Rod Mulder — Rebound and Glide Path

15 March

And today was interesting. I thought the night was good and easy. It mostly was. Morphine happened at about 2 AM administered by Linda and Laura. In the morning, the pillow under Rod’s legs and head were no longer in place and his legs were hanging off the bed. It looked like he was trying to get up which would have ended poorly, of course.

I woke up feeling dread. Good days are followed by bad and, well, we were due. In the moment when adrenaline takes over, we deal pretty well but waiting for it to begin is stressful to me. Rod was asleep when I got downstairs. His breathing was even more irregular than before with 4 or 5 non-rhythmic breaths followed by 30 seconds or so of complete silent stillness.

Laura and I debated church and she decided that talking to everyone was not something she wanted to deal with. I decided to go partially to check in with the pastor who had adjusted his vacation because of Rod.

The first worship song was 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord) by Matt Redman. The third verse reads:

  And on that day
  When my strength is failing
The end draws near
And my time has come
Still my soul will
Sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years
And then forevermore

The stress of the past couple days combined with this prayer struck the raw nerve that I’ve become. It was not pretty at all. The service was good and Rod was a sermon illustration in a way that made me proud to call him my father-in-law.

That which I dreaded never materialized. Instead, Rod got better and better as the day went on. He was interactive, awake, funny, interested, and generally not thinking about dying any time soon. At one point, he wanted to call Curt to ask about the house. Rod, who hasn’t been the least bit interested in the phone since he got back from California, suddenly wanted to make a call. He and Laura called Curt and it sounded to me like it was a completely normal phone conversation.

It wasn’t until later that we thought about how totally freaky this probably was for Curt. When Curt saw Rod Friday night, Rod was in a coma. Now he is calling him up for the first time in a month to have a little chat about house construction?

Linda gave Rod the controller to the hospital bed and he played with it for about a half hour before I final called down from the loft that it isn’t a toy or a carnival ride. Then he was hungry AND COULD EAT AGAIN. He was better this afternoon than he had been in weeks. Even the hoarseness that was a symptom of the brain tumor since the beginning was milder.

He was like a cat that wants to go outside but then wants to be inside, then outside, then inside. Argh! Pick one! Commit!

So, we don’t know but we think that this might be something the DVD that hospice gave us called the Lazarus phenomena but I don’t think that is the common name for it. I’ve seen it called a “rebound” and it is apparently somewhat common among terminal cancer patients. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last and when it happens, it is typically right at the end which really pains me to write.

Today was a beautiful day and a real gift to us. We talked with Rod for a long time today about his youth, his grandparents and family, and, of course, more Dutch profanity.

18 March

Many factors went into our decision, but we (Greg, Maggie, and I) went to Beaver Creek for a couple days. It was good for all of us. We heard through Linda and Jane that Rod was concerned that we got discount lift tickets. We most certainly did. Thanks to Eric, we scored free tickets and there was great rejoicing. I shared that with Rod and he was very happy about it.

We got back to Estes Park tonight. Eric also scored us a couple cases of beer which came in handy because Rod wanted a beer. I showed him the good stuff and then poured him a little PBR which I was pretty sure he would like more.

Rod is confused and sleeps all the time. He thinks Linda is Laura much of the time even when they are both in the room. He still has a good appetite and likes his ice cream and coffee.

Thanks to everyone that was concerned because there were no updates. Rod continues to surprise us. Sometimes he is incredibly lucid and others, just entirely out of it. He is happy and friendly most of the time. Sometimes, I would even say he is playful, funny, and sort of cute.

20 March

Eeek, I almost missed another day! Last night, I left my computer in the wrong room and couldn’t get to it. Tonight, well, I got tired.

Rod is sleeping most of the time. His anti-seizure medicine had to change to one that is more sedative. We aren’t sure how we feel about that. Though Laura talks to him sometimes, his interest in Curt and Carrie’s house, Chuck’s back crisis, and Marcia’s hip replacement has waned. There are times when he pulls the blankets over his head almost like he wants to shut out the world. Soft conversations around him seems to calm him but if it gets loud, he isn’t happy with it.

We seem to be at a new plateau point and we are all becoming comfortable again with our positions and roles. Maggie is flying back to Michigan Sunday to get back to Calvin before classes begin Monday. Linda and Greg are going to prolong their stay a little longer. Jane moved from short term FMLA to long term today. I am planning on going back home more often now that the weather is better. In other words, now that Rod has stabilized again, we are preparing for more and an indefinite duration.

Words like “stress”, “shock”, “numb” &c. pop up in our conversations. It is surprising still how emotionally drained we are and how that translates into our energy levels in general. Nothing about this has been “normal”. No one has any guidance for us and I think we have basically given up trying to understand what is happening. Though maybe that is a good thing, there is stress in uncertainty and a sense that our lives are on hold waiting and dreading what we wait for.

Tonight Curt and Carrie came up for dinner. All three children and their spouses were here and it was good family time. It was sweet as we all talked but also bitter that one of us still in the room was silent.

22 March

Rod is mostly confused and incoherent when he is awake which is very rare. He is still here but seems to see things and sometimes reaches for things that only he can see. He is worried about where his watch, wallet, and glasses are but also wants to know if we have reservations, where he is, and whether there is a suite available in the other building. Everything he says is a whisper or mumble. I don’t understand much but I caught a couple jokes today and got a smile or two out of him as well.

His breathing this morning was very irregular and he was sleeping sometimes with his eyes open. Tonight he and I talked for a while which was nice though very challenging and all over the map. After a while he started singing “Just A Closer Walk with Thee”. His singing was just barely a whisper but I picked up on “this world is not my home.”

I figured it was worth getting that song playing and pulled up three versions: Oak Ridge Boys, Willie Nelson & Patsy Cline duet and, of course, the original Patsy Cline. The best version, by the way, is Willie and Patsy’s because anything Willie Nelson does is the best always.

He fell asleep during the hymn and I queued up the Gaither Vocal Band’s Hymns album. He is sleeping and breathing regularly as I write this. After the frustration and confusion he seemed to be experiencing tonight, it is a peaceful way to end the day.

That was Sunday night. I headed into Boulder on Monday to make an appearance at my office. Working remotely has actually been very productive but that feeling of my life on hold was something I needed to move beyond. Also, my absence would leave the office vacant and allow Greg a place to work. The house was full and all bases seemed to be covered, so it felt like I would be most useful evacuating for a couple days.

Jeremy hadn’t had a home cooked meal in a while so we made some steaks Monday night. I tried to do some laundry and repack for spring. When this dance started, it was winter. Spring roared into Colorado this year and I was overdressed everyday.

Wednesday, I decided to work in the morning and support a sales call just before lunch and then make my move up the mountain directly from the office. On Monday, I realized that I was not feeling well and had caught a cold. Did that stop me from working out in the gym Monday or swimming Tuesday? No, of course not. I did, however, forego a 20 mile bike ride Tuesday evening because I felt terrible and because there were 45 mph wind gusts.

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