I stopped being contagious the next evening. The virus was pretty much gone from my system, but the damage was already done. That’s the nature of this nasty thing: It acts like a cold, but not as contagious, while it makes lots of copies of itself. Then those little bastards rough up your organs and turn your blood against you. While in agony, you’re super-contagious, infecting anyone who gets near you. It’s vulnerable after that; the doctors told me that half the people who have it get rid of the virus, but for half of them – especially the old folks like me – it’s too late. The organs begin to die off, and blood can’t nourish all the cells. Depending on what it did, you can last up to a month with a lot of help from modern medicine, but not longer than that.
Some people like the twins and their kids shake it off easily while it’s acting like a cold, but not before they infect a few people. Our poor girl still thinks she killed me, and I didn’t make her feel any better when I told her I was refusing treatment. I don’t want to die like that, connected to machines in a hospital. Especially after I saw you. I’d rather let nature decide how long until we’re together again.
They kept me another day to make sure the virus was done with me, and so the kids could make preparations to take care of me at home. The twins did a great job, even got me a new bed and a walker though I begged them not to. Hospice met with us, and I got a new doctor who told us what to expect and gave me a huge prescription for painkillers.
The first week wasn’t too bad, though most of the time I could barely sit up and eat. A volunteer stayed with me when the twins couldn’t, a nice girl in her twenties who is studying to be a nurse. I listened to audiobooks most of the time, fun fiction more than anything else, and the news just long enough to know how bad the epidemic was becoming.
Our kids alternated nights, trying their best to keep from falling part, especially our son. He was more talkative than he’s ever been, sharing every little detail of his life, especially how the baby was doing. I was able to use the walker to get back and forth to the bathroom, and he was a real trooper helping me with it. The next week – last week – I came to despise that thing. It seemed that wherever they parked it, the shadows made it look like it had eyes, staring at me in unblinking patience as it waited for me to die. We all knew I needed it, especially as my condition got worse, so it had to stay nearby; a reminder that I was trapped in a waiting game I couldn’t win.
The pain became almost unbearable. All I could do was lie there, watching the dance of caretakers moving around, giving me injections of painkillers, adjusting my pillows and feet, changing music, then T.V., then reading stories to me. The dance and the pain. Oh, how I wished it would end. But you wouldn’t let me do anything about it, would you? The only hope I have now is that it’s finally worth it.