Carrying On

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From booknvolume.com

Yesterday one of my many friends named Bob apparently clawed his way back from Death’s doorstep. Again. He has been camped on the front porch for the better part of a year, or longer, and there he remains, but not right on the sill where he has ventured more times than all the cats he has ever befriended combined have lives.

I got this update from his cousin, who had spoken not to Bob but with a nurse. Bob has rallied enough from two days ago when the staff was trying to locate anyone — which might have been me — who could authorize a Do Not Resuscitate order to them trying to get him up and walking. I’m not sure what “walking” entails, since his leg has been amputated mid-calf, and I gather Bob wasn’t interested in cooperating, which sounds fairly typical.

His cousin said Bob could be sent to a rehab facility as early as this weekend, and he was already operating on the assumption that Bob would soon be returned home. I don’t really see how that works, as winter approaches: Bob lives in a trailer accessed by a series of steps, and I don’t believe the hallway to the bedroom and bathroom is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Maybe he’s supposed to use crutches.

I don’t know what happened to the fluid collecting on his brain. The bone infection is still present, but yesterday’s nurse told his cousin that he’s on antibiotics. Two days ago the antibiotics weren’t making any difference.

I assume, if Bob does come home, it will be a matter of days before he returns to a hospital. This is what he has done since May, all on the taxpayers’ dime. And one day, because it happens to us all, even if you’re a death-defying champion like Bob, he will cross that threshold. And the past couple of days have given me a glimpse of spectacularly ugly this could turn, even for someone who is, in theory, completely indigent.

Because while Bob relies on the public funding he routinely votes against for medical services, transportation, food and in-home care, and accepted the assistance of volunteers from a church he doesn’t belong to for a deep-clean of his house (I don’t remember who said it, but those volunteers all deserve an escalator straight to heaven for that onerous chore), and is probably way behind on his rent, he owns a large collection of guns and ammunition.

These are guns he has never bothered to sell to pay for his food, shelter or medical needs (I just learned from one friend that another has lately been paying out of pocket for medications Bob needs but can’t afford). Up until recently he had made the choice to leave his narrow hallway lined with stack upon stack of reloaded ammunition and continue breaking bones because his walker won’t make it past the stacks rather than allow the friend who helped him reload all of it to move it.

He is surrounded by enablers — I am one of them — who have allowed this to happen, over and over and over again for the duration of his 69 years. None of us have demanded he take accountability for his own life and either sell guns to pay for the things he needs, or go without.

And, while these guns mean more to him than life itself, apparently, the last time he made any provision for their disposal after his death was 2004, in the same will that names me as his personal representative. Which has caused some — let’s use angst — among the people who more recently have befriended him, often bonding through the very mechanism of these guns.

No one person has expressed any desire to obtain the entire collection, and so far everyone seems sincerely motivated, interested only in getting guns that mean something to them for the connection to Bob. He has been urged by many of these same people, especially when he expressed a desire to see this gun or that go to this person or that, to put this in writing, but he has refused, steadfastly, to acknowledge his mortality.

Maybe that’s the death-defying strategy that works, but it doesn’t seem to really ever work out in the end for anyone, presumably including Bob. And in 2004, possibly because the lawyer who did the will is a friend of Bob’s, he did lay out some rudimentary wishes.

That lawyer is no longer available, so I went to another one yesterday, a former student and advisee of my dad’s, whose advice was easy to follow and took me right out of the middle of everything. It also would give almost everyone an option to get what they wanted.

But Bob’s cousin didn’t like it, and wants to make this much more complicated than it needs to be. He wanted me to go over with another of Bob’s friends and inventory guns, making a list of those Bob could sell easily, go see Bob and get him to sign a paper authorizing me to sell them —

I stopped him right there. This is the same Bob who would rather trip over ammunition than let his best friend move it. Not take it, just move it. Bob would rather trip. Bob would rather die than sell his guns. So be it.

The cousin did acknowledge this reality, and maybe after he thinks it over for awhile he will see that the attorney’s advice would be the path of least resistance. And if he doesn’t, then I leave it up to him to try, once again, as he has multiple times, to talk Bob into updating his will. (The cousin did uncover a medical power of attorney on file with Bob’s doctor dated earlier this year, and I am not on it.)

Lynn and I have wills, and powers of attorney, but they were probably written back in 2004 by the same lawyer that did Bob’s. Before I left my dad’s student’s law office, I made an appointment for Lynn and I to go back next week to update our legal documents.

Because you just never know, and the clearer you are with your wishes, hopefully the less turmoil you ask your friends and family to go through as you hover near Death’s doorstep. Especially if you’re going to linger there through a thousand cat lives.

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