Monday, December 10, 2007
With Sunday morning came red eyes, a dull headache, and a chance to speak with my Dad. As usual, conversation veered towards our favorite topics: the fragile state of Pakistan's constitutional democracy, and "President" Musharraf's preference for batons over tear gas; the impact of an impending interest rate hike on our 36,000 shares of Google, and whether or not we want our Maserati's to match; life with cancer, and the similarities and differences between a hospital room and a prison cell.
All told, there is good news and bad news. As is always prudent, let's begin with the less palatable: at the moment, A. H. Goodwin is seriously uncomfortable. The difficulty with sleeping has persisted, and very little in the way of food tastes right. I can tell he’s really hurting from the lack of sleep because he talked about the prospect of getting “six or seven” hours of dreamless sleep like you might talk about getting a third home in Aspen. It’s something you’d really like, something you may even physically crave, but it's also something you don’t harbor any delusions about getting.
(On the food front: unexpectedly, along with green Lifesavers, my Dad has found a taste for Fanta Orange Soda, which he describes as "clean and cold." If you're in the neighborhood, he might appreciate a case of Fanta or its similar-tasting cousin, Sunkist.)
And it's not just sleep and sustenance. My Dad's cellular interlopers have continued to wage their unique war of attrition. Unlike conventional warfare where bullets and bodily harm are the principal weapon, my Dad's idiosyncratic enemy seems mainly focused on indignities. Discretion precludes a full accounting of disease-related indignities, but let's just say that life is exceedingly annoying at the moment. His body is exhibiting stubbornness and intractability worthy of adolescence. All the usual parts are doing totally unusual things. Just getting up from the bed is taxing and time-consuming; once accomplished, there is rarely much energy left for completing whatever task inspired leaving the bed in the first place. All of this has come together to make an A. H. Goodwin that sounds unlike himself.
The good news is that all of this is proceeding just as expected. Turns out, sleepless, tasteless, bed-ridden days are a sign of progress. Or, at the very least, a sign that his experience is closely mirroring that of almost all other patients. It may be a tired metaphor, but the image that seems most applicable is that of a marathon. No matter how much you've trained, no matter how many mornings you rose with the sun to get a few miles in before work, come the second or third hour, things are going to feel ugly. Your legs are going to cramp up and you're going to be desperate for water. It's an unfortunate truth that there's no getting around. But with every mile you tough out, you're left one closer to the finish line. And for those of us not looking for an 2008 Olympic birth, it's not about how fast you run or how pretty you look while doing it; it's just about getting from point A to point B without succumbing to heat stroke.
At the moment, then, my Dad is huffing and puffing his way through mile 10 or 11. He's sweaty and foul-smelling, rubber legged and sore across the middle, but he's continuing to put one steady foot in front of the other. He's tired, and sure, he'd probably wouldn't mind if the race got called on account of bad weather, but he's not going anywhere. He's moving on down the track with all the expediency and grace his 240 lbs can muster. He’s going to run as hard as you can when you have to push an IV drip every step of the way.
Finally, although he has to do the running on his own, it's always easier to fight through the cramps when you have cheering fans lining the course. To continue this now extremely tired metaphor, it sounds like he could use a large cup of emotional Gatorade (orange flavored, of course).
So, if you get a chance, leave a blog post or a voicemail: let him know we're all still watching, whooping it up on the sidelines as he runs past.