A few months ago I was driving home from my cousin Dave’s house in Wildomar. I’d gone out to drive him to his doctor’s appointment at Loma Linda Medical Center. Dave is afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease and has an appointment about every four weeks or so. Since retiring two years ago I’ve sort of become his designated driver for his long distance doctor’s appointments. When I first began driving him we were going all the way out to the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, That was one hell of a drive! Luckily we only had to make that drive about four times then he transferred out to Loma Linda. It’s still a lot of driving but there’s not nearly as much traffic as the Westwood drive. Actually it really doesn’t matter, I’d drive my cousin wherever he needs to go and then some. Yeah I’d do just about anything for him. He’s always been and will always be my bro. We’ve shared so much of life together.
Dave and I have always been close, we might as well have been brothers. He’s a year younger than me and we’ve hung together since we were little kids. He lived right across the alley from our grandmas’s house and it seemed like my mom was always at grandma’s so Dave and I saw each other pretty often while growing up. Yeah we shared many a good times together as kids, teens and in adulthood. We shared similar interests and even had the same taste in girls. Now that was definitely the cause of a few problems now and then but after a brief chill period we’d always managed to work things out. Yeah we were tight. When I got married he was my best man and years later I was his. God I wish there were more that I could do for him, I’d gladly share his load.
On that particular morning we had an 11:30 am appointment but the doctor was running late, we didn’t get in to see her until nearly one o’clock. By the time we left it was 2 pm. We usually stop for somewhere for a beer and a bite to eat but because we got out of there so late we skipped lunch and headed back to Dave’s. I was hoping to make it back to Dave’s house, get him settled in and get a jump on the afternoon traffic but that didn’t work out so well. After leaving Dave off I jumped on the 15 and was making good time until about 10 miles out of Corona where the northbound traffic came to a screeching halt. It was stop and go all the way to Corona. I was well into Eastvale before I was moving at a decent speed again.
While I was sitting there inching my way along I kept thing about something Dave had said earlier. We had been talking about the life journey, not particularly about his, but life in general. the highs, the lows and of course the many unknowns. We came to the conclusion that sometimes God just messes with us, He likes to shake things up a bit to see how we handle thing, learn what we’re made of. What he said next surprised me. “Yeah John we just got to learn how to deal with whatever He throws our way. At times life can be a real bitch, but it’s all just part of the trip.” I had laughed, we both had. We’d been using the “just part of the trip” line since we were teens. I think we got the line from some biker movie. I’m not sure. It was a reference to an LSD trip, but we took it to mean that everything we experience, good or bad, happy sad, is just part of the trip, our own personal life trip.
I found myself smiling at the thought. This was my cousin, a 62 year old man whose life has been turned upside down by Parkinson’s, a man who beat cancer at 40 and then again in his early 50’s. Always the optimist, he wore a tee shirt to his chemo sessions that read “CANCER: Just Another Speed Bump on the Road of Life.” Somehow he always managed to come through adversity with his positive attitude intact, at least until now.
As I sat there just outside of Corona thinking about Dave’s condition I flashed on his first battle with cancer some twenty years ago. He was about mid way through his chemo treatments and had come by the house one Saturday afternoon. We were sitting in the backyard having a beer and talking about his treatments. It was one of the rare times I saw him really down. He told me he didn’t believe the chemo was working because he wasn’t reacting like everyone else seems to with nausea, weakness and vomiting. He told me he felt fine after his chemo sessions and was able to eat right away, sometimes he even went back to work. Yeah he was pretty well convinced that it wasn’t going to work. Of course I tried to reassure him telling him that everyone reacts differently, but privately I was worried. He also told me that he’d been praying to God to let him live so that he could see his son grow up. It was his fondest wish.
A few weeks later I received a phone call from Dave. He had just come from the doctors and they’d gone over his most recent CT Scan with him. I braced myself for the worst but then he excitedly told me that the chemo was working and all his tumors were shrinking! He was so incredibly happy! His prayers had been answered and he did indeed watch his son become a man. I only wish he could feel that same happiness today but that is not to be. His condition has worsened. He is weak, bed ridden, and living in a residential, 24 hour, care facility, where he is receiving hospice care.
I have no idea how much time Dave may have left, nor do I care to dwell on it. God will make that call when He sees fit. Sadly Dave has simply grown tired, tired of being trapped in a body that no longer does what he wants it to, a mouth that will not allow him to speak the words that sound so clear in his head.. Instead they come out sounding like gibberish. He’s fed up with the constant disappointment, the drugs that never deliver as promised, the Deep Brain Stimulus surgery he underwent at UCLA and the many failed attempts at finding the correct voltage adjustment that could make him whole again and make him Dave again. Believe me he wanted to be the old Dave so badly, all he wanted was his old quality of life back, he never wanted to become a burden on anyone.
Sadly I think he’s disappointed in himself for not being able to resurrect the old Dave. Try as he might he just couldn’t do it. Believe me I know how hard he worked at it, he tried and then he tried some more, but the disease keeps pulling him back down, breaking him, gaining more and more control of him. It’s just not fair when even giving your very best isn’t enough. Until now he’s always managed to get himself back up again, but that was them.
In a 2012 blog I referred to Dave as a modern day Job. Like Job he’s been beset by pain, illness and loss, yet, even after all he’s been through he’s been able to keep hope alive. Yes this is my first cousin David “Job” Morales, my brother from another mother, my partner in crime, my soulmate. “Yeah buddy, life can be a bitch, just remember whatever happens “it’s just part of the trip.” Please keep him in your prayers.
I’m praying for you bro…