Post by Helene Goldberg, continued :
The next few days were, as you can imagine, pretty intense. Apart from just being at the hospital to be with Moshe as much as I could, I had several other jobs to do. First and foremost, I made sure that our children, Moshe’s parents, his sister, and my mother, were constantly up to date with the latest on Moshe’s condition, both physically and … What do I call that? Emotionally? Mentally? Just how he was in himself. I think that kinda says it.
MY JOBS | No. 1: Our Family and Friends
I also called our closest friends and cousins to keep them up to date as well. It was really important to me that they knew what Moshe was going through, and I needed to create a really strong network of support around us. I either called or texted – thank god for mobile phones! – every day to those 20 people. There were so many others who called me too, or texted or emailed, or sent a message on Facebook, and I answered every call, returned every message. It was important. If we were going to get through this, it would be on the strength and shoulders of our community. Speaking with our friends and family gave me strength. I needed to be strong. Oh god, I needed to be strong. I needed to be strong for our children and our parents, as well as for Moshe. Suddenly, I found myself holding our world in my hands. Our world, the immediate world that Moshe and I lived each day in. Our social lives, our family lives, our financial lives – oh, imagine this…
MY JOBS | No. 2: Our Finances
Moshe’s mobile phone rings. (I was the keeper of this phone now. I’d walk around the hospital wards with two mobile phones in my hands – mine, and Moshe’s.) It’s one of the 17 million banks Moshe has accounts with. They want to speak with Moshe. I tell them I’m so sorry, but he can’t come to the phone. I’m his wife, can I help you? Now, I know full well why they’re calling. They want money. Why else does a bank call you? It’s either to offer you something that will cost you money, or they want you to pay your bill, and in this case, it was the latter.
The Bank: “Oh, no problem, we can only speak with the primary account holder. We’ll call back.”
Me: “Hold on! Don’t hang up! He won’t be able to talk to you for a few weeks now. He’s in the hospital, …” and I’d pull the Cancer Card. And the “Failed Kidney Card.” And the “Life-Threatening Card.”
The Bank: “Oh, I’m so sorry about that. Ask him to call us when he can.”
Me: (to myself) WHAT THE….!!!!???
Me: (to the idiot on the phone) “I have Power of Attorney. You should talk to me.”
It was amazing to see who would actually say, “OK, great” and then proceed to deal with me about our accounts, and who wouldn’t, saying they can’t, it’s a matter of confidentiality, and they are bound by their code of ethics, blah blah blah.
Me: “I know we’ve missed the monthly payment.” HE ‘S IN THE HOSPITAL! HE CAN’T DO IT. IF YOU TALK TO ME AND TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED, MAYBE YOU’LL GET YOUR MONEY! I felt like screaming at them, but I kept level-headed about it. I had to. I had to be vigilant about my own temperament. I couldn’t afford to lose it about anything. It wasn’t a matter of, how did Tom Wolfe so brilliantly say it in ‘The Right Stuff‘, “maintaining an even strain.” I had to keep letting go of things, letting go of upset. Letting go of any anger, or frustration. Letting go of my worrying. Letting go of any emotion or thought that could bring me undone, so to speak. I had to stay clear-headed, for Moshe.
It was exacerbating. Exhausting. Every day I’d go through the same thing with one bank or other. See, in our house, Moshe did all the financial stuff. I’d done it before, but when he came back from living in the US, he took it over. Brilliant. I hate that stuff. I don’t have a financial bone in my body. Great. Except now, I had no idea what our set-up was. And it wasn’t just a matter of one or two accounts. Moshe had all his business accounts, overdrafts, mortgages, investment stuff. And suddenly I had to know about it all, in one fell swoop, so I could talk at least with some semblance of intelligence to these people.
So, I’d talk to them, ask them to give us another few days, tell them as soon as I could I’d work things out and get in touch with them. I sent copies of my Power of Attorney to them, expecting that’d make the difference, surely now they could talk to me. Some yes, some no. The bizarreness and unworkablilty of the banking system was right in my face, but that’s a conversation for a whole other post, for a whole other time. But you know who was brilliant? Really easy to work with, co-operative, pleasant, and just great? American Express. “My life. My card.” You’re not wrong. Thank you AMEX!
MY JOBS | No. 3: Everything Other Than Moshe Himself
Yep, now I was managing Moshe’s business. Luckily, I’d done this IT recruitment before, so I kinda knew what I was doing. I called all Moshe’s clients and consultants, filled them in, assured them nothing was going to change, we were on top of it all, if they needed anything, anything at all, please call me. Or Sarah. They were all really great. And very exciting, I managed to complete a contract extension during this time. Amazing. Anyway, lucky Moshe was in the business he’s in, it could kinda run on its own, and wait till Moshe was ready to step back in. Whenever that might be. Freda, Moshe’s sister, handled all the admin stuff, and Sarah kept on keeping on with her placements, and the whole thing seemed to hold together OK. Phew! Breathe.
MY JOBS | No. 4: Moshe Himself
OK, OK. I know. You want to know, “But what’s happening with Moshe through all of this??? Enough about that other stuff! Tell us about Moshe!”
Now, this was one of my jobs that could be quite challenging in itself. I didn’t have to worry about his physical care. In fact, now that Marco was on the case, I completely didn’t have to worry about whether the nursing staff were doing their job correctly. You know, was he getting his meds at the right times. Was he being washed, were his sheets being changed in the right times. Were they checking his vital statistics, speaking with the doctor, feeding him the right food. None of that was a concern for me. Sure, I’d observe, but I didn’t worry about all that. I was more concerned with Moshe himself. And that was quite absorbing of my time and energy. Although not without its numerous moments of entertainment.
You know, Moshe and I have been together since I was 15 and he was 18. We got married when I was 21 and he, 24. That was 33 years ago. We’ve lived in two hemispheres, moved around so much, travelled, dealt with hardships, and enjoyed magnificent times. We’re madly in love with each other. Yeah, still after all these years, and we’re great friends. But nothing prepared me for how much he needed me in those weeks. Still now too, as I write. But definitely in those weeks in the hospital. I guess it’d always seemed to me that I needed him more than he needed me. Not like a bad thing, just a fact. He was the strong one, I thought. The one who was a man of the world. Understood how things worked in the world. You know? And here we were. And he needed me with him.
I mean with him. Not just in the room with him, but WITH HIM. So when the phone would ring – be it a bank calling, or Sarah needing to talk to me about some business thing, or my cousin calling to check in – I’d have to answer really quietly. Not because he was sleeping, but he’d say, “I don’t like it when you’re on the phone. Don’t talk to them now. You’re always on the phone. Do you have to answer it???”
I knew what it was. He wasn’t being ornery. His mind couldn’t hold all that now. I couldn’t bring that world into his space, his financial stuff, his work stuff. And hearing me on the phone, he’d get present to it all, and the fact that he was completely helpless to do anything about any of it, let alone even consider it for a moment. He’d start worrying, and he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t good for him now. His blood pressure couldn’t go up. His kidney wasn’t functioning. His heart was at risk. He couldn’t have that stuff anywhere near earshot, or in his thoughts. He didn’t have the wherewithall to even begin to deal with the massive interruption this all was to his life, to how he’d set things up to work, staying up late, night after night, spending hours and hours, tweaking things here and there to have it all work.
So when the phone rang, I’d press the answer button and, still holding the phone down away from my face, walk with a casual step out of his room, and then say hello. After my call, I’d walk back into the room and he’d be asleep. I’d sit quietly and just watch him. I sewed a bit. I was making a quilt, and I’d bring it into the hospital and sit and sew quietly. It gave me peace to do that. I could focus on the next stitch instead of the next blood test result. And he got those twice a day, for Marco, who created new cocktails to put into Moshe’s drip to make sure he was getting the best possible stuff delivered into his veins.
Moshe’s parents would come in to see him. They came every day. Didn’t miss a single one. They were amazing. Once, I made the mistake of thinking that if they were there with Moshe, I could spend a bit of time at home, taking care of the laundry, or other household things. Or even just take a breather. No. WRONG! One time, Hania called me on my mobile. “Helene? Yeah, hi. Moshe’s asking where you are. He wanted me to call you to tell you to come now.” OK, put down everything, get myself into the car, and on my way. I got to the hospital, and he was all out of sorts. He was frustrated with everything. He was frustrated with how his dad paced up and down, how his mother was agitated. Frustrated with his pillows on the bed, and with the position of the bed itself – all 4 separate parts that he could control to go up or down. I had to fill up his cup of crushed ice, get tissues so he could wipe his lip, make sure the controls were all in the right places, strategically positioned around him for easy access – his morphine button, the thing with the TV and nurse button controls, and the control for the bed position. And he mumbled something unintelligible, I said “yes, my darling”, he looked at me disapprovingly, I kept smiling, reassuring him, he said “Don’t do that, it’s patronizing”, I smiled and nodded, hopefully pulling it off so he didn’t get annoyed further, and he drifted off, and slept again.
So that was how life was, in those couple of weeks while his life hung by a thread. The kids would come visit, staying later in the evenings so I could go home. Occasionally, the couple of people Moshe was happy to see during that time would come visit, and he’d perk up a little. The nurses would come in and out, doing their thing. They were incredible, wonderful. And Moshe would put on his gorgeous smile when they’d come in, and he’d chat to them, wanting them to feel appreciated, greatly appreciated. My dad had always flirted with the nurses, but Moshe didn’t so much flirt with them as make friends with them, ask them about themselves, their nursing background, their lives, where they’re from. All that stuff that creates relationships.
Until one day, Marco announced that we were “away from the edge of the cliff”. And just like that, the emergency was abated. Not gone. No, definitely not gone, just abated.