I can literally grieve myself sick these days with my digestive system in the shape it is in, and did so the Friday night I discovered my grandmother had died months ago with me knowing it. The night nurse debated calling my physician for an sedative order. I declined, but nausea medication was beyond debate. I skipped the all night tube feeding for the first time since late may. I mercifully fell asleep quickly. Such a thing is highly unusual when something brutal is gnawing at me.
Which is how it was all day Saturday. I laid in bed all day, drifting in and out of sleep. I do not recall any of the dreams, but I remember waking up agitated a couple times. It appeared both my conscious and subconscious minds were in agreement over how dire my situation truly was. I still did not feel like getting up in ordeer to make any kind of contact with Denise, but I knew I would have to find the spark to do so to find any sense of peace. I ate for the first time in 24 hours at supper--the diced fruit offered as dessert.
I hopped out of bed the moment my tube feeding was disconnected at six am Sunday morning. Anger probably gave me the boost I needed. Because I did not take my cell phone with me to the emergency room back in may, I had to use the community phone in a tiny room across from the restroom I had previously chosen as my place of suicide. That fact was not on my mind at the time. Oakhaven is pretty much a ghost town until about seven am when the staff start getting residents up and ready for breakfast. I had walked around this early many times before to enjoy the rare quiet. Usually, there was no sound other than my footfalls. But this morning, I could hear my heart pounding.
I went in the telephone room to dial Denise for the first time since my hospitalization in August. We did not have a landline at home. Everyone, save for six year old Jackson, had a cell phone. I am not much of a chatter, but everyone else lived on theirs. The rest of them will all be in the same cancer ward with brain tumors one day. Denise being apart from her cell phone long is unthinkable. My early attempts to call her, only to go to voice mail, had the benefit of plausible deniability. She was recovering from surgery and was not talking to anyone. When no one else from McLeod-Darlington or Oakhaven could do so, I became wary of trying myself. Never had I left an actual voice mail message. Until today.
I left a short, but angry message about how I need my clothes and toiletry items, that I had heard through a stranger my grandmother had died months ago, and there had to be some line of communication established because the current situation was absolutely insane. I hung up abruptly and walked out, shaking like a life. I do that a lot, particularly after I have gone on the offensive. It is more a sense of anticipation of a battle I am eager to fight than fear of it. There was obviously no way for Denise to contact me without my cell phone. I certainly did not anticipate her showing up in response to my call. She had not talked to anyone, anywhere in regards to me, so I figured she was not going to start now regardless of the issue at hand. I had to bring the battle to her front door.
I gave her one last chance before doing anything particularly aggressive. I called her cell phone one more time Monday morning to see if she was on the look out for me. She was not. So I decided to call her at work. Why had I not done this before? I do not know. Fear of finding out she had returned to work from sick leave long ago and so really had abandoned me? Probably. Even cynics like me can cling to silly ideas in order to keep the deeply wounded idealism alive. Unfortunately, I am in another town now. The phone book was useless for finding the lawyer for whom Denise worked even though I was living only . Paulette was out of her office, so I finally had to ask Brock, the administrator, if we had a phone book covering my hometown. She found the number, but it turned out to be old. Obstacles upon obstacles! Finally, I just called information. I do not know why I did not just do that in the first place. It would have been too easy, I guess. The phone rang twice before the secretary picked up.
“Is Denise [last name] back at work yet?” I asked.
“I’ll check,“ she answered. “Who shall I say is calling?”
I am not sure how long I sat there in silence processing the situation. It probably was not anywhere near as long as it seemed. I was asking if Denise was back from sick leave. The secretary acted as though I was asking if Denise was back from lunch yet. This was not going to be a good encounter.
“Her brother," I said with much irritation.
Time expanded again while she was gone off to look for Denise. She was there! She was recovered from surgery! She had been for who knows how long! She had abandoned me? What was she going to say to me? What was I going to say to her? None of this mattered when the secretary returned.
“No, she is not back yet. Is there a number you have so she can contact you?” the secretary asked. I knew she was lying. I could tell in her voice she did not want to do so. Denise, in a panic, was forcing her.
“No, I do not have my own phone. I am in a nursing home. How come you did not know she was back?”
She hung up on me.
I walked out of the telephone room slowly as I absorbed it all. I had been abandoned. I had been abandoned for months. I just did not want to see it. What to do next was a mystery. I wanted either Brock or Paulette to try calling Denise at work. Brock stopped me on the way back to my room to ask how it went. After I told her, she said they would send Denise a certified letter, then went back to her business. Maybe I would have better luck with Paulette.
She was out to lunch at that time, so I went back to my room to brood. I could not eat my own lunch. I left three times to see if paulette’s door was open. The third time was the charm, but she was not there. It was not proper procedure, but I went in and sank in a chair to wait. When she came in, I explained what had happened and asked if she would try calling. She agreed. The law firm apparently had caller ID because her call went straight to voice mail. She left a message for Denise to call her back and hung up.
“What do you think?” I sheepishly asked. She took a deep breath.
“I will fight as hard as I can to preserve your relationship with your sister, but this does not look good. She’s there. She is deliberately avoiding us.”
I do not recall many specifics about the ensuing conversation. I know we discussed the prospect of my being abandoned. I suggested, because it sounded plausible at the time, Tony had taken the opportunity to get rid of me while Denise was recuperating from surgery. She would have no choice but to go along with it. He was a domineering, controlling man like that. We talked for about ten or fifteen minutes before the phone rang. Paulette answered, then indicated by shaking her free hand at me that it was Denise. She asked if Denise wanted to speak to me. She agreed. Paulette left to give me privacy.
I was not ready to fight any longer when I took the receiver. This was the first time in months I would have an audience. I had to make it count. More flies with honey than vinegar. It did not help any that Denise had actually had two surgeries. In the second, the intubation had damaged her vocal chords. She could barely whisper. I may have been angry, but I was still her sympathetic brother. Or a sucker. You may make up your own mind. Discuss amongst yourselves if you wish, but I would rather not know the verdict.
In hindsight, Denise used her favorite weapon--guilt--to get me to back off. She explained her health issues, she explained that Kirsten had returned in July to retreive her belongings, then left for good, and that this was all extremely hard on Tony. She claimed Tony had taken her cell phone so she could recover in peace. He still had it, according to her. According to Paulette’s caller ID, he did not. I did not call her on the lie. Maybe I should have. When the subject turned to my grandmother’s death, she told me she knew about it, but showed no interest in how the news affected me. It did not bother her I had heard by happenstance from a stranger.
Denise never asked anything about my health. Not about the fissure. Not about the incision. She did not even ask who much I weighed. When I asked when I could go home, she told me I needed healthcare, but evaded any suggestions I was better than I had been in over a year. She did, however, reiterate that times were tough on Tony. I got the impression she was trying to shift any blame I wanted to give off her and onto him. She wanted to cut the conversation short, so she said Tony would bring the toiletry items by within the next day or so, that she had ordered some new clothes, and then told me if I had anything else to tell her, to leave a voice mail. The phone call ended.
I could not decipher the contradiction in that last bit. Telling me anything I have to say will go to voice mail is saying she does not want to talk to me again. Especially do not call her office again. But then she said Tony would bring supplies for me, so there would be physical contact. But she was also evasive about me going home. It was all so overwhelming, I cried. Paulette4 hugged me for a while before I needed to go off to be alone.
The next day, I was sitting outside in the late afternoon when a Federal Express truck pulled up with a large package. I laughed to myself. Surely that is not the stuff Denise promised Tony would bring. But it was. She lied to me. She had no interest in dealing with me again on any level. Even the biggest optimist could not deny my situation now. I had been squarely abandoned.