Monday, August 21, 2006
To a very special cowboy.
My heart aches for you. My heart aches for your wife. My heart aches for all your very large family. My heart aches for my husband, my son and me.
We're going to be losing our cowboy sometime soon. The doctors say anywhere from two to eight months. Four words: two to eight months. Four very powerful words.
We've been out of town the past few days. We got "the" phone call last Wednesday night that B's dad was not well and was going to the doctor and for a CAT scan on Friday. Thursday we drove half way, slept, got up and stopped at Wall Drug for an hour of fun for Thomas. On the road again, we walked in B's mom's house. Cowboy and wife weren't home yet from the doctor appointment. No sooner had we walked in than the phone started ringing. It was Mrs. Cowboy, B's mom. She said that the small hospital was sending him immediately to a larger hospital via ambulance right now. She was coming home first to eat a sandwich and pack a bag, and would B please drive her over to the other hospital. I didn't want to interfere or intrude, plus I did want to shelter my son from an emegerncy room visit when things were seeming very dismal. I stayed home and went to the grocery store and bought tons of sandwich meat, bread, bananas, butter, chips and pop for B's siblings and their families as requested by Mrs. Cowboy.
Later Mrs. Cowboy and B returned looking exhausted, worried and upset. It seems the Cowboy had a bleeding brain and what appeared to be a brain tumor.
The next day everyone drove to the big hospital. That day we also learned there was a tumor in his lung as well. Then we faced the weekend where hospitals aren't very busy, tests aren't run, and things are at a snapping turtle's pace. Monday morning comes in with the hope of action, more tests and answers.
The tests and answers came today as my family was back on the road to Minnesota. We couldnt stay any longer. Tonight B received the sad news of two to eight months.
When I was alone with Thomas, I was gently honest about what was to transpire. No one in the family to this point has even mentioned the word cancer. It's beyond their grasp at the moment. Since I'm a little removed, I can say it -- with respect and sadness. Thomas and I had a long discussion about what would transpire. I knew with a brain tumor and a tumor in the lung that things were not good. The cowboy is 81 years old. I knew, I felt it. I talked. After Thomas cried and cried, I said maybe I shoudn't have told you. His eyes got huge and he said you HAVE to be honest to me, it wouldn't be fair.
The Cowboy is having moments where he's with us and then when he's not. It's sad to watch, but heartwarming when he's his old self. The day Thomas and I visited him, he was having a very bad off day. We walked in the room and he smiled and said, "Hi, Thomas!" Thomas gave him a great big hug. As a mother, I was so touched because I saw the love oozing out of Thomas in his face. Grandpa Cowboy asked him if he'd like to go get some biscuits and gravy -- a pasttime that the two boys, and B, have enjoyed in the past. Cowboy turned to me and smiled a great big grin. He then said, "You changed the color of your hair." I had to laugh! Out of all the relatives, he was the only one who noticed I had gone from golden brown to a very dark brown hair color. It made me smile and warmed me to know that he noticed that.
In the scheme of things, Cowboy has lived a long and good life. We knew this was coming as he wasn't well the past few months. But until it really hits, you don't feel it.
We're feeling the pain now.
B took Thomas and I to dinner last night to get out of the house and to be alone. We sat at a Pizza Hut and both B and I burst into tears. There we sat in a crowded restaurant, lost in our own worlds crying. I was touched because my sometimes aloof husband grabbed for my hands and said some beautiful words to me. He said this is making me appreciate those I love even more. And then the tears all started up again.
The big strong cowboy is falling and we can't catch him. Death is a part of life. But none of us are ready for the Cowboy to go. I hope (and pray) that he is not in a lot of pain. I hope that he can have a death with dignity. I wish this weren't happening.
One of my happiest memories of my Cowboy was in the late 80s, before we were married. Cowboy had invited us to his sister's house as they were branding. I soon learned branding was a very social event. While I was too timid to help catch calves, I climbed up the fence for a good view and watched the day. I grimmaced when the babies were branded because darn that had to hurt. I watched Cowboy on his horse. I knew I was watching the real thing -- the real cowboy. He helped teach young kids how to catch the calves. He taught an older cousin how to brand. He taught a niece, in medical school, how to give injections.
He wore his cowboy hat and boots with pride. I knew I was watching something special. It was a day I have never forgotten, nor have I forgotten the image of him up on his horse.
I've never seen Cowboy without his cowboy hat or boots. He always wears western wear. He knows his job, he knows his animals. He saved us from a rattle snake last summer.
Cowboy is a man of few words. He has a grin, though, with a devilish sense of humor that I have always appreciated. Cowboy and I also shared something together that no other family member could be involved on. He sat on a month-long trial as a juror in a case that I was the court reporter. I couldn't go to his house during that trial, and my judge forbade me from sending a birthday cake into the jury room on his birthday. But we had that trial we shared together. And when it was all through, we enjoyed discussing it together.
I feel so empty. I wasn't very close to the cowboy, but I liked him, he made me feel welcome into a family that I didn't always feel very welcome. He was a good man, warts and all.
Ah, cowboy, my heart is aching for you.