It was pouring outside. I was lucky- there was a parking space right next to the door. I walk down the hall to the blue elevator and take it to the second floor. Stopping at the nursing station, I learn dialysis is running late. When I enter the room, he is asleep. I put my chair in place and settle down. The TV, as always, murmurs in the background. It seems like his arms are thinner than last time and his face more swollen, a side effect of the drugs. I put my hand gently next him, not sure how bad the pain is today. I watch him breathe, comforted by the evenness of the breaths. I sit for awhile, comfortable, waiting until he wakes up. I have a book to read, but leave it closed. All the stress slowly leaves my body.
His hand moves and covers mine. It is warm and soft. I half notice the background noise has changed from football to golf. I smile, thinking that I had never seen the point of watching a golf game. He has always liked his sports. His eyes open. “You’re here”, he says. I use my fingers to lightly draw curlicues on his forearm, watching his face to make sure I am not causing pain. The nurse enters to give him his morphine. She gives me a quick look that says “Rough night”. The endocrinologist comes in. He glances at his patient and tells me they have to lower his insulin, because he is eating so little. Then we are alone again. I go back to to drawing my curlicues, concentrating on using enough pressure that he feels them, without using so much that it becomes painful. Touch is so important.
His eyes open.” You’re here”, he says.”That feels so good”. I smile. He is not the first dying person I have sat with. They all want the warmth of touch. His eyes catch mine and hold them. “How long can you stay?” I keep my voice soft. “Until I have to get GB off the bus”. His eyes close again. We hold hands for a long while. Tears leak from his eyes. I ask him for a number- the hospital code for pain. “7” he says. The goal is to keep him under a 5. I buzz for the nurse and ask her to give him his dilaudid. I know we are an hour away from another dose of morphine. The dilaudid goes through his PIC line and his face relaxes. His hand reaches for me and I take it. “I am glad you’re here”, he says. “So am I”, I answer. Too soon, it is time to leave. I kiss his forehead gently and tell him I have to go. He says, “You’ll come back.” It is not a question.