Friday, August 27, 2010

Sweet Sorrow

One of the characters in my books, bright, intelligent and still a freshman, likes to quote famous authors. She’s especially bit on Shakespeare. So today is one of those days when she might say, “Parting is such sweet sorrow…”

She would be wrong. When death does the parting there is nothing sweet about the sorrow.

His name is David Gran and he is—was—the poster child for curmudgeon. As I write this I can still say IS, but there are only weeks, days, maybe only hours before his deep sleep elongates into forever. I’ve know him for three years. I can’t really call us friends, certainly not close friends. He was like Cliff Clavin on Cheers, he knew everything thank you very much and don’t try telling him he might be even a tad off. The man would lean back in his chair, cross his arms over his stomach, and by word, expression, body language and shear force of personality assure you that you were worse than wrong. Arguing with Dave was the definition of futility.

But someone it was impossible to stay angry with him. A dozen times over the years I would swear to never speak to him again. But somehow it wasn’t really possible to hold a grudge. In fact, when my debut novel comes out in October, his name is featured on the acknowledgements page. I just wish he’d be around to see it. He was very proud when he learned I was about to be published.

He first talked about being in pain last November. Over the next weeks he complained loudly about doctors and their inability to diagnose whatever was bothering him. he was tested inside and out, and when they kept coming back negative I thought him a bit of a hypochondriac.

Then, in January, I fell into the hands of doctors myself. Modern medicine does have a bad habit of assuming the simplest explanation for problems. They decided I had a fibroid. It took them a few blood tests, x-rays, a sonogram, and finally surgery to correctly diagnose the problem – uterine cancer. Then more test, more surgery, and radiation to wipe out any straggling cancer cells. The surgeon will continue testing me for years (ladies, can you say a pap test every three months?)

Dave’s doctor’s eventually diagnosed him with prostate cancer, not unexpected for a man in his seventies. He was given chemotherapy and expected to carry on. His spirit remained strong. I’ll be back, he swore to his friends.

Both Dave and I were in treatment during the spring and early summer. Sometimes when I saw how his body changed I thanked God I had radiation without chemo. I got better. He got worse. Dave’s body changed physically, his pain grew worse until he was admitted to the hospital for bad reactions to the medication. Eventually he was sent home with a wheelchair, a full-time aide, and a new diagnosis. There had been a terrible mistake. Not prostate cancer…testicular.

Not all cancers are created equal. Prostate cancer is something men can live with. Testicular cancer is out for blood. And the chemo that would have helped his prostate cancer only exacerbated the testicular cancer. The doctors altered his treatment with new medication and procedures. But this virulent strain was in it to win. A few weeks ago the doctors admitted defeat. Treatment ceased. Dave entered hospice.

At first he remained his normal task-oriented self. He tied up his affairs, disposed of his motorcycle and other valuables and went so far as to purchase the iPad he had intended to give his daughter for Christmas. But the tasks have been accomplished, and by now there’s just more and more rest as the hospice nurse works to keep the pain away.

A few weeks, or days or hours and he’ll fall asleep one last time. And I’ll never see my old friend again.

Parting is more than just sorrow.

It’s just sad.

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