This is an absolutely true story
A belief in hell and the knowledge that every ambition is doomed to frustration at the hands of a skeleton have never prevented the majority of human beings from behaving as though death were no more than an unfounded rumor.
The day started much as it had ended 12 hours earlier. The rain was abysmal, matching our spirits…well mine at least. Willie and I got up and performed our morning rituals, coffee, morning news, Willie checking her EBay bids, me reading the paper.
We dressed and I cleaned up any messes. We made our way to her black ford truck with the front bumper bashed in from Devon’s use.
We made small talk, but, ironically, said nothing of Bootsie.
Rush hour traffic was beginning to thin, so we made it to the hospital a lot faster than originally planned. We parked the truck and walked across the garage, our footsteps echoing, keys jingling, other visitors and patients alike talking in soft chatter. It felt like the halls were forever and our heels clicking on the parquet tile sounded ominous.
When we got to Bootsie’s room, she lit up at seeing me, but immediately came down upon Willie’s arrival. But it didn’t stop her from scooting over in her hospital bed to make room for me to sit. I ignored her gesture as she padded the mattress and sat in a chair instead, but she was not having it. Willie nodded to me her accordance and I went and sat with Bootsie.
Every word Bootsie said she looked at me and acted as if Willie was not even there. Willie ignored this childish behavior to get answers.
“Hello Bootsie, I hope you don’t mind that I came”.
And again Bootsie responded but wouldn’t look at her. “I understand, you don’t feel Dianne is safe with me”.
I just hung my head, shaking it back and forth with my hand on my brow.
“What time is your surgery” Willie asked.
Bootsie’s family was going to be there around 2 pm since her surgery was scheduled for 2:30. The doctor came in and asked us to leave, but Bootsie asked us to stay. I didn’t understand much anyhow, but, of course, Willie did. They were going to “go in” and do an exploratory to find out what they couldn’t in the “PetScan”. If it were possible to remove the tumors, they would be in the operating room for about three to four hours. If they find they couldn’t do anything, they would close and she would be back in the room in 30 minutes. That was the result we didn’t want. And the surgery was moved up by two hours. The doctor left and Bootsie for the first time looked at Willie…almost a triumphant sort of look. We were going to be her only family, as they took her immediately.
“Are you staying?” She asked Willie, “Is Dianne allowed to stay?”.
“Yes Bootsie we are staying. Dianne is allowed to do anything she wishes (that’s a lie) and if your family arrives, we may leave as a courtesy to them.”
“No” Bootsie demanded “You need to stay, they will understand.”
I don’t think Bootsie took this seriously. To her this was a pretty convenient ploy and she seemed to be willing to go through the motions and withstand a few cuts and stitches to have me stay with her as long as deemed necessary. We agreed to wait in her room for 45 minutes and if we didn’t hear anything, we would know she was in it for the long haul. We would go get something to eat and return.
Willie read, I crocheted a brightly colored blanket, with all the colors of the rainbow, for the upcoming Christmas Songfest Silent Auction. The colors jumped out against the putrid yellows and greens of the room, somehow out of place.
We watched the clock, I was breathing irregularly as Willie informed me. Every second ticked by loudly, ominously. I thought of Bootsie being everywhere I was. It’s curious how one’s thought pattern runs around like mercury – scattered thoughts like droplets then bump into each other and pool into one generalization. A man may be the controller of doubts before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will's freedom after. She was an important facet of the Gay community helping various charities attending all the significant events, the White party and The Dianas. She had a business, Three Dog Bakery, a healthy pet food pantry and Throw a Dog a Bone, a pet dog walking venture.
I thought about her sitting in the rotunda below my building when I didn’t think she knew where I worked. I thought of our first attempt at a life together in her apartment on the corner of Gray and Montrose, the “Worden” building, sadly gone now. I saw her sitting on my closet floor sorting through my shoes, holding them. I could hear the twinkling of the ice as she poured her Dewers. And of course, our first night alone together, making love until dawn.
I am certain Willie had her thoughts also, but they were probably veered toward “Thank God, this woman will be out of my life forever” I was hoping she wouldn’t be that crass, but I have to admit to myself, she definitely is.
After twenty minutes things slowed to almost a standstill and I prayed, Willie holding my hand. Then at 30 minutes I let out a sigh.
Bootsie’s surgery is continuing and so this means she has a chance!
I got up to use the bathroom and while washing my hands I heard voices and shuffling, I hurried out to greet Bootsie’s family and explain what had happened. But it wasn’t her family.
The nurses were shuffling about transferring a patient to the bed next to Bootsie’s and again I had that spike of fear, followed by a feeling of relief.
One of the nurses stopped. “Wrong bed…it’s bed B”.
How heartless was fate? And to put a person through this again and again. My hopes have been raised and dashed in a matter of minutes…I had hopelash.
There she was, asleep in her bed. I gasped and turned to Willie who pulled me as close as a person could without smothering them. We both knew what this meant. The doctor explained that she had been in recovery for the last 20 minutes. They had opened and closed in less than five. The news wasn’t good and it wasn’t going to get better any time soon.
Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently... Maya Angelou
So now it was that time…the time for courage, all other dimensions in my life were at a loss.