Her personality was another matter. She rang her call bell frequently and rarely had a kind word for a nurse. She complained about the care, often in a sarcastic way. “Why did you take so long? Were you making out with that doctor you like?” She never liked the food and frequently sent it back (although perhaps this last was justified.) But she never whined; her complaints were always given with a strong attitude of “I deserve better.” I admired her strength, though I always hoped not to be assigned her room.
Jan told me how her oncologist had, four years before, given her six months to live. She reacted to his prognosis with anger, as probably only she could, telling the doc, “I will go to your funeral, you bastard.”
She reported with a satisfied smile that she had, in fact, attended this doctor’s burial just six months ago, and seemed quite pleased about it. “I had to get a lift van to get me there, but I had promised that jerk,” she said. Although living in constant pain, she was planning to bury a couple more docs. It gave her something to look forward to.
It’s surprising how powerful such seemingly negative reasons to live can be. In the mid 90s, I stopped in a coffee shop in Flagstaff Arizona. I was on my way to the Grand Canyon, hoping to find a spiritual lift like Kevin Kline and Danny Glover got in that 1991 movie. And maybe I did find one, in a way.
I sat next to these two guys in uniform, both heavy-set Hispanics who had been Highway Patrolmen for years. One was in his 50s, the other maybe 30. They could have been father and son. I was glad to be seeing them at a café table and not through the window of my car.