Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Visit with Ted

I decided to visit Ted after work today before I went to choir rehearsal tonight. I’m always a little afraid of what I will find because I know that he is deteriorating. ALS is a disease that doesn’t offer remission or improvement. It is just a steady decline.

When I called to find out if it was OK to stop by, his caretaker answered the phone with a lot of loud music in the background – not the type of music Ted listens to. But she said I could come, so I didn’t care.

I was met at the door by Fatima, yet another large African woman (from Sierra Leone) who is taking care of Ted. She showed me to where he was sitting on a couch, with the breathing machine running to help him breathe. Fatima helped him get unhooked so we could have a conversation and then quickly ducked out of the room. I could tell that he doesn’t like her very much.

Poor Ted. He is so thin now and his breathing is so difficult. He was wearing maroon pajamas and slippers.

Ted labored to tell me about his experience last weekend going to Allentown, PA, to his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah. She had moved it up by 6 months to give him a chance to attend. He almost decided not to go because it is such an effort to do anything these days, but he knew that this would probably be his last chance to see lots of friends and family. As taxing as the trip was, he was glad that he had made the effort.

What I admire most about Ted is his honesty as he faces this horrible disease. He proceeded to tell me the many ways his life has changed as a result of getting sick. He had to forego a vacation to Provence and Tuscany. For the first year, he missed the winter trip of the Temple Micah ski club, which he had organized many years ago. His relationship with his beautiful wife Suzanne has been permanently altered. He never cries, he just tells it like it is.

After about half an hour, I couldn’t bear to keep Ted from getting the benefit of the machine that helps him breathe. So I gave him a kiss and told him we all loved him.

Before I left, he made sure that he had the phone right next to his hand, just in case. I think he is always afraid of being abandoned by his caretakers. It is so sad that they will never know him as the brilliant, witty, talented guy that he has always been.

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