Note from Andrew: I think we are just making it harder for you folks who take the journals and read them in only one or two sittings. Sorry. We hope the writing continues. Someone asked recently if Joe's piece of this was done after the fact, wondering if he wrote it all in recent history. No, he didn't. The journal is 25 years old, starting as handwritten notes or just phrases on paper, or recorded conversations on tape, until Joe got his first PC in 1990. It took huge effort from there to get it into the form you see it, obviously about 8 years of his and mine together. I assumed writing duty once Joe was in his accident. He will be very pleased to know our current readership is over 3200 people -- in every US state, every Canadian Province, and almost any country you can name in the world. People say Joe and Chris, and now Joe and Andrew, have touched their hearts. Well, here's one more person to do that as well, as he has touched mine incredibly deeply and lovingly.
This next section is from Wayne, because you all are asking to know more about him. This is taken from a journal he wrote over the course of a week. It's quite exceptional but you know I'm biased toward my buddy. You make up your own mind.
A Week in the Mountains
This is a journal of a week that I spent in the mountains of Virginia in May 1997. I had had a kidney transplant in March that year and was still trying badly to heal. My car accident, when Katie was killed, had taken my right kidney. Cancer had eaten the left one whole. I don't know much about the young man who gave me his kidney, only that he died in a construction fall that day, at the age of 27 or 28. I had turned 41 only days earlier.
I felt profoundly blessed to have it and overwhelmed by the responsibility at the same time. He had donated his organs so that he would live on. Like many transplant patients, that was a heavy emotional load for me to carry. So, Doc took me away for the week with his family. Doc is my long-time friend and also my oncologist. We've known each other long enough that he's seen inside more than just a mere patient and I have seen him as more than just a physician.
May 24th (Saturday morning)
Saturday at 6:30 a.m. and I've been up for forty-five minutes already. I managed about five and a half-hours sleep, with only a brief awakening before the sun came up. For the next eight days, I'm on vacation, and determined to enjoy most of it. I think Doc and Claire will help. We're meeting for breakfast at 9:00, across the border in Maryland. The plan this week is to head out to their retreat in Virginia for the better part of the week. Tuesday through Thursday, we'll be back in Washington for my chemo, post-surgery checkup, and protocol re-evaluation if necessary. He's still worried about the kidney, which of course makes me worried. Time to shower and to pack.
May 24th (Saturday afternoon)
We had an great breakfast in Maryland, drove a bit over two hours (with terribly restless kids and a dog), had a late afternoon barbecue, flew a kite over the lake, paddled around in a canoe, and threw a ball around so Andy Jr. could practice for a game in two weeks. He pitches like a champ and bats like an ace. I can pitch but I can't hit the broad side of a barn. He giggles at me when I swing and miss. "Hey bozo you're supposed to hit the ball, not the flies!". His dad rolls his eyes, wondering which bozo taught his only son "bozo". I'm innocent -- well, mostly.
May 24th (evening)
Sitting here on the edge of the lake, with Doc's laptop, trying faithfully to keep up with my journal. It's an amazing fact that I could almost fully document my life day by day. But I don't think I'd want to. I'm finding it much more enjoyable to look forward than to look back. On the other hand, as I've told a friend, knowing where I've been helps me know where I'm going. Claire likes my perspective. She is constantly telling me that I make her daily life more peaceful. She says she knows the things to worry about and the things that don't need much attention because they're too trivial. Others have echoed the same sentiments. Me? I just worry about everything. There's still too much out there to be afraid of.
The lake is so peaceful. If I'd said no to Doc and Claire's invitation, I would have deserved to be committed. How can someone say no to all this? The log cabin is gorgeous and very natural at the same time. The acres surrounding the property give lots of privacy. We are about a mile off the nearest road, which itself is a mile off the main roads. The ducks are lazily paddling along, the sun is setting behind my head, and I hear an owl in the far distance. I'm jealous because this retreat is not just a seasonal escape. Doc and his family spend days at a time here all year.
I'm laughing at myself, thinking about all the fighting that he and I do. Deep down, I think he likes that I fight, although we'd have some incredibly bad times together, especially in recent weeks. And sometimes I've lashed out at him in anger, later sorry for things I said but knowing that they were right at the moment. I told him more than once I'm not superman and I find it very hard to fight cancer 24 hours a day. Right now though, the fights don't matter. I'm family for the week and don't feel the urge or will to fight. As far as the weather went, I can only hope the rest of the week is as perfect.
The sunset just stuns my senses. The ball of fire, below tree level so I can't see it, is lighting up the clouds with orange and purple streaks. I watch the fire soften to a pale purple glow. The crickets are out there urging the darkness to come. I hear splashing in the water a little beyond me but I can't make out what it is. Doc comes and sits beside me on the rock. He says he doesn't want to interrupt my note taking. We sit and talk quietly as I write, putting it down so when I need to feel some peace in the future, this is the place I'll come back to for it. He says the kids are wrapping up homework so they won't be behind when they go back to school next week.
May 25th (Sunday morning)
Dawn -- almost. I'm sitting on the sheltered porch, bundled up in a heavy sweatshirt and baseball jacket with a Boston Red Sox baseball cap tight on my head. I've got my feet up on the edge of the railing, the notebook PC firmly planted on my lap. There's a cup of hot Earl Grey tea at my side. So much for a perfect weather day, since it's pouring buckets. There is no wildlife on the lake. Claire is making breakfast and Doc's still sleeping. The bacon smells great, but I was caught sneaking one off the plate. Claire says I'm as bad as her own kids. Time to lend a hand; my cooking experience, says Claire, makes a better omelet than she does. She lies, but I can do at least as well.
Post-breakfast. A western omelet is what it took to get Doc out of bed. He said he could resist the bacon and even the fresh coffee, but the smell of onions, green peppers, and fresh ham were more than he could take. I've seen the man after an all-nighter at the hospital, or arriving at the earliest possible point of the morning, and even at the latest possible point of the night, but I've never seen Doc fresh out of bed. I smirked at his cowlick and he told me to shut up. Claire told him to respect "our guest". Doc says that after the first day, you're not a guest any more.
Doc's mad at me again. We spent the late morning playing Stratego and I beat him -- twice. He told me I should be more respectful as a guest. I told him that after the first day I'm not a guest any more. Andy Jr. and Louisa like seeing daddy lose occasionally. Then we played Hearts and I took a sound thumping. I accused him of cheating. Even the kids and I against the "grownups" couldn't beat the Queen of Spades every time. It's okay, when Doc needs me to fix his laptop next time, I'll just play dumb. Well, in theory anyway.
The kids (Andy Jr. 9 and Louisa 11) got cabin fever late in the afternoon so we went to Wendy's for the once a week allowed junk food outing. Doc and Claire both watched me pick at my food, knowing that my appetite is my own worst enemy. However, I finished the chicken sandwich and most of my fries.
May 25th (evening)
There was no letup in the rain until close to 10:00 p.m. The air smells so fresh and clean. The mallards were back as we walked around the lake and the old owl was hooting to us. It scared Andy as it flew above our heads. Louisa chided him but he said that everyone is afraid of something. He's amazingly bright. Compared to him when I was 9, I was an idiot.
The day is over and I'm going to climb between the warm sheets to read for a bit. Andy let me tuck him in earlier and talked to me until he fell asleep. He and Louisa call me "Uncle Wayno". They both tell me they love me when we talk on the telephone, or before we part company, both usually with quite firm hugs. Claire does the same. Doc doesn't say it, much, but it's no secret how he and I feel about each other. In November, we'll know each other 22 years as friends and five years as doctor/patient.
May 26th (Monday morning)
I was awake before anyone else, so I slipped out of bed, dressed for the cool morning, and went quietly outside. The lake was covered with a blanket of fog as far as I could see. The sun was trying to make an appearance, so it was likely the fog would be burned off by mid-morning. I've found a nice quiet rock at the edge of the lake to sit on and write. As much as I love my home computer, I'm beginning to think a laptop is the only way to go. Anyway, momma duck and three baby ducklings are swimming in and around this part of the lake. I've been bringing them food scraps since Saturday, so I think they're used to me by now.
Andy Jr. has come out to join me. He said he heard me get up. We hit it off well right from the start. I was still in the hospital, recovering from the accident, when he was born. He tends to be shy around other people, but Doc and Claire have both told me, at different times, that I bring out the best in him. I can honestly say he does the same for me. Sometimes he scares me though because he's like any other nine-year-old, full of curiosity and wonder. He hit me with a question awhile ago that struck me in its brutal honesty. I don't know if I can capture our full conversation, but here's how most of it went.
"Uncle Wayno, are you going to die soon?"
"Um, I don't think so. I feel okay. What brought that on?"
"I worry a lot about you. When you had to get a new kidney, Mom said you were terribly sick and that we should pray hard for you to be okay. I did. So did Mom and Louie. But you're not okay yet."
"No, not just yet, but I think I will be. I'm not rejecting the kidney like I was, not like in the beginning."
"What about your other cancer? Daddy says you will have to go to Bethesda tomorrow morning."
"Yes, we will. I've had the cancer since 1992. It went away for awhile, too, and I think it will again. Daddy has helped me for a very long time. If anyone can make me okay again, he can."
"Will you be sick after tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I will. If I didn't get sick, Daddy and I would both think the treatments weren't working. In the end, the side effects are a good thing. I wish I didn't have to be. But Daddy will take care of me."
"When you come back here Friday morning, will you be better?"
"Yeah, I think so. You don't have to worry about me, you know."
"Well, Daddy and Mom both do. Louie does, too, but she won't say so. You know girls. I worry too."
"Okay, I understand. But think positive, okay? It helps me when you do that, too."
"I will. I love you Uncle Wayno."
He gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek.
"I love you, too, Kid. You're really very special."
A few moments later, I heard the trees rustling and caught a glimpse of someone moving away. I couldn't tell who it was. My first thought was that I hope they didn't hear us talking. Five minutes later, Claire called out from the porch for Andy to come in and told me I had 15 minutes before breakfast.
When I got back to the house, I could hear the shower running upstairs. The kids were outside being kids. Claire was in the kitchen alone. She came over to me, hugged me close, and kissed me on the cheek.
"Thank you, Wayne. You're a good man."
"Okay, I confess. But what is the thanks for?"
"For answering Andy's question honestly. It must have been a hard question to hear from a nine-year-old little boy."
"If I lied to him, he'd know it. As hard as the question was, he wanted an answer he could live with. I think he's comparing my reality to what you and Doc talk about."
"I'm also sorry for eavesdropping. I intended to join you guys on the rock, but I arrived just as Andy asked the question. My heart stopped, and then you brought me to tears, so I had to leave. My impulse was to speak up right away, to tell him he shouldn't ask about such things. I think I was too curious myself to hear what you said. Sounded like the truth to me."
There was great comfort in this family. Everyone showed me what caring and fear was about. Andy made my day.
May 26th (afternoon)
The afternoon was filled with enough activity to make us all happy. We played badminton in the back yard, went for a canoe ride under bright sunny skies, played soccer at a local park for hours, bought tickets in advance to see a movie, and arrived home after 10:30, about as exhausted as we could be. Andy and Louisa wanted me to tuck them in. They'd still be asleep by the time Doc and I headed for Washington in the morning. Claire settled in for a hot bath and Doc and I sat on the porch, playing backgammon.
He and I talked about the protocol for the next three days and he told me that tomorrow was also "bone marrow day". He knew how much I hated a bone marrow aspiration and usually gave no more than 24 hours notice. This is one of the few times he's told me face to face; usually it's a phone call or a voicemail message.
"You hate hearing that, don't you?"
"More than you'll ever know."
"Pain -- killer pain. I can't stand that frickin' needle. Never could and I know I never will."
"But it's the best indicator of what's going on in your system."
"Yeah. I know. Doesn't mean I have to like it. Besides, I don't think I have any bone marrow left. After almost five years, you've taken it all."
"Twenty two years. That still freaks me out. Do you know I've known you seven years longer than I've known my own wife? And she's STILL jealous of that notion."
"Yeah, but she loves me anyway. You're the father of her two truly gorgeous children, so she hasn't got a thing to worry about."
"She told me awhile ago about your conversation this morning with Andy. I have to thank you, too, Wayne. I'm not sure even I'd be that honest with a little boy. I guess I still think of Andy as a kid."
"Well, he is a kid. He just happens to be a very bright little guy. I love him too much to treat him like a kid though."
"Twenty-two years as doctor and patient, not to mention friend, and you still find ways to amaze me. I trust you'll never be anything else but honest with my children. They sure do think you're tops."
With that, he got up, said that we need to leave by 6:30, and went upstairs. I went back to the lake and watched the moon rise over the tall pines. It amazed me that I've beaten the monster so far. Five years with the enemy, and I still got it on the run (although it does a fair amount of chasing me). Except for roughly two full years of remission, I've had cancer in some form in my body. It's eaten a kidney plus 1/6th of my lower left lung. I've had enough high fevers to scare Doc into thinking I would not live the night. I've watched cancer take a fair amount of people I've loved dearly. I live for them because they showed me how. For those people, I live each day in joy and in a small amount of sadness. And for little people like Andy and Louisa, I let Doc play "mad scientist" with my body so that they may never know of cancer.
May 27th (Tuesday evening)
Home at Doc's in Maryland. He's on the phone with Claire and the kids. I've finished three full hours of puking myself silly and I'm now stretched out in Andy's room. He likes the idea of me keeping Garfield and Odie company the next couple of nights. I think they are keeping me company instead. Since I didn't sleep more than an hour last night, I'm worn out enough to sleep now.
Well, sleep was a good idea while it lasted. Doc fell asleep on the sofa and I've been sitting in a chair beside him watching a ball game. I dozed off after several more rounds of puking myself into a stupor. He got up and helped me upstairs, sitting on the bed beside me until I went to sleep.
May 28th (Wednesday evening)
Day 2 of chemo from hell. Same as last night. Over and out.
May 29th (Thursday afternoon)
I was going to make an entry just as I did last night. Doc says he'd rather I say what's on my mind. He knows there are things that I still won't say to his face. He's read my entire journal to date, sometimes with me nearby watching him wipe away tears. I have great respect for the man (Doc, you didn't hear that). His name is Andrew (same as another cool friend's name) but I've never called him anything but Doc, It's just the right level of formal with respect to him being a physician and to our friendship. I'll say most anything to his face. That which I don't is only because tears wouldn't let me.
Okay Doc, this is what's on my mind, but you won't like it. Yesterday's total "puke time" was five hours. That's nearly one quarter of my day over a toilet. I can feel the nausea coming on after my latest treatment. It's like standing on the sand on a beach, watching a tsunami on the near horizon, knowing it's going to blow over you and kill even a little bit of you. Every time Doc puts that needle into the butterfly in my hip, I feel like the second mugging where I ended up with a knife in my shoulder. The implication of the harm to my body is no less. Being poisoned three times a week is no less than receiving a deep knife-inflicted wound, and my chances of survival are about the same.
Daily stats: Temp: 103. BP: 150/87. Heart rate: 81. Osteo pre-chemo: 4.9M per m/l (normal is 150K per m/l). Osteo post-chemo (2 hours): 2.2 per m/l. So why can't it stay that low? Min and max have ranged from 1.8 to 4.9 million cells per milliliter in seven days. God have mercy on my wretched soul.
The kidney distress is still distressing. The rejection has all but stopped, but now I have an infection, which is partly responsible for the 103 temp. It's NOT a good sign to have an infection with a 10 week old kidney. I've got so many feelings about this whole thing, and none of them good ones at the moment. Cancer is more than enough to think about. But cancer and a dying kidney are too overwhelming.
We're home for the evening. Andy and I talked for 10 minutes before he went to bed. Louisa came on the line and said that Daddy will watch me tonight so I don't have to worry. Claire and Doc talked for a half-hour. Then he settled down on the floor beside me in the bathroom, put a cold towel on my head, and held my head while I threw up my sneakers. Having done the same for a fellow warrior, I still find it mind-numbing to sit with someone who is emptying their stomach. I had every urge to run away although Matt felt so much better with me beside him. Doc is not any different. He did this to me, so he feels responsible. However, he should realize, and probably does, that I'm a willing participant in this whole program.
Each day with the cancer makes me hate it even more. Five and a half years of this raging in my system, or lurking there ready to strike out at me again when I least suspect it. All I want is a remission that'll hold more than a year. On the 21st of June, it'll make 24 months with this enemy in my body again. The pain is impossible and the strength in my left leg is all but gone. I fell again tonight in the driveway of Doc's house. The leg gave way and I went down quickly, too quickly for Doc to grab me. It's like you're walking along and somebody unseen yanks you down. I've also cracked a second rib, which makes puking up pure hell. And I've told Doc time and again that at least I'm alive and making my way in the world -- I guess I have to believe I'm grateful for the lessons, hard as they are.
Total puke time for the 29th was just short of 7 hours -- one third of my day in misery. It's now after midnight, and there's nothing left but dry heaves. Doc made me a bowl of oatmeal before he went upstairs. For a man five years my senior, he looked more like a senior citizen. I'm watching the highlights of the Rockets/Jazz basketball game. . .Chicago and Utah in the finals. Go Jazz! Yet another thing that Doc and I agree on.
May 30th (Fried-Day evening)
Andy thinks it's clever that I call it Fried-Day. He knows Friday isn't one of my favorite days because it's just at the end of my three days of treatment and that I'm about at my worst for the week. Doc and I came back to the woods at 8:00, though he'd told Claire last night it would be more like noon. I didn't sleep all night and he was up at 6:00 as usual, so we left early. He forced me (sorta, as best he could) to have some oatmeal before we left. I warned him what would happen if I ate. Within the hour, we were pulled over to the side of the road and I was barfing on Virginia. Just don't tell the Governor.
Claire mothered me for the day, putting me on the sofa near the window to look out at the lake. She took my temp every four hours and wrote it in my journal. It hit 104 by 2:00. Now holding steady at 103. I sat out on the screened porch and ate soup for lunch and had soup again for dinner. The day was wet and cool so I was dressed in 4 layers of clothing. Even then I shivered against it. However, to sit and watch the beauty of this quiet spot helped me push some of the crap aside for a bit and listen to nature. I even napped for a good two hours in the old rocking chair with my feet up on the railing. When I woke up, I was covered with a blanket and a small pillow was holding up my head. Claire said it was Louie's turn to be my mother.
I'm going to miss this place when we leave Sunday afternoon. Doc says I can have the place all to myself over 4th of July if I want it. It's my next long weekend and I just may take him up on the offer. I'm already invited back for the end-of-summer bash over Labor Day weekend. Also, providing Mother Nature cooperates, this will be a weekend outing place from which to cross country ski. I can only imagine these woods in a deep blanket of fresh snow. Can't help but think about it, even though summer is barely starting.
May 31st (Saturday morning)
The morning is very cool and damp. I got thermal underwear on, cotton socks under wool socks, corduroy jeans, hiking boots, T-shirt, under long-sleeved flannel shirt, under hooded sweatshirt with my baseball jacket and baseball cap. I'm sitting on the rock, at the edge of the lake. The sun is an hour from rising.
Doc, surprisingly, is up. Claire and the kids, he says, are still sleeping soundly. He woke with no doubt I'd be out here and wanted to spend some quiet time with me. We were alone earlier in the week but he says with the trashing he gave me, he was not exactly sure he was still my friend.
"I love being a doctor and I've seen some good and bad along the way. Being your friend first and then your doctor is very hard because you know I can't stay distant from you."
"I don't want you to be distant, Doc. I want you to care about me so you take care of the whole me. If being a good doctor means being distant from your patients, I'd fail; I would want to be involved with all my patients. I couldn't keep the distance nor have the desire to. I don't envy you much, but I am infinitely glad you are there for me."
"Really? I would think that by now you'd be pissed at me, for making you sick five or six days a week."
"You saved my life when you found the kidney for me. I got a long ways to go. I wish the rejection process would stop. I feel a very deep concern for the life of the man who entrusted me to carry on his life for him. It's a terrible thing to think that his gift won't last."
"You can't think that way, Wayne. The rejection process is normal. You wouldn't have gotten it if we didn't think the success rate was high. You know you waited almost 18 months for that kidney. It'll take time for it to settle into you properly. But it will, believe it. Joe and Andrew are really concerned about you."
"I know, Doc. I try to help them not worry."
"By telling them what you're telling me. That it just takes time."
"You don't lie to your buddies do you?"
"Then you must believe it too."
And I did. Sometimes there were doubts, but I guess I did believe more than I doubted. Doc and I sat here for awhile, not saying much, feeding the ducks with some bread he'd brought out, waiting for the sun to rise.
May 31st (Saturday evening -- into Sunday morning)
The day had been filled with things to do with the kids. We started out for some hiking trails after breakfast, wandering through the woods, collecting things for Andy Jr.'s science class, and watching deer from a distance so we wouldn't scare them off.
I lay in bed, the bedside light on, Claire sitting beside me with her arm around my shoulder. Doc sat beside me, on my left side, holding my hand. It was an evening of "The Nightmare" ... a flashback to my accident the night we were hit. It was a recurring nightmare, starting about the time I came out of the coma and hitting me every few months, suddenly and with terrorizing starkness.
"Can we talk about your accident?"
And we did. Claire had heard it before, in bits and pieces. Tonight she had the whole picture. As I talked, and cried, she would ask questions back to me, gently and with caring, wanting to know what was there to make me so afraid.
"What do you do when you have the nightmare and you're home, alone?"
"I call my buddy Joe, sometimes Andrew. They've held me the rest of the night, made it all better somehow."
"Does it get better?"
"Yeah, sooner or later, and I suspect the severity of these will die out as I come to terms with my own guilt."
"Getting out of the way. Sometimes I think I had more than enough time to avoid it, but I don't know, so the guilt hangs on. I can't see what happened, clearly, just the starkness of the point of impact and then from then forward. I'm tired, Claire. I think I need to sleep again. I'm glad you stayed with me. It's been two hours. You must be tired too."
She went back to bed, leaving a small lamp in the corner burning, to keep the darkness away.
June 1st (Sunday afternoon)
Breakfast, a final boat ride around the lake, taking our time, hugs from the kids, from Claire, and from Doc who was my friend. We'd been through some serious stuff together. I had total respect for the man, and I would still have fights with him because I know, deep inside, he knew I'd be fighting the cancer as much. I wasn't going to take my life for granted and say "Yes Doc" to everything he wanted me to. More than once I'd put vacation plans to go away aside, because he didn't feel right in letting me be away from my treatments or because the time was not right at all. He cared. The whole family did, very much so.
Little Andy waved at me as I backed out of their driveway, blowing me a kiss as I turned back to look. God bless my little guy.
A week in Virginia. Nice. Healing.
September 24th -- Friday, late evening to early Saturday morning (back to the present)
"So what did you tell Claire and Doc, about the accident?" Andrew asked me as we lay on the sofa together.
"Is this going in the journal?"
"Then I can't say, Andrew. Your readers . . ."
". . . are adult enough to handle it their own way. Some have asked me about you and I haven't talked much, knowing we could talk about it here. If someone can't read it, or read it now, they'll skip it or put it aside for a time. Talk to me. I don't know everything either and I want to know it now."
I lay and held Andrew, watching the tape recorder that lay on the table, taking notes for us. I hadn't told anyone but Claire and Doc and Katie's folks about the accident, in detail, about what I saw and felt. Andrew and I do not hide from each other and I know every detail about Joe's accident, every thought Andrew has about it. He's about to know mine.
This is not easy, so if you don't want to read this, put this aside. It's been 2 ½ years since I've said a word about what's about to be written.
"Come on Wayne, talk to me. Everything, love, tell me everything."
I held him tighter, putting my chin on his shoulder. He took my hands in his as they shook a little.
"It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, driving back to Connecticut where Katie and I lived, nine hours away from our parent's homes in Maine, our home state. It was about 10:30 in the evening. We were about an hour from home. Traffic was light, which is why we drove home today instead of on Sunday. There was some snow and freezing rain mix so I was taking it easy. Katie and I were talking about the news of the day, that she was pregnant. I was on cloud nine. The radio was playing pop hits, with holiday music mixed in.
"Up ahead I thought I saw headlights in the wrong lane, but I couldn't tell for sure. Seconds later he hit us, head-on, at 60+ miles an hour. To this day I think I could have gotten out of his way."
"Wayne, stop that. We've talked about this. You didn't do anything wrong."
"Oh Andrew, you don't know. You say so because you know who I am. But there's no proof, because even I don't know for sure. There's guilt there and I can't shake it, which tells me I still doubt that I did everything right. We must have been on ice, because when he hit us, our car slid backwards and hit the guard rail. His truck apparently stopped at the point of impact. When we hit the guard rail, we flipped up and over it, landing on Katie's side of the car and rolled side over side and end over end. I don't know why I didn't, but I didn't pass out right away. I felt everything. I could feel my legs breaking, my head and face hitting the steering wheel and God only knows what else, my chest being crushed, the windows breaking, my seatbelt wrapping itself around my neck, and knowing we landed on the passenger side of the car up against a stand of trees, almost upside down. I felt the snow and light rain hitting my face, but I couldn't see anything. I didn't know at that point if I was blind or if it was just too dark. I passed out, trying to feel where my Kate was but not knowing. My last thought was that I was dying, broken and dying.
"I don't know how long it was, but I woke again to some loud sounds, which turned out to be the fire department cutting away my door. I thought I saw the face of a fireman. I tasted blood and puke in my mouth and passed out again."
"And you remember some of that? My God, you shouldn't know any of that. It must have been torture."
"I had one thought, that I was not going to live, wondering who would take care of my Kate and my baby. I was dead at 29, my 30th birthday four months away and I'd never live to see it. The guy who hit us was drunk, and he didn't know for three days what he had done."
"And Joe lost Chris only a month later, bud. How long before you woke up, in the hospital?"
"As far as I know, it was mid-June when I woke up, out of a coma. It took me weeks more to know anything at all. Somehow I knew right away that Katie was gone. Nobody told me, I just knew, but that's the only thing I did know. It was a long time from the accident until I got out of the hospital."
"Over two and a half years, close to three."
"Christ! Into 1988? And no one to take care of you there, like Joe had?."
"Yeah, early September. I was alone except for nurses and a couple friends who would travel the hour from where we lived to where I was in the hospital. They couldn't come often though, usually every other weekend. I haven't had close friendships, like yours and mine now. Katie was my world. We had friends, but while I was in the hospital, I had almost none. An hour seemed too far to travel to visit me. I did PT on my own. It was a year and a half before I could walk again, compared to Joe's 10 months. It took a long time, a million surgeries, physical therapy, and counseling to get me out and home.
"Katie's folks came to get me to take me home when I could be released from the hospital, taking care of me as if I really were their child again. Katie and I both were only children, so all we had was each other. My mom and Katie's mom cheered me constantly. My pop and Katie's pop carried me everywhere I needed to go when I was healing from yet another surgery. They were all in their early 70's by then, so it hard on them. They did it anyway. I stayed in Maine for two years more before I went back to Connecticut.
"When I read about Joe's accident and healing, it could have as easily been me that he was writing about. There are discussions between Joe and me that you have no clue about, by the way. He and I found out a lot about each other when I'd call him after a nightmare, needing him to come to be with me."
"I know he came to be with you, sometimes leaving me not knowing he was gone until I found a note in the kitchen. The only thing I know is that he loves you deeper than you realize most of the time. You have intimate pain, as he calls it. I've felt your cancer pain, love, but I've never felt your pain from the accident or from losing the only person you ever loved. Saying I'm sorry is not nearly the right words, so I don't say them. It's not sorrow I feel. You break my heart, and all I really have is words of what it was like. Joe has feelings of what it was like."
"Joe and I still got some stuff to talk about, Andrew. Tell him that when you're with him again."
"No, you tell him. I'm only Andrew. You're Wayne, someone who has been where Joe is, if only once, but he knows. I need your help getting him out of this coma, because you and he are connected. He'll listen to you."
"Okay, love, I will. Sunday."
"What happened to the guy who hit you?"
"He was charged with manslaughter and put in prison for ten years. I heard that he was only 22 or 23. He wasn't hurt that night either. I don't know if he served the full sentence. I hope he rotted in the fucking place."
"What would you wish?"
"I dunno. But I don't think I'd wish him dead."
"Oh yeah? What about the two teens who hit Joe?"
"Being stupid doesn't mean you should die."
"Liar. You wanted them dead."
"Wanted. Back then. Not now. I'd like them to hurt a lot, like Joe is. Not dead though. Not really."
"Andrew how can you forgive them like that?"
"Because I want Joe to live more than I want to think about them."
"If I ever met the guy who killed my Kate and my baby, I'd break his neck and I wouldn't be sorry."
"No, Wayne. It's not right."
"It's right for me."
"No. Not ever."
"Oh yes, man. It would be and I'd be glad I did it."
Andrew knew I meant what I said. I still believe what I said.
"I want him to be put in a car, hit at 60 fucking miles an hour, break his body like mine, and then I want to rip his heart out because I despise everything the man is and that he lives, unhurt, unscratched, and is now free after only prison time. I feel like I could hunt him down and hurt him until he screamed and then died."
"I hate you think that."
Andrew told me to turn around and face him. He looked into my eyes. They were red and puffy from crying and from extreme hatred. I felt the hatred as much today as I did when I first knew what happened. Early feedback on the preview to friends of this journal was very kind. I told a few that I have "opening night" jitters. Most of you still know so little about me that I'm not a person yet, not like Joe or like Andrew. A good friend told me that I'm giving too much back to the man who killed my family. She said that he's "taken even more from you and is still taking from your life. He has no right to do that, so please don't give him that power." I know she's right. But I told Andrew this:
"I want the man dead. It's been on my mind a lot of years and it's rarely lessened because he left me widowed and childless for the rest of my life. My son, which I still believe I would have had, would be 13 years old this past August. Instead I got thoughts of what would have been, dreams of a life with my wife and my son, giving him a brother or sister to love along the way, being a complete man instead of one who hated one man with all my energy. I lay awake at night thinking of how I'd find the man. I've backed off on occasion from the thought, denied it, told myself I was stupid and wrong, but ... I could kill him".
"No more Wayne. Stop. You can't hate forever."
He was wrong. I could. I do. Katie and I had 24 years together and I've been without her for 14. My best friend from the time we were 5 years old. My love from the time we were teens ourselves. Yes I could hate forever. I want to.
Note: I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, making edits to the journal. I've been thinking about this again, to see if it's how I honestly feel. It is. These words are scary to read, knowing who I really am, because no one has seen this from me, not even Andrew, until very recently. The hatred is like my personal Anxiety Monster. Andrew once said his Anxiety Monster was about 27 feet tall. Mine's about the size of the lump in my throat. It brings back new tears and sobbing. Andrew is with Joe this afternoon, so the arms around me are mine only and they aren't nearly enough to bring me comfort. Funk? No. Depression -- Wayno's "dark side". Where are you my Obi-Wan?.
My mom died in 1991 at 78. Katie's dad died in 1996 at 82. My dad died in late September 1997, at 85. Katie's mom died in 1998, only last year, at 83. There is no Sheltry left, in all our family, except for me. I am also the only Sheltry ever to graduate from college. My folks were proud of me and we loved each other very deeply. Katie's folks loved me like their own son, and I too loved them with all my heart. Joe's folks also died, in the mid-90's, not far apart from each other, in their early 80's. He still has two sisters and a brother. Andrew's folks are alive, in their early to mid-60's, losing only young Kevin along the way. They are afraid for Andrew, of course, but the love is stronger than the fear and they, like me, believe somehow that he will live through the crisis. They know Andrew loves me the way he loves his Joe. I am treated as they treat Andrew, as a son and with respect, as is Joe, maybe a little moreso because he came first.
All I have is Andrew. When there is no Andrew in my day, there is throat-clutching hatred and extreme lonliness. Andrew is the only reason I do not actually go on a long search. I could break the bastard who stole my life, like he broke me, and not feel anything more once I was done with my task. Evil and wrong, and thoughtless too, if I were to give words to my feelings -- but it doesn't make them go away.
"Come on, love, let's go to bed."
He reached out and turned off the tape. He kissed me and held me close for a few minutes. I shook in his arms. My heart raced and he let it calm down. He would ask me to make love to him and I would say yes. Andrew took from me too. And for him, I would give him anything he asked for.
As he entered me, I felt the connection complete me. He moved inside me and took my hate away. He bent forward to kiss me and looked into my eyes. I wish he could really see them. More than any wish I have is that my blind buddy will see again. I hold his face in my hands so he knows where to look. I wonder what he sees of me, in his mind.
"I love you, Wayne. Do you know that?"
"Yeah, love, I do know that. Tell me anyway."
He put my leg over his shoulder and filled me deeper, touching my chest, feeling for my heart, and touching my lips with his fingers. If he could really look at me, he would have looked through my eyes inside of me, wanting to see everything that made me who I am. He would see the sadness and the anger and the fear, but he also had to see that I loved him so deeply that when he wasn't with me that I was empty. I raised myself up on my elbows and wrapped my leg around Andrew's back, pulling him inside me. He touched all the places inside that sent fire up through my body. I shivered.
I wanted him to hold me like he likes being held. He withdrew from me for only a moment and then I lay on my stomach. He re-entered me in two strokes and then wrapped his arms around me tightly. We wanted to take our time. Andrew was not in a rush to get off. He entered my ass fully, withdrew to the head, and slid back inside with control and caring for me. I've said it before. To be the object of Andrew's love is the great feeling of the world. I am the luckiest man who walks the earth, because Andrew is my buddy. He gives me love, not just sex. He touches me, more than just with his hands. He sees more than I do at times, even though one or both tumors has made him blind. I push my ass up as he enters me. I clutch his dick tightly. He breathes onto my neck, nibbles my ear, and whispers 'I love you' to me. I smile, and he knows it because his fingers are on my lips. I turn my head so I can kiss him. I love Andrew with everything that lets me, very deeply. I have known him six years (previous journals said four, but I corrected Andrew after the fact when I finally read them, remind him that it was in the fall of 1993 that we came to be friends). We have physically been with each other, in this way, just over a month, having kissed the first time only two months ago. We live in quiet, easy love. He does not fuck me for the sake of getting off. He makes me connected to him, and not merely with his cock in my ass.
I feel Andrew finally come inside me, feeling his cock get slick and wetter as he shoots his cream deep inside me, using it to lubricate his cock so he can keep entering me as he shoots. When he is done, he stays inside me and lays on my back. I push my ass up again so he can stay inside longer.
"I do love you so, my Wayne. I love you with my heart, and my soul. You don't ask me for anything, except to be your buddy. But I will love you always."
"I love you as much, my bud. I could live forever on your love alone."
I knew he was tired. I didn't ask that he let me fuck him back. I rolled onto my back again and put his head on my chest, stroked his head, and let him sleep. After awhile, I put his head on my pillow beside me and I lay awake, watching his sweet face. I wanted him to be safe. When I finally let myself close my eyes to sleep, it was after 4:00 a.m. I held him so that even in his sleep he would know that I was here, giving him what he wanted. In return, I had everything I could ever want. Andrew's love was enough.