February 11, 2012

flat bed truck

     My dad gestured out the window of the car to the lane next to us.  It was a gold Honday Odyssey, just like the one that ferried my brother back and forth countless times to MDACC.  "I half expect to see your brother lying down in the back all perched up on his pillows.  The last times we had to hurry down to MDA were trips from hell.  The day he died.  The day of his funeral."
     And right next to the van was a flat bed truck.  This symbol, perhaps, requires some explanation.  Though it seems a lifetime ago and in many ways it was, the symbol of the flat bed truck was born just about a year ago.  It was actually right about this same time of the year.  My brother was still alive, though his condition was beginning to deteriorate, and my dad had just been diagnosed himself.  I went over to my parents' house and my mom said to my dad, "tell him about your dream." 
     Now my dad has never put much stock in the meaning of dreams.  Just random rumblings of the white and gray matter.  Me, on the other hand, I subscribe to the notion that quite a lot can be gleaned from them.  So to humor me, he begins his dream:
You and I were riding in a flat bed truck.  You know the ones, the diesel pickups with the bed replaced with a flat bed to haul heavy equipment and stuff.  In the back, your brother rode on a mattress.  He looked pale and wasn't doing well.  You were driving and we were on these curving and hilly roads.  And you started to drive faster.  I told you, "Slow DOWN."  But you kept going faster still.  Again and again I told you to slow down.  I finally began yelling at you, "SLOW DOWN.  THIS ISN'T SAFE.  SLOW DOWN!"  And I woke up screaming.
     "You really don't think there's anything to that dream?" I queried.
     "Who knows," was his reply as he shrugged his shoulder.
     "I think I can take a crack at this one...."
     Needless to say, the image of flatbed truck dangerously careening down the road has become a staple image for my family.  It's that feeling that things are moving regardless of whether you want them to or not.  The disease, the treatments, the emotions, the struggles, life & death stuff. None of that asks you if it's safe or if you're ready.  At the time, my dad didn't want to go back to the family doc to get his bloodwork repeated.  He didn't want to go to an oncologist.  He didn't want to go to MD Anderson.  It was all moving so fast.  But it's like the hide-and-seek game.  Ready or not, here it comes. 
     And that flatbed came roaring down the highway again yesterday.  Friday morning began with a steady rain which began early in the morning hours.  I was at my desk starting to watch a lecture, glad I wasn't out fighting Friday morning rush-hour traffic in the rain.  Until my dad calls me.  His voice is gravelly and rough.  He sounds horrible.  He had a bit of a cold that started a day or two ago but got substantially worse over the night.  No fever but the aches and pains were setting in. 
     So out into the rush-hour rainy traffic we headed to run down to MDACC yet one more time.  He had just started Levaquin, a big gun antibiotic and once we got down there, they ran some saline up each nostril and swabbed the back of his throat to culture for a couple of viruses, influenza (cause of the flu) and RSV (cause of a severe cold or pneumonia, usually in infants).  Fortunately, each of them were negative because they could be devastating to him, especially this close to the stem cell transplant.  But this morning, he felt incremently better.  Still no fever so no trip to the emergency room.  At least that's something.

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