Monday, March 4, 2013


The hard part about going to Portland is that it is lately an unhappy time.

Not that I have a bad time.  In fact, as a family we seem to revel far more in the celebration of life and far less in the mourning of death.

So we gather together again, this time for my grandfather who is sick--again.  He is, of course, stronger willed than most.  His determination to keep on living has helped him beat cancer, helped him beat death, helped him persevere.  He has, in my lifetime, faced death at least three times seriously.  I come down to Portland from Seattle with little expectation of  outcomes.

We know he is getting weaker, we know he is not going to live forever, and we know that there are few ways he can escape death this time.

But he is strong now.  He is alert.

And he is bright yellow.  His gallbladder is obstructed.  This causes a build up of bile in the digestive system.  Bile is a bright yellow substance used to help aid digestion.  The build-up causes jaundice and a distinct yellowing of the skin.

The typical response to a blockage like his is to put a stint in.  But there is an obstruction, a tumor, that prevents the stint from doing its job.  There will be another attempt on Tuesday.  The option after this is invasive surgery.  And at 88 years old a diabetic cancer-survivor has many more risks than the typical human.

He will, maybe, get a little better.

And so this weekend was to spend time with him.  A weekend to spend with the family.  A weekend to try to understand what the family will do.  To gather, and make decisions that will help us manage in his coming absence.

This is the xth death in too few years. Something that hits close and fills me with an all too familiar stone in my gut.  I can't take deep enough breaths. The numbness though, that is new.  I can't help feeling, "this again."