Think of the souls you'll save

While we were at the hospital, Mom asked me why I volunteered to turn my days and nights around so that I could stay up with Dad during the night. It was hard to explain why, exactly, but it had something to do with contrary nature and my need for solitude. When I tried to explain this to Mom, I think it all came out wrong, but I eventually managed to maneuver my words into the direction they needed to go: "It's not that I don't want to see the friends and family that come to see Dad during the day. It's that I just do better when it's just Dad and me."

Her "I don't understand but I'll take that weird answer and run with it" shrug told me all I needed to know. I've never claimed to be anything but the oddball of the family. Not a black sheep, but perhaps a grey sheep. Or a paisley sheep. Not rebellious; just different.

The nocturnal daughter

They knew me as the night shift for my family; the nocturnal daughter who stayed up at night in order to force her mother to get a few hours of sleep.

This was the tenth floor, the top floor, the no-man's-land. The cancer ward. Oncology, for those who knew the term. Well-hidden above such popular destinations such as the maternity and intensive-care floors, it was not a floor one journeyed to randomly.Even during the daytime, it was quiet. On most of the floors of the hospital, rooms marked "Oxygen In Use" were the exception. Here, they were the rule.

Those people journeying up to the tenth floor were more likely to talk to each other, more likely to be carrying suitcases. One, a careworn blond woman toting an overnight bag, gave me a compassionate look and asked, "Who are you here for?"

"My father. You?"

"My mother. Will he go home?" she asked quietly.

"No. Will your mother?"

"I don't think so." She looked down.

Comfort care, a matter of time.

It is a matter of time, they say—yours and mine, and someone else's who doesn't even realize it at the moment.

I have been in Arkansas since early Sunday morning. How early, exactly? I don't remember; I don't remember when I crossed the Mississippi River, but I do remember that I was sobbing when I did.

We spent Saturday in Nashville with Dan, who was in from Michigan to help the UMich lacrosse team out (he videotapes their games). We spent an absolutely wonderful day there with him, and drove back in the early evening.

A day spent in Nashville, laughing it up with Dan, who was visiting from Michigan.

It's hard to look at this photo objectively; I look so happy in this photo, but it's colored by the knowledge I have now:  a few hours after this photo was taken, I got a call saying my father was dying, and that I needed to come home immediately.

The smile just doesn't look the same after that.Jeff, Dan, Amy

An oh-so-rare photo op with Dan before the lacrosse game.Flickr What happens when you ask two engineers to pose...you get mostly silliness.Flickr What happens when you ask two engineers to pose...Flickr Well, Dan always said I was short.  I'm just trying to make it look really true.Flickr

twenty, twenty-two

I'm going to sit here quietly and just stare at the computer screen. Mom and Dad are…well, it might be an argument if Dad was capable of keeping a train of thought going for more than a couple of minutes.

Sometimes morphine is a bit of a blessing.

Dad has gotten a bit of a wild hair this morning, insisting that he and mom should go downstate today or tomorrow to visit his brother, who is a CPA and always does Mom and Dad's taxes for them. Mom is resisting—rightly, I think; Dad can't stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time, and really doesn't have the strength to make such a trip.We've taken turns on things the past few days, Mom and I have. Fixing breakfast for Dad, bringing him drinks when he's thirsty, helping him get to the back porch so he can take in a bit of sunshine and fresh air.

Those are the easy ones.

Diving degree of difficulty: 3.3

There's a saying about happy and unhappy families which follows along the lines of "all happy families are alike, but the unhappy ones are all unique." It applies to more than just families. Major life events are like that, as well. After all, what's the fun in retelling the events of a perfectly normal and happy day?

No, we're much more interesting when events both bizarre and unexpected happen; we're at our most unique in the microseconds when we realize that life has just completely and utterly deviated from whatever predetermined plan we thought we were working under.

Most of my friends know that I have broken my right wrist twice, and most of them know that I broke it the first time while trying to fly a kite on a rainy day. Fewer know the story of the second break, despite the fact that it's a much more interesting and amusing story.

Is that German?

Given that several of my friends grew up in northeast Arkansas, I would make a yearly Christmas-break pilgrimage to visit them and their families. My general rule: see as many people as possible, cause as little fuss as possible, and stay no more than two nights at any one house. Even under those circumstances, I could easily be gone for a week.

In the years that have passed, I've managed to forget all but the most amusing—or embarrassing—moments that occurred during those trips. I distinctly remember the drives Monica and I made back and forth to Paragould, and my complete and utter inability to use my normally-excellent poker face against Matthew. Matthew, of course, beat me senseless at poker and made me laugh the entire time.

(Luckily for me, I know Matthew well enough to know better than to play poker against him for money. Ever.)