The Healing Trip Part 18
Late Sunday August 5, 2019
Van’s day began okay but tanked after lunch, a little after Jessica left, after she had given him a “dry shampoo” and we’d taken what would be their last photos together. In the reflection of the photos, I saw a shell of the man I'd known only a few weeks earlier, but he was still my baby bro and I loved him more than I had words.
Our cousin, Bob, who is an R.N. came shortly after and, quite frankly, I don’t know what I would have done had he not been there. Van needed help getting to the bathroom and, because the nurses are few and far between and the patients are many, I found myself handling it all. Van is mostly dead weight now (a term I find difficult to write) and I needed Bob’s strength to get him from Point A (the bed) to Point B (the toilet). Van was then somehow able to walk from the bathroom to the sink (which is in his room and which I sat next to), where he washed his hands and then shuffled back to bed, still hooked up to his J-Tube. I began to smell something odd, and when I looked to my left, I spotted bile all along the sink. I said, “Bob …” and pointed it out to him. He said, “That looks like bile.” About that time, Van said, “Something is all over my shirt …” and I jumped up to get the nurse who was overwhelmed with work and no support staff. “Point me to the supply cabinet,” I told her, and she did.
I grabbed everything I knew or thought I knew that I’d need: 4x4s, to start. Bob stood on one side of Van’s bed and I stood on the other. We changed the dressing four times before the nurse was able to get in. But this wasn’t completely unusual for Candler. So far, every change of linens had come from my hand and every bath had come from my hand as well.
He began vomiting … blood. Bob looked at me, I at him. We know. We know.
And so another X-ray has been ordered. Another lung full.
Years ago, my brother and I got hooked on the Jesse Stone movies, produced by and starring Tom Selleck as Paradise Chief of Police, Jesse Stone. In one of the films, “Suitcase,” (his deputy) and Jesse are working a case that’s not going well. Distressed, Jesse sighs and his shoulders sag. Suitcase says, “You can only do what you can do, Jesse.”
Today, as I was leaving the hospital room, I stepped up to my brother’s bed to give him a goodnight kiss. Our goodbyes exchanged, I moved toward the door. “Hey,” Van said.
I looked back, his eyes—wide but no longer the dark brown they had always been—met mine. “You’re tired,” he said.
I admitted I was.
He reached for my hand and I gave it. “You can only do what you can do, Jesse,” he said.
I nodded, walked out of the door, and cried all the way to the elevator.
A tube study has been ordered. The words "pleural effusion" are being floated around.
"What does that mean?" Van asked me.
"Water on the lungs," I say, using the layman's definition. "But actually not in the lungs so much as around them."
As we wait, we watch the news. There were shootings in Dayton Ohio and El Paso. It's all we see, but I cannot seem to connect to any of it.
Day 2 in Edinburgh.
The soft Scottish sun peaked through our windows early enough to wake us after an amazingly good night's sleep. There is nothing like being delightfully exhausted to put you to sleep.
Breakfast was served as room service. I had eggs benedict and hot tea; I spent a great deal of time between bites saying that I couldn't remember a more delicious serving of eggs benedict!
A part of my excitement at being in Edinburgh was being able to go to the Eric Liddell Centre. I had a signed copy of THE FINAL RACE and a prayer that I would be able to personally give it to the director of the center.
Downstairs, we stored our luggage for the day and asked the concierge to call a cab for us, which she did. Within minutes, the taxi arrived--one of those old fashioned ones I'd only seen in films. The kind where you practically walk in and sit far from the driver. My mind raced as my heart soared. I honestly felt as though I were in a movie. Everything about the part of Edinburgh where Eric had lived--those parts that I'd read and studied--was now before me. And then, the gold lettering announcing that we had arrived--"Eric Liddell Centre"--was right in front of me.
We paid our fare, then climbed out of the taxi. Clare took a photo of me at the door, posing with the book. We then pushed through the heavy doors and into a cavernous lobby.
I explained who I was and why I was there, then discovered that John, the director, was busy, but that he would truly appreciate meeting me. Could we come back in an hour or so? The attractive young man on the other side of the welcoming desk told us that our time in between would not be wasted; we were in the midst of some great little shops, so I left the book with him and Clare and I set out to do one of the things I do best: shop.
We slipped in one "little shop" after the other. Antiques. Books. Jewelry. A few thrift stores, which were delightfully fun. After "an hour or so" we returned to the Centre, a few financial pounds lighter and shopping bags heavier.
Our timing was perfect. Not only did we meet John, but he took an extraordinary amount of time talking to us in his upstairs office about the 2024 Olympics, only five years away, which would be held in Paris as they had been a hundred years ago when Eric Liddell won the gold medal in the 400. There was a campaign, he told us, to re-educate young people as to the greatness of Eric, not only on the track field, but in life. He also showed me that he owned another copy of The Final Race, but was thrilled to receive mine.
Before leaving, their photographer snapped shots of John (who gave what he called a Scottish Cuddle) and me. Clare then called for another cab and we went outside to wait. And then it hit me. I was standing at the crossroads of landmarks Eric Eichinger and I had written about in the book. THE HOLY CORNER, where two streets intersect with a church "at every end." I busily snapped shots with my phone before the taxi arrived to return us to where our journey had begun. Even as I enjoyed the ambience of being inside the cab, I wanted the driver to hurry.
There was so much more to see and time was skipping ahead.