Saturday, July 29, 2006

time stands still

Wednesday Evening
I'm camped out on the couch downstairs in front of an oscillating fan and the television. Despite my offer to unfold the futon couch, Steph insists on sleeping in the unbearable heat upstairs. I'm watching an Argentinian movie with French subtitles when the absurdity of it all hits me: I'm watching a fucking Argentinian movie with French subtitles while on another continent my father is struggling with the fact that his life is swiftly coming to an end. I want to bang my head against the wall but it's too hot to move.

At 2:00 in the morning, an enormous thunderstorm comes crashing through, bringing with it the relief of slightly cooler temperatures. Many areas claim to be the lightning capital of the world, and I grew up in one of them - every summer, the pond behind our house was struck by lightning as frequently as once a week. Even though thunderstorms are much less frequent here (we may get the same number here in a year that we would have seen in a week in Florida), I am always awed by what seems to be their close proximity. Thunder booms with such ferocity that they seem to be manifesting themselves just above the roof of our house. When Steph performs the familiar ritual of unplugging all the appliances, I feel like I'm fourteen years old again.

We drive to Troyes to run a couple of errands. First we stop at our insurance office to ask a couple of questions. I have my own medical drama running in the background, and we wanted to find out what the consequences would be if I have to see a doctor while in the states. The only course of action we can take is to pay everything in full and submit receipts and translations of doctors' notices to the insurance company and hope for some kind of reimbursement. Crap.

Then we visit the travel agency to pick up our electronic tickets. Despite the fact that I've been using them for years and years, this is Steph's first experience with them and I think he's still skeptical. I am ninety percent sure that after we check in at the airport on Monday, he will say something like, "Wow, that works!" After lunch at my favorite crêperie, we head home to find no less than six messages on the machine. JP has invited us for a barbecue for this evening; it will be an excellent opportunity to cook the leftover meat from Saturday and also be a welcome distraction.

It is definitely a welcome and enjoyable distraction. Aside from being assulted by bugs, it is fantastic to sit outside and sip wine and munch on salads and barbecued meat in the company of good friends. At one point I laugh so hard I literally can't breathe - I have to close my eyes because the visual is so hilarious, just a peak would send my chest into crushing spasms all over again. I'm already in need of this kind of relief and I haven't even seen my father yet.

I hate our washer and dryer, if for no other reason than they take so long. It takes me all day to do three loads of laundry. Then I realize that I should just be grateful that I even have a dryer, as many people I know do not. Chalk it up to nerves and stress, because there's just too much to do before we leave.

I have an excellent, albeit frank, discussion with Dad. He sounds the best I've heard of him for weeks. He seems to be dealing with everything very well. We talk about the medicine he will take that is not a cure but merely will help him be able to eat and costs an obscene amount of money. I offer to take him on a road trip; he says he's too far gone for that now. Today he got out of bed on his own and made an egg for breakfast, and this is a major accomplishment. He's prone to fainting and, to be delicate, is coming to terms with the fact that he needs help with washing and other bodily functions. He tells me with a steady voice that the doctor is giving him around nine months.

I hang up the phone and fall into my husband's arms. For me, there is no question that I will spend the majority of the next nine months with my father, but how can we do it, with my French residence card expiring at the end of August and my own medical drama to take care of? There are too many Hows and Whens and Whys flying around. The toughest decisions of my life will be made in the next few months. Not for the first time, I thank whatever diety is listening for sending me my husband, who is as solid as a rock. I know I have to be strong for my father, and at last I have someone who will be strong for me. I can't ask for anything more than that.

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