7 Grapes, 4 Spoonsful of Ice Cream, 5 Bites of Rice

7 grapes, 4 spoonsful of ice cream, 5 bites of rice. That’s what Susan ate yesterday. That’s all she would eat.

There was also some discussion of Diet Coke and chocolate milk, which was the first undeniable signpost of where things are headed, and why I’ve been unable to sleep.

Yesterday (Monday) morning, I grabbed a Diet Coke out of the garage fridge as I came back in from my early morning ride. I was surprised to see Susan was awake — she usually sleeps in.

“Where have you been?” she asked.

“On a ride. I told you about it before I left, but you were pretty sleepy and probably don’t remember it.”

“Is that Diet Coke?”

“Yeah,” I said, holding aloft the big 2-liter bottle so she could get a look at it.

“Can I have some?”

“Of course.” I went and poured some into one of those sipper cups they make for toddlers — the kind that you can drink from while laying down, without spilling.

“Here you go,” I said.

Susan took a sip and said, “Are you tricking me?”


“You said you were going to get me some chocolate milk. This is Diet Coke.”

“Sorry, I must have gotten mixed up,” I said. “I wasn’t playing a trick on you. Would you rather have chocolate milk instead?”

“No, Diet Coke is OK.” Then, a moment later: “You probably think it’s really stupid to be drinking Diet Coke this early in the morning.” All while I am of course still holding my own giant bottle of soda where she can see it.

Stop Tricking Me

As the day went on, Susan had hours that were normal, but increasingly frequently — the rapidity of the change has been unbelievable — she’s been disoriented and disconnected.

I suggested we watch one of her favorite movies — Return of the King (last week, we saw the first two movies in the trilogy). “Right. How about we wait until they finish making it,” she said.

So, thinking that she’d be comforted by the sound of my voice even if she didn’t understand everything, I started reading aloud the book I’ve been reading to her and the boys: Watership Down.

After a couple of pages, Susan stopped me. “You’re just reading the same words over and over,” she said. “Stop tricking me.”

Then, finally, close to bedtime, I went and got Susan some chocolate milk for real, thinking maybe earlier she had been trying to express that she wanted some, but had said “Diet Coke” because she had seen the bottle at the time.

“I got you some chocolate milk,” I said.

She held the cup up, looking at it skeptically, then tasted it.

“Please stop tricking me,” she said, and pushed the cup away. Then she started to cry.

At the End

I know that this is not Susan talking. We’ve known each other twenty-one years, and she knows that I wouldn’t play a trick on her, not when she’s sick.

But the cancer is pushing on her brain and has started making Susan see me as someone who is not to be trusted. And I worry that this is just the start, considering how fast things started moving over just the past couple days.

What greater slap in the face could cancer give me, than to make my wife fear and suspect me as I try to take care of her at the end of her life?

There just doesn’t ever seem to be an end to the ways it can find to injure and insult us.

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