Today Tim would've turned 35, on his last birthday, 3 years ago, he was fighting pancreatitis so our celebratory meal with his family was low-residue foods (I.e. Pretty bland). A major part of that is absolutely no sugar (to rest the pancreas). I will never forget our sweet niece, Lillian's crestfallen face as the "cake" was brought out during the singing of the birthday song and her realization that we hadn't been joking about there being no cake. That this dish was actually pears lined up with candles, I think her outward disappointment was felt by all of us, especially Tim. I still hate that he never got sweets again as he loved them so.
Ever since that year, Tim's birthday, for me, has marked the beginning of the end. He had the first emergency hospital admission the very next day, the first call of the rapid response team, along with the first of many surgeries, nights in the ICU (although the first with the drunk guy who wrecked his moped into a stop sign was the worst). We had some good moments during this period, actually some of my favorite memories, of date nights crammed into his hospital bed watching a movie on the tiny hospital TV, of the pure joy on his face the first time Maddy came to visit him and the way they cuddled up for hours on her last visit (& when she pooped in the hall as my dad was bringing her in, I've never seen such panic on his face and the unit secretary was incredibly calm as she asked if he really thought that was the worst those floors has seen). Some of my favorite memories involve Steven, Tim was so floored with how much time he got to spend with him (even if the situation sucked). Tim adored him more than I think he could ever know and Steven bent over backwards to be there for both of us through everything be it bringing a TV in to watch the Carolina game down in CVICU, helping me keep Tim's phone hidden so he'd stop texting and get some sleep (then defending me when I got caught days later) & my favorite was when we had to convince Tim to keep his C-pap mask on in the CCU as he was still groggy and confused by the anesthesia. He told us he didn't like us for forcing him to stay in the mask & listen to the nurse, then got sick due to the force of the air going into his stomach (one of the side effects we knew would happen and part of why he was fighting us so hard on it). No nurses were around so Steven and I were both struggling, gagging and trying to help him/get a nurse in there. It had to have looked like a comedy show from the outside.
I also got caught selling him out for his new-found love of Dilaudid. Knowing what I do now I never would've intervened but at the time I was terrified of him becoming addicted, he was beginning to count down the minutes until he could get his next dose and kept asking the nurses to "push it fast" into his IV. Understanding now how much pain he had to have been in at that point I get it but at the time I thought he surely was becoming an addict. I told him I was going downstairs to grab lunch and would be right back (after expressing my concern to him multiple times about the medication). I mentioned my concerns to his nurse at the time but asked that I be kept independent of the decision as I didn't want him to get angry with me and went downstairs, grabbed some food and headed back up. I assumed they'd wait it out a bit or have one of the doctors address it during rounds the next morning but of course that would've been too easy. The nurse came in about two minutes after me and started telling Tim about how as of now they were moving him to pain pills and off of the Dilaudid. As soon as she finished speaking his head swiveled over to me (excorcist like) & with fire in his eyes he stated "This is your doing isn't it". At the time it was a little disconcerting but became a big joke between us and our families very quickly. When we found out there were no more options that last night they asked Tim if there was anything he wanted to be more comfortable. He requested a Coke (the first time he'd been allowed to drink anything all day) but his big request was for Dilaudid, our families were in the room when he asked for that and everyone started laughing. Once again he broke the tension of a horrible situation with his unfailing humor (he also asked her to push it REALLY fast when they delivered).
Tim had his moments where he was quick to anger, where he was a stubborn/grouchy mule but he was always looking out for everyone else, especially his family who he loved so dearly. He would make all of us laugh, even in the darkest moments of our lives and that grin of his was absolutely infectious, especially when you knew he was plotting something (which was always written all over his face). I have no doubt that he is spreading that joy of his up in heaven today as he celebrates what should be his 35th Birthday & I hope he's getting all the cake and snickerdoodle cookies his heart desires!