Day 3

Kage Baker was a patient and methodical person. Her motives, methods and logic were sometimes so weird I wanted to set my hair on fire – but once she had a plan, she worked toward it with an admirable efficiency and determination.

We went through all the 9 Circles of Bureaucratic Hell, getting Kage treatment for her cancer. Kage, early on, just surrendered to the apparent tide and trusted me to set her course: she hated dealing with people anyway, and honestly could not cope with the petty secretaries and clerks who stood between her and medical care. That happens to a lot of sick people – believe me, Dear Readers, if any of your loved ones becomes seriously ill,  you find someone to be their warrior/advocate.

They’ll need it. So will you, when it’s your turn in the barrel. Kage had me, and while I ultimately did not succeed in saving her life, I at least made her last year a lot less painful and a lot more pleasant. It was my job to listen to the doctors and figure out what they said.  Kage’s job was to listen to me and do what I told her, go where I took her, sign where I advised her. She patiently and methodically did all that. It wasn’t her fault that it didn’t quite work.

Once of the things she ordered me to remember, was that I wouldn’t be able to manage this myself if I was alone. She knew that my personal inclination was to clam up and try to do everything myself; she warned me not to do that. Don’t you dare try to live by yourself! she commanded, as we sat waiting for her last ever guests to arrive. You haven’t got the sense God gave a goose.

Which was pretty funny coming from someone who thought her insides were solid like a potato, until she had to research anatomy to write about it. However, most evidence indicated Kage was fairly correct in her evaluation of my share of sense. So when my health took its unnecessarily melodramatic nose dive in the winter of 2010, I was already safely living in Los Angeles where my sister Kimberly could keep an eye on me.

Kimberly (who is also patient and methodical) has been my safety net ever since. She’s gotten me through all the ridiculous illnesses that followed my collapse in 2010: heart attacks, diabetes, klebsiella, uterine cancer, and now kidney failure. That last one is especially unfair to Kimberly, since – like all my unfortunate friends and family – she’s also had to deal with me getting sick from the damned thing over and over through the last 50 years. But she did it.

She taught me how to make and keep a daily meds schedule – Kimberly is an avid fan of all office supplies and aids, and has colour-coded significant portions of my life. She has introduced me to Levenger bags, Circa filing systems, Post-it Notes in actually interesting colours and sizes. She nags me to write; this Countdown Series was her idea.  And she makes sure I actually read all the information that comes in the mail from doctors and medical groups and the Federal Gummint; and then she actually files it in these big, easily accessed notebooks …

If Kage was a devotee of the God of Writing, Kimberly is a priestess of the Goddess of Librarians. They were and are marvels of skills I seldom bothered to exercise, and they have both shaped and saved my present life.

So here I am, on Day 3 counting down to my much-anticipated nephrectomy. I finished the check-in interview today – you can check in in advance for surgery these days; better than airlines! – and all I have to do is decide what I am taking to the hospital. And Kimberly is making the packing list, a task at which I have always sucked … Kage used to do all that.

But tonight I can relax in the knowledge that my Kindle and my Buke will be available when I wake up enough to use them. Someone will bring me pizza, and red jello if the hospital only has nasty green jello. When I come home, someone will know where my clothes are, will make sure I remembered to pack underwear and shoes, and will have a folder ready for all my discharge instructions.

So here’s the ultimate wisdom I have learned so far in life, Dear Readers:  Make sure you have sisters.