July 17th, 2013

Day 0

The call came at about 5:45am and I was deeply asleep. Debby awoke and understood before I did, and I swam up out of the depths and became immediately calm and I hope I let her know that I loved her as I went to answer the phone. It was one of those moments of cascading realization, where your understanding comes avalanching down, a great thing falling, and then a moment later it settles into a new stability. When Debby awoke I felt from her an immediate sadness as I came a moment later to understand that only one call would be coming to me at this time of morning, this morning. Sometimes you are made privy to many things all at once, and as I walked to the phone in the cool morning I could feel in that moment of her understanding and mine just behind it the many years of our time together and the way communication starts to happen not just wordlessly but sympathetically, a resonance between you that comes from feeling for so many years each other's vibrations. Of course I didn't consciously think any of this but I remember the feeling as I walked into the other room and picked up the phone and heard my sister sob.

July 16th, 2013

The news from New Mexico was good. My father was stable, they told me. He appeared to be peaceful. No need to rush back, my mom said. Why not take another day in Colorado?

That sounded relaxing, grounding, expansive. Yes, I said. I'll come back Thursday the 18th instead.

I made plans to spend the 17th with my friend Chris Blarsky. Our conversations were always profoundly interesting and deeply invigorating. I figured Chris's perspective on things would send me back to New Mexico with some interesting new ideas about making the most of my remaining time there, however long that ended up being.

The intensity of the experience I was dealing with in New Mexico had contributed to me not sleeping more than about four hours per night all summer (not without pharmaceutical aid, anyway), but I'd found the time back in Colorado really rejuvenating. I'd slept deeply and long every night. The night of the 16th was no different.

July 15th, 2013

...was a Monday, and I recall it with something of a sadness, for on that day I engaged in a deep self-betrayal, and the repercussions were substantial and long-lived.

You'll forgive the vagueness. Some things can only be spoken of in the abstract.

In my life I have often practiced self-excoriation in the face of even my average mistakes; when I look back on something as destructive as what I did that day, my self-judgment has generally been brutal, has brooked no quarter.

But sadness, but grief: those are different. Those are not things you whip yourself with.

You see, Jerry has taught me a few things. Jerry likes to say, in the face of mistakes, "What did I have to learn?" Jerry says, "I'll do better next time."

I suppose it speaks well of my growth over the last almost-year that I don't find myself reaching for that bloodthirsty penitent lash when I look back on that day. I acted out of fear; the repercussions were substantial: I had something to learn, and I did learn. I have faced opportunities to make similar mistakes since then, and while I can't say I have entirely vanquished that cruel and compelling fear, I am here today to say that I did better the next times it came around.

Having witnessed the damage in my life from self-betrayals--the one I speak of here, and others too, some still coiled in my psyche, ready to draw blood--I have developed and continue to develop a different and more complete integrity. It's a process, integrity, not a destination, and there are always temptations, and even a cursory glance at my life shows how much growth still remains. But things are so much better in my life now. Surely that is evidence that I am more true to myself than I was that day two years ago. Because I know this: if you act consistently out of integrity with yourself, the universe will test you and test you and test you until you learn.

July 14th, 2014

"As omens go, that's not the greatest."

I said those words the summer before, as I watched a black widow arise from behind a shelf in the backyard night to terminate a moth that had found its way into her web.

"But I'm not a moth," I said. And that was true enough.

Another summer night, July 14th, 2014: driving down to Albuquerque to spend the anniversary of my father's death with my family, approaching Santo Domingo, NM (interestingly exactly the place I normally stop for gas), I got hit by a thunderstorm so fierce I could barely see. The wipers, metronoming prestissimo, did nothing, and I crawled those last couple of miles, up the off-ramp, and then under the roof covering the pumps at Pueblo Gas, and from there as the rain came down in sheets and lightning lit up the night I called my wife.

July 13th, 2013

Besides the brief weekend back to Colorado for Nolus's memorial, I had been in New Mexico for four weeks as mid-July approached, and I thought it might be nice to spend a few days back in Colorado. I had spoken with various members of the hospice team and was told that it was a good time to go. "He's dying, but he's not actively dying," one of them told me. Our in-home assistant echoed that opinion. So I felt it was a good time to get back to Boulder.

All summer long I had been waiting for the right moment to have with my dad the one conversation that I felt still needed saying. I hadn't had it during my first days in NM, when things seemed stable, and when I got back from the memorial, something happened. I remember the day. It was like a storm hit behind his eyes, wind and clouds and rain and lightning inside him, his eyes grey with it, grey with some interior tempest. Afterwards, there were occasional moments of lucidity, but he never really came back, and that was when he truly began the process of dying.

I came over every day. I kept hoping there would be a time for that conversation, another lucid moment when we were together, but there never was, and so on July 13th, the day before I was to go to Boulder for those few days, knowing that I couldn't take anything for granted, I came to say to him what needed to be said.

I told him that it was okay for him to go.

I told him that it was okay for him to go because he'd left us all in a good place. I spoke of each of us in turn, my mom and my sisters and myself, and described how he had provided for each of us, how each of us was going to be okay. I spoke very specifically: Mama will be okay for these reasons. Hana will be okay for these reasons. Abigail will be okay for these reasons. I will be okay for these reasons.

He heard me. It's strange because he wasn't conscious in any ordinary sense of the word, but he heard me. He opened his eyes a little bit, just a little, like they were deeply heavy, like he was pulling himself out of the fog of a heavy sedation (true enough, with the morphine) to communicate just enough, before sinking back down into what I envisioned as a featureless but not uncomfortable grey-white mist, where time no longer passed in the way we understand it, a weightless place of no light but no dark either.

I told him that I was going away for a few days, and that I'd be back on Wednesday, the 17th. I told him I'd see him then.

And of course I told him that I loved him.

And then I kissed him on the forehead.

That was the last time I ever saw him alive.