Cafe Hitch-hike


A little left behind

I still can't believe he is gone. Uncle J. asked me some questions about Uncle Joe's health. He also thought Uncle Joe had cirrhosis of the liver. I reviewed Joe's very-detailed hospitalization records from the end of August so I could give a halfway informed answer while combing through medical jargon and words I didn't know existed.

I was able to determine that he entered the hospital on August 25 because he fell down and could not walk because his feet were starting to swell. He also couldn't speak. It was not known if it was from a stroke, the medication he was taking for chronic hiccups (which turned out to be the anti-psychotic medication), or another unexpected development. Uncle Joe was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that spread to his liver on July 26. When he returned to the hospital, tests determined his cancer had spread to his lung (in small amounts) and hip bone (which was bad news, that's where the bone marrow is). The docs saw lesions in his brain and abnormalities in its surrounding tissues, but they couldn't determine what it was. They couldn't determine if he stopped speaking because he had a stroke, or if the cancer had spread to his brain. They were very concerned if it spread because it was very rare to occur with his type of cancer.

In short, the 5-day stay in the hospital showed that Uncle Joe's prognosis had been and continued to be poor. The docs recommended hospice, but Joe said he wanted treatment and to keep trying. He said he wanted to get his own apartment once he got better. He showed humor ("No hospice! I'm not ready to leave this planet yet," as quoted in the records) and high-fived one of his doctors (whose name was Rafael Antonio, the same name as my last boyfriend, and they also shared a similar last name). Uncle was... in very sorry shape. His cancer and physical signs worsened as he stayed in the hospital, and they continued after he went home.

I did not know Uncle Joe was discharged on August 30. One detail I left out of my intoxicated birthday night recollection was I got a phone call while I sat at the bar schmoozing with Alex the bartender-slash-fitness model. It was Mom and Uncle Joe calling. I took the call outside so I could hear it clearly. I would had guessed Mom and Uncle were drinking and on the road to intoxication, but we still had a nice conversation. They wished me a happy birthday, and I felt a combination of gladness, like I was still their little one but also the woman who grew up. However, I sensed a mild grief in Joe's and Mom's voices, and I think we feigned a sense of cheer for my birthday. I had a feeling Uncle wasn't in good shape, and I later learned that Dr. Rafa A. recommended hospice that day, which they kept from me. Yes, we were so happy to talk to each other and celebrate my 45th, but we all knew something was not right but kept up the smiles anyway. Maybe that was why I cried my ass off later that night (which I did not remember but was only told). I held it in long enough only to let it out in front of Alex.

M'kay, there was my reason for my intoxication. I subconsciously knew something was wrong and temporarily drowned it with tequila.

A few weeks later, I got the information from the source. The docs affirmed a poor prognosis (4 to 7 weeks), but Uncle refused hospice care and chose treatment... His condition worsened and the cancer spread... This all happened on my birthday. They called me and wished me a happy birthday on top of it. My favorite Uncle wished his favorite niece a final happy birthday. I felt so despondent when I realized all of this. I could only imagine how hard it was for my mother and uncle to do this over the course of one day, and then wish their eldest daughter a happy birthday. It was probably really tough on my mother considering she has poor self-control after a few drinks.

As I thought of those records, I couldn't help but wonder if I felt terrible during that time because a part of me knew what was really going on. I can't help but wonder if the connection between my uncle and I was so sharp that I felt jolts from him as his body undergone such drastic changes. Maybe I'm really crazy, or maybe I'm not. Well, various people in the family said, almost with some envy, that Joe was my favorite uncle and I was his favorite niece. True dat, everyone said we had a very unusual and special bond.

I still don't know what to think. I don't think a part of me has really accepted it yet. It's like that night in Austin where I stood along the frisbee golf trail behind my mother's place where I talked on the phone to one of my best friends about the whole thing while hipsters and stoners slinked by with their vapes and backpacks full of frisbees. There was something amusing about it although I vented about my family's greed and Uncle's recent passing. Man, I was tempted to ask a hippie for a puff of his vape, but I didn't. I had to laugh. My mom lives in a cool (and affordable) neighborhood, and if you throw a rock in any given direction, you'll hit a hipster.

Some other things of note in Uncle's passing. I looked through his stuff and saw a picture of his girlfriend's butt. I giggled but tossed the pic out of respect for the gf Sue, although the pic was from 1990 or so. She was from Surrey, and he met her when she was doing a study abroad program in hospitality at his hotel. I wonder if I can get in touch with her. Uncle Joe's autographed pic of Bobby Knight went to a local friend who's a huge Indiana University basketball fan. I laughed when I saw a self-laminating kit (Uncle Joe loved to laminate stuff and pin them on his wall) and a thick roll of duct tape (he claimed he used that for when he went on dates, bahahaahh!). He then enlarged (and laminated) a pic of me scuba diving in Mexico where I got photobombed by an angel fish (the fish is literally smiling in the left side of the picture)! He always liked those pics of me diving. He jokingly summarized it with a mock English accent, "Bond. (My name) Bond."

I looked through his CDs and smiled. He sure loved old skool funk with CDs like Parliament, Al Green, The Commodores, and some compilation called 'In Love with Soul.' He loved Michael Jackson and had multiple copies of his CDs. Wow... I danced in Mom's living room during my stay to a song that played toward the end of MJ's This is It DVD, and I imagined Uncle Joe next to me dancing and spinning me around (interestingly, my sisters and cousins also said they imagined the same thing that weekend although I didn't tell them I did). I laughed and the way I moved... I saw a difference, and moved like someone was actually accompanying me.

Uncle Joe had some primo cologne! He had stuff from Versace, Clinique, and other high-end scents. The funny thing was I liked all of the ones he picked! Clinique Happy was described as cool, crisp, refreshing, with a citrus hint. Alrighty then, I think I know where I acquired my taste in men's cologne! Thank you, Uncle Joe! Clinique Happy is in my possession!

Before I went to Austin for Uncle's final arrangements, I decided to retire the carry-on bag I got from Grandma back in 1995 or so. I then acquired Uncle Joe's carry-on. I smiled but wearily. I always knew I carried a bit of their legacy, but now, a part of me can't help but feel a little left behind.

I part of me feels a little lost, and sad. I understand it's the circle of life and he wouldn't want to see me cry and bla, bla, blah, but damn... it's still sad to see the man who was my first friend go.

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