“Living with cancer…”

Five years ago, 10 August 2000, my father, Leslie Harold Green died of prostate cancer.
Actually, the death certificate, which cites me as the “reporter” (whatever that means), says that he died of heart failure which was caused by a stroke which was precipated by prostate cancer (or some such.)

The first time Dad told us he had the disease was in early 1998. My sister Leslie, who lives in San Diego, and I were both visiting the Greens in Charlotte. I remember that my sister was very upset, but I wasn’t all that much, and she was upset that I wasn’t upset. My reaction was probably based on the fact that HE didn’t seem all that upset.

In fact, he seemed pleased by the fact that he had this disease, but that he was still in control. At Carol’s and my wedding (15 May 1999), he did all the floral arrangements and decorations. He seemed to relish in telling my new mother-in-law about it almost nonchalantly that evening.

And he also did the decorations for my parents’ 50th anniversary party (12 March 2000), perhaps needing to take a break a little more often, but still going well. More than once, I heard him say to church folks and others: “I’m living with prostate cancer, not dying from it.” That always got an “amen” from the congregation. I wasn’t quite sure what the heck that meant, and I felt as though I were missing the punchline somehow.

My father was active in many, many things, including being the organizer and primary chef for the breakfast program at his church. Sister Leslie was talking to our mother on Leslie’s birthday (23 July 2000), but my father, having made breakfast for four dozen people that morning, indicated that he was too tired to talk with her. This set off alarm bells for her. Leslie was always my father’s favorite child. This is not a complaint, it’s a fact that even she has admitted to. I mean, she’s NAMED after him, for crying out loud. So, if he’s too tired to talk with her on her birthday, something’s seriously amiss.

The next week, even though she’d been in Charlotte earlier in that month, she flew from San Diego to Raleigh, then drove to Charlotte, arriving the very night he went into the hospital with some bleeding.

So, my mother, Leslie, and sister Marcia stayed with my father on a rotating basis. I talked with one of them on the phone every day.

That first weekend, my father thought that he was well enough to go home, so he got up and started taking out his IV tubes. This set off alarms at the nurses’ station, where they had to insist that he return to his room. He was a bad patient.

Then, on Thursday, August 3, my father has a massive stroke, and I knew I had to go to Charlotte.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t want to go to Charlotte. It wasn’t because we were backed up at work (though we were) or that one of us was already on vacation (though she was). I didn’t want to go to Charlotte because I figured if I went down there, my father would die. (Conversely, I figured that if I stayed up in Albany, he’d hang on for a while.)

But my wife Carol & I got tickets to fly to the Queen City. (Here’s a piece of advice, if you’re ever in that situation; compare the price the airline gives you for their “compassionate rate” with what you might find from Priceline.com or its competitors. I’ll bet the latter is cheaper, and you don’t have the hassle of the paperwork, in this case, getting a note from my father’s physician, Dr. Friedman, that said, yes, Les Green is really, really sick.)

Carol & I went right from the airport to the hospital on Monday, August 7. Even though he had some paralysis on one side, I could usually understand what he was saying. That night, Carol and I stayed in his room.

The next morning, Marcia was on the phone and made some lighthearted tease at Dad’s expense. Dad heard this, even though the phone was to my ear, and said fairly clearly, “not funny,” but he was obviously thought it was. Carol & I stayed with him that morning, then that afternoon, my mother.

My mother, Leslie, Carol and I met with an aid worker to determine what our options were if he were to live for a while: home care, hospice. My sisters stayed with him Tuesday night.

Carol & I were in on Wednesday morning. Dad became far less responsive since I had last seen him, pretty much in a comalike state, and on Wednesday night, Dr. Friedman said that it was likely that he would die within a week.

That evening, I turned on a baseball game, and explained the action to my father. I think the sound was down, so I was doing a play-by-play for a couple innings. I told him about Jason Giambi, the long-haired player for the Oakland A’s who had “graced” the cover of Sports Illustrated within the previous year. It took me back to when Dad would explain in-person baseball and televised football to me when I was a kid.

There were men from church who worked with my father on the breakfast program, and Dad called them “The Guys.” They came by and were surprised by his rapid decline since they had last seen him.

Wednesday night, we went home and Marcia stayed.

Thursday morning, I was working on an obituary for my father. Leslie had gone to relieve Marcia. Then at about 11:45 a.m., Marcia called from the hospital and said that my father was in the “death throes.” There were two vehicles in the household and both were at the hospital.

At my mother’s suggestion, I knocked on the door of a neighbor of theirs who I didn’t know. He worked nights. He did, in fact, give my mother and me a ride to the hospital after he got dressed. But by the time we got there, my father had passed away.

In due course, we identified a funeral parlor, which we went to Friday morning. That weekend, there were tons of people at the Green household, often bringing over food.

The service that we planned went off quite well. Leslie sang, Leslie & I sang, stories were told. We felt as though we had to comfort OTHERS in their grief. We had on our game faces; Dad would have been proud, I think.

That Monday, we (my mother, Leslie & her daughter Becky, Marcia & her daughter Alex, and Carol and I) all rode in a limo to a military cemetery some 30 or 40 miles away, our one indulgence. (We weren’t that sure where it was, and didn’t know what condition we’d be in.) It was a small, stark ceremony run by old war veterans, and it was oddly affecting. The Sunday service WE did; this service was DONE FOR US, and somehow more emotional.

Carol & I left soon thereafter for Albany. We had tenants moving into an apartment we owned, and there was work to be done. And I didn’t really cry until, a couple weeks after his death, the associate pastor of my church, Donna Elia, called me at work to extend her condolences. It’s a good thing to have a private office.

That fall, I returned to choir, and I asked my buddy Peggy how her summer was, and she said, “Not so great. My father died.” I said, “Mine, too.” Then she said, “In August.” I replied, “Me too.” “On the 10th.” “Me too.” “At 3 p.m.” “Mine was about 12:15 p.m.” It’s created some sort of special bond between Peggy and me. So, I know she’s remembering five years ago, too.

Mixed Bag CD Blog Review-Andrea

NAME: Andrea Faetanini
BLOG NAME: Entertainment for Geeks
NAME OF CD: Playgeek
NUMBER OF CUTS: 27
RUNNING TIME: 78:42
COVER ART: Photo of one my favorite lamented shows (can you guess?)- “Freaks and Geeks”
SONG LIST: Her post of June 14
ALREADY REVIEWED BY: Nat Pike on June 15; Gordon on June 29
GENERAL THOUGHTS: Andrea’s disc is louder in places than some of the others. It also has humorous bits, some of which worked better (Python, Shaun & Ed) than others. Andrea e-mailed the group noting “weird distort-y thing going on” during some tracks which frankly didn’t bother me. I enjoyed this album quite a bit.
THINGS I PARTICULARLY LOVED: The Postal Service, Nerf Herder, Ted Leo, and Duran Duran (!) – I love the original, but this ain’t bad.
ON THE OTHER HAND: I don’t think Hero of Canton would appeal to me, even without distortion. Actually the only real sag for me was this and the A Team right before it.
OFFICE FRIENDLY: Considering the subtitle, “The F***est Uppest Mix CD”, not much more than you’d hear in a PG-13 movie.
ONLY VAGUELY RELATED: On mixed CDs Fred Hembeck has made for me, he introduced me to two songs that appear on this disc, the Buffy theme and the Who cut.

Jerome

At college at New Paltz (about halfway between Albany and NYC) in the early 1970, I ran into the creature known as the Deadhead for the first time. The Deadhead was not unlike someone who had been “born again” after a lifetime of degradation. The Deadhead wanted to share The Experience with EVERYBODY, even if you didn’t share his or her enthusiasm. I mean, I was a fan of the Beatles, but I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head the set list for the Hollywood Bowl or Shea Stadium concerts. The Deadhead was an obsessed creature who could tell how a given song segued into another song, at what point, and when it segued back to the original theme, and how THAT was different than what they did two nights earlier. Omigod.

So, I developed a great antipathy for the Grateful Dead, not so much for their music, which I avoided, as much as towards their fans. Even the albums I heard for which I had some grudging admiration – such as American Beauty and Workman’s Dead – didn’t change my overall irritation with the group, or rather the group’s persona, epitomized by their zealous fans.

10 years to the day after Jerome (named after Jerome Kern) Garcia’s death, and in the month that he would have turned 63, I feel quite differently. I have a much greater appreciation for the band’s musicianship, influence, and its sense of history in referencing pioneering artists that came before them. In particular, I really appreciated the writing of Jerry Garcia (usually with Robert Hunter) and his musical technique (including his work with Dave Grusin).

Jerry Garcia– he’s more than the inspiration for an ice cream flavor.

Mixed Bag CD Blog Review-Tom

NAME: Tom Collins
BLOG NAME: Tom the Dog’s You Know What I Like?
NAME OF CD: You’ll Play It and You’ll Like It, Vol. 2
NUMBER OF CUTS: 29
RUNNING TIME: 78:55
COVER ART: Simple but effective
SONG LIST: His post of June 10
ALREADY REVIEWED BY: Nat on June 10; Gordon on June 30
GENERAL THOUGHTS: I’m instantly disinclined to like this album, because I don’t like being told what to do. There seem to be suites, as it were, on this disc, the Who/Kids/Alright segment, then a couple more comedic pieces, then some “standards” (Bing, Patsy, Hoyt), then other stuff. I enjoyed probably the first 2/3s thoroughly, then off and on, but liked the last four cuts. As it turns out, I think it’s a pretty good percentage of entertaining stuff.
THINGS I PARTICULARLY LOVED: Moxy Fruvous, Patsy & Hoyt back-to-back, Amy Ray, Pogues. Some of the snippets.
ON THE OTHER HAND: A couple other snippets. Who IS that on the mystery track?
OFFICE FRIENDLY: Well, not Tool, and a couple of the ruder snippets. And the topic of the mystery track, I suppose.
ONLY VAGUELY RELATED: I have no more than four of the songs on this collection, the Who for sure, BNL and Green Day, maybe; Bing only if the biggest Bing fan I know gave it to me.

Publisher John Johnson

Just about every black family I knew in the 1950s and 1960s received EBONY magazine easch month. It was the black version of LIFE magazine. In fact, the red and white logo was purloined from LIFE magazine. Many black families also got JET, the pocket-sized newsweekly. Collectively, they represented the dreams and the reality of living in America at that time.

These and other magazines were the creations of John Johnson, who died today at the age of 87.

Not so incidentally, I still have EBONY and JET coming to my house.
***
Seems like I’m talking a lot about death the early part of this week. Strange coincidence. There ARE more joyous stuff to write about as well. Seemsd that every time I leave town, I want to write about THAT, but end up writing about something else.

This too shall pass.