An absence in Illinois

Thank you to everyone for your words of condolence, sympathy, and support. They and y’all are greatly appreciated.

We made it safe and sound to Illinois. The drive was long; we got caught in rush hour traffic on I-294 yesterday morning, which was . . . unpleasant.

The wake will be this afternoon and the funeral tomorrow morning.

The obituary is lovely, but it seems incomplete to me. It doesn’t mention my father-in-law’s quiet sense of humor, or how infectious and warm his smile was, or his great, booming voice when he recited poetry or Shakespeare at the dinner table, or how much he loved going to the symphony and watching movies at home with his wife. It doesn’t talk about his sense of whimsy, unexpected and charming in a man who, upon first impression, seemed so stern–until you caught the twinkle in his eye. And it doesn’t remark upon his love of ice cream, his favorite dessert above any other, or how he enjoyed gazing out the window at the rabbits and raccoons as he washed the after-dinner dishes. So many things it doesn’t say. His stubbornness and his compassion, the strength he gave his children, the encouragement and approval he gave me–sharing with me the struggles and joys of being a writer; he truly was a father to me, much more so than my birth father ever was. And most of all, it doesn’t mention the gaping hole his passing has left behind.

He was much loved and is dearly missed.

The inevitable draws nigh

My mother-in-law called. DiL is not doing well, had to return to the ICU again and is very weak. The doctors wanted to put him back on a ventilator, but MiL and DiL were adamant that that wasn’t going to happen. He’s said “enough,” he’s done. After talking it over with DiL, they’re having the hospital people remove all support machinery and equipment except oxygen and pain meds. They don’t expect him to last more than 24-48 hours.

It seems that I won’t get a chance to say goodbye to him after all. I wish he could have gone home; I wish we could have taken him home in July when we were there. Now, they don’t think he’d survive the move.

It’s awful and sad. He so wants to be able to die at home in his own bed. It’s such a small thing, and it makes me heartsick that he can’t have that.

We’re readying ourselves to head up north.

Home Again Home Again

We’re back in Georgia after another grueling drive, and happy to be home. Hobkin’s pleased too; he spent last night cuddled up with me, and spent the first hour or so after I carried him in running around the house cheek-rubbing all the baseboard corners, re-establishing his territory (when we re-paint the interior some time in the dim and hazy future, it’s going to be a dark color) and making sure nothing had changed in his absence.

Thank you to everyone who dropped a comment with well-wishes and thoughts over this last week. Apologies that I haven’t responded individually to y’all. But you can be sure that your outpourings of concern and support were greatly appreciated.

DiL is still in the hospital but getting stronger daily. He’s eating on his own, and I believe they’ve started him on physical therapy. Still stubborn as all get out and clamoring to go home. They’ve also installed the pacemaker, a complication-free surgery. Unfortunately, the tests came back that they ran after his last fever spike and he’s got a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, which they didn’t know before they put in the pacemaker. He’s now quarantined within ICU and people have to wear face masks when visiting him. Both fosteronfilm and MiL banned me from seeing him–over my squawked protests–once the results came in, all jumpy about my stupid compromised immune system. Grumpf. Bunch of worrywarts. You’d think with an overactive immune system I’d be less susceptible to infections instead of more. Stupid lupus.

I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye before we left. I’d be very distressed about that, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to see him again sans infection, when he’s back home.

   


Writing Stuff

Didn’t get nearly as much work done as I’d hoped last week. Not really a surprise, considering, but I’m now stretching myself full out in an effort to catch-up. My hamsters have embarked upon a breeding program while I was up north, the irksome things, and none of the new hamster-spawn appear to be aerodynamic.

The last Dragon*Con all-staff meeting is this weekend, which heralds the start of in earnest Daily Dragon prep. I’ve also been officially approved as a guest again this year. Right now, I’m scheduled to be on bevlovesbooks‘s panels “The Power of the Old Stories: Mythology and Folklore in YA” and “So, You Want to Write a Kid’s Book?” for her YA Lit track. I believe jackzodiac is hoping to put together a panel for Writers for Relief, and I’m anticipating that Ann Crispin will want me to reprise my guest lecture for her Beginning Writers Workshop. Another chock-full schedule. Much fun, but also loads of public speaking anxiety.

I saw that my other Escape Pod story, “The Life and Times of Penguin,” was also nominated for a Parsec Award. That’s both of them! Squee! Crossing my fingers that at least one of them makes the short list.

And Escape Pod now has an LJ: escapepodcast. EP was a lifesaver during the drive to and from Illinois. During David D. Levine’s “Tk’tk’tk”, I totally lost track of the miles and got swept away to an alien world . . . that was also somewhat Asiatic in feel. Very nice.

Received:
- Payment for my 2-part Multicultural Writing article from Writing-world.com.
- Contrib. copy of Apex Digest Best of 2005. Shiny!
- My taped-shut-but-empty SASE from Realms of Fantasy for “The Devil and Mrs. Comstock’s Snickerdoodles.” Erm. I expected it to contain my contract, and now I’m stressing that the contract was lost en route. Have dropped a note to Shawna to alleviate my anxiety.
- 46-day “thanks but no” from Forgotten Worlds. Bummer. But less of one now that I’ve learned that FW doesn’t include a contrib. copy with their payment. While I’d rather get money over a contrib. copy, I sort of expect both.

New Words/Editing:
- 1200 on a freelance gig. Got 300 to go and I can send this one off. This was a longish assignment.
- After 29-crits from Critters.org for “Black Swan, White Swan,” I did several editing passes and stuck a fork in. Fly, little swan story; find a good home and make me proud!
- Put together the outline for my first writers-world.com column article. Right now, the plan is to call the column: “Eugie Foster – Writing for Young Readers.” It’s not flashy or exciting, just plain jane straightforward. But I think that’s best. Plus, I couldn’t think of anything cute.

DiL off the ventilator and asking for ice cream

They took DiL off the ventilator today, and he’s breathing well on his own. A world of hurray. He’s awake and responsive–although a bit disoriented–and stubborn as all get out. He keeps pulling off the oxygen mask and trying to talk, although he shouldn’t because of how raw his throat is, and everything he says is a variant of “leave now” and “I want to go home.” He’s also asking for ice cream, but he’s not allowed to eat until tomorrow because anything he’d swallow right now would aspirate into his lungs.

I wish we could give him some ice cream. And God, I wish we could take him home. When the nurse, MiL, and fosteronfilm and I told him he was too weak to get out of bed, much less stand and walk out, he said he’d crawl out of the hospital if he had to. I’d feel the same way in his place.

Although his heart, lungs, and kidney are ailing, my DiL’s a stubborn man, and his will is strong as a rocky iron strong thingy. It’s heartbreaking trying to get him to stay still. And the nurses are looking rather peaked around the eyes already. One of them has already threatened to put him in restraints if he keeps trying to pull himself out of bed.

Notes from the hospital

They’ve got WiFi at the hospital, a small but appreciated blessing. The coffee here, however, is a bit raw.

DiL had a fever last night, so they’re postponing the pace maker surgery. fosteronfilm and I have been reading out loud to him. He seems to appreciate the Thurber. He actually grinned after one of them: “The Shrike and the Chipmunks.”

They’re going to try to take him off the ventilator again tomorrow. Last time they tried, his throat started swelling shut due to irritation from the tube, so after an hour and a half they had to replace it. But he was taking breaths on his own before that. He’s strong enough to breathe unassisted. If only we can just get him over the swelling and the intermittent fevers.

Hospitals, not cheery places.

Updates from Illinois

In Illinois now visiting the in-folks. The drive up was grueling and we had to pull over for a few hours in Kentucky to sleep. I’m exhausted, even on 20mg of Adderall, and my time sense is all whacked.

DiL is in the hospital on a respirator and heavily sedated. It’s more than a little surreal seeing him like that. He doesn’t look like the man I know, but rather like someone based on my DiL’s blueprint but the artisan wasn’t able to capture the nuances of personality and energy that make a person who they are.

We managed to talk to a pair of (second line) doctors yesterday. The primaries, of course, were off, it being the 4th holiday. But from what we were able to gather, the prognosis is more positive than MiL initially thought. They’re installing a pace maker in the next day or two, and expect him to recover from this current hospitalization. There’s some concern about the breathing tube, though. They’ve tried to remove it twice now, and he couldn’t breathe on his own after a short period of time. And they think his throat may have swollen due to the tube’s irritation, which of course makes it rather awkward trying to remove it again. But at least the machine’s on its lowest setting, and he is initiating each breath on his own.

When we first went to see him, he was less sedated. His eyes opened when we came in, although it was obvious he was still really out of it. But when I asked him to squeeze my hand, he did. I’m very glad there’s an amnesiaic effect with these meds he’s on. This isn’t an experience he needs to remember.

MiL doesn’t know what to do with the fractured communication situation. Obviously, DiL can’t speak with the tube down his throat, and he’s too weak to write. So when he’s awake, he can only shake his head or flail his hands, and she’s not really able to anticipate what questions to ask to best suit a shake/nod/flail answer. I tried to teach him a little sign language–just a bob of his fist for “yes” and an ASL “N” for “no” but I don’t think he was awake enough for it. Maybe I’ll try again when he’s less sedated. I’d like to teach them both the ASL alphabet, so he can spell out rudimentary words and express some basic thoughts, but fosteronfilm thinks it’ll be futile. And considering that MiL just recently learned how to pump her own gas, and always goes to the same gas station because that’s the one she knows how to do, I’m afraid he might be right.

We brought Modern Magic and fosteronfilm read “Souls of Living Wood” to DiL, which he seemed to find soothing. Then again, they’d just upped his med dose.

Also got to meet some more of the Foster-side family: a couple of fosteronfilm‘s first cousins. Matthew has a big ole Catholic family-horde, and there’s a lot of people and names who I’ve either met once in the midst of a big event (funeral or wedding) or never met, and it’s hard to wrap my mind around who’s who without a solid face and one-on-one to anchor it all in. So I very much liked getting a chance to get to know these cousins and hearing about how they all played and ran amok as kids. Made me go “awww.”

Y’know, it’s somehow easier talking to family, even brand-new, never-met-before fmaily. It’s weird, since these are essentially strangers, but I felt more comfortable and at ease around them than some people I’ve hung with umpteen times. And his cousin, Mary, is a speech pathologist who works with autistic kids. How cool is that??

Good people. I’d like to stay in touch with them.

   


Writing Stuff

New Words:
- 2100 on a freelance gig. Trying to keep working while up here, but it’s a bit . . . distracting.

Published:
- “The Dragon’s Breath Seed” is now up at Reflection’s Edge. Go read, yo.

Received:
- Payment for “The Dragon’s Breath Seed.”
- Royalty payment for “Oranges, Lemons, and Thou Beside Me” from the Best of Apex 2005 chapbook, as well as payment for “It’s Only Springtime When She’s Gone” at Apex Online. Shiny.

Emotional roller coaster . . . wheeee!

So we dropped Hobkin off with his godmom, tossed the last minute sundries into the suitcase, and I was burning Escape Pod podcasts to a CD for the long drive, when we got a call from fosteronfilm‘s brother. In what can only be described as a miraculous recovery, my dad-in-law got better!*

It seems his system isn’t able to expel carbon dioxide properly anymore, and it had built up to a toxic level, resulting in this recent scariness. But with him on the respirator and them doing whatever it is they do to purge the CO2 out of him, he started perking up. They took him off the respirator, and as of yesterday, not only was he breathing on his own, but he was sitting up, lucid, and talking, and they’re expecting him to be able to go home soon! He still can’t get rid of CO2 on his own, but apparently they’ve got ways to deal with that.

Matthew called his mom, and she’s so confident in his recovery that she’s planning on going back to school next week**. After much discussion, fosteronfilm and I decided to postpone our exodus to Illinois until July–when we were planning on visiting originally–unless Dad-in-law worsens again.

Off we went to retrieve Hobkin, who was pretty excited to see us, although I’m sure also a bit puzzled at what all the to-and-fro-ing was about, and today I’m installed back in my office, happily working away.

This has been quite a week. I’m dazed and drained, but also delighted and very, very relieved. Thank you to everyone who sent your thoughts, concerns, and support. Y’all are wonderful.


*My opinion of their GP has plummeted to an all time low. It strikes me as egregiously irresponsible, callous, and incompetent to tell someone not to expect their loved one to recover, that there’s nothing left they can do, when there’s obviously still a reason to hope and procedures to try. I just want to slap that man into orbit.
**Although technically retired, my mom-in-law enjoys working and she teaches 2nd grade at a private academy–which is a way nicer job than her pre-retirement one, which was for a public school.

   


Writing Stuff

Started compiling references and material for the article I’m writing next for Writing-world.com.

Received:
- Galley proofs from Paradox for “The Archer of the Sun and the Lady of the Moon.”
- 91-day pass from OSC’s IGMS with a “we would like to encourage you you to send more of your work to us for consideration”

Dad-in-law update

Thank you to everyone who offered your support and sympathy about my dad-in-law yesterday. Matthew and I greatly appreciate your kind words and thoughts.

We’re still in Georgia, scrambling to get as much cleared off our respective plates as we can before heading north.

Matthew’s mom called last night. It’s hard to get a clear picture of what the situation is from here, but they have my dad-in-law heavily sedated, and it seems his kidneys have now shut down. At one point he started waking up and began fighting the respirator, and they had to up his dosage to knock him out again. I don’t know what any of that means, prognosis-wise. Is it standard procedure to keep someone sedated full time who’s on a respirator? I can’t imagine it’s comfortable having a breathing tube down your throat, but is it something you can’t be conscious during?

The specialists have him on various meds, and Mom-in-law said that they’re watching to see whether they have any effect. But she doesn’t know what effect they’re hoping for. And no one seems to know or is willing to say whether there might be a chance he’ll be able to breathe on his own when they take him off the respirator.

   


Writing Stuff

Editing:
- Many editing passes and a rewrite on a story I’ve been sitting on after its last bounce. Working does help to keep me distracted.

Received:
- Contrib. copies of Faeries #21 with French reprint “Returning My Sister’s Face.” Still awaiting payment.
- Contrib. copy of Modern Magic at long last.

Club 100 For Writers
      22

Tosca & Dad-in-law

Had a lovely afternoon with dire_epiphany, astralfire, and their son at the Atlanta Opera yesterday. Tosca is quite a violent and action-packed opera: jealousy, torture, threatened rape, murder, and suicide. Although I have to admit, plebeian that it makes me, I liked having the subtitles. It made it more accessible for those of us who don’t speak Italian and who aren’t sophisticated opera buffs.

Got home and fosteronfilm received a call from his mom. She and his brother took his dad to the hospital; seems he wasn’t doing well–couldn’t breathe, had no energy, and no appetite. His GP (a doctor I’ve been underwhelmed with from what I’ve heard about him) told Matthew’s mom that this was it; there was nothing else they could do and not to expect him to pull through this time. But one of his specialists–I’m not sure which one, lung or heart–seemed to think there was more to try. They put in a stint and a temporary (?) pacemaker, but my dad-in-law stopped being responsive while Mom-in-law was there. She had to go home, and after she left, he had some sort of crash that resulted in them putting him on a respirator. Dad-in-law has a living will that stipulates that he doesn’t want to be left on a respirator, but it sounds like he doesn’t have a DNR. Seems the hospital tried to contact Mom-in-law when he crashed to ask her what they should do, and when they couldn’t reach her, they went ahead and put him on it.

All-in-all, the situation is exceedingly grim. fosteronfilm and I will be going up there probably either later today or tomorrow. We’re both expecting this to be our farewell to his dad.

I’m a little more stoic than I thought I’d be right now. I haven’t had a melt down like I did in March. I’d like to think it means that I’ll be able to be the strength and support Matthew and his family will need at this time, but I suspect it’s more likely that I’ll just break down when I see my dad-in-law, as my track record on that front has been resoundingly unstalwart.

My dearest wish would be to never have to say goodbye to someone I love.