I went to see Randy in the hospital with an unammed friend (UF) yesterday. Wednesday he had gotten up and stood for several minutes and did arm curls for physical therapy. He had made a couple calls on his cell phone and had been eating real food for a couple of days. We had all let our guard down. Exhaled a collective sigh of relief and started making plans for when he could come home. UF and I heard he had a couple bad days Thursday and yesterday, which was expected. He had a very long road ahead of him full of good days, great days and a few not so good days sprinked in. We were not prepared for what we encountered.
For the first time I did not recognize the person in the bed. He did not open his eyes and give me a reassuring "really, I'm going to be fine" look. For the first time he didn't wake up at all. He didn't squeeze back when I squeezed his hand. We were a little stunned but not willing to let go the images of Randy's obvious improvement over the last few days. The sitter commented that he was wiggling his fingers in his sleep. She said she had asked a nurse about it, wondering if he had played piano. The nurse said she didn't know but that he had programmed computers. UF and I jumped to correct her.
"He does play piano. Very well," I said.
"He does program computers. He does both. And he has a masters in physics," said UF on the defensive.
We didn't realize that the staff doesn't know him like we do. Just snippets of what he says and overheard conversations. The nurse came in to check on him and we asked her to please be honest with us. How bad are things. Very bad. He can still turn around but it is not looking good.
"I wish I would have known him. I heard he was funny."
"He is funny!" UF adamantly corrected again.
UF has been a rock through this whole thing. She is Randy's closest friend and biggest cheerleader. For the first time though I saw a chink in the armor.
For the first time I cried for Randy. Up until now I was unwilling to believe any of this. 27-year-olds don't die. Not brilliant, unique individuals with long important lives yet to live. Firy tears ran down my cheek. I didn't leave the room because I knew Randy couldn't tell I was crying.
Before we had even gone to the hospital, Randy's mom asked UF and me to stop by Randy's apartment where she and her sister were staying. After the talk with the nurse we knew she had wanted to give us the grim update. Randy's mom was alternately teary and cheerful. She would tear up then I would tear up. "Do you need a hug?" She would ask. I didn't but I let her hold me because I think she needed to. UF was still stoic though she reported being near the breaking point.
After spending a couple hours talking to Randy's mom and aunt we went back to my lab to talk to the boys. They were as shocked as we had been hours earlier. By this time it was past six and we knew the guys would have questions. We decided to go to Randy's favorite restaurant.
I got in my car to drive separately. It was my first moments alone since before the hospital. The quiet tears turned into racking sobs, shaking my whole body and my car as well. I couldn't stop crying. The keys in the ignition caused the radio to be quietly playing. Classical music, which just made things worse.
I was late to the restaurant but I felt a little better. Randy's favorite waitress waited on us and reported the soup of the day was creamy potato. Also his favorite. We talked about his favorite foods and about the time he took a five dollar bill (his tip for the waitrees) and folded it up until it was the size of pea and silently dropped it in the palm of her hand. His way of flirting. Our memories will be what gets us through the next few days. But it will be hard as hell.