waiting…

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He held the phone up to his ear and waited.

The receptionist had asked him if he would mind holding. In fact, he did mind, but she gave no time for a reply before the swift click and soft music filled his ears.  He glanced down at the business card in his hand. The letters seemed foreign to him. Curved letters shaped into a name of a person he had never heard of, with a fancy title below it. A special kind of doctor, who had a special kind of business card.

Neurologist

His family physician had suggested he make the call. Unable to determine what was happening, but knowing that something was not quite right, it was time to look for answers from a specialist. As the irritating harp music continued its melody on the other end, he wondered how much longer he would have to wait.

Neurologist

He waited.

The music stopped, and a soft voice said,

“Thank you for holding, how can I help you?”

Six weeks.   It would take six weeks to be seen, and no, there was no one else who could see him any sooner.  This was his only option.

He waited.

He found himself sitting on an awkward and uncomfortable contraption that resembled a small bed, covered in tissue paper as he continued to stare down at his hands. The words were still echoing throughout his head, but somehow he couldn’t grasp what was being said to him.

A.L.S.

He waited.

He waited for the words to sink in, but somewhere deep inside he had already known.

He waited.

He waited for the sounds of his wife’s sobs to quiet. Slowly his head inched up, his eyes meeting those of the doctor. He tried not to flinch, knowing the familiar look of pity on the doctor’s face.

He waited for the realization to finally set in.

He was dying…

Weeks went by.

He waited.

On hold once again, he waited to talk to the insurance agent who would walk him through all the details of policies.  The policies he had been buying, the policies that would take affect in six months, and the policies that would take affect after he was gone.  The policies that he had paid for, but in fact, did him or his family absolutely no good.

He waited.

The lawyer made him wait in the lobby before ushering him in.  A final glance over his estate and final wishes, and a hand shake later, he walked out of the office. The bill would come in the mail.

He waited.

He waited to speak to the funeral director.

Walking in, trying to ignore the gravity of his situation, he made his choices.  No fancy frills or designs.  Simple and easy, much like how he had lived his life.

The months dragged on.

He checked all the boxes on his to-do list.

His final will, his funeral, his estate…all planned.

A final trip with the family to Disneyland.

He found himself waiting once again.

The children all smiles, as they held their babies and absorbed the chaos around them, he simply had no energy to try to keep up his grandchildren.  Instead, he sat as they went from one attraction to another.

He waited.

*********

Dying is not an easy feat.

As his body became weaker, and he relied more and more on those around him, waiting became a part of his days and routine. Months slowly passed by, and with it, he lost more and more ability to care for himself.

He waited to be showered.

He waited to be fed.

He waited for someone to scratch his back and blow his nose.

He waited to be cleaned up, often sitting in his own urine for hours.  He waited, his eyes filling with tears when he had to wait to be cleaned when his body would betray him.  The mess only making the situation that much more difficult to bear.

He waited.

He waited for the turning of the seasons. He waited for someone to come visit him, anyone to break up the monotony of his days.

He turned his head to glance out the window. It was summer, and while life had gone on around him, he was still waiting.

He found himself lost in his own thoughts.

How many times in his life did he wait?

He put off vacations to work longer and harder.

He put off dates with his wife, even after his career was well established and they had the extra income.

He put off retirement, too scared to consider slowing down. Now, as he lay there waiting, he found himself regretting so much.

There was nothing to do now but wait and think. His thoughts were often the only thing to keep him company throughout the days.

He felt tears of shame and guilt.

The years when his children were young played back like a movie in his mind. All the times he was too tired to throw the ball or play games.  He was too busy to have tea-time with his daughter. If he had only known how fast those years would fly by.

He recalled all the times he was late to their recitals, and games, and concerts, if he even showed at all.

They spent their lives waiting for him.

His wife, asking year after year for that honeymoon that they were unable to go on.  His shame at being poor and unable to provide fueling his desire to prove himself to her in the first years of their marriage, was then replaced with the need to stay as far away from the image of that poor man he feared he would become.

Several more months, and so many more losses along the way.  No time to adjust before another loss and another aspect of their lives were stolen by this disease.

His wife sat beside his hospital bed; her fingers curled around his hand. He wanted to apologize, but his mouth no longer formed the words. His breathe so faint and weak, she wouldn’t have heard the words anyway. He felt sadness for the missed time and opportunities. He felt ashamed at not making her more of a priority. He never should have put her on hold, assuming retirement would be when they would finally experience their life together. She had given him children, and created a home, and stayed by his side throughout their life, and he had made her wait.

It was time.

Everyone was now waiting on him. His children circled the bed. The grandchildren were long tucked into their own beds. They stood around his hospital bed, their soft sobs hidden behind tissues. The sun had set hours ago. Their voices in hushed tones.

He waited.

His breathe came in jagged gasps. His body heaving and struggling.

It was too late to worry about the past.  He hoped they would understand he had loved them and had lived his life for them. There was no more time.

If he had only known, maybe he could have shown them more.

He waited.

Listening as his body slowly stopped its fight for life.

He wanted so badly to hold them once more, to tell them how much he loved them.

But he was tired of waiting. He couldn’t be mad at the disease any longer.  He had no one to blame but himself. He had had time. And he had wasted it.

It was time to go.

He didn’t want them waiting on him any longer.

He let go.

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