Sunday, January 23, 2011

“Invictus” and Paul Christensen

January 24, 2001

Today Dad and I were in search of a cure for his swollen eyelids and swollen mouth. He has been suffering from a cold, a sinus infection, and eventually some other awful symptoms. We saw Dr. Isaacson and Dr. Kelly Hubbard (Don Holdaway’s new partner). After Dr. Hubbard examined Dad, he said he needed more information and would be back soon. Dad was snoring by the time he returned. Dr. Hubbard has just come from the Mayo Clinic. He had called the department head there to see if he had ever seen angioedema with Stevens Johnson syndrome. He had, so Dr. Hubbard and he concluded that is what Dad may have. He suggested we report back to Dr. Siler (Dad’s eye doctor), which I did. We also talked to Reed twice and he talked to the allergy specialist at Tripler. So we have information from six doctors.

Still, Dad is suffering. Earlier this week when his eyelids were inflated balloons, we thought it was bad. Then he got cankers and his lips were swollen beyond recognition. Even now eating is nearly impossible because of pain. He takes food through a straw.

While we were first waiting for Dr. Hubbard to come into the room, Dad said, “There’s a poem that keeps going through my head these last few days. Clare used to sing it.”

“Say it for me,” I encouraged, suspecting which one it was. I hope I will always remember the scene. With effort he formed each word around the obstacles in his mouth. He began,

Out of the night that covers me.

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

He paused, carefully swallowed the emotion, then moved on.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed. . . .

He was looking straight ahead. I was sitting beside him, studying his misshapen, guileless face. He wasn’t performing–just carefully remembering each meaningful word.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.

(“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley)

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