On my way to him (I'm in a car with my friend Cath, who's driving us to Los Angeles where she's got a grandchild and I'm gonna catch the Coast Starlight from LA so I can ride the Clipper from Seattle to Victoria), we're talking several times a day - many times a day - on the phone. I get a kick out of how much Cath enjoys this with me; and then, we're a few miles out of LA and suddenly, his calls stop, he doesn't answer when I call him repeatedly.
Worried, I phone Doug, who lives in Victoria, ask him to phone 911 for me. Doug calls me back with the Victoria police non-emerg number; and thus I learn that Dennis is in the Victoria General Hospital.
He's had another stroke, a massive one, far more severe than the one he'd had in 2010. The nurse can only tell me, over the phone, that he isn't in great shape; when I get there, I will see for myself.
So yes, I see. He knows me instantly when I walk in. But he can not speak, can not swallow, is hemi-paralyzed: his left side moves not at all.
Still, I believe he will recover. At his apartment, I clean, I sort, I organize. Move furniture, move books, take out quantities of trash, resort to bleach and PineSol when milder chemistry fails.
Certain that I will bring him home, I persevere, figure out how we'll make the entry handicap-accessible, buy a few native plants along with some pots of lavender and geraniums to brighten our hearts. A few days into it, I come to decide we'll have to find another place, one easier to heat, a bit smaller, no stairs to get to the washing machine.
He had suggested buying us a house, a Victorian house; but I'd demurred, suggested we start small, make his place do for a while, save our money, take things easy. But now I see the writing on the wall for his apartment, it's too cavernous, too hard to heat. Especially it's not wheelchair friendly. I start looking around for a new place for us, a place he'll like. A place we'll both like.
April 28, just before I leave his side in the evening, although I'd noticed his toes were too dark when I massaged his feet and called the doctor in to look at them, he's bright-eyed and responsive when I kiss him goodbye, rolls his eyes when I joke: Don't you go nowhere, I'll see you in the morning. Don't you go nowhere!
The joke's on me. Sunday morning, he's rasping for breath when I arrive at his side. Doctor Slobodian comes immediately to his bedside when I summon him, puts a hand gently on my shoulder as he says, taking my total attention, I think today is the day.
Stunned, disbelieving, all I can do is stutter. What? When?
Oh, maybe a few hours, he suggests.
A few hours is less than an hour.
Dennis stops rasping - he stops breathing - he stops living - in front of me, before my stunned eyes as if in my arms, as if in my hands, holding him to me forever, for the rest of our lives. Yet he stops.
No breath. No sound. Gone.
I sit by his side as the sweet heat of his body drains out of it, until he is so cold the nurses, who've told me I can stay as long as I like, tell me they will have to move him out of the room, take his poor lifeless corpus "upstairs."
I realize this means I have to go, that I have to leave, but it's not making any sense. Even though it ought to, how can it?