Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

By Lurlene McDaniel. Published March 1991.

Carrie is in remission from leukemia. She still has to go in and have blood work done, but she’s ok with that. It gives her a chance to see her favorite nurse, Hella. Yes that is her name. Apparently it’s a real name. Hella is also in charge of Carrie’s teen support group.

It’s good Carrie has someone on her side, because her family is all sorts of messed up. Her parents are divorced, and she lives with her mom, while her little brother lives with their dad and stepmom, Lynda. Lynda is good people. It’s a shame she wasn’t around when Carrie was sick, because neither of her parents could stand being in the hospital. Her father says he saw enough sickness in Vietnam, and her mom just doesn’t like hospitals. They would fight over who needed to be spending time with Carrie. It sounds like it was pretty fucked up.

And it’s not so great now that they’re apart. Carrie’s mom works all the time, or else she’s out with Larry, a guy from her company. Carrie’s dad and Lynda want her to move in with them. That’s something, at least.

At support group, Carrie has a bit of a crush on a guy named Keith. He’s a year older than her, and a star pitcher at their school. He also had Hodgkin’s disease. Hella knows about the crush, and sets them up together to be in charge of games at the support group’s Memorial Day picnic.

They meet up at the library, and find a lot of great ideas for games. They also find out a lot about each other. Carrie loves books, while Keith loves being outside. His favorite place is his family’s cabin in the mountains. Keith has a very close family, with three little sisters and a little brother. We already know about Carrie’s family. Carrie loves comedy, and Keith is passionate about classical guitar.

At the picnic, Carrie gets to meet his whole family, and becomes friends with his sister Holly, who’s only a year younger than Carrie. They team up together for a lot of the games. When it’s time for the baseball game, Keith is of course the pitcher. But he gets hit by the ball, right in the shoulder, and goes down. They rush him to the hospital, and it’s dislocated. They’re keeping him a few extra days, because the doctor felt something in his abdomen while he was checking him over.

He goes through various tests the next few days, including a colonoscopy. Not fun. But Carrie comes to see him everyday. He worries about falling behind in school, but they strike a deal that she’ll tutor him if he’ll teach her guitar.

When Carrie arrives at the hospital one day, however, she’s not allowed to see him. Hella can’t tell her what’s wrong, but offers to drive her home. She calls Keith’s parents, and they ask her to come over. There they give her the news that Keith a tumor in his colon, and it’s metastasized in his liver. And there’s nothing they can do about it. There are no options, and he has maybe three months.

Keith’s family agrees to do everything he wants. The big thing is that he doesn’t want to be in the hospital anymore, but wants hospice at home when the time comes. He also wants to go to the cabin for a week. And he also wants Carrie around as much as possible. So she pretty much becomes another daughter. I think his parents are very understanding.

So they go to the cabin, and Keith and Carrie get to spend lots of alone time together, and talk about heavy things, like what’s after death. But they spend lots of time with the family, as well. In just that week, though, Keith declines some.

When Carrie gets home, she has quite the surprise waiting for her. Her mother has put their house up for sale, and they’ll be moving into an apartment on the other side of town. This means Carrie will have to switch schools next year. Understandably, Carrie is pretty damn pissed off.

On the Fourth of July, Carrie and her father have a nice talk. He tells her about Vietnam, and she understands him a bit better. They have a better relationship after that.

Keith continues to decline. His pain gets so bad the pills stop working, so they put him on a morphine drip. The hospice nurses are very nice. Carrie realizes they’re there just as much for the family as they are for Keith.

One day Keith has trouble breathing. Holly asks Carrie to spend the night. The whole family, plus Carrie, gather around Keith’s bedside. They talk to him, and tell him stories, and touch him. Carrie stands back and watches. Keith takes a couple last breaths, and dies.

Carrie throws a party at support group for Keith. It was something he asked her to do, instead of everyone standing around grieving over him.

Carrie also grows some balls, and stands up to what is happening around her. She tells her mother she’s going to move in with her father, so she doesn’t have to change schools. She has to look out for Holly. Her mother is not happy about it, but Carrie tells her she has Larry and her job.

Lynda and her father help her move. Among her possessions is Keith’s guitar. She signed up for lessons in the fall.

o   I don’t like Larry, the guy Carrie’s mom is dating. He asks how much room can two females living alone really need? Why, would two males take up more space?

o   I think it’s nice they had this whole relationship, but they never even kissed.

o   Lynda’s seriously the best. She ferries Carrie all over town, empathizes with her over divorce, and stands up for Carrie to her father. She’s my favorite.

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