A diagnosis of terminal cancer has a way of concentrating life, sunsets are more colorful, children are precious and family time is cherished above all else; but even with a renewed focus, life still finds a way to crowd out those moments the way it was for our family as 2013 was coming to an end.
The holidays had been hectic but Libby still managed to have more energy than all of us in spite of her diagnosis, all while starting on a new trial drug. Nathan and Bethany were planning to move from Augusta, GA to Rome, GA and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was forcing my dad to move out of his house in Winchester, TN.
My dad was staying with us during the holidays and Libby had scheduled a trip on New Year’s Eve to a local assisted living center to see if he wanted to move there; following our visit Libby said, “Barry, I don’t feel so good, I think I’ll…”, but before she say another word, she threw up. My first instinct was to blame the upset stomach on the meal we had at the assisted living center but since no one else showed any symptoms we just assumed it was the stomach flu or a side effect from the new drug.
A week before, Libby had been very excited about a sweater that she had bought for my Christmas, and I had been trying to convince her that the style of sweater she bought was better suited for an older person. The “discussion” escalated when Libby explained that I was an older person and, in fact, about to be a grandfather. Now, in hindsight, my suggestion to return the sweater could have gone much smoother had I not mentioned that I saw Mr. Rogers wearing that same sweater on his TV show.
My dad, who rarely brags on anything, walked into our house on that New Year’s Eve and noticing the folded Christmas sweater on the couch he said, “That sure is a good looking sweater.”
Libby was glaring at me when she said,”You’re right Granddad it is a beautiful sweater and since you appreciate it, just consider it to be your Christmas present.”
Libby’s nausea seemed better after a nap so I decided to cook supper (OK, I microwaved some Campbell’s Tomato Soup opened a sleeve of Saltines), My dad was anxious to try on the sweater and get his daughter-in-law’s approval so he stood at attention as if waiting for inspection wearing “his” new sweater when Libby came into the kitchen to eat. Unfortunately instead of getting her approval for the sweater, Libby’s nausea returned with a vengeance.
Dad was having a difficult time processing the events through the fog of Alzheimer’s and he couldn’t be consoled as he kept looking down at his feet saying, “She doesn’t like my new sweater…it even made her sick… Maybe you’ll should just return it to the store.”
Later that day Libby was able to get relief from the nausea by lying down flat and I was eventually able to convince my dad that she really did think that the sweater looked good on him.
That night when we were ready to go to bed Libby said, “I’ll just sleep on the couch tonight because I am afraid that if I stand up, I’ll be sick.” Ignoring Libby’s objections and her fears that I would hurt my back, I carried her to the bedroom where she could rest comfortably in her own bed instead of sleeping in the living room.
Turning off the TV just as the crystal ball started to drop during Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve (oddly enough without Dick Clark) I lifted Libby into my arms. I started laughing as I carried her into our room saying,”Do you remember the last time I carried you across a threshold?” Libby giggle like a teenage girl and said, “Yes I do remember that night, although I was a lot younger and lighter the last time.”
On June 9th 1979 I carried Libby across a threshold and we slept in the same bed for the first time. The irony in this story is that tonight December 31,2013, almost 35 years later, I was carrying Libby across the threshold and we were about to sleep in the same bed for the last time.