Can I take another pain med yet? I’ve been up an hour and I’m beaten. Another pill might get me through a shower but then what? I’m going to see the kids today. It’s Christmas Eve. It’s not fair to be in tear-inducing pain on Christmas Eve! I’ll take two extra today and take less tomorrow. Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. No. I won’t. And tomorrow is Christmas. It’s not fair to be in tear-inducing pain on Christmas. Maybe I’ll feel better the next day. No. Maybe the doctor will understand. I have permission to take two extra on flare up days. Maybe if I run out early this month he’ll approve an early refill. Is this a flare up? Can I honestly say it is or am I talking myself into it? What if he doesn’t approve an early refill? Then I’m going to run out of pills and be fucked. That’s happened before. Remember how miserable that was? Isn’t it better to stretch out the pain now to avoid two days of agony later? Yes. But fuck! I’m hurting from my groin to my armpits. It’s shooting out my back! And it’s Christmas Eve and it’s not fair to feel this way on Christmas Eve!
It’s not often that a guy knows for certain that this is his last Christmas in his home. But this is my last Christmas at my home. My wife asked me to leave on October 15th. I went down to Iowa and have been staying there with dear, generous friends since, seeing the kids when I can. She told me two days ago that she wants to be done with us. I had been invited to go “home” for Christmas and to stay there Christmas Eve night so I could be there when the kids wake up on Christmas. That’s nice. But I’m moving into an apartment next week. And next Christmas I won’t be there when the kids wake up on Christmas. That makes me sad.
We’re not separating because I’m sick. Then again maybe we are. I can’t work; I can’t keep up with a healthy family. There’s so much I can’t do. If you’re more or less healthy you don’t understand this. Maybe you think you could. Or you would if you were in my position. By God you would’ve kept up. Maybe you think, “What is wrong with you?” Not all of you are thinking this. But some of you are and I forgive you. Honest truth: It’s what I’d think. I’m fairly sure of it.
No one gets a flower delivery on day 2,555 of chronic pancreatitis, or chronic anything else. Days 1-7 the people are all around making dinners and sending books and crosswords. Visiting. People come to see you in the hospital the first time you find yourself there. It’s nice. People ask what you need, what they can do. But those people have problems too and they get back to them by and by.
The human mind cannot understand the scale of the universe. Did you know that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on earth? I know that. But I can’t imagine it. Yes and the human mind doesn’t understand chronic illness. We evolved to understand rules that no longer exist. For almost all of human existence when one of us got sick he either got better or he died. And if he was still lying there moaning after a month he was a nuisance, a fraud. And he needed to get the fuck up and pitch in.
Good news! The doctors won’t let me die. Bad news: I’m still lying here moaning on day 2,555 (or so) and no one really knows what to do with me. Shouldn’t I be able to get up and pitch in? What is wrong with me?