It has been said that people come in and out of our lives like the seasons. I was reminded of that saying recently.
My neighbor moved. I didn’t know she was moving until a mutual friend told my daughter and I about it. To be honest at first I was relieved. Over the last year our relationship had deteriorated and life had not been pleasant on the hill where we all live.
Yet, my attitude changed within a couple of days. I began to hurt. I was relieved, yet I hurt. I needed to understand the conflicting emotions. It was time to take a step back, and analyze this situation for possible clues as to what my emotions were suppose to be.
For three years we weathered some tough storms together, with the last 6 months being the hardest. Due to circumstances beyond her control, my neighbor became the primary caregiver to her ailing grandparents, a man I called “Old Man” and his wife. At that time they both had cancer and they needed a tremendous amount of personal care. There were many days where she would call me, minutes before leaving for a doctor’s appointment, and asked me to step in and help out by being a chauffeur.
This morning I remembered one of those times. It was her grandfather’s last doctor’s appointment.
At that time his cancer was progressing fast. He was becoming weaker by the day, and we knew his life was almost over. Minutes before they were suppose to leave for his oncologist appointment she called and asked me to drive him. I knew why she didn’t want to go. She knew what the doctor was going to say, and she couldn’t hear it.
I never criticized my neighbor for calling me at thelast minute like that. I knew her heart was hurting. I knew she was tired, and I knew she was unable to face the fear and pain she was feeling.
I threw on my jacket and walked over to Old Man’s home. After I assisted him to his car, we drove to his doctor’s appointment. To be honest I enjoyed being his chauffeur. I always enjoyed our car rides together. He had a great sense of humor, and he was a wonderful storyteller.
As Old Man and I were sitting in the exam room, waiting for the doctor to come in, he was full of hope that radiation or a new cancer drug was out there that could extend his life span. We talked about how many cancer drugs he had received, and I asked him if he knew how many more there were. He said he was not sure, he just hoped there was one more. One more drug or study he could be involved in.
As the doctor entered the room, and before he could sit down, Old Man began asking questions.
“Well doc, is there a new drug I can take? How about radiation, can I start radiation?”
The doctor was a young, compassionate man. He looked at us both, sat down and said,
“At this stage of your cancer, your quality of life is what we are looking at. How is your pain level?”
Old Man looked confused.
The doctor went on to say,
“Unless there is significant bleeding, due to the growth of the cancer, there will be no further treatments. I am sorry.”
The doctor thanked my friend for being his patient. He thanked him for his sense of humor and keeping his staff on their toes. Before the doctor left the room he told Old Man that he would not have to come back to his office for anymore visits. A nurse would visit him at his home. He then stood up, shook our hands and left the room.
Old Man looked at me and said,
“Well, Kid, that’s odd. He didn’t answer my questions. I guess we should leave?”
I knew he did not fully grasp what was going on, yet I did. Emotions started to bubble to the surface, but I tried to hold them at bay. Old Man was not an emotional man in fact he despised tears. Crying in his presence was never encouraged and rarely allowed. Even though I wanted to cry, I did not.
We walked back to his car. I griped the steering wheel as I slid in. I looked down at my hands and my knuckles were turning white.
The car was quiet for a couple of minutes. Eventually he looked at me and asked what I thought the doctor meant about the nurse coming to his home? As I spoke my voice cracked and tears began to form in the corner of my eyes. I told him the nurse was a hospice nurse and that his time on earth was almost over. The silence in the car for the next few minutes was haunting. He looked at me and asked me if I thought I heard the doctor correctly.
I could no longer hold my emotions back; tears began to flow, as I said, “yes.” At that point he started to cry. It was a sight I never thought I would see. He was a fiercely independent man. Yet this unemotional, independent man cried and reached out his hand for me to hold while I was driving. For the next few minutes the car was silent except for our tears.
Eventually, I pulled over at a rest stop. We sat there for several minutes crying and holding hands. He held on tight. No words were spoken, but no words needed to be spoken. The tears we shed, as we held hands, said it all.
Once I was able to compose myself, I began to drive home. Our words were few and far between for the remainder of the trip home. The tears we shared bound us together in a way I never thought possible. Those tears helped strengthen our relationship for the tough days that were ahead.
When we returned home, from the appointment, and Old Man was sitting comfortably in his chair in the man cave, I walked over to his granddaughter’s house, which was located on the same piece of property, and shared with her what the doctor said. We cried together.
Within 6 months of Old Man’s last appointment with his oncologist, he passed away. It was a long 6 months, but during those months, while taking care of him, his granddaughter and I became good friends. Our sole goal was to protect him, and make his life as comfortable as possible, and we did just that.
Looking back and thinking about our relationship, and that time period, I have come to the conclusion that the relationship we had was formed out of necessity. The relationship was formed from circumstances; it was formed for a particular season, not for a lifetime, and I didn’t need to feel pain when it ended. I didn’t need to hurt for what I thought was lost, for nothing was lost. Our relationship had a beginning and an ending, and that ending was Old Man’s death. Hence, the definition of temporary season’s.
Now I get it, what a relief! And you know what else I found out? It is okay for me to feel relieved that they had moved.
(Insert deep breath here)