Tuesday began at six-thirty. That's when I woke up after eight hours sleep. Eight restful hours, without so much as a bathroom break. By seven o'clock, I had dressed, taken the daily dosages and started the coffee. At eight o'clock, I had finished breakfast, done two crossword puzzles and was ready to figure out what to do with the rest of day.
At eight-ten, Al called. "Tom? Tom, get up here immediately, if you're able. Please. Please."
Al's night had not been pleasant. He held up a towel to show me he had been coughing up blood. His stomach was upset, his head was about to explode, and he didn't know where the hell he was or what the fuck was going on. He had called the desk to tell them he was having difficulty. But when Pat, a nurse's assistant, got there, he told her to "get the hell out."
"Maybe I should just go to the hospital," he said.
"Do want me to call downstairs and have them call 911?"
"Hell, I don't want to go to the goddamned hospital. Here, you hold on to this," he said, handing me a wad of twenties.
Penelope, the activity director, came to check on Al when she got to work. She urged him to go to the hospital. He refused. He was, however, agreeable to notifying hospice.
Al made the call. A half hour later, Donna, a hospice nurse arrived. She is a small, thin woman full of good humor and endless patience. When Al told her to "just get the hell out of here and leave me alone," which he did frequently, Donna smiled, rolled her eyes and went on about her business. In an effort to calm Al, she took all the white and yellow towels he had been coughing blood on and gave him a some black ones. Al would have none of that. He wanted towels that would show every drop of blood he coughed up.
Donna did managed to convince him to take a pill for anxiety and a shot of morphine for his pain. It took an hour, but by the time Donna left, Al was alert, aware and asking, "Tom, why the hell didn't you tell me to shut the fuck up?"
Friday morning, Al said, "Oh hell, you might as well call hospice. I'm not going to go to the goddamned hospital." Louis, a burly fellow with a crew cut, was the nurse sent to see Al.
"My whole left lung is gone," Al told Louis.
"What do you mean, gone?"
"The doctor said it's gone. Cancer."
I told Louis the lung is still there. Six months ago, when Al started coughing up blood, the doctors put him through a battery of tests. They discovered cancer in his left lung, and that is where the blood he coughs up comes from.
Not nearly as worked up as he was Tuesday, Al calmed down with the help of a hydrocodone. As Louis was leaving, Annie came in. Annie is the assistant activity director. She and Penelope keep a close eye on Al and his needs. Annie did her best to dispose of the blood-stained towels, make the bed, and get rid of some of Al's clutter. And she told him she was going to get him a few pairs of sweat-pants type things that would be easier to get in and out of.
Saturday morning, the phone rang. "Tom, Annie's daughter, what's her name?"
"I didn't hear a goddamned thing you said. This girl, I think, she's Annie's daughter, just showed up with three pairs of pants. They're the ugliest damn things I've ever seen. She said she's going to shorten them and make a hem. I'll never wear the fucking things. They're goddamn ugly. They've got polka dots and shit all over them."
Sunday afternoon I went to see Al. "See this," he said, pointing to the plaid pants that were a cross between sweat pants and pajama bottoms. Paired with his dark blue shirt, the old guy looked ready for a round of golf.
"What's her name, Annie's daughter, did this. She cut them off and made a hem. Boy, she's sharp. She did a great job. I really like her."
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