River Bottom Beagles

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I Miss My Friend

The first time I held your hand
I knew I was a lucky man

Jamey Johnson – Heaven Bound

It hurts. Damn, it hurts. Never knew you could hurt like this with no broken bones or blood running out. You get busy and you get around people and you get acting normal and you get thinking I’m OK. I’m good. I can do this. WHAM!! Knocked on your ass again.

Lisa was no stranger to pain. She wouldn’t let people see it, but she was in pain most of the time. When we were at home down south she slept on the couch. She tried to sleep in our bed from time to time but it never lasted more than an hour and she went crawling back to her soft couch.

At home on the farm we have a big, soft king size bed and Lisa was able to sleep there most of the time. Some nights it was me and Lisa and Molly and Irene and Buttercup. Molly makes you read shark stories and dino stories. She would be the first to fall asleep (after Buttercup). Irene liked to read to us. To Lisa.

Then I might read to Lisa. I’ve read some good stories to Lisa at home, before we went to sleep. And in hospital rooms to help her go somewhere else while her body was someplace she didn’t want to be.

Lisa loved the story The Master Falconer from C.J. Box’s book Shots Fired. It was the last story I read to her. She talked about it a lot. Nate Romanowski was right up there with Lisa’s heroes John Wayne and Tell Sackett. I wanted to read her Blood Knot from the same book, but never got the chance. It’s a good one, you should read it. Aunt Ruth, someday I’ll buy that book and keep it on the bookshelf, you would like it.

Molly always ended up sideways in the bed about 2 AM so you either got a head butt or you got kicked. Buttercup stayed down on your feet or squeezed in sideways between us. Me and Lisa held hands if we could reach. We never got much sleep. Memories of those nights will make it on the short list of Good Things when my time comes to look back. Maybe even Best Things.

July 28th was our 32nd anniversary. I was at work and Lisa was staying at her folks after getting out of the hospital in Rochester. She called me at work about three times saying how much she missed me. The next day, Friday I got up early, did chores, mowed the lawn and loaded all the dogs and lawn mower and drove up north, took care of the dogs and mowed everything up there before I got to spend some time with Lisa.

She looked puffy and mentioned that she had a hard time getting her breath. That night we went to bed early. I didn’t sleep much. Instead I laid there and listened to her breath. She woke at 1:00 AM, we talked it over and decided to go to the ER and see Dr. Hudala. He is a good one and Lisa knew he was on that night.

We sat the whole night in that little room in the ER (again) and I held her hand and we talked. Chased away the nurses that wanted to draw blood and start an IV. Her arms already looked like she had been in a car wreck. Towards morning Dr. Hudala came back in and said he wanted to keep her in the hospital for a few days and get the fluid drained away from around her heart and lungs. Lisa cried. More nights in a damned old hospital bed instead of at home. But then the steel came back and the tears went away and she did what she needed to do.

We spent a lot of time together in her hospital room over the weekend and she had a lot of visitors. She was happy and feeling good and making everyone else laugh. I brought her a dairy queen blizzard on Sunday, Butterfinger. She acted like I brought her diamonds. Her nurse was jealous and Lisa loved that.

Monday morning I went back to work and they let her out in time to make her appointment with Dr. Hendrickson, then she came home and spent the day with Emi and Donna. Cleaned the fridge, did some laundry, called everyone that was getting a pup from Lovey and worked on selling the last one, then her and Donna went out to the Spot Café for Monday night all the shrimp you can eat, which was quite a few. I called her from work while she was there and got brushed off.

But then she called me back. She called me three times that night. Each time she told me she missed me. She went to bed alone in our big, soft, king size bed for the last time.

The memory of all those times she said I Miss You in that last week will haunt me the rest of my days.

Now it’s my turn to say I MISS YOU.

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Hold On

This is an old post I wrote about Lisa four or five years ago after one of her stays in the St. Mary’s ICU, and never published.  Because sometimes it helps just to write stuff down. Then I revised it about two years ago and added the note at the bottom, and never published it. It’s kind of dark and painful, but that’s where I’m at right now. Still trying to hold on. Maybe later I can let go and tell you a few of the many happy stories about Lisa.

Everyone asks how she’s doing. They want me to say she is doing just fine and that is just what I tell them. I know they don’t want to hear what I tell myself.

She is lying on a cold, hard hospital bed. Her arms are black and blue and purple and yellow from all the needles they have had stuck in them.

A huge mass of tubes and wires are attached to her and they get tangled up every time she moves. There’s a bunch of damn bells and alarms going off all the time and a loud screeching noise happens when she tries to get out of bed.

Her poor tired heart can’t keep up with all the fluid they are pushing into her so it backs up into her lungs. She has to wear a CPAP to force oxygen into her lungs. She hates the mask and keeps trying to pull it off.

She has been given so many different drugs and pain killers that she is seeing things and talking to people that aren’t there. I look in her eyes and realize that the girl I married has temporarily checked out. Gone to a better place, and I wonder if she will be the same when she comes back. I think about all the times she has been through this and wonder how much more she can take.

It seems to help when I hold her hand and so that is what I do. My job. Hold on.

Me? How am I doing? I’m just fine.

I wrote this a couple years ago while going through some hard times. Things are much better for us now, at the moment. And yet there are so many people trying to hold on to their loved one right now and I know the pain they feel and there isn’t much we can do for them except to let them know that we know it hurts.

Lisa

It was still pitch black out when I woke up Tuesday morning. Couldn’t have been much past 2 or 3 am. I could not get back to sleep. Even the dogs started singing in the kennel, something they haven’t done in a long time.

I had just gotten home from work shortly before midnight and was “down south” with the dogs. Lisa was up at the farm. We didn’t want her to be home alone while I was at work, Donna was staying with her. When Donna checked on Lisa at midnight she was fine. At 7 AM Donna found that Lisa had passed away.

Lisa and I were married for 32 years. Somehow I could always sense when Lisa was in trouble when we were sleeping together. I can’t begin to count the times I got up with her during the night to get her something to get her blood sugar back up or to bring her in to the hospital. Sometimes just to watch her and make sure she was OK. Just last Friday night, the last night we spent together I woke just after midnight to listen to her breathing. It wasn’t good. We went to the ER and they kept her in the hospital the rest of the weekend.

She made it out of the hospital Monday morning and was back home, to the place she loved most to spend her last night.

Now it’s early Wednesday morning after another sleepless night and the dogs are singing in the kennel. Lisa spent her life taking care of others, with me and all her beagles taking up much of her time. Maybe she is checking up on us now.

 

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River Dogs

Every chance we get, all the dogs and I head down to Sunny Beach on the river down at the end of the hay field and we go for a swim.

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Never too old

Hope still enjoys swimming in the river.

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