'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

A strange fellowship: Veterans of the cancer ward

Washington Monument, Washington D.C., United S...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in our nation’s capital for a few days, reuniting with family, among them my Aunt Mary, with whom I shared many hard and final hours in the hospital with my dad. Seeing her again is like coming across a fellow soldier; we both have the same 1,000-yard stare, the same ease with tears, the same shaky need to talk.

This battle analogy is a bit much, I know. But I must admit: It is only in the last 24 hours or so that I have slowly gained the perspective to know how crazy I’ve been, how dark and short and unfocused and unhinged. To all the people I’ve been difficult for — especially my dear, patient, also-grieving wife — please accept my apologies. This is so damn hard. Who could possibly be good at this?

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Filed under: Cancer, Death, Family, , , ,

Thirteen days since my dad died

Miami Beach and Port of Miami Skyline

(Image by joiseyshowaa via Flickr.)

The Miami sun that’s been shining for two weeks has given way to rain. Friends and family have been mostly dispatched to airports. The house is quiet and slowly approaching clean and for the first time in days I’m not having beer for breakfast. It’s small, it’s tentative: A new, unfamiliar era is upon us, and I grant you that I am at once scared and ready and grateful and very tired. This is the way I live.

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Filed under: Cancer, Death, Family, , ,

A tale of two Arabian cities

Yemenis sit in the old city of Sanaa as the mi...

The old city of Sana'a is like a fairy tale -- unless you start knocking on doors. (Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife)

It’s March 2010 and the clang of metal rings out down a dusty street in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Soldiers in blue camouflage hold oiled assault rifles, standing among a gathering crowd. One of the city’s dispensaries for cooking gas has just received a shipment. There’s a shortage of fuel all around the city, which is groaning under the twin strains of governmental dysfunction and an influx of refugees from the north. A jet streaks high above us, presumably en route to the border with Saudi Arabia, where the Yemeni military is targeting anti-government Houthi rebels and alleged cells of al Qa’eda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Some in the West have begun to call Yemen a failed state, but at least they’re calling it something.

I have come to Sana’a with my wife – who is on assignment for American public radio – from our base in Riyadh, a historical friend to its southern neighbor. People say that Yemenis built Saudi Arabia – and it’s true that big companies of Yemeni origin, such as the massive Bin Laden Group, were responsible for a lot of the early contracts to build roads and infrastructure in the Kingdom.

But warm relations between the two countries soured in 1990 and 1991, when Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978 and at that point presiding over a united north and south Yemen, joined Cuba in voting against a United Nations resolution authorizing force to eject Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Saudi Arabia was outraged by the decision and began deporting Yemeni guest workers. Nearly a million were eventually removed. The absence of dollar infusions from Saudi’s booming oil economy – and the loss of millions in US and European support, likewise rescinded in response to that UN vote – didn’t help things for Yemen, which faced dwindling petroleum revenues that are expected to slow to a stop soon.

Coming from the comparative wealth and restrictions of Riyadh, I am eager to see Sana’a, which I’ve read is poorer in cash and resources, but richer in less quantifiable terms. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Al Qaeda, Israel, Oil, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, War, World, Yemen, , , , , , ,

Embedded at the Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic

The badge of honor. (Image via Wikipedia)

Your correspondent is no longer based in the Middle East. I am instead reporting from the ICU floor at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, where my dad is battling cancer.

This is my sixth day here and it’s been a constant state of siege. Basically, we’re battling to keep my dad stable enough in order to undergo the daily radiation that could prolong his life. Every hour, it seems, we confront a new and significant hurdle to that plan.

In our tiny room, my mom, sister, and I take shifts staying up all night, holding his hand, skipping meals, trying to cater to his every need. He can’t talk anymore, so we talk for him, charming the nurses into giving him his pain meds on time and to treat him like man, not meat. We listen carefully and take notes and ask tough questions, and when a doctor appears to discuss some new terror, we remain calm.

But it is impossible not to become emotional: A doctor reports that a scan of his brain is negative, and we soar. A surgeon tells us that replacing his trachea tube — an urgent operation — might kill him, and we slip into sobbing horror. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Cancer, Death, Health, Medicine, , , ,