Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday, September 30 2005

Friday, September 30 2005 -- 11:32am

My big bro Timothy Francis took off on his big trip this morning. There was the smell of coffee and frying potatos in the air, the sound of marshall tucker on the stereo, a warm chinook wind blowing through the window, and sun on the grass in the fields...

He woke up at around 5:00am and told Mary he was ready to go, and he told Leon he was happy.

At around 10:00am, Mary, Suzanne, Margaret, Pat and I were gathered around his bed, talking. With no preamble , and no fanfare, he left. We barely heard him go.

Timothy Francis Cullinane
July 16, 1960 -- September 30, 2005
Thank you for the days we traveled together, and happy journeying...see you when my own sun sets.


Your little bro

Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

It’s 7:30am and the temperature is a staggering 42 degrees. It’s a heatwave here in North Idaho. Yesterday it rained all day, today the blue sky is poking around the edges and by the time the sun actually comes up, well, it should be a gorgeous day!

Yesterday defined uneventful. And in a month like this September has been, we’ll take it. Tim didn’t really wake up at all yesterday, just a few minutes here and there. He seems comfortable, goes for amazingly long stretches now without any pain medication, his breathing was deep and regular, and his pulse was steady and strong.

Yesterday morning, we were just sitting around and I looked at Mary and said let’s go for a drive. So we went to town, and bought lattes at the Badger’s Den and went shopping at Larson’s and bought indoor kids things for Liam and Maura, and drove around Paradise Valley and came home.

Kerry came back and is here until Sunday. Tom had to leave this morning. He sat beside Tim’s bed for a long time last night, with one hand on Tim’s head. I sat on the other side of the bed for awhile and we talked quietly, but mostly he was silent. Suzanne came by and sat with him and held him tightly as he cried. These goodbyes, fewer now than before, still have the capacity to rip at my heart.

I talked to Mom in Tennessee yesterday, updated her on what was happening. “Its so hard not to be there,” she said.

“I think he travels though,” I told her, “So look for him.”

And I think he does. As he sleeps, I think he goes out and comes back and goes out and comes back. I look at him lying there, his body slowly shutting down, his scarred face twisting his mouth open, one eye refusing to stay shut, and I know his spirit is stronger than this frail body. This container could not hold Tim. And while I love every inch of his exhausted being, inside it is a different Tim. A traveling Tim.

And as he travels, we go out about the business of living, so that when he returns he finds music, and laughing, and when he returned in the afternoon he found Margaret sitting beside him doing a crossword puzzle with his wife, and later he found Maura and Aidan and I playing war, a bit on in the day he would find Pat telling him about the amazing idea he had for finishing the front of the shop, and finally, when the light was gone he would have found PL and I dancing in the darkness to Chris Isaak, and he would think that was a good place to come home to for awhile.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Life here is so simple and slow and beautiful. PL and I were in the laundry room late yesterday afternoon, Tim had just woken up from a four hour nap. I was cooking dinner and she was doing laundry, and I turned the corner and saw her, and we just stopped and smiled at each other.

“I love the way things happen here right now,” I said. “There is just this simple harmony.”

“It makes me want to change my life,” she replied.

And I know what she means. Yes, this is a remarkable time, but we are learning so much about the simple art of being human. Of being kind. Of being loving. Of being strong.

The clouds rolled in late yesterday, and it looks like we may get a little more rain. For Pat’s sake I hope it holds off until he finishes the siding. I’ll have to ask how I can help when I get out there.

Tim was full of life yesterday morning. He had gone for a walk outside to see the stars at about 2:00am, and then taken a leak in the woods. He was up most of the night talking, and Mary, Suzanne and Leon were up most of the night with him.

He made many trips around the house inside and out, inspecting the work, offering suggestions. He wants a lot of hugs these days. And a lot of touching. He is happy to see everyone who comes within his sight range. And he needs to hug them. Its great to be around.

His speech is hard to understand, because his jaw is more frozen and the collar doesn’t allow for much mobility, but we understand him pretty well most of the time so he doesn’t have to get frustrated.

He doesn’t always close his eyes when he sleeps, so we have to close them for him so they don’t dry out. But when he’s falling asleep you can’t always tell if he’s still awake or drifting, so it’s a weird one. You push his eye shut and it pops back open and you push it shut and it pops back open. He isn’t talking or moving, but the eye is so after a bit you give up and wait, and then try it again later.

He likes to fuck with people. He gets all frail and sad and pitiful looking, so someone comes to hug them and he gets them in a death grip. Or if it’s a woman, he grabs their ass. The other day he said to Margaret when Jimmy Neumayer called, “Hey, want to see if I can make him cry?” and then he gets on the phone and says “Jimmy! I’m dyin!”

It was such a quiet afternoon. People were napping, I was cooking, Pat and Tom were upstairs working on the house.

Margaret sat with him most of yesterday afternoon. Before he fell asleep, they did cross word puzzles, and then for hours after, as he slept, I would look over and see her dark head close to his bald one, still working out the puzzles.

Mom came by and talked to Tim as he slept about the first time he came to North Idaho, in the spring of 1966, and how he jumped out of the Volkswagen bus and into the mud in the barnyard, and looked back at her. And she said, “Go on. It’s yours. Go explore.” And he was off.

He woke up at about 6:00. He said he woke up and looked out and saw the pile of boards, and heard voices and saws, and it was all too much for him. He knew how much he would miss all this, and he started to cry.

Suzanne held him and talked to him, and I got his pain medication ready. He called Pat in and hugged him close for a long long time, and cried and told him how much he loved him and how proud he was of him and how grateful he was for all the work he was doing. He did the same with Tom, and then when I came back he did the same with me.

He told us all how much he was going to miss us, and we told him how much we were going to miss him, and how much we loved him, and how proud we were of him, and how grateful we were that he was going to go on ahead and find the cool places, and all the cool music, and put a word in with the right people on our behalf.

He said he had been such an asshole to us, and we laughed and I said, “Tim I almost killed you with your own truck, it doesn’t get any worse than that.” And he laughed and Pat said it was a good thing he didn’t have any more sense than to buy a Datsun because if it had been a real truck I could have done some real damage.

He was only awake for a short time, and we took him outside and he sat by the fire and drifted back to sleep. We ate and sat around the fire, just like always, or just like always has become, and then we picked Tim up and carried him inside and put him in bed.

I kissed his head and said good night, and that was the day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

7:38am, 19 degrees. Seems that that wants to be the official morning temperature right now.

Karen just left. She dropped in for an overnight to see Tim, and spent the night in the second bed here in the apartment. The circle expands to include anyone who comes by, and retracts when they leave.

Tim is sliding fast, but ultimately he will go when he is good and ready and not a minute before.
Yesterday, Mary and I drove to town to sign the cremation agreement, and drop off the Folgers can which had been cleaned and the holes welded. We stopped into BTC and picked up a can of M&J coffee for the bright blue lid as well, so now Tim’s urn is accurate.

When we got back Tim was asleep in the recliner, and sitting next to him was Gary Thurman, a fly swatter in one hand and a can of Miller High Life in the other. Gary is an old-time woodsman, and the guy who took Tim on his first hunting trip. After we all said hello, Leon told us Tim’s breathing had dropped to about 7 times per minute.

He was not responsive, barely breathing, sleeping peacefully. The hospice nurse stopped by as scheduled and said he probably would not wake up.

So for a good part of the afternoon we came and went in a circle around Tim, Mary, Leon, Suzanne, Margaret, Pat, Tom, PL, Jim, Jill, Mom, Doug, sitting and holding his hand, stroking his head, rubbing his feet, telling him we loved him.

We played Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn, and cried a bunch. “Go find the new place for us,” Mary said, all sister no doctor now.

Off and on we worked on our projects, PL made dinner, Margaret cleaned the yard and the job site, I finished putting up the trim in the spare room, Doug made a shelf, Pat worked on the bathroom tile, and Jim and Tom put up the exterior siding.

I walked Aidan down to see the sheep and the horse next door at Shelby Cowley’s place.

But mostly we sat and talked and watched and cried and said good bye.

At about 5:00 with a blast of energy, he woke up.

“What time is it?”


“In the morning?”

“No, in the evening?”

“I slept all day?”


“Good God! I’ve got to get up and check on the boys.”

And that was that. He was up. On his way, lurching about from room to room. “I’ve got to take a crap.” “I need to go outside.” “Where is that little Karen?”

So as the sun went down, turning the clouds in the sky pink and casting a warm glow over Clifty, we built a fire and ate dinner at the big table outside.

Jim and Joann came by for awhile and, then John, Jenny and Jolene. Tim got a flashlight for Jolene and sent her on a bear hunt outside in the trees. Doug was the bear. We watched from his bed in the dining room as the light bobbed and danced in the darkness, and heard the occasional laughing shriek as the DougBear leaped at her.

Tim drifted off to sleep, Suzanne curled up next to him on the tiny narrow hospital bed. Jim, Pat, Tom, Karen and I sat by the fire until it burned down into coals.

Its morning, and the question is there again. Did he make it through the night? I don’t know yet. But the answer yesterday was “yes.” And he got up. And I dressed him. In a tie-died T-shirt, black work jeans, and a Hawaian shirt. And he lumbered down the stairs to see what happened while he was sleeping and to find out what the new day, with its bright sun might bring.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

7:15am, 19 degrees, no sun in the backyard yet. The frost still glistens like silver plating on the grass, and a deer just ran through the yard, a young one, spots just fading on his haunches.

Yesterday I arranged for my brother to be cremated. We decided it would be best to make these arrangements now, so that no one has to figure anything out, sign anything, pay for anything, really even do anything more than make a phone call when the time comes.

I had forgotten where the funeral home was, until I was driving there. Its behind the Laundromat where we washed our clothes when we were really young, and I remember we knew it was there, just beyond the fence and the jumble of trees, we knew there were dead people there.

Mick Mellett is the funeral director, and also the county coroner, so one phone call takes care of all your bereavement needs. We sat at a conference table and filled out the paperwork. I said no to everything. “Do you want a service?” “No.” “Do you want an obituary?” “No.” “Do you want an urn?” “No.” “What would you like the cremains in?” “A Folgers coffee can?”

He sort of stared at me, and I said, “Have you seen The Big Lebowski?”
“It’s Tim’s favorite movie.”
“And there’s this part of it where…”
“That’s okay, I’ve had pretty much every request you can imagine.”

Then I walked into this little side room, a showroom if you will, where you pick out the casket, or the urn or whatever. You have to pick out something for the body to be burned in, so I chose a large cardboard box with red string.

And this is exactly what Tim asked for. Actually he asked the other night to be “clocked behind the ear and tossed into the bonfire,” but this is as close as I can get.

Then I went to Northern Building Supply and got 20 5/16 5” lag screws with corresponding washers for Pat, and came home.

I finished the wall for the spare bedroom, got the door hung, trimmed it, and Doug built a shelf.

Tim came down and laid on the bed for awhile and watched the work. Then he went back upstairs. He’s on supplemental oxygen now, and sleeping most of the time. He’s much more clear headed with the oxygen, and able to make more sense.

He’s extraordinarily beautiful to me, sleeping or walking, spilling his milkshake all down the front of his shirt, or swaying back and forth as he tries to stand and we all stand poised like sprinters to grab him if he falls.

Emotions are running high right now, and we are rubbing up against each other and starting small fires. There have been a large number of people coming through, staying, leaving, dropping in, bumping into egos and setting off hurt feelings. Mostly we are kind and gentle with one another and sometimes not.

I look around and all I see are people having this same experience. We are all facing the same thing. Losing someone we love so much that living without him is a mystery. And whatever we say that is stupid and hurtful, whatever we do that inadvertently hurts a feeling, when we go our separate ways after doing or saying these things, its just two sad people who are confused and scared and just so incredibly sad about whats going on here. And I wish we could see each other that way before we say or do the things we do.

Yesterday I was sanding trim for the door, and I sanded part of it I shouldn’t and in the middle of it the piece of sandpaper on the pad sander came flying off and in one second Margaret looked at me trying to put it back on and laughed and said “what are you doing you spaz?” and in the next second Pat looked at the piece I was sanding and said “why did you do that you turd?”

And I lost it.

And with every word getting slightly louder I said, “Don’t fucking call me a fucking turd, I don’t fucking know what I am fucking doing, but I am fucking doing the fucking best I fucking can.”

And in a day where I arranged my brothers cremation and ripped a board to 2” at one end and 1 5/8” at the other, two things that are really not part of my reality at all, that sums up kind of what all of us are going through.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

The sun is hitting just the tops of the trees, the bases still in chilly shadow. It’s 7:30 and Maura and Aidan are playing with the change sorters behind me. The thermometer outside the window tells me that its 19 degrees.

For the first time, this morning I wondered if Tim was alive. For the first time, I wondered if today was the day he would die. Yesterday was a tough day for him.

Margaret and I drove to Spokane yesterday to trade in her rental car. In spite of repeated phone calls, and pleas National Rental Car had decided to take advantage of the situation she was in to jack her rate from 40 dollars a day to 120 dollars a day, and of course, “there was nothing they could do about it.”

So we dropped it off and walked to stalls down and rented from Thrifty for 120 dollars for the week.

The girl behind the counter at National had the unfortunate name of Sumer, so that she could walk through life with a typo affixed to a piece of plastic above her right breast. Sumer charged Margaret an extra 100 dollars by mistake and then said she couldn’t do anything about it. We told Sumer that she was wrong and that she knew she was wrong and that she needed to do something about it right away. So she discovered that she could do something about it. Unfortunately for Sumer, she corrected her mistake by 20 dollars, instead of 100, and then informed us that in order to correct that mistake she would have to start all over. She stared at us like this bit of news should surely make us realize how unreasonable we were being, but we said, well okay, then. You better get started. So finally, Sumer actually discovered that she could correct her original mistake, and when she did, she refused to look at us, and stared at her screen and said perkily, “Have a nice day.”

I leaned over the counter, and said, “Sumer, a word of advice. You aren’t nearly pretty enough to be this stupid and lazy,” and then I picked up Aidan in his car seat and walked away. All I saw was that her pupils actually dilated from the shock of it, most likely because I had dared to suggest that she wasn’t as pretty as she thought she was.

I felt bad for a millisecond and then shrugged and decided that Sumer had it coming. That has now become a buzz word for this period as well. Sumer had it coming.

Thrifty was much nicer.

Beth and Laura left yesterday, just after Margaret and I got home, and that was incredibly sad. Beth has been a part of Tim’s cancer story since the very beginning and he is like a brother now. Saying goodbye shattered her, as it has everyone.

I know that is why I am staying. I can’t do it. If he leaves, so be it…but I will not leave first. I am not strong enough.

Tim stopped breathing late yesterday afternoon and kept turning purple, and scaring the hell out of us. He aspirated a good portion of his milkshake into his lungs and then demanded more. After we got him cleaned up, he was lying there and then suddenly he started turning purple again. Mary got him breathing and then went to call hospice and grab her stethoscope. I sat on the bed and he stopped breathing again. I got him to start again, and then he wanted to get up. Doug Dirks and I sat on the bed and held him down, which lets face it isn’t that hard, and then he stopped breathing again. So we talked to him “Take a deep breath Timmy. Okay, let it out. Now take another one…”

After he was feeling better his oxygen deprived brain told him to get up and go visiting, and since there is really no reason at this point to say no to him about anything, he got up and supervised the tiling for a bit and then Doug, Suzanne, and Tom went to visit Joe Neumayer with him but Tim forgot why he was there when he got there. Its all okay though, PL and I drove over on the 4-wheeler and got there a few seconds before them so we could talk to Joe before and after and let him know what was going on. He was of course amazing, and just talked to Tim as though he understood everything Tim was saying, and then we asked Tim if he wanted to go home and Joe could come over later, and he was fine with that so we went home.

I asked Mary if he was going to die tonight, and she said “maybe.”

Tim doesn’t want to die in his bed because he is afraid that Suzanne will be too freaked out to ever sleep in it again. So he asked to have a hospital bed set up in his shop for when the time comes. Last night the truck pulled up and Tom and I helped unload his death bed. It was just a regular hospital bed, ugly brown wood veneer, chrome siderails, institutional mattress, and when we got it set up Leon and Tom and I just stood there staring at it, like some strange and smelly animal had crawled into our midst.

Mary had also ordered a couple of oxygen tanks to help Tim get through last night. After we ate, we all sat around the living room while Tim slept soundly in the recliner, the hum of the oxygen tank in the background.

Like I said, today is the first day I woke up and wondered if Tim was alive. I feel this more profoundly today then at any time I have been here so far, I guess because there was no question watching him yesterday afternoon that this is a guy who is fading quickly.

Its funny though, as I was waking up this morning I didn’t know what to hope for. If Tim wants to go, I hope for him to go, but there is no way of knowing. Right now, he seems to be enjoying these days of friends and family, and so that part of me that wants to decide for him I guess what is “best” has to realize that even though it is messy and uncomfortable, for Tim right now hearing our voices and feeling the evening air on his skin as he walks around outside might be so precious that he wants to hold onto it until it slips from his grasp. He seems in no hurry to let anything go, and we will continue to give him anything he wants until he is ready to slip away.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The sun has finally stretched itself over the mountains and down into the valley where it has burned off the frost from last night. Its 8:30am, and Margaret has just left the apartment after coffee and talking. When I got up this morning the temperature was 19 degrees, and the grass was white and crisp. The other night, Jenny said she was so glad the frost was coming because she didn’t want to have to pick another bean or ear of corn fro her garden. This morning should have made her very happy!

Beth and her sister Laura arrived the other night. Beth was one of Tim’s nurses on the transplant floor back in 1987 when he had the bone marrow transplant at Hopkins. They have been close friends ever since.

Beth was standing in Mom and Doug’s kitchen before she drove back to her hotel. “Whenever things got hard, I could always call Tim and he made me feel like everything was going to be okay,” she said.

Last night they burned the slash piles in the field, so we had about 100 people over for a barbecue. The flames took off with a roar and shot at least 50 feet into the air just as the sun went down. Mary and Leon took a much needed night off and went to Sandpoint for dinner, so I was on meds duty. I dosed Tim up good, got him dressed in clean jeans and his Hopkins sweatshirt, just as the fires started.

“Dead man walking,” I yelled as we came down the stairs. There weren’t a lot of people in the house, but those that were there were suitably aghast, and Tim laughed so hard he almost fell down.

He was amazing last night. I don’t know where he got the energy, but he walked out to the bonfires several times. We made huge firecrackers and set them off, and they sounded like sonic booms.

It was hard for him because there were some people there he had to say goodbye to for the last time. Meg and Dom had driven up from Orofino, and when they left Tim had to sit down for awhile. I got him back upstairs and into his pajamas and then Stephanie and Liz came up to say goodbye. Suzanne and I stood at the top of the stairs to give them some time alone. We just put our arms around her and then Liz came over and the three of us stood there silently while Steph said goodbye.

Every time someone says goodbye it reminds me. I have seen Tim sick before, and sometimes I can, if not forget, just postpone thinking about what is happening. But watching grief overcome someone as they walk away from him, I am forced to face the fact that they are grieving because my brother is dying.

“This fucking sucks,” Tim said after they walked down the stairs.

I gave him his night meds and left him and Suzanne alone and went into the shop and sat in the dark and cried until I thought my head would fall off, and then I felt better, but I had locked myself off so I had to knock on the door to get back in.

It was a great party though, and Tim had a fantastic time and if there were moments of breathtaking sadness, well there were a lot more moments where he was just electrically alive.

Yesterday he told me twice that he was proud to be my brother, proud of the man I had become, and that he loved me. The funny thing is that I already knew that. And I know that he knows how I feel. I have told him, of course, but there is no better way I can tell my brother I love him then to make sure his face is clean, make sure he is feeling good, make sure his clothes are on straight, and yell “Dead man walking,” as he comes down the stairs…

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Every evening now, friends gather, some inside where its warm, some gathered around the fire outside. We talk and there is laughter and love and a blanket of stars overhead. This morning it was 24 degrees and frost was on the grass. Summer is fading and autumn has a hold. The wind on the back of my neck at night tells me winter is gaining strength.

Its late morning, and I’ve just spent a few hours with Liam, Maura and Aidan. Margaret came down and we sat around and talked for an hour or so, and then she went to take a shower and I got the kids for a bit. I tought Maura how to play a D chord on the guitar, and tried to keep them out of the M&Ms.

Yesterday I worked in the morning on putting the outside siding on the spare bedroom, which has turned into my little construction project. In the afternoon PL, Kerry and I took the 4-wheelers up to 4032. We sat around in the long grass and talked about Tim, and about this time, and whether these days are building this into something other than what it is, something bigger.

Like lets say Tim died suddenly in a car crash and there was terrible grief, but in a concentrated blast and then we picked up the pieces. Are these days building up to that, or are we digging a hole we will fall into and never crawl out of?

What occurs to me now, however, is that we have been given the gift that I think anyone facing the death of a loved one would hope for. That gift is the time, to be together, but also to have the knowledge of a coming change that allows for the greatest possible appreciation of the time we have with Tim and with each other.

These days have been precious. And yes, when its over, we will all be left staggering for a period of time, and I think we will all be changed as well, but I hope in some way that is profound and good.

More later…the last few days I have had a harder time with words.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It’s after 1:00pm and I am just waking up. I spent the night in Tim’s room last night, semi sleeping in a chair to make sure he didn’t try to get up and walk unassisted. Suzanne is not really capable right now of much more than getting through the day herself, and last night had self-medicated beyond the point of being able to make sure Tim didn’t fall on his way to the bathroom.

That was the second fairly sleepless night in a row, so after everyone else was up I checked out for a few hours, but I don’t really feel better. My head is heavy and my eyes keep drooping.

I think the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my life was watching Mom and Dad walk out of the house yesterday after saying good-bye to Tim. My parents are strong people, incredibly strong, but the pain of losing a child is more than the strongest man or woman can endure without flinching.

Maybe it was the knowledge of the moment, I don’t know, but I found their pain almost unendurable. I took them to the airport last night and we talked the whole way down, and it was good.

Dad said Tim had told him he was excited to find out what was next, and really ready to leave his body behind. Dad understood, and was glad for him. Our pain is really about our limitations, Tim on the other hand is going to a place beyond limits.

After sobbing all the way from Spokane to Cour D’Alene I found myself wandering down aisles of porcelain toilets gleaming under fluorescent lights, and conferring on the square foot coverage of a 50 pound bag of gypcrete at Home Depot. Incongruity is my stepladder out of despair these days and I was grateful for the opportunity to drive home with 750 pounds of concrete resurfacer in back of the car.

When I got home, the camp was divided into two factions. Those that were getting hammered into oblivion by the fire and those that were not. Mary, Margaret, Pat and I gathered on and around Tim’s bed and talked. Tim was in and out of consciousness, following the conversation in bits and spurts and sometimes losing the thread and dropping deadly funny non-sequiturs into the mix.

After grabbing a snack, I came back upstairs to go to sleep in the chair, and Pat was sitting by the bed crying quietly, something he had never really done even when he was a little boy. I sat by him and rubbed his back, and Tim woke up enough for us to talk a little. I told him that what he told Dad was a big comfort, and he was glad about that.

The last few days have been such a miracle, and such a gift. Most of the people who were here have gone home, said their goodbyes yesterday and quietly faded away. I was glad to leave because too many good byes just crush my spirit.

I’m going to go rejoin my family now, and see what else today might bring.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This morning, we were standing around the campfire, those of us that had spent the night on the mountain, drinking coffee and getting warm, trying to keep the smoke out of our eyes, and my Dad told us this story.

He had taken a group of his students up on the mountain a couple of years ago, and they were three or four days in. It was morning, and he was teaching a class, and he noticed they were watching him with more attention than usual. When he looked down, he noticed a caterpillar crawling up his leg. Without thinking about it he reached down, let it crawl onto his finger and set it on the branch of a nearby tree, which is where it had been heading in order to cocoon itself.

And in that moment it occurred to him, that it would build a cocoon and inside it, it would die. And then it would be reborn, with no memory of its previous existence as a caterpillar, and live on as a butterfly. And he thought to himself, that one purpose for this metamorphosis must be for us to learn from it. Surely, in an organized universe, and we certainly seem to be living in an organized universe, there is an easier way to make caterpillars. But it happens this way, and we learn. We learn that even though we don’t know it, and won’t realize it, and won’t remember anything, that after death, comes rebirth, as something new. That this caterpillar will no longer crawl along the dirt, being flummoxed by every branch and puddle in its path, but will instead, spread its glorious wings, and fly away, with no recollection of anything other than flight.

I looked across the fire and watched each face as he told this story. Joe, Mary, Suzanne, PL, Don, Jim, Kelly, Pat, Margaret, Matt, Scout, Leon, and Tom. Everyone was smiling. Some of us had our eyes closed, some of us teared up, but everyone was smiling.

Dad finished, and we were silent, listening to the crackle of the fire, and the sound of woods in morning. The sun continued to rise, and then it was time to go.

Yesterday afternoon, Kelly, PL, Matt and I hiked up to 4032, where everyone was gathering to take the picture and have a party. Most people drove, but the four of us strolled through the autumn woods, breathing heavily of the earth, and pine, and moss.

Kelly and I talked most of the way up, just the two of us, catching up on 20 years of missed history.

After we arrived, we assembled around the stump where over 30 years ago, when we were very small, we had stood, flowers in our hands while our parents took a picture. There must have been 20 people taking the picture this time, and as each shutter clicked we embraced each new addition to the family, until finally the five of us had become all of us.

The sun set slowly and majestically over the Selkirks, and fires were lit as the darkness crept in from the woods on all sides. More people arrived, more faces familiar and changed, and in the flickering light we ate and talked and told stories that had been told so many times, and gradually the flames began to die down, and people drifted away until it was just the core group of us.

We settled on the side of the mountain, nestled in sleeping bags under the blazing moon and talked until our voices dropped to mumbles and we slept, to awaken to a sunrise reflected off the surfaces of the western mountains, and we stumbled to the fires for coffee.

This was the moment Tim had asked for. We took up his couch, the old chaise lounge we carry around for him, and he sat by the fire and beamed, his ravaged smile more beautiful than at any time in his life. He made this possible, asked for it. An incredible gift, and one that grew over the course of week to touch so many people. This, he said was the one thing he wanted to do before he died. Just this.

As Kelly and I walked down the road this morning she said, “I hope this was everything Tim wanted,” and I said, “I think it may have even been more.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Margaret arrives today with Liam, Maura and Aidan. Then we will be complete. We go to 4032 today, and take the picture. Pat and I took the fire barrels up yesterday, a chance for another 4-wheeler ride through the woods, only much longer and much more fun than the other day.

Living this, I don’t stop to realize how amazing this is. The people who are here, the faces I see every day right now…faces from the past, from some of the best times of our lives, Pat, Matt and Tom, Kelly Kingsland, PL, Carol, Jim, all the Neumayers, its incredible that we are all here together. This valley is and has always been the place where our family, the family as it exists today was created. I was born here, Mom (Patricia) came into our lives here, the non-blood additions came through here. So much happened here, so long ago, but here we all are again, sprawled out over lawn chairs, laughing, building, cleaning, eating, working. We have not all shared space since 1982.

The other day Pat (my brother) and I were talking on the phone, and he was in Long Beach sitting in a hotel room, and he told me that being there while all this was going on was too surreal. So you want to talk about surreal…how about yesterday when Pat arrived here and a new construction project erupted.

He is putting on an addition on to Tim’s house, the dining room area which Tim and I had planned to start, but there was no way Tim could do it, and finishing the bedroom tapped all of my construction skills.

So Pat gets here and within an hour, he, Tommy, Matt and Tom Drake, Leon, Don Trossett, Brian Regehr, Brack, Dad, and Pat are out there tearing into this job, and walls are going up and boards are coming down from the deck above, and at one point I looked out and there were 8 guys working on a 6 x 8 construction site. It was awesome.

After a few minutes people started dropping out and after awhile it was just Pat, Tommy, Don and Brian working, because lets face it, they are the ones who are professionals! Well I guess Matt Drake is too, but like he said, with that many guys he figured he’d better step down before feelings got hurt.

PL and I assembled and inventoried the camping gear, and Mom and I assembled dinner, and Pat started a fire, and people gathered, and ate and talked and we pulled Suzanne’s chaise from upstairs down into the yard and Tim came down and hung out for a good part of the night, and it went from surreal to extraordinary.

Mary has gotten Tim on steroids which have taken down the swelling in his spine and which allow him to be up and around for really long periods of time. He is out hanging out with people and just being himself, and while PL and I were pulling the camping gear together he walked out into the shop and started rearranging the saws which had been moved around, getting the chop saw back in place, and moving sawhorses, and I just sat and watched him.

A few days ago as I cleaned up his shop, I broke down in tears so hard I needed to lean on the wall and it was because I felt like Tim would never be in this shop again, would never touch these tools again, and then, I turned around and there he was.

And I’m absolutely not fooling myself, and I know that this is medication working, not a cure, but it is a gift nonetheless. Nothing is changed, or even slowed down. In fact, his being up and around may even speed the process, but who would trade that for more time in bed?

I haven’t cried in days, because the beauty of these days creates a fullness that tears cannot begin to release. After it got dark, I walked upstairs and Tim was back in bed, and Mary was curled up next to him, and it was quiet and I sat down on the chair by the bed, and we watched the moon through the window, and didn’t talk. After a bit, Tim drifted off to sleep, and then Mary. I got up and walked quietly down the stairs.

More later…

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

It’s not quite 8:00am and I’m on my third cup of coffee. I’m looking out my little window over the desk, and the sun is creeping across the back yard. According to the thermometer outside my window, the temperature just pushed past 30 degrees.

Mom, Dad, Mary and Leon arrived late last night, and went to bed quickly. I’ve been here long enough now that I guess I have become accustomed to what is happening, at least on the day to day, this is what it looks like level.

The shock and grief in people’s eyes as they see Tim and the reality sinks in, is so hard, and I feel like as the old hand I have to be the strong one. I need to stop that. Again, I need to be real, and that’s it.

Last night we started a little fire in the fire pit in the back yard, and Pat, Tom, Matt and I stood around the fire and watched the wood burn down into orange and red embers while the mostly full moon blazed overhead, and we talked and joked and kidded around until it was late and the fire was mostly gone.

With the arrival of more and more people, family and friends both, my character defects have popped out of the box and decided to join the party. Its incredible that no matter how much work I do on this stuff, it still lurks around the edges and then blam!

Anyway, I did a quick inventory this morning, the results of which are not surprising to me; low self-esteem leads to acting out. So before the day starts, and four more people arrive, here is what I want to remember:

1) I can be comfortable having my own thoughts and feelings, whether or not my family and friends gives them their stamp of approval.

2) In the end, the experience of my life is mine alone. Only I can have it. I want it to be as rich, and as real, and as important as it can be, and the only way that can happen is if I experience it fully as myself, not through someone else’s eyes.

3) No one ever wins a popularity contest.

More later…

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I’m drinking coffee and watching the sun come up. I’ve been on the phone this morning with Tom, PL, Mary and Margaret, updating schedules and working out meeting times and places for all the various travelers. Suzanne called and asked for eggs, so I’ll pick some up on my way out.

Tim slept through the night and is comfortable this morning. Last night he was in a lot of pain, so I dosed him up good, and we’ll keep doing that as necessary.

The days run together now, mural-like, one into the next. Pat dropped easily in to the picture and is now part of the harmony, which makes me realize how this will all play out over the next few days as each person arrives. The places are already there for them. We don’t need to make room for anyone, they claimed that spot for themselves years ago, blood family, or love family, it makes no difference. Their place is set, and held, and each will slip into it and we will keep moving forward.

I noticed that yesterday, when we had a houseful. Pat was working on creating the corner table for the guest room, and I was ripping and cutting and nailing in the corner trim. Carol and Jill arrived and began cleaning the upstairs of Tim and Sue’s house. Jim Neumayer and Ken Irons dropped in, went away briefly and returned with riding lawnmowers.

And for a few hours we all worked side by side on our projects, the smells of fresh sawdust and new cut grass and the sounds of projects filling the air. Jill’s face would appear at a window and we would wave wildly at each other and then laugh.

Tim wanted to watch The Salton Sea, so we stopped and ate and watched for awhile and then John and Jenny stopped by and Tim gave them the skinny on what was going on.

“I’m just glad the pain turned out to be something real so everyone would stop telling me I was faking it,” he said. “Suzanne told me I was just being manipulative to get more pain medication, and Danny kept making me do neck exercises while my spine was collapsing.”

This is actually all true, but it was still funny as hell and we all laughed our asses off.

Doug, Pat, Suzanne and I drove to town and played a round of golf. I shot my usual horrible game, but it was so fantastic just to stroll the course and talk, and occasionally bludgeon the ball. As the sun set all salmon and almond in the west and the day grew cool, I was on the 8th hole and putting for par, when Pat threw the flag down on top of my ball. And we laughed more.

And then the day was over, and we ate spaghetti and meat balls that Mom made and Joann Neumayers pineapple upside down cake and fresh baked ginger snaps that Virginia Cowley dropped off and my stomach hurt.
And how amazing it all was to eat and laugh and build, and Tim was smiling from ear to ear.

Its later now and another day is ending. We finished the room and cleaned and put the bed in, and cleaned the shop and Pat and I went for a ride through the woods on the 4-wheelers, and I flew, up and over this logging road for what seemed like miles with cool mountain air whipping my face and I felt like laughing again.

The first big batch of family arrives later this evening and Mom is grilling steaks. Matt and Tom Drake just pulled in. Tim was in a lot of pain last night so we medicated him heavily and he’s been pretty much out of it most of the day. Mom said to me “He’s fading fast!” and I laughed and said “No, its just extra ativan!”

I am covered in sawdust and gravel dust and I feel good and peaceful and ready.

Its funny how desperately everyone is trying to be doing. To be existing functionally instead of just being. We must have projects and we must have lists and we must have much much to do. The folks who are arriving have agendas and they want to be kept busy and I just keep saying, be present. Sit and talk to Tim and when he is asleep or tired, sit and look at the mountains. We will eat when we are hungry. We will sleep when we are tired. It matters so very very little right now whether anything actually gets done. All that matters today is that you don’t get to the end of it and wish you had done something differently.

It’s been a beautiful beautiful day and I have loved every passing second of it. Even the part where Suzanne chased me across the yard with a stink bug.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I was running this morning, down through the little canyon that runs along the back of the property, and it poured me out at the base of Schoolhouse Hill and the valley opened up into sun tattered mist, and a robins egg sky shot through with amber. I jogged half way up the hill and then turned around and watched the day begin. It was like a promise.

Tim and Sue drove down to Cour D’Alene yesterday, and let the surgeon know that Tim wasn’t going to have surgery. That puts on the fast track like I said, but formalizing this decision was like handing over the ticket.

I was home all day, I finished cutting the boards for the spare bedroom, and hauled them over and stacked them outside the door. My cousin Pat got here from Salt Lake and he started nailing them up. When Jim got here he went to work on the window frame and trim.

The phone would not stop ringing yesterday. I talked to Matt Drake, and he decided to fly out from Albany. I talked to the hospice people and set up an appointment for Monday. I talked to Pat, my brother for about an hour.

He was in Long Beach, half way through a trip, and wanting to be here, and hating his job and the fact that he can’t be here until Monday.

Carol came by to clean the house.

“It’s really happening,” she said and started crying while washing the window in the door. I hugged her and she cried some more, and I told her how grateful I was that Tim had so many people in his life who cared this much.

A couple of logger friends of Tim’s stopped by and left in tears.

Tim came home and he had a new collar that I had to grudgingly admit was an improvement over my duct tape and bath towel model. The great part is that it lets him stay on his feet for longer periods of time. He and I drove up to the mill to get a nice piece of cedar for the window frame.

We worked until after dark. We would stop every now and then to talk, but nobody got crazy emotional.

“Okay cupcakes, do you think you can stop chatting long enough to cut me a 134 and 5/8?” Pat would say as he walked into the shop.

So I cut, and sanded, and nailed, and talked and listened, and laughed. And then the day was over.

The phone never stops ringing. Its amazing as we move into this stage how many people want to be here. Yesterday PL, Matt Drake, and Don Trosset were added on. The day before Bob and Cheryl Neidig called and said they were flying out. Just about everyone wants to make the camping trip on 4032 on Tuesday. I guess its okay, I don’t know. The nature of this family has always been to constantly expand to include anyone who wanted in. But in saying yes to everyone are we are overloading it? I can’t answer that question, and its not mine to answer anyway.

I talked to a friend of mine in LA yesterday, and he reminded me that when this is over, all I want to be able to say is that I was the most loving brother I could be. That the rest of this, the personalities, the sleeping arrangements, the meals, the logistics, don’t matter in the face of simply showing up, being present, and being of service to Tim and Suzanne.

The busy work though, it’s a powerful draw. It takes me away from the reality. But I don’t want that. The beauty is in the details of the day, in the touch of hands as I pass him his pills, in the sound of his voice. The important thing is the hug I can give Suzanne whether she is breaking down or not. What matters is yelling “Good night cocksuckers” as I leave their house.

The rest of it will take care of itself. Its not my business anyway.

More later…

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday, September 16, 2005

I’ve been here for just two weeks which is strange to realize because it has come to feel as though this is my life. But this section of it is coming to a close, and I feel almost jealous of the fact that I am going to have to begin sharing this experience.
That said, I am also enormously grateful that within a few days Mary, Margaret, Pat and Dad will be arriving. Scout arrives today, Leon is coming with Mary, and Tom is coming down from Alaska on Sunday.

It is a strange family reunion we are planning. Last night Suzanne and I sat down with pen and paper and did bed assignments so we could figure out if we needed to put anyone up at Jim and Joanne’s. We decided that as Dad and Jim and Joanne are old friends from the Cow Creek days of back then, in fact Jim was Dad’s first close friend here in Bonners when we moved here in 1966, we would board him with them. Tom and his Dad will also stay there. Mary and Leon will stay at Tim and Suzanne’s. Pat will stay in the guest room which Jim and I will finish today. Scout will stay upstairs at Mom and Doug’s, and Margaret will stay in the apartment with me.

Mom here in Idaho is a born again Christian, and she is praying for a miracle. She is a hold out for it as well. Last night after I got home, Doug and I sat up for awhile talking, and he is concerned about what is going to happen if this miracle doesn’t occur. I told him that I think it is happening, that all of us, Mom, Dad and the five of us, gathered here in Cow Creek, come together from all sides of the country, that’s a miracle.

Something I believe is that the amazing things that happen right before our eyes can be overlooked as we search the corners of the horizon for something that exists only in the back of our minds.

What is remarkable sometimes appears ordinary until it is in the past, and it’s a god damn, motherfucking, cocksucking shame if you missed it.

Last night Suzanne and Tim and I lay on their bed, sprawled out all over it, watching Lover Come Back on Turner Classic Movies. Suzanne ate cheese and crackers and drank a beer. I ate fritos. Tim had a milkshake. We talked about Doris Day’s hair, and her hats, and how handsome Rock Hudson was, and how two people that beautiful really had no business being together so it was good that he was gay. That was remarkable.

I guess that is what I mean when I say I’m a little jealous of sharing that. Over the past two weeks, through all of this, uncovering, learning, hoping, despairing, changing, riding the emotional roller coaster all over the park, its been the three of us doing it. But the bonds that are there, that have always been there for us, are flexible and expand to include the rest. It’s the way it is, and the way its always been.

Things are happening incredibly fast now, and the speed is only going to increase. A lesson in learning to live in the present is when the future is something you simply don’t want to face. When I think about next week, or the week after, grief so strong it weakens my arms and legs washes over me, so that definitely keeps me in the here and now.

I have to go and finish my cutting before Jim gets here. My thoughts are beginning to scatter but I’ll write more later.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The clouds have scurried back, shutting out the sunrise except for a spot of whiter white up over the mountains in the East. The thermometer outside my window tells me it is 39 degrees outside this morning. It is ten minutes after eight.

Its quiet in my little house this morning, I left my ipod up in the shed where Jim and I were working yesterday. There is just the clicking of the keys and the low buzzing of the refrigerator.

I have to drive to Spokane today to pick up Pat’s tools.

Yesterday was an interesting day.

After the news on Tuesday, we ambled through the morning, stumbling around each other like smoke stunned bees. Tim slept in, Suzanne stayed close to him, I set up the job site, hauling out the compressor, uncoiling extension cords.

My brother Tim is an artist with wood. He is a carpenter, and has built houses and done remodels all over the country. His interior finish jobs are legendary among the people he has worked with, and you can tell a Tim job the minute you walk in, by the unusual use of logs and found materials, and extraordinary cabinetry.

Yesterday I worked in his shop, and I wore his nail bags, and he lay on his bed and looked at me and said that he knew he wouldn’t ever wear them again. I felt like I might never take them off.

Jim arrived and we started work, and then the knots came loose a little, and we began to get limber again. Suzanne came outside and fed the birds, and made a hair appointment, and I cut the boards for the ceiling, and Suzanne made macaroni and cheese for lunch, and Jim worked on fixing the exterior wall that didn’t have a plumb square inch on it, and I sorted boards to length, and the sun shone brightly, and the boards I had cut went up onto the ceiling one by one and they were beautiful.

My Mom called from Tennessee, and I told her the news. We talked for awhile and I told her I would let her know what Tim and Suzanne decide on Friday about surgery. She asked if anyone was cooking for us. I said we were eating okay, but I know she was thinking how quickly she could get on a flight out here to make dinner.

Mary called in the afternoon. She and her partner had looked at Tim’s MRI, and talked with Doctor Ganz, the neurosurgeon in Cour D’Alene. She doesn’t think he should have the surgery. The cancer is wound through his spine, destroying it and destroying him so quickly that before he could recover from surgery, more of his spine would have collapsed. Removing the tumor could likely buy him no more than one more hospital stay, and no additional time here in the valley he loves.

“But what about him ending up paralyzed?”

“It could happen anyway, if he recovers from the surgery, and I’m not sure he could, by the time he did, another portion of his spine would most likely be ready to collapse and we’d be back where we are now.”

“Without the surgery, what are we looking at?”

“I don’t know. Weeks most likely.”

I was standing in the field in front of Tim and Suzanne’s, with sun shining brightly on me and the mountains towering above me and I heard the word “weeks” and I said it back to her with my voice breaking and I turned and I looked at 4032 where we are all supposed to gather for that picture next month, and I realized that we had just moved onto an express schedule.

Its so hard for Mary, because she feels the weight of this decision so acutely. As a doctor she knows the odds, as a sister she feels the need for extra time, as a doctor she understands the picture clearly, as a sister she hopes. We talked for about an hour and she decided to weight to talk to Tim and Sue, and I agreed to not talk about it with them until she called. She said she would call Margaret, and I said I would call Pat, and let them know they need to come faster than we thought.

Steve dropped by. Carol had just called him and he stood in the shop with me and we talked for awhile, and he was close to breaking down, and so he left and said he would come back. Carol dropped by with dinner, and stayed for a bit with Tim. Jim and I kept working and finished the ceiling.

Then we measured for the boards for the rest of the room, and Jim gave me a cut list for Friday when he will come back and we will finish up.

He went inside to talk to Tim and Sue and Carol for a bit, and I cleaned up.

I was sweeping up the sawdust and picking up the board ends in Tim’s shop, and then it all came home.

These tools will never feel his hands again. I don’t mean that to sound so Lifetime movie, but its true. He will never build again. He will never create a breathtaking room, or a exactingly clever jewelry box again. I don’t want to believe that, I don’t. I hold out for something, anything, any piece of miracle. But we are out of time.

Jim came out and we said goodbye and I turned away too quickly and he caught me by the shoulder and pulled me hard into his chest and I let go and bawled. I didn’t need to say anything and it was over as quickly as it started and he went home and I kept sweeping.

Later I lay on Tim’s bed with him and we watched Jaws. When he had to lie on his side I would narrate it for him.

“The shark is on the boat, and Robert Shaw is in his mouth. Oop, there goes the bite, oop, he’s in half now…”

We ate Carol’s pot roast and Mom made a peach pie, and I had that with ice cream and the day ended.

This isn’t a countdown. It is every day, as this day only. Every moment. Every second. Nothing taken for granted. Nothing overlooked.

I’m so grateful to be here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The sky is spectacularly blue, and the coffee smells like morning, and Jim is coming over to help me side the guest bedroom, and Tim is still dying this morning.

Its sinking in, but still not quite registering where I believe it. The feeling of knowing is lurking in the corners of my mind and is attacked ferociously each time its sticks it head out to sniff the air.

I’m not ready.

Here is a story about Tim.

When he was 18 he bought a blue Datsun pickup. He taught me how to drive in that truck. We would drive up and down the farm roads in the fields, and then when I was a little more comfortable, up and down the logging road on our property.

But I still didn’t quite grasp the concept of the clutch, so I started it one day when it was in reverse. It lurched backwards just as Tim was coming down the stairs from the porch. I pinned his leg between the bumper and the bottom stair and then panicked, and punched the gas.

And yet, he still talks to me!

Tuesday, September 13 Part II


I lost twenty bucks today.

I took Tim down for an MRI in Cour D’Alene, and after the MRI, they made us go over to the emergency room because the radiologist was really concerned about the results.

Not surprising considering how much pain Tim has been in, and how hard a fall he took back in SC. We had kind of figured there would be some kind of serious injury.

I bet Tim that it would be a small fracture, or that the discs were so compressed it was about to sever the nerve.

Tim bet that it would be some kind of mass.

The doctor walked in and I lost twenty bucks.

Today, we got the worst news...Tim has a large tumor in his spine, which is causing his spine to collapse. The cancer has moved aggressively and is essentially untreatable. The tumor needs to be removed in order to prevent further collapse. Unremoved he will be a quadriplegic within weeks.

There is no cure. There is no treatment. Not at this stage and not with Tim. That decision has been made, and no doctor is encouraging him to change his mind.
We met with the neurosurgeon, and he confirmed all of this, and said the removal of the tumor is just for comfort and quality of life for the remainder.

As all of this was being laid out I could not believe what I was hearing. It was the worst case scenario, the one none of us wanted to believe, the one that we never really thought would happen. It makes everything I have been doing here, completely pointless. There is no recovery, no rebuilding, no hope.

We all knew it was possible, but Tim has always won this battle. I really thought we were going to have a few more years, and even then, I thought, we’ll figure out that one too…there has to be a way. But there isn’t. Not according to this scenario.

I found out today that for sure my brother is going to die really soon. I’m in shock. I’m totally shut down. When the doctor was finished talking I just looked at Tim and said, “You asshole, I owe you twenty bucks.”

So we drove home and told Suzanne, and then I came here and told my Mom. I’m so cold inside right now, I feel absolutely nothing about this.

The other day, I felt it all, but not this time. I talked to Mary and said, please tell me that you are going to say, “Oh, Tim always has an abnormal MRI.”

We laughed, but this is the real thing now.

I don’t know how much time we have. Not much.

This all looks so horribly harsh on this page, and I can’t get the words out fast enough. I’m just cold inside right now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The rain lifted, and my knee healed, and I went jogging this morning, and now I’m home sitting at my desk listening to Blue Merle. I changed the jogging route again, because jogging muddy mountain trails with a trick knee seemed like a bad idea, so I jogged the loop that follows cow creek around past Nishek’s and Cowley’s. It’s a shallow canyon, deep and wet and cool, and as I ran a Great Blue Heron rose unhurriedly from the creek and glided over the road to the little swamp where it settled down amid the heavy headed cattails and mist.

I stopped in to see Tim on the way back in and he was awake and in pain, so I dosed him up and made a milkshake and left him to wake up and eat and came back down here for an hour.

Tim has a saying, the he has applied to me for most of my life. “Never send a boy to do a man’s job…” It’s a shitty saying, and never fails to get a rise out of me, but I had to own up to it yesterday.

I decided to insulate the spare bedroom in the annex, so I measured and went to town and picked up some R19 23” Faced rolls. Well at least that’s what I bought. I came home and found out I had 15”, which was okay, because as it turns out I hadn’t paid that much attention and the exterior studs were on 24” centers and the interior studs were on 16” or some such, so I needed 15” anyway. So I took two of the rolls of 15” back into town and picked up 23”, came back and did the exterior walls.

Then I opened the first of the 15” that I had been given by mistake the first time and found out that instead of faced rolls, I had unfaced bats. So I had to take all that back and get faced rolls of 15”.

Bottom line though, I got the whole 12X14 room insulated in about 6 hours. Which is probably the longest insulation job in history. Back in the day, when I actually worked construction I could insulate an entire house including the ceiling and floors in two days. But it was fun anyway.
I’m doing the siding next.

The doctor’s appointment yesterday was not the cure all I had hoped for. The collar doesn’t work as well as my towel and duct tape models, so we aren’t using it. But I’ve gotten really good with the towel. I climb up on the bed where Tim is sitting up propped up by pillows. I straddle him, and lift straight up on his head, while he pushes the rolled towel under his chin. Then I wrap it around his neck as tight as I can without choking him, wrap it again, under the first wrap to support it under his chin, and then wrap the whole thing a couple of times in duct tape. Works like a charm!

We are going to Cour D’Alene for an MRI this afternoon, so hopefully we will get some kind of answer. Every time we think we know, or have it all figured out, something doesn’t work and throws the whole thing back into the gray area.

But I still am pretty sure the neck is the answer, and I have confidence that we are getting close to a solution, even if we have to put him in one of those halo collars with the bolts and shit. Tim is also talking about wanting a feeding tube in his stomach. I have no idea if he’s serious or not, but if he is it’s fine with me, as long as Mary clears it.

Okay, gotta run…more later.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Monday, September 12, 2005

Monday, September 12, 2005

There is snow on the mountains this morning. The mist from the valley floor is drifting away, but the clouds are still hanging low over the peaks. But occasionally they part, and you can see fresh snow on Clifty, and dusting the trees on Katka.

Ever since watching Deadwood for three days straight, Suzanne, Tim and I have reached new depths in profanity, and our favorite term for each other now is motherfucking cocksucker. In fact pretty much everything can be a cocksucker. This blog can be a fucker in one second and a cocksucker in the next. So is the phone. As in “Someone answer that cocksucker.” And anything and everything can be proceeded by fucking. “Here is your fucking milkshake.” “Is it time for more fucking oxy?” “Is it still fucking raining?” Why yes, it is.

We are going to the doctor in a little bit. Yesterday was the best day since I’ve been here. We finally discovered, we think, the source of the pain, and it appears to be a pinched nerve in the neck. We can eliminate it entirely for long periods by wrapping Tim’s neck in a towel to keep the weight of his head from settling down on his neck.

Yesterday after talking to Mary we also got new medications, including a muscle relaxant, which combined made it possible for Tim to actually have as close to a pain free day as he has had in over a month.

We’re gonna get a cervical collar today and start physical therapy, so I’m really hopeful for a solution.

After we got all this done yesterday it was about 1:00pm and none of us had had a full nights sleep since I don’t know when, so we all crashed for a few hours in the afternoon. It was a perfect day for it, rainy and cold and the kind of day where you want to be inside.

Suzanne and I spent a couple of hours telling stories about our expedition days, talking about snow caves and cross country skiing up Roman Nose, and the death march up the meadows. You can’t put two AR graduates in the same room for long without this happening. And it doesn’t matter what year, or what expedition, there are always stories…

Carol came by in the evening and gave Tim a massage, and then after he was asleep the three of us sat around talking for a couple of hours, about family and how as you get older, as you become and then pass the ages of your parents, you begin to let go of so many resentments. The more life you live, the more you realize that no one wakes up in the morning and says “Today I’m going to be an asshole to my kids.” Everyone does the best they can with the tools they have at any given moment. Its not perfect and damage can occur, but holding on to any of it only means that you are still clinging to the unrealistic expectation that your parents are not human. Sitting here at this window, looking out at this familiar view, I remember those feelings, and love that in letting them go, I am the one that is rewarded. I am the one whose spirit is lifted, and I am the one who has room in my head and in my heart for the gifts of today.

So today, Tim has slammed a shake already, and we’re gonna re-wrap his neck and go to town. I’m really hopeful that with the collar on, some semblance of normalcy might return to the homestead. So with that, I’m gonna wrap up this motherfucking cocksucker and go get some fucking oxy before we get in the car and go to fucking town.

More later…

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sunday, September 11, 2005

It’s about 8:30 on Sunday morning, and I’m on my second cup of coffee. I’ve been up since about 6:00am, plus I did two runs up to the house with pain medication overnight.

I called Mary this morning to say that this isn’t working. We’ve been tough about it, and I’m glad, however at this point, Tim spent the night literally on his knees, with his head on his bed, because it was the only position he could get comfortable in.

She gave me permission to up the dose to 15mg, and to give him ½ an ativan, so I took that up at 6:00am. We are also working on getting some new pain medication because this ain’t cutting it. So by 7:00 we had called woken the pharmacist and the local doctor and we are on our way to trying something new. Keep your fingers crossed.

We are meeting with Doctor Ernie tomorrow, so what we will be aiming for is physical therapy and a longer lasting form of pain medication. Tim has been conscious and coherent for the past three days now, which means we are able to get better information from him as to what is happening.

It seems to be muscle spasms in his back and shoulders, although Mary dropped another bomb saying that often pain like this will appear before a malignant lesion is visible on scans. Thanks for that. It had been a few days since terminal cancer was floated as the reason for this. Sorry…its fine, no one is fooling themselves up here…really.

Still raining steadily…more later…

Saturday, September 10, 2005 Part II

I never saw the sky today, and barely the mountains. The trees look like phantoms and the rain on the roof is like footsteps. I’ve just gotten home from Tim and Sue’s, and we finished watching Deadwood.

Tim is now kneeling on the floor with his head on the sofa to get comfortable. We’ve started excercises and walking and I think the knots in his back are starting to pull loose, but its frightening when he is in that much pain. It really tests our resolve not to abuse the pain medication. But as one of his doctors said, he will die of cancer, just not today. So we have to keep building him up and that unfortunately right now means a lot of pain for him.

Something happened today, and Sue and I told him about last week. I don’t even remember why, but all of a sudden we were telling him about what happened, and as we suspected, he lost the whole week. He was completely unaware that an entire week had passed. We told him that he needed to be more understanding, and more patient with us because we were amateurs and doing the best we could with a really difficult situation. We told him how scared we had been last week, and what it had been like to sit there wondering if he was breathing. We told him a lot of stuff and in retrospect, I don’t know why we did. I don’t know that it does any good to reveal all this, and we weren’t looking for remorse, just a little help. That maybe he would be more cooperative in what we were trying to do, and to understand that we were doing it because we had no choice.

I think it helped though, I really do. Even though he was in pain, he didn’t ask for more medication, he did his excercises, and he stayed cool with us. That helped what was a pretty hard day actually easier than some of the easier days last week.

On another front, I did a long interview with a friend of the Brown family for my book. She worked with Barb, Lisa’s mother, and it was an amazingly revealing interview. Next week I interview Barb and possibly Dick, her husband.

So there was the day, I’m off to sleep for an hour before I take the next batch of meds up. Sleep is sketchy right now, but you do what you do. Good night and God bless.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I am thinking about memory this morning, and place. The two often fuse in my mind to create an attachment much stronger than that of sense memory. If I hear a song, or smell something it might trigger a memory, but it will only have strength as long as the song itself. But place surrounds me, and I can easily become pulled into memory and it becomes as emotionally real to me as the present. The feelings of anxiety, of anger, of fear, of frustration, of sadness, and of joy settle into me as though I am experiencing again the events that triggered them. And as I move through this place, on the roads, in the woods, the ground beneath my feet, the landscape moving by me, all serve to massage these senses more deeply into me.

I must remind myself that the purpose of memory is to better appreciate the present, either by being grateful for having had a wonderful experience, or for being grateful that a less than wonderful experience has passed. It does me no good, particularly here and now with the reality in front of me, to experience phantom emotions.

These ghosts of the me and the me and the me that once lived here don’t really exist. My mind gives them power. I am not that boy, or that young man. I am the person they became, and that person is here, but only now, not then. And I can appreciate this place, and even myself, if I remember that.

I was up at 5:00am to deliver Oxy, and it was dark and wet and cold. Rain on the roof awoke me again at 8:00 and I went out again to Tim and Sue’s. Mist rising from the valley floor reaches for but just misses the clouds overhead, leaving glimpses of the rain darkened mountains as the only reminder that we are not lost inside a mountain cloud this morning.

More later…

Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday, September 09, 2005

No running again this morning. I miss it, but the knee is wrapped and tomorrow I should be back on track.

When I got home last night Suzanne was waiting to get another dose of oxy, Tim was still up and needing. We hit 50mg which is still 10 shy of the maximum dose for 24 hours so we are good. Unfortunately the oxy was inside, we were outside and the door was locked.

And everyone was asleep.

So we stood under Mom’s window and called and then I finally called her on the cel phone and she woke up and came down and let us in.

I set my alarm for 3:00am and delivered another dose to Suzanne, which she gave him at 5:00am this morning.

So another day begins. We are so not feeling the love this morning. I’m actually dreading walking out there, but I need to in a few minutes.

I called Jim yesterday and asked him to come down and help me put together a supply list so I can begin working on the spare bedroom. Hopefully the emergence of a project will drag Tim’s butt off the couch.

Okay, Suzanne called, and I’m back on duty. Later.


Big weather is moving in over the mountains this afternoon, rolling dark thunderclouds pierced by white beams of diffused sunlight. The wind is kicking up and the valley feels restless.

Tim is better today. We are working towards a solution and he knows it and is coming slowly on board with it.

I’m back down at my place for an hour or so to pay bills and do laundry. Then I will be delivering the next dose of Oxy up the driveway.

I feel wrung out today, like I have nothing left. I look at those words and realize how stupidly overdramatic they look, and I don’t mean it that way. But sometimes this seems like I’m just faking my way through, and then all of a sudden I have to face myself and realize that I have no idea what I’m doing, or why I’m here.

But things are definitely looking up and that’s fantastic, and tomorrow I will feel completely different than I do right now.

By the way last night was a lot of fun. Dan and Randy are a great couple of guys with a hell of a story, and we talked and laughed through dinner at Deep Creek where I gorged myself on top sirloin smothered in Danish bleu and mushrooms with roasted russet potatos, red cabbage coleslaw and slabs of homemade bread. Later we sat around their little house on the South Hill behind the meat locker and talked and I interviewed them about what led then to become Bonners Ferry Idaho’s solitary gay residents.

More later…

And it’s later. I’m glad I didn’t have the opportunity to post this because the best part of today happened at the end of the day.

I understand better now why I was feeling emptied out, and my sense of isolation and desperation pushed me in the right direction late this afternoon, when I picked up the phone and Alcoholics Anonymous came through for me again.

A phone call and a returned phone call later, and I was off to town. Storm clouds were poised over the mountains like a pack of dogs, but the sun blazed on above them, washing the mountains and the sky in a fierce orange, black and yellow.

I turned between the Zip Trip and the Barber Ship as instructed and pulled into the parking lot of the Methodist Church.

The Zip Trip used to be a Circle K, and it was where i bought my beer back when I was 12-years-old. I took violin lessons at the Methodist Church. I am in the town where I was born, staying in my mother’s house. I spend the days with my brother, and it all plays out less than ½ mile from the farmhouse that was my childhood home.

But in the basement of the Methodist Church, gathered with a group of strangers around a battered folding table, I felt more at home than I have since I got here.

And of course by evening’s end they were not a group of strangers. That passed in minutes. After the meeting we talked, and I got phone numbers, and well wishes, and suggestions for other meetings. And of course, because this is a small town, as it turns out they knew who I was the minute I started sharing. But they would have known who I was anyway, whether I was a native son or not.

So tonight I feel nourished. I feel connected. I feel present. And calm. And most importantly I feel grateful. For tonight. For this place. For the gift of my life, and the gift of being present in it. For the gift of strength, and for the gift of my family.

I’m home, and its getting colder. We are watching the first season of Deadwood, and I’m a couple of episodes behind, so I’m going to go watch one before I go to sleep.

Good night, and God bless.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

September 8, Part II

Thursday, September 8

I just came back in from feeding a bucket of cracked corn to the wild turkeys. Its about 5:00pm. When I was a kid we raised turkeys and I was little and they were big, so they used to terrorize me. I would sprint from one end of the barnyard to the other with a fan of chirruping turkey's racing along behind me like hungry velociraptors. When I went out with the bucket tonight and they strolled out of the woods to greet me, I have to admit I almost took off running across the field.

Today is a better day. Obviously. Tim is still miserable and in pain, but he is coming out of the drug haze. He's not happy with us at all, but thats okay. I know its tough on him and I know he's in pain, and I know he's tired, but we can't go on the way we have been, or he will die within two weeks.

He almost drugged himself to death this week, and control has to be reestablished, as does some semblance of recovery work. I got him to do head and neck excercises for the first time since I've been here, and that was real progress.

I drove the x-ray down to Sandpoint today and UPS overnighted it to Mary. I talked to her again today, and gave her the tracking number, and she gave me some more ideas on what Tim needs to be doing. Then her cat came in and dropped a baby rabbit on the floor of her bedroom and started torturing it, so she had to go. But while I was in Sandpoint I got to go to Starbucks, so that was awesome.

I've got to run, because I'm having dinner with the gay guys in town tonight...there are two of them and they are a couple and I'm going to interview them, so I'll let you know how that goes. This town is population 2,000, 100 miles from the nearest small city (Spokane) so being gay here must be worth talking about...

Love to all...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

It is not quite 8:00am, and Tim is up, showered, dressed, and eating breakfast. I just gave him a small dose of oxy and the bottle is back out of the house and safely stashed.

He isn’t happy with what happened while he was sleeping all day yesterday. I told him first thing this morning, that we had great news, that there was nothing wrong with his spine. He seemed pleased about that but then wasn’t as pleased when he discovered that in order to get a small dose of oxy it meant he had to get up and take a shower first.

He’s already snapping at Suzanne and I, and I had to grab her and drag her out of the bathroom this morning because they were about to get into it. It’s not the time. We will sit down and discuss it rationally together as a family, but if it escalates, we’ll walk away. We have agreed to that.

The x-rays are on their way to Mary this morning and so tomorrow we’ll know more about the chest x-ray and whether or not there is anything there, but for now we are working under the assumption that we are back to getting him on his feet, not getting him on his way to six feet under. At least not this month!

I’m not able to run this morning because of my knee. The soak last night helped and I picked up one of those joint support things that every overweight football coach in America wears. So hopefully that will get me back on my feet in a regular way.

I’ve got some other things working up here as well which are cool and good and I’m excited about that. Say yes to everything and its amazing what lands in your lap. Sitting here in my little apartment with the sun coming in the windows, the mountains towering over me, a deer inching its way into the backyard and Steve Reynolds playing quietly in the background, I am grateful for the gift of this day, even for the craziness.

More later.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 -- Part II

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 -- Part II

It’s later. This day started beautifully and ended beautifully. In between it was pretty crazy.

I got up to Tim and Sue’s place today and Tim was still in bed. He seemed to be doing okay, a little sleepy and dopey but I thought we could get him up and going. Sue was already gone, so I told him to get up and get showered, and I was going downstairs to make the first milkshake.

I did that, and cleaned up a little, and then came back up and he was still sitting on the edge of this bed, complaining that his motor skills were gone. Well not exactly complaining, but mentioning.

I had to pretty much feed him the milkshake and he was till nodding off and not making any sense and he couldn’t hold on to anything. He hadn’t taken any oxy that morning and the ativan should have been wearing off, so I called Suzanne.

“I don’t know what he took, but he said he was going to knock himself out for the next day,” she told me, so now it made sense a little.

I called the doctor to find out what I could about the x-ray from yesterday, because I really wanted to get started on something other than our current pain management regimen which is not working at all…

After some phone calls around we tracked down the result, and the doctor said his spine looked fine, but the chest x-ray was not good. That there was a lot of adenopathy which was a strong indication that Tim’s Hodgkins had returned.

So I lost it, and Sue lost it and we cried and she came home and we cried some more, and hugged and cried and she came in and just sat with comatose Tim, and I walked down to Mom’s where I cried some more and she cried a little and then we called around to try and track down a comparative x-ray, and I called my sister Mary, the doctor in the family, and left messages.

Then I decided to drive to Sandpoint to order the tile because we needed to continue in a normal direction and I cried some more, and then Mary called.

I told her the news, and she said “He always has an abnormal chest x-ray, and I don’t understand why he had a chest-xray anyway, he was supposed to have a thoracic spine x-ray.”

“Well he had that,” I said, “But he had this too.”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t in the doctor’s office when it was ordered.”

“Well, I don’t know whats going on out there, but he said he was going to stop treatment and go out there so he could have quality of life for the time he had left, and so now why is he getting a chest x-ray?”

“I don’t know. We went to have an x-ray to find out why his back hurts so much.”

“Well a chest x-ray isn’t going to show that.”

“I can’t answer this question, I really don’t know the answer.” I was started to get irritated.

By this time I’m sitting on a curb in the parking lot of the tile store.

The more she asked, the less I knew, until I finally said “You are talking to the wrong person. I drive the car, I take him to the appointment, but I’m not directing what is happening here.”

“Well you should be.”

“Well I’m not.”

“You are out there to be the voice of reason. You need to start asking every time someone wants to do something why is it being done and is it consistent with the overall plan. If not then he may as well come back here and be under a doctors care. If were going to start getting scans and x-rays and everyone is going to get all panicky every time something happens, then he should just be back in treatment.”

I was starting to lose it, and I snapped, “Well maybe I’m not the right person for this, I don’t want to tell him what or what not to do, I don’t even know myself. All I know is that he’s getting worse, and I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t know if he dying or living or whether he has cancer or whether he’s getting better, I’m just trying to get him to eat, and I’m not the person you should be talking to, because I don’t know anything.”

She started to cry a little, “What do you mean, I told everyone when he decided to do this what it meant. He does have cancer, I told you that.”And then there I was, on a curb, outside a tile store in Sandpoint Idaho, sobbing and saying, “Well I didn’t know that, I thought maybe he was getting better, and I’m just doing the best I can, and I don’t know what to do anymore and…”

And on the other side of the country Mary cries a little bit too, and then, of course, like we always do after we cry we feel better, and we talk.

She ordered the x-ray and will compare it to the one she has from a month ago, but doesn’t expect to see anything. “He does this,” she says, and it isn’t anything I don’t know. “He will do anything and say anything to get more oxy. He’s addicted to it. You need to get it out of the house. He is probably in pain, but not as much as he says. You need to manage it.”

So I ordered tile, then I came home, Sue and I inventoried the medication, took it out of the house, where it now resides in a little bag next to my hand, got Tim to clean his prosthetic mouth thing, gave him an ativan and put him to bed.

We both feel a little played. But it was only for a few days. Tomorrow we’ll start fresh. And we’ll deal with what comes, but we’re going to have to do it with more clear heads. Our emotions have been really stretched over the last week, and we fell down. I don’t think Tim took advantage of that knowingly or cynically, but he was able to take advantage of it.

Tonight he called us Nazis. We felt better about that.

I came home, soaked in the hot tub, read some more of Sarah Vowell’s Assasination Vacation, and now I’m going to bed. Good night and God Bless!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The morning’s here are starting to be very cold. When I went running this morning, as I headed up into the canyon which is always deep in shadow, my fingers started go numb from the cold.

The woods are feeling more and more familiar each morning. Every day as I jog along words come back to me. That shiny dark jade leaf that carpets the hillside along the path is called kanickanick. The broad flat leaves faded autumn gold, in summer will be a nest for thimbleberries. Purple asters still bloom, as does goldenrod in those places where the sun reaches. Alfalfa grown wild clusters around my knees when I reach to top of the ridgeline. Cedar, douglas fir, tamarack, cottonwood, aspen, bull pine are the words that race through my head each morning.

My Mom keeps a picture of Tim in her office above her desk. I noticed it the other day. I think it is his first grade picture. He is posed in that way they do, sideways looking shyly over his shoulder. His smile is all “am I doing this right?” tentative and he looks little and mischievous and a tiny bit scared.

It was in my head today as I was running, and the further up and in I went the more it rode right in my eyes. A Tim so small, so new, so unknowing of what his life would be.

And grief like I have only felt once or twice in my life almost leveled me. And I ran, and I cried, and I ran and I cried, and then the sun came up over Katka and it shone down through the trees and caught me on the shoulder and I stopped and turned and faced the sun and shut my eyes, and let the warmth wash over me and let my grief roll through me, this awful sadness that felt like it was pushing my eyes out of my head, and I couldn’t cry hard enough to let it all out, and yet…at the same time, the warmth of the sun was pulling me back into the present where I knew again that love really is all that there is. And I knew that with all that we went through, and all he has gone through on his own, the boy in that picture knew love every day of his life, and I was so grateful, because I couldn’t bear the thought of him ever being alone.

Last night my Mom asked me if he was frightened, and I said no. And she said, good, because that was the one thing she couldn’t bear. And she looks at that picture every day of her life, her first born boy, and I know why she can’t bear the thought of him being frightened. And I don’t think he is. And I’m grateful for that too.
Fuck this is hard ya’ll. More later…

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It’s a beautiful morning here in North Idaho, coffee in hand, Sarah McLachlan in my ears, the sun rising over Katka. I woke up this morning and found that my ipod had returned to life, which just changed my whole mood.

I banged up my knee on yesterday’s run so I’m just chilling this morning, drinking coffee, reading and writing. Today’s Courage to Change and One Day at a Time were both perfect for me this morning, I hope the same for you…

“I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means—except by getting off his back.”—Leo Tolstoy

“Teach me to leave to others their inborn right to dignity and independence as I wish to have them leave mine to me.”

“Are my priorities in order? Am I so busy with smaller, less meaningful concerns that I run out of time for the really important considerations? Today I will make room to think about what really matters.”

So good morning from Idaho. Today Tim and I are going to Sandpoint to order tile, and to do one of the interviews for the book. He has also decided to go ahead and try and find out what the back pain is all about, instead of assuming its cancer, even up to and including getting an MRI if required. See what happens when you leave someone alone to make their own decisions!

So for today, I am the driver. That’s all. I drive the car that takes him where he wants to go. And that’s just great with me…


I don’t think anyone actually talks like Rory and Lorelai. I really don’t. They talk so fast and every word out of their mouth builds to the perfect quip, even when they are talking about birth control. Its like one of them swallowed Noel Coward while the other devoured Dorothy Parker, and every time they open their mouths someone else’s voice comes out. You can almost see the confusion and fear in their eyes as if they had meant to just say “please pass the ketchup” and this torrent of unfamiliar words comes pouring out…I’m home and vegging out in front of Gilmore Girls…I blame Michael for this.

Today was rotten. It just was. Tim’s pain is increasing daily and we don’t know why. He had x-rays today but we haven’t heard word from the radiologist yet. He is also really exhausted and that combined with the oxy makes for borderline unconsciousness most of the time.

We didn’t make Sandpoint today which was fine. We actually only went to the doctor and home, and he slept most of the day. I got a little writing done, and too much thinking.

I am refusing to even conceptualize what might be happening inside his body. I am fiercely determined not to select one of the three (or more) options and lock onto it. What is happening is happening whether I label it correctly or not. The information will make itself known. The fact that he was willing to get an X-Ray is quantum leap from where we were last week. And I’m grateful for it and for his willingness. But I’m scared.

Looking at him today, sleeping on the couch, I realized how much he has gone through, how much he continues to go through every day just to stay alive. It breaks my heart that he has to do it, but when I think about the fight ending I want him to fight forever.

On the good front we got down the whole wad of fat gain program today…we packed in some serious calories today. Its all pretty much milkshake syringed into the mouth, although he did eat eggs too, but those milkshakes are way fattening. At one point I was syringing them in for him so determined was I to hit our benchmark of daily calorie intake…it was exciting…
And considering that he spent pretty much all day asleep on the couch, those calories did nothing but add weight, and that is a very very good thing.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Monday, September 05, 2005

Monday, September 05, 2005

Okay, so I won’t be doling out pain medication to an addict after all. Thank God. Tim and Sue and I talked for a long time last night, and I know he was pissed off. And I got confused and so did Sue, and basically, well…we did the best we could, which left oh so much room for improvement. The accomplishment was that while we did not get him to agree that lying on the sofa intoxicating himself with liquid oxy does not constitute pain management, we did get him to agree to an organized regimen of nutrition and an attempt at physical therapy.

At the end of the discussion it was decided that he would cut back on the pain medication just a bit, even though he said that would mean that he would have to go back to just lying on the couch all day. Which is a lie, but who cares. He won’t do it anyway, so its fine. If he needed to say that so that we would back off a bit, so be it.

We put all his medication on the schedule with the nutrition and exercise so hopefully that will help, or at least it will help us to determine how much more of the stuff he’s taking than he actually says he’s taking.

I was shocked to discover that I want desperately to believe everything he says. After all these years, as he spins out his stories like a fly fisherman, I still leap from the water and sink the hook into my mouth. Its incredible.

Bottom line though, again…I’m not here to do an intervention. And I’m not here because my brother is a drug addict. Some things are my business, some are not.

As for what he is or what he has, last night he said he is sure he has cancer. It goes like this. He sits down on the couch and tells us he’s positive its cancer, that he feels exactly like he did before…the fatigue, the night sweats. Then he goes to the bathroom and comes back and sits down on the couch and says that then again it could be the radiation, because the symptoms are similar. Then he says its probably cancer and then goes to the bathroom again, and comes back and says that it could be the infection if that’s what the lumps are because the symptoms are consistent with an infection.

And Sue and I stare at each other across the room like scared rabbits, twitching and wondering what we’re supposed to do with this sudden information flow.

Yesterday wasn’t the best day in the world. But it had its moments of small progress…

On another note, I changed my running route. Instead of the county road along the ridge, now I run down past our old farmhouse, and up into the canyon. From there I go off the road, across a fallen log over Cow Creek, and up the trail into the woods, which makes my morning jog pretty much 100% groomed deer trails and logging roads. Couldn’t ask for any better way to wake up!

More later…

Today has passed in a kind of dull hangover state. Last night the three of us revealed to each other our desires but they sounded like disappointments and today we are creeping around each other uneasily, uncertain of where we stand.

I drove over the Katka Face Road all the way into Montana and back again, thinking I might or might not go camping up on 4032 tonight with Tim and Jim. I got back feeling kind of run down and sore throaty and decided I would stay in. Sue and Tim were going to go ahead and go, and then Tim decided in the end he wasn’t feeling up to it. I talked to Sue and he is in a lot of pain, but not taking any pain medication because he’s already taken it twice, and now we have to give him permission to take more I guess. I don’t know.

I started writing the novel today, I just sat down and began it. Here is the first paragraph: “He was sitting in a booth at the Panhandle Café when he saw it for the first time. He had been dicking around with his paper place mat, shoving it back and forth and making water rings on it with his glass, when the door swung open. When the bell on the door jangled, John looked up and there it was.”
I split into pieces when I am here, and I forget who I am. I become partially something that I hated and buried, and it scares me. I always forget that until I am here, because it passes when I remember that the past is not the director of my present any longer. When it passes, I return to myself and remember what I love, and then I can love this place. Today was the day I forgot.