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Alan D Busch

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Member Since: Feb, 2008

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The misadventures of Saucy and her Mama

This is the story of Saucy and her Mama.Follow the adventurous journey of a young Jamaican girl as she navigates the perilous streets of Brooklyn, New York in the decade ..  
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Thanks you to the hundreds of readers who have been patiently reading and putting up with the several revisions of this piece. what follows is the draft i sent in for publication please if you would give it one more go. i think this submitted revision is better than the previous ones ... i would appreciate any comments you may have ... thumbs up, down whatever.

Is it Still Okay If Your Father Cries?

The phone rang. It’s a call I’d been dreading. “Well? Pick it up

already,” my wife exhorted. Bobbie, my dad’s wife, was calling

as we had agreed she would in the event of a life-threatening

emergency. My father, whose condition had been progressively

worsening, was dying of stage four colon cancer.

“Alan, I’m taking your father to the emergency room at

Prentice Hospital. Oh my God! The paramedics have arrived.”

I ran out the door to the hospital.

“Dr. Busch? Hmm, Dr. Busch?” the receptionist repeated while

scanning her patient admissions print out. “Patient’s first

name is?”

“Albert,” my father’s name shot out of my mouth. The

receptionist, a young woman, in her mid-late 20s, with

painted nails, gingerly keyed in our last name. “B-u-s-h, Bush”.

“No, Miss, it’s B-u-s-c-h, Busch.”

“Oh, okay, got it. There he is. Dr. Albert I. Busch. Treatment

Room number one. Oh my! Right over there,” she swiveled in

her chair and pointed, “Turn right at the hallway.” I dashed off

forgetting to thank her.

“Dad’s inside,” Bobbie gestured, nodding her head toward the

door. “My God, what am I walking into here?”  I wondered,

drawing a deep breath and swallowing. Bobbie followed me in.

The windowless room was cramped, clutter strewn all over the

place. An extra gurney with a broken wheel, several wheelchairs

and a portable weight scale made it seem more like a storage

closet than a treatment room. The fetid air was hot.

I saw Dad lying atop a gurney several feet away wearing

nothing but a loosely-tied hospital gown, his clothes

unceremoniously stuffed into a clear plastic garbage bag.

My father had lost so much weight, he began to look as if he

were fading away.  His skin fit him about as well as an over-

sized suit. His neck sagged and his legs had become spindly,

their skin tightly stretched and transparently thin.

Two nurses had just finished their second clean up when I

walked in. Soiled linens, towels and wipes littered the floor. A

momentary calm passed, just seconds before the third torrent of

severe loose bowels attacked my father, only ten minutes after

his arrival. The nurses responded swiftly and unaffectedly. I

watched them with awe and thanks. Their professionalism

comforted and assured me that Dad was in good hands. Sarah,

the head nurse, who was busy rifling through the cabinets for

additional adult diapers, fresh gowns and bed sheets, suggested

we leave. However, she nodded approvingly when I remained at

my father’s side. Bobbie stepped out.

“Alan?” Dad whispered as he grasped my hand with his

powerful clench, a good sign.

“Yes, Dad, I’m right here.” We both managed a little smile. The

door opened.

“Dr. Busch?” inquired a young resident, sporting a three-

day growth of beard and a black suede kippah.“Shalom

Aleichem. I’m Alan Busch, Dr. Busch’s son,” I quickly


“Benjamin Finerman. Aleichem shalom,” he returned the

greeting. “Dr. Busch,” he addressed my father, “our chart

indicates a few complaints about profound diarrhea, high fever,

dehydration and urinary tract infection.”

“Just a few complaints indeed!” my father chuckled in

appreciation of Dr. Finerman’s understatement.

“Dr. Busch,” he continued. “We’ll be admitting you as soon as

the paperwork is processed.”  He turned to me and whispered:

“May your father have a refuah shleyma.”

Within half an hour, patient transport moved us to room 1676

where we spent the next thirteen days. Dad’s first two days were

grueling, while the nights were relentlessly demanding,

interminably long and mostly sleepless. What little sleep we did

get was repeatedly interrupted by Dad’s incontinence

emergencies. Thankfully, he’d always fall back asleep quickly

after we had finished cleaning him up. How long until the next

one? Sometimes five minutes, ten minutes, an hour or two …

I began watching Dad while he slept. Gone his once cheerful

face, now gaunt and expressionless. This is how he’ll look when

he dies, I suppose, I thought to myself. I try to block such

thoughts, but they intrude upon my privacy nevertheless.

This was to be my dad’s last battle, waged against a mean-

spirited side effect of his chemotherapy regimen. His cancer?

Frankly, we didn’t talk much about it. Sure, the doctors

happened by, examined him and evaluated the status of Dad’s

tumor. His prognosis was dim. We understood that and didn’t

quarrel about it. What troubled us was the unrelenting nature of

his incontinence, which was turning my father’s remaining time

into a living hell. Aside from the several medications the doctors

had prescribed, there turned out to be no offensive measures any

of us could take. Our only plan was to defend ourselves

whenever it pleased to ambush us. Since Dad’s body no longer

signaled any advance warning, we were stuck fighting a

defensive war.                            

"Call the nurses, Alan!” my father demanded.

"Dad, I can take care of this by myself.” I reasoned back.

“Please, please don’t do any more Son,” my father pled,

weakening my protestation.

“I understand your feelings, but the nurses are better at

this than you are. Let them do their jobs. Besides, it’s not right

for a son to help his father in this way.”

Though I did not doubt the oncology nurses were doing their

best, they could not always respond to our calls in time,

especially in the early morning hours when regular staffing

was cut back. And I understood that. So the job of Dad’s clean

ups came back to me. I couldn’t begin to recount the number of

times Dad and I shuffled from his bed to the bathroom while

dragging that awkward “post and pole”(as one nurse called it),

to which Dad’s saline drip and heart monitor were attached. It

made the eight feet from his bed to the bathroom seem like a

nearly impossible distance and sometimes, well… sometimes we

didn’t make it. Each clean up proved to be a tiresome repetition

of the previous one: helping Dad wash himself, changing his

gown and bed clothes, cleaning the floor if necessary, bagging it

all and calling housekeeping to pick up the soiled linen and

freshen up the room. Despite the embarrassment, Dad remained

determined to reach the bathroom in time and thereby regain, at

least, partial mastery over his body.

The doctors had no answers, their treatments continued to be

ineffective. “There is nothing more we can do for him here,”

my father’s oncologist concluded. My father was not ready to

go home, but the hospital was ready to release him the next day.

Time was running out.

So, in an act of desperation, I called my dad’s gastroenterologist

at 5:00 a.m. and left an urgent message with his answering

service. He called me back within minutes.

“Doctor,” I began. “The “tincture of opium” you prescribed for

my dad’s diarrhea hasn’t worked. There is still no change,” I

explained as calmly as I could. It wasn’t easy. I was at my wit’s

end, ready “to strangle” anyone who crossed my path.

“I’ve tried everything I know to do,” he admitted, “but if the

tincture is not working, I do not know how to stop it.” My

heart sank.

“The prognosis varies with each person,” the same oncologist

explained later that morning, responding to our request for a

consultation. “This could go on for three to six months or even a

year,” he added, shrugging his shoulders and turning up the

palms of his hands.

Dad was getting sleepy. We all needed a break. Ron, my older

brother, went downstairs to get a coffee for himself and

Bobbie while I wandered over to a computer lounge with a

picturesque view of Lake Michigan. If only I had been able to

enjoy it. It was one of those moments, you know, when you

just stare out of the window lost in thought …

“Prayer is like dialing long distance to ‘De Aibishter’, the

voice of my late mentor, Reb Isser, reminded me. “Call His

number every day, Mr. Busch, and remember to pray with

your heart. You may get a busy signal, lots of folks trying to

reach Him, so be patient or leave a message. He returns every


The sound of my brother’s voice “woke me up”. He had brought

Bobbie her coffee, then came looking for me. We sat down

together. "It's so sad," Ron remarked, but quickly added that at

least he and Dad had made it to the bathroom in time that


“You did? I was hungry for some good news. “That’s great to


“Wait. There’s more,” he cautioned. “Dad told me he needed to

sit for a while, and that I should lie back down for a few more

minutes. He’d call when finished. Shortly thereafter, I heard him

quietly crying,” Ron said barely above a whisper. He detailed

the rest of the day to me, one that had gone from bad to worse.

That evening, he went back to Dad’s apartment to sleep while I

stayed at the hospital with our father.

Is it still okay if your father cries? I wondered later that night

while I watched Dad sleep. I glanced at the clock radio, 3:00

a.m. It had only been an hour or so since the last attack. Outside

our door, I watched as the early morning nurses’ aides

scurried about from room to room. I saw Barbara, a heavy set

woman in her mid-forties, who had begun her second week with

us as Dad’s night nurse. I liked her. “Everything good in here?”

she whispered, peaking around the corner. “Good morning,

Barb. Yea, we’re good for another hour or so. I’m going to step

out for a bit, okay?” “No problem,” Barb answered, “I’ll look in

after him. You go ahead.”

I walked over to the same computer lounge. It was about 3:15

a.m. No other souls were about  but me and the whisper of Reb

Isser’s voice faintly echoing in my memory… “Keep dialing

His number. De Aibishter will pick up. You’ll see ...”

“Ribono shel Olam” I began my silent prayer …

“I do not presume any merit of my own. My father, Avrum ben Rose, calmly awaits his end of days. He has taught me this lesson of faith and trust by his personal example. Please heal his bowel so that he may live out his last days in dignity and peace.”

And so, I waited to hear from Him “who heals all flesh and

performs wonders.”

As the days wore on, I summoned all my faith certain that

The One Above had heard my plea and would answer my prayer. 

Dad’s first few days at home were tenuous while we waited for

the tincture of opium to do its job.  Then the phone rang …

“Good morning Alan!”

“Dad?” I answered, surprised by the call itself and the upbeat

tone of his voice

“So Dad, what’s …?”

“It’s worked! He interrupted excitedly. “The tincture, Son, has

finally kicked in,” he blared so loudly I had to remove the phone

from my ear. “So Dad, tell me how you feel?” I asked, sharing

his excitement. “Sonny Boy, I feel … I feel,” his voice

cracking ever so slightly. “I feel … like I’ve so much to be

thankful for.”

My father chose life while he was dying. Cancer was killing

him, an unalterable fact he accepted with majesty and grace. The

profound diarrhea, though a formidable opponent, had been

vanquished by a combination of his sheer drive to emerge the

victor and,  b’esrat HaShem, the blessed power of prayer.

When Dad died on Shabbos morning, October 18, 2008, I held

his hand and watched as he gently departed this world, a man at

peace whose dignity had been restored.

Alan D. Busch



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Reviewed by Salome Rowe 9/13/2009
Hi, Allen. I do not know whether this was from personal experience, but my daughter kept her father the last of his days as he died from lung cancer. The writing was brilliant. One could feel the presence standing in the room. Great post.
Reviewed by walter wolf 9/10/2009
R.Alan, very good read...your friend, Walter

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