…That someone was “Taken too soon” if that someone was 107 years old?
FULL DISCLOSURE: There will be some politics in what follows; I hope you’ll read on whatever your particular viewpoints might be. Only when we can TALK REASONABLY about such things can we find our way out of the divisiveness and spitefulness we find ourselves surrounded by.
As we were winding down (recovering) from our “Senior Citizen Debauchery” in Minneapolis/St. Paul, we decided we needed to divert from our intended path to visit Chicago. We had “Intended” to spend the next couple of months driving down the Mississippi River. The reason our “intentions” are rarely converted to “Plans” or even “bookings” is because SH*T HAPPENS and we need to stay flexible to react.
In this case, the “Sh*t” that happened is that one of Liz’s brothers took a serious health-turn for the worse. Liz had just seen Paul in July, but because we don’t plan, it didn’t take much re-considering to bend our path away from the Mississippi a bit and for a bit to return to Chicago.
Along the way, we were actually kicked out of a Walmart lot by a VERY POLITE and apologetic Cop. It seems a trailer also in the lot had been there for several days, and the store manager had asked the cop to move them along…unfortunately he could not ask them to leave without also asking us to do so. He pointed us to a “Park and Ride” lot just a couple miles away, and said we’d be welcome to stay there.
Eventually, we pulled into the parking spot offered us by Liz’s sister Susie and Brother-in-law Mark in nearby Salem Wisconsin, headed to our “official” and permanent address downtown, and awaited word on Paul’s condition. This was to take a couple days to develop, so we managed a meal or two with friends and with Burritos.
Come up and see Paul now. Not tomorrow.
As we were sitting in the backyard with friends Bes and Wetsy Meisenwesterheimerfield, eating takeout pizza from neighborhood anchor D’Agostinos, the call came: Come up and see Paul now. Not tomorrow. So we did, rolling up the table and the leftover pizza and, it felt like, the welcome mat for our friends to jump in the car. Thank goodness we were dining with such good friends, so that pushing them out the door wouldn’t be an unrecoverable faux paus (though Liz has since apologized to them at least 4 times and no doubt will continue to do so).
We arrived in Kenosha to find most of Liz’s family gathered outside the door of the Rehab Facility. Apparently, they were allowing 2 people in at a time, with lots of hand sanitizer and masks. I think they were sort of “looking the other way” — We gathered this was not “policy” but just humanity under the circumstances. Apparently, also, Paul was getting sleepy, so Liz’s family made sure she was next in line to go in and see him.
Which we did for several minutes. Verbal Conversation was very difficult; Paul somehow managed to teach us a few Sign Language Gestures; I was NEVER very good at Charades, and so our cognitive density made him work hard.
A few words did get through; I will remember Paul always for the last exchange we had on the way out the door. He wanted a Kiss. VERY CLEARLY (he said so clear as a bell) from Liz but NOT from me. He smiled and rubbed his chin – back to sign language, which together with the twinkle in his eye suggested my beard would tickle. Liz managed one, somewhere between blown and actual with her omnipresent mask in play.
Paul passed away that same night – his sons had managed to get him out of the facility and home. They were watching baseball on the couch together with a chaser of Makers Mark.
I need to mention some of the backstory on Paul’s passing…and it’s in my opinion an indictment of our country’s Worst-in-the-developed-world Medical system. Paul’s cancer journey started with delaying medical attention because, he told us, he was a year away from Medicare, and couldn’t justify the cost to see a doctor right away. Then, he didn’t continue oncologist follow-up, for the same reason. This is what ultimately killed him – NOT THE CANCER, which was (should have been) treatable. Let me repeat that, because this is important:
OUR MEDICAL CARE SYSTEM killed Liz’s brother…
not the Cancer listed on this Death Certificate.
Show us what you got, because we surely don’t trust you!
Our healthcare system is an EMBARRASSMENT. This is NOT POLITICAL, it is factual. Politicians on both sides of the aisle spin this to try to support “their” agenda. Our Republican Representatives, who want to undo the creaky, barely adequate Obamacare program (upon which Liz and I and 20+ MILLION other Americans rely for health insurance) promise “they have a plan.”
Well, if they have a plan (they have had ALMOST 12 YEARS to come up with one…), WHERE IS IT? Show us what you got, because we surely don’t trust you! Can we stop the noise and aggressive attacks on each other and on the citizens of the USA and SOLVE THE PROBLEM as a civilized nation?
Meanwhile, at the rehab facility, awaiting our turn and talking to Liz’s gathered siblings, I got a call from Washington DC. My Aunt Marilee finally succumbed. It probably won’t say “Covid” on her death certificate, but that was the straw that broke her 107yr old back.
Marilee had Covid earlier this year, and though the medical profession and her family and friends were CERTAIN this was it, she survived the initial crisis. As you would expect, though, she did not have the resources to bounce all the way back from a virus that we are starting to see has long-term effects for many. Her lungs and heart were fully 107, and just did not have the capacity to absorb the Covid insult.
That is not to say she simply faded away. She moved back home. She had MANY lucid moments. She started to think about again mounting the Gallery show that Covid had squashed. We had many phone discussions about art and politics. All with the benefit of Zoom, headphones and other, newly necessary hearing aides. Not “back to normal” but still pretty amazing. She was CLEARLY not done or done-in just yet.
So, her drastic decline during the last week or so of her life, though dire according to the medical professionals, did not register with “finality” to me until that call. Like the faces on Mt. Rushmore, I just assumed Marilee would always be there, full of gravitas and whimsy (is that a contradiction?). It was not to be.
If you’ll indulge me, again, a bit of a rant on Marilee’s behalf…
I hear it all the time…
”COVID does not kill most people (no worse than the flu…), and it is NOT really the cause of death for many that DO succumb.” It is, so they say, “all the other things that they carry. Heart disease. Asthma, diabetes, chemotherapy-for-cancer.”
The numbers and data to the contrary are FAKE NEWS. It’s as though Covid is just the universe’s way of ending peoples’ misery or fulfilling their destiny – a GOOD THING some how, for people with chronic diseases. As long as it is someone else’s Aunt Marilee, I guess. Why take precautions; why wear a mask to spare others, who are sick and (though these people won’t use these exact words, they are implying it very clearly) maybe should be dead.
“WE ALL GOTTA DIE, after all.” We’ve all heard someone say this.
I have always just walked away – don’t have time or energy to engage such moral bankruptcy.
Someone once asked anthropolgist Margaret Mead what SHE considered to be the first signs of human CIVILIZATION. The answer was, to me surprising and very specific and unrelated to the things I would have expected to be in her answer — tools or agriculture or art or music or language or religion:
“15,000 years ago is our first evidence of civilization… that is the date of a (first) HEALED BROKEN THIGH BONE. Animals don’t recover from such injuries – they can’t keep up with the pack, can’t hunt and inevitably succumb. Early Humans didn’t either, for the same reasons. Only CIVILIZED HUMANS will invest in care for an injured member of the pack, feeding them, nursing them back to health.”
So, it is CLEAR…anyone who says, “Covid kills people who were dying anyway, so let’s just get on with it” is NOT a CIVILIZED HUMAN. HOW DARE ANYONE SAY THIS; as though they have the right or wisdom to ascertain when someone’s value to the universe is over. CIVILIZED HUMANS will GLADLY wear a mask and avoid large gatherings and take other steps and minimal inconveniences to PREVENT someone else being killed. They will ask: what else can I do.” Sacrifice WAS in our country’s DNA – it is being bred out, replaced by “me above all else” in front of our eyes.
Marilee was NOT “done” with her contributions to the human condition. She WAS taken too soon at 107.
A timely update: I wrote the above a week or so ago. I am now in Washington, helping Marilee’s daughter process and deal with Marilee’s things and estate. During this visit, the nation’s Sociopath-in-chief came down with Covid. His response:
“Don’t let it dominate us…it’s not so bad…”
My blood boils as we, the USA, lurch backwards away from being civilized in the slightest.
Most people don’t have Walter Reed and Helicopters and a team of specialists. Or Remdesavir (which is $3K per dose and relatively unavailable) and (experimental) monoclonal antibodies. Or an ICU down the hall in their home. COVID is ABSOLUTELY dominating, and BAD for us, the little people.
I also learned an important lesson in the economic devastation the disjointed response to the virus is wrecking on our country.
Seeking a Storage locker for Marilee’s art, as we work to find galleries, museums and other finals spots for it, I found that such facilities NEVER have lights or electric outlets in the spaces they rent. We NEED these, so we can set things on a table and show them…something not effectively done by flash- or cellphone or candle light. The reason was explained to, and SHOCKED me:
Because if those were available,
people would be LIVING in their storage lockers!
And, the manager of one facility shared with me, last week he had to “evict” two people living in lightless, powerless 5×5 lockers.
Once I convinced the manager that we ALREADY LIVE IN A BUS (albeit quite a comfortable one), so not in danger of moving into his locker, they were willing to make available an outlet for us (at a small additional charge which we are glad to pay).
The APPALLING lack of empathy and leadership displayed by our “leader” makes me shake as I see and hear about it. But, WE GOT THIS!