“Say it! Say it!”

“Nope. Not gonna do it.”

“…it’s for the kids.”

“…ohhh, all right. But they better not laugh!”

“Oh-okay. Here we go, then!”

Dearest Rachel –

Jan and I were busy pulling out cans and bottles from the cabinet in the utility room when the phone rang. Haven’t used the phone in there in a long time, but it does still work. It was the receptionist from the GI department at the hospital, double-checking that I will be ready for tomorrow’s appointment, confirming that I have a ride both to and from the hospital, and that I know what and when I need to start… ah… preparing for tomorrow (evidently, I don’t need to start drinking the solution until as late as 6pm, but then… “wait, am I gonna get any sleep tonight?” “Heh-heh. You’re right, it may be a long night, I admit”). She wraps up the call with the obligatory remark: “Do you have any more questions on this?”

“Yeah… is there any way I can get out of this?”

Even the instructional video about what to expect makes it pretty plain: the preparation for the procedure is worse than the actual procedure itself. Between having to go without eating for a day, and then having to gulp down the equivalent of two two-liter bottles of this… stuff, it’s a scary prospect before you start in.

And speaking of starting in, let me start by addressing the fasting portion of this process. I confess, Daniel and I haven’t been eating anywhere near to the recommended three squares ever since you left. Although, to be honest, the three of us were much more likely to do two larger meals in a given day already. But these days, we’re almost down to one meal – if we think about it – and some light snacking, especially as we’re finding all manner of food all around the house that is going begging.

Which is what makes this ordeal that much harder. Because there is food everywhere in this house, and the longer I go without, everything seems so much more tempting. Even as I’m carrying out an old Naf Naf bag to the dumpster, I’m thinking “yeah, I could go for that right now.” I don’t even like hummus, and here I am salivating over the idea of baba ganoush. It makes no sense, except for the fact that I can’t have anything, and so that’s what I’m suddenly craving… ANYthing.

On top of it all, Jan’s got me helping her clear out the chest freezer. And there is so much in there that we meant to get to, but now it’s been four, five… ten years since this or that item’s expiry date. We filled nine trash bags with such old food; it pained me to see a couple of Gino’s deep dish pizzas being consigned to the trash, but once they’re six years old, well…

And then, there’s the matter of all. that. liquid. Setting aside the assurance that the stuff is ‘unflavored,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean, that’s a ridiculous amount to consume in such a short time, especially for someone like me who doesn’t really go out of my way to drink a lot. Certainly not in comparison to the two of you: you always carried around a water bottle wrapped in those various bags you had crocheted back in the day, and you imparted that to Daniel, who even wears his around his neck in many of our travel photos.

But the whole thing is just utterly intimidating to me, and I’m not looking forward to it – or to the inevitable consequences (even though that’s the whole point of what I’m doing).

Of course, maybe it’s all being a bit oversold to me, and I’m worrying a lot about nothing.

That’s been happening a lot to me these days, to be honest. I worried so much about what Jan was intending to do, and while we have discarded an incredible amount of stuff over the past week and a half, she has never forced me to throw out something I didn’t want to (although I’ve had to stop her from jettisoning some things that she thought were junk when I wasn’t looking – I had to rescue the rocking chair that Daniel salvaged from Prospect Christian Church before it was demolished; Jan assumed that, since it had gotten mouse droppings on it in the garage, it was to be thrown out. We will have to clean it before anyone uses it, to be sure).

But I’ve always been an axe-in-the-rafters kind of person. You know the story. The girl goes down to fetch the drinks for the party her family is having for her fiance, and she spots an axe stuck fast in one of the ceiling beams. She considers that one day, when she and her man are married, their child will come downstairs like she’s doing right now, and the axe will dislodge itself and strike the poor child dead, and oh whoa for my child in the future! Over time, her family goes down to check on her, one by one, and they too are captivated by her story and overwhelmed with grief for the child cut down in the future. Only the fiance’s arrival downstairs, followed by his solving the matter by pulling the axe out of the rafters, stemps the tide of tears from the girl and her family.

To be sure, the dread of the things to come this day aren’t nearly as significant as that – although neither are they as easily solved.

Come to that, for all the worrying I would do when, say, I would come home to an empty house (like the night before the accident), what actually took you was nothing either of us could have come up with in years of concocting worst-case scenarios.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Mary Schmich, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”, Chicago Tribune, June 1, 1997

You – and all three of us – were caught in an unguarded moment.

Caught In An Unguarded Moment, the 77s, from “All Fall Down” (1984)

You never had the option to change course. No chance to say any last, meaningful words. No time, most likely, for your life to pass before your eyes. Just impact, and then…

At the same time, you didn’t sense the sword of Damocles hanging over your head. No sense of impending doom, only the joy of the run down until that awful split-second before unconsciousness and letting go of earth. No chance of worrying, most likely not even a “oh dear, this is gonna suck,” before impact. Just… suddenly… gone.

Nothing to anticipate, nothing to worry about, nothing to fear.

And you’re like that even now.


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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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