Sunday, June 19, 2016

Remembering Tim

The youngest in our family, Tim, is gone. He died sometime late Wednesday or Thursday in his bed in the lower level townhome room he rented from a woman in Burnsville.

There had been a falling out between Tim and most others in the family in the weeks leading up to our mother's death last September. He and I exchanged some harsh words back then and we hadn't spoken since August but the family came to his side when he recently received a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer.

I wrote a few weeks ago about first learning of his cancer diagnosis in a post here that I only recently published a couple days ago. What follows is simply a collection of my thoughts about Tim's final weeks. I'm doing this for me. Tim was illusive in my life (and other's lives) and for me personally, I'm afraid to lose the few memories I have of him. These may not be the memories I'd prefer but it's what I have to work with.

With my sister Jackie on the north end of the cities it only made sense that Tammy and I take over the task of helping Tim manage his appointments and take him when he needed a ride.

We went with him for an upper endoscopy on Thursday, June 2nd to further evaluate an area that had shown up on a recent PET scan. He was nervous about both the procedure itself and what it might find but still he encouraged me to take some photos of him. He reminded me so much of my dad in the way he interacted with the hospital staff. He could be very friendly and joking one minute but then cutting and somewhat rude the next. I found myself cringing at times and thinking, don't act like that -- they're only trying to help you!

Tammy took over responsibility for managing Tim's many doctor appointments and making sense of the complicated maze of county and state offices to arrange for Tim to receive medical assistance. It was no small task to do. Tim couldn't have asked for a better advocate than Tammy as she left nothing to question. The three of us would attend doctor appointments together and Tammy would have her folders with Tim's files at the ready in case there were any questions that may have required answers about previous cares or appointments not yet processed by other offices and reflected in his records. I can't imagine how someone struggling with a critical illness and with nobody to help them keeps from quickly becoming overwhelmed by it all.

The results of the endoscopy came back positive for cancer in his chest and the doctor told Tim that the biopsies they took during the procedure would be analyzed to see if it was an entirely different cancer or if it was his colon cancer that had metasticized in his chest. Tim didn't seem at all concerned. He was telling others that the procedure was a success and that the doctor had found nothing. I'd never witnessed a denial quite like that but I wasn't going to correct him.

Tim had to be given a sedative for the procedure and it was important that he not be left alone for several hours afterwards so I took him out for a drive to waste some time. He was so content as we drove around still feeling the effects of the anesthesia. We couldn't know it then but this would be the last time he would ever feel good or somewhat normal.

We stopped by Mom's home in Lakeville and walked through it. He noticed the towels in the bathroom and I could tell he really would like to have them. I asked him if he needed them and if he did to take them and so he did. He went through every cabinet and drawer to make sure nothing was being left behind.

As we were leaving in the car he noticed one of the neighbors, Berta, sitting on a picnic table in her garage. "Pull in here" he said. Tim motioned her over to his window and she walked up to the car. They made small talk for a few seconds and then Berta said "I can't place you". She didn't even recognize Tim. I felt bad for him but he laughed it off and told her what he's been going through. They had a really nice conversation and you could tell that she really liked Tim and missed seeing him around. We spoke with her for at least 20 minutes.

We then went out to the old house in Farmington and pulled into the driveway where we reminisced for a while and tried to recall if the trees that line the driveway were there when mom and dad lived there or if they were planted later. He saw the mailbox pole with the street address routed into it and mentioned that he was the one who routed the numbers into the wood.

I asked if he'd like to go out to see Keith and Tracee and he said "sure!". I was going to call ahead and let them know we were coming but he wanted to surprise them. We had a nice conversation there but it seemed a little surreal at times with Tim going on about how the procedure went well earlier in the day and that there were no new concerns from the surgeon and that his doctor's worries were all for nothing when they had in fact found more cancer.

We spent quite a while with Keith and Tracee, chatting outside at a table in the front of their home. As we were getting ready to leave Tim asked Keith to give him a hug so Keith could feel how much weight he's lost. He was really just wanting the hug but we're guys and we can't admit to that.

I wanted to get a few photos of us knowing this would likely be the last time we'd be together like this.

We left Keith and Tracee's for Walmart where he liked to shop. He sought out some things he needed, always being careful to buy the cheapest item. I followed him with a basket and put his things in it. He stopped by a table of cherries where he took one out of the bag and had me taste it to see if it was sweet enough while he did the same. We spent 30 minutes in the store before he had all he needed and we headed to the checkout. His total was only $20 and he was happy to let me pay for it. The only money to his name was whatever Jackie emptied out of her purse a week earlier when she dropped him off at home after an appointment. His life was a hand-to-mouth existence in the truest sense. He didn't want for much and neither did he have much.

He got a call from Tina on the drive home and she appeared to be upset with him for not calling her throughout the day. They're very close I think and he was offering her some good advice about getting her life in order and sticking to the plan even though it wasn't progressing as quickly as she would've liked. It was all such good advice. "Don't worry -- I'm not going to die!" he assured her at one point.

There's more I'd like to add to my writings about Tim and I will over the next week. It's been 48 hours since we learned of his passing and I'm still trying to process so much of this as is the rest of our family. I never imagined a year ago when our mother was dying in a nursing home that we'd so soon be losing another of our family and with so little time to prepare.


Vannevar said...

I'm very sorry for your loss - for all your losses in such a short time. You and your wife did very well by him.

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thanks my friend.

Steve Claypatch said...


Thank you for sharing these intimate moments. You and Tammy are so caring of others (family or friends) Again, Anna and I offer you our deepest sympathies.

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thanks for your kind words, Steve.

Douglas Scofield said...

Nice Blog Kevin, sorry about your loss, as you know both Noys still are concerned about you!

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thank you, Doug. Please send them my regards and let them know I'm doing well. Thanks!