weak. When I lay on the stretcher, I felt much better and thought this ridiculous but knew the fluctuating blood pressure was nothing to brush aside.

            Michelle called Dad who met me at the hospital where I was given medication to lower my blood pressure and blood was drawn. After a couple of hours, I was told my lab results were normal. The emergency room doctor said my fluctuating blood pressure could have been due to hormonal problems and referred me to an endocrinologist and sent me home. I decided to leave Bill at Sheridan Manor overnight. When I called him, he said, “I thought you had a stroke.” I could tell by the tone of  his voice how worried he was and wished I’d thought to call him while I lay in the emergency room with nothing else to do.

            “I thought I was going to have a stroke,” I said and told him what my blood pressure was when the paramedics picked me up. I then told him my plan and assured him Dad would be there shortly with clothes and other items he needed.

            To make a long story short, when I saw the endocrinologist the next day, she said the problem wasn’t caused by my hormones and prescribed medication to lower my blood pressure. She also referred me to a cardiologist who did another test and said there was nothing wrong with my heart.

            In 2011, I turned fifty. For years, Dr. Bennett told me that when I reached that age, I would need a colonoscopy. Because I knew someone who survived the procedure, this was something to which I wasn’t looking forward, especially since it meant worrying about how I would care for Bill in the aftermath.             When I went to the doctor in November of 2011 for my annual check-up, I hoped she would forget my age, but how could she when my chart was in front of her, I realized, when she said, “Oh, guess what you get to do now.”

            “Okay, I probably can’t do any heavy lifting or anything like that afterward, right?”

            “You should be okay by the next day, and the procedure itself isn’t bad. It’s just the preparation that’s hard.”

            After she promised me I’d be hearing from the surgery center where the procedure would be done, I  went home and told Bill the news. I wasn’t surprised when he said, “Oh, they’re going to stick a tube up your butt.”

            “Yeah, maybe you’d like to come with me and watch.”

            The procedure was scheduled for two days after Christmas, and when I found out I wouldn’t be able to eat anything but broth the day before, I arranged for the nursing home’s van to pick Bill up first thing that morning. I didn’t want the added complication of preparing meals for him when I couldn’t eat. On that morning, as I scrambled to get him fed, packed, and ready to go, he said, “When I was in high school, I had to starve myself for wrestling, and I worked in the cafeteria.”

            “That was your job. You had no choice. I do. Goodbye.”

            Because my poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, was just released by the publisher, I had plenty to keep my mind off the subject of food after Bill left. I spent the day stuffing envelopes with sell sheets and business cards to be mailed to bookstores and libraries. I also did laundry and took a nap. By five o’clock, my chores were done, and I was ready to start the grueling preparation process.  

            This involved drinking a gallon of nasty solution, one eight-ounce cup at a time every ten to fifteen minutes until it was gone. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad since the pharmacist added lemon flavoring. In fact, I wondered if I’d added too much water when I mixed it the day before and was afraid it might not work. A half hour later though, I didn’t have to worry about that.

            I ended up camping out in the bathroom for the next four and a half hours. At eight o’clock, although I was still sitting on the toilet, letting it all out, I decided to call Bill. If I waited much longer, he would worry, I thought, as I pulled my cell phone out of my pants pocket. When I told him what was going on, he said, “You’ll probably be in the bathroom all night.”

            “Aren’t you glad you’re not home? I don’t’ have any control over this. If I tried to get off this john and take care of you, I would have wet my own pants.” This scenario made him laugh.

            Dr. Bennett was true to her word. The procedure the next day was nothing compared to what I went through the night before. After I was wheeled into the operating room, the gastroenterologist, who’s accent was foreign, introduced himself and said, “I can’t believe you’re fifty. I hope you’re as beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside.”

I could imagine why he said that.           I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring because I’d been told not to bring anything valuable to the surgery center. It was probably a good thing Bill didn’t come to watch him stick a tube up my butt. If I was using my head, I would have said, “Thank you. I’m sure my husband feels the same way.” That was one of the last things I remember before I went to sleep.

            When I woke up, Dad was there, and he drove me home where I spent the rest of the day eating, recuperating, and checking e-mail. I learned later that except for the fact that I had hemorrhoids, the results of my colonoscopy were normal. The next morning, my love and I were reunited once more, but as we snuggled in bed that night, we had no way of knowing that a year later, his side of the bed would be empty for good.