I’ve been visiting an old friend regularly for about two months now. I met Kevin a little more than 50 years ago, in Los Angeles. He was one of my supervisors, on my pre-doctoral internship, as I tried to figure out how to be a clinical psychologist. Now, he’s in a skilled nursing unit, close to my home.
Six months ago he suffered a stroke and has been struggling with recovery ever since. I went to see him just after the New Year and was shocked to find him so fragile there in his bed. Through his garbled voice, I heard him say he would probably not be eating anymore. Swallowing could kill him so he’d be receiving nourishment through a tube. He also shared how unlikely it was that he’d ever walk again on his own steam.
Although he’d been gravely ill it was still a shocker – to see him so compromised, so far from the tall, sturdy person I’d known. I felt helpless, and a deep, blanketing sorrow came over me. There was nothing I could do, and apparently not much he could do. But he said he was relieved not to eat again, avoiding the danger of fatal choking. Incredible, and chilling, I thought, how our outlook changes, and narrows, with circumstance. A small door in my mind opened on what it would be like for me to be in Kevin’s place, but I shut it quickly, afraid to go there.
Anybody know someone like Kevin, or what I mean about shutting the door?