Saturday, February 5, 2011

Parallel Love Stories

Holding Hands

I spent a good part of this afternoon sitting, and hanging over the side, of a hospital bed at the local Kaiser. My mother lay there, hand on her head, trying to find a way out of the painful headaches she has been suffering from. Medication after medication, with very little relief. All I could do was hold her hand, rub her back, and get her another cold compress. I felt helpless, knowing that while she appreciated that I was there, I was really of little help. I couldn't take her pain away.

Throughout the day, the nurse would come into the room, log on to the computer, and look at my mother's medical records. I know the Kaiser system well. It is where Michael received all of his medical care. We would meet with his oncologist every two to three months, log into the computer, and view his latest MRI. We would sit with a combination of hope and fear.

As I sat there next to my mother, my body was remembering oh so well, the posture of trying to sit comfortably in a chair next to a hospital bed. While Michael didn't spend too much time in a hospital, we did have a hospital bed for him at home, and I spent far too much time leaning over the metal bars that separated me from the man that I loved. Most of the day I would be leaning over the bars, hold Michael's hand, tending to his needs, and speaking softly to him. At night I would push a cot next to his bed, and do my best to stay close to his side without ever letting go. In his final days I laid there in the hospital bed with him, rarely sleeping, just holding, kissing, tending, and crying.

For the past couple of nights, and also tonight, my father is doing the same. I know that my mother will be coming home eventually, as I don't think it is her time, but I do look at this scene, and fear for what lies ahead. During my years of caring for Michael, my father was caring for my mother. When we were able to take a break, he and I would compare the roads we were on with our spouses. We talked about what love, and commitment, really meant to us. We listened as the other talked about the sense of exhaustion, and also the fear of loss.

As I left the hospital room tonight, I turned and took a final look into the room. There they were, the perfect loving couple. One in need, the other at her side.

"In sickness and in health."

I must admit, I felt a tinge of jealousy. Here they were, in the same position as Michael and I, yet 25 years older. They have been together in marriage for 54 years. We had less than four.

"In death do us part."

Yet, when I think about the parallels on a deeper level, I know that while Michael and I had far fewer years, we did have that same deep love, and that same deep commitment. Tonight I want to thank my parents for teaching me how to love. And I want to thank Michael, for accepting my love, and for the honor of sitting beside him when he was in need.


  1. Love to you Dan. I hope your Mom is feeling better soon.

    As I read your sweet words of love for Michael and of your parents' devotion, I found myself wishing that I'd had time to sit by Austin's bed and be the devoted wife and caretaker. He died 3 hours and 15 minutes after he collapsed on the floor in his office and all of that time was spent trying to keep him alive. I never got quiet time with him, to care for him, to remind him how much I love him and to just be with him. I know the time you spent with Michael after his diagnosis must have been excrutiating, eventually knowing he was dying. But tonight, after reading your post, I wish I'd had time with Austin to care for him, to love him in that intimate way and to say goodbye.

    Michael was so lucky to have you in his life, from the beginning of your relationship to the end of his life. Good night my friend.

    Love Deb xx

  2. This was painfully beautiful Dan - and I, too hope your mom is better soon.

  3. I hope your mom is feeling better soon too. Recently, I've spent time with couples who are dealing with a health crisis in one - cancer in both cases. It brings back so many familiar thoughts and feelings to watch as others interact. It's both beautiful and hard to watch. It was interesting to read about your body "remembering" how it felt to sit next to a hospital bed. I have had to do that several times over the past decade and it does feel like "remembering".