Friday, September 29, 2006


This is Homecoming weekend for my daughter. Tonight is the football game where the home team is expected to get soundly trounced by their opponents. It may rain as well, thereby producing an even more miserable experience for the crowd, but none of this seems to have dampened my daughter's spirit. She left this morning all covered with face paint and glitter, wearing a home made tee-shirt that she painted up with spray paint thereby turning our garage into a toxic waste dump. My car still stinks.

My son and his new girlfriend are also thinking of going to the game, but only if it's not raining. They are not quite as hard-core.

Today is my fourth, and last, day of chemo for this round. So far, it has gone pretty well and I have not yet suffered the severe crash-and-burn effect that has marked the end of the previous rounds. I know that tonight I will most likely feel like crap and tomorrow, but overall, it hasn't been as bad this time. Fingers crossed.

Next month, I will have a CT scan to judge the effect of the chemo. I know it has had a positive effect, but to what extent, we don't know. The second question is how long will the effect last? That's a biggie. Then the third question - what do I do when it comes back again?

Unless the boys and girls in lab coats come up with something new, I am looking at the end game. Timing unknown. It is a sobering thought and is making me think about what I want to do now and for the foreseeable future.

Take care of my family is number one. Take care of me is number two. What that means is not yet clear. I do know that I am considering doing things now rather than later. Depending on what those "things" are, I am hard pressed to see why I should not.

Well, that's the question for all of us, isn't it?


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Light

When someone is bereaved, emotions are tossed into the blender. Some say judgment is too. Who am I to say different.

With that is mind, you will pardon the hesitation, the stopping and starting, the erasing of words in this post (of course, you cannot see any of that, but let me assure you, it was there).

I am "seeing" someone. Not in the physical sense, though I have seen digital images, but in the sense of sharing emails and after a while, phone calls. So, given the fact that my senses are already under assault and that my ability to apply good judgment when it comes to matters of the heart is questionable, does this make sense? Is this something those around me who are protective of me and of my children should worry about? Good questions, all.

I imagine that there was great consternation when my children confessed to their closest confidants that dad was making furtive phone calls; indeed was tying up the family phone line for unreasonable periods of time - with a "woman." Given that the ears that heard this were two sisters and the best friend of my late wife, it is not difficult for me to believe that this was unwelcome news. After all, it has only been three and a half months since C died. Too soon for this sort of thing.

And I agree. I was planning on being alone for a long time. I had no idea how to "not be alone" after twenty-one years with the same partner. We went through good times and bad. We created and raised (and still are) a family. We built a life, made plans, and thought that we would grow old together - maybe join the Peace Corps after we retired and give back to the world a little.

A little over twelve years ago, that "vision" was changed when I learned I had cancer. At the age of 45, I was told I had eight to ten years to live. My son was one and my daughter three. Things felt like they were crashing down on me. We picked up those broken pieces and we went on. We decided that for whatever time I had left, we needed to live as normal a life as possible for the kids. And that's what we did. I went through periodic treatments, some easy, some not, and we pretended that everything was OK. We bought a different house in a different neighborhood where there were lots of kids. There was a lake where we swam and I put in a small sailboat. Life was good.

About five or six years ago, C was offered her dream job. She took it and it meant another move, not far in distance, but far enough so that the kids lost the easy immediate contact with their friends . We stayed in the school district though, so all of that was steady. We set about making the best of this new phase of our lives. Then, the other shoe dropped.

C was diagnosed with cancer - a different kind than mine and one that had a poor survival rate. The next three and one half years were hell in all of its variations. There were times when we were at the same clinic getting chemotherapy in different rooms. There were the late night / early morning runs to the emergency room. There were the stem-cell transplants, each of which was like playing Russian roulette , would it kill you or cure you. Either way, they were so brutal that you went through a sort of "little death" each time. There is no way to describe the indignity that one is pushed to during a process as this.

I watched my wife slowly waste away, as if there were a giant insect that sucked a little bit of her insides out every night. This was a woman who took pride in her strength. She loved to canoe and camp in the wilderness and thought nothing about flipping a canoe up to her shoulders to cross a portage, or carrying a heavy pack along miles of hiking trails. She loved to cross-country ski wherever there was snow. In the end, she could not walk or carry anything.

Just as her physical being was being eaten, her remarkable mind suffered under the onslaught of drugs and disease. The worst part was that she knew it and it was a bitter fate to endure. She saw everything that was the finest in her leave her in little bits and pieces.

Our relationship changed under this as well. We could no longer make love because of the pain that C felt. Towards the end, I could not even hold her in my arms - only hold her hands. Parts of our relationship died in little bits and pieces as well.

My love for her, and her love for me never died though. We were together to her last breath and I entered a dark place. The last three months have been very difficult. The demands of being a single parent, the details that must be attended to to wrap up a life and settle an estate, the sheer mental degradation that grief inflicts upon those who are left was unanticipated. In addition to all of that, I am undergoing another round of chemotherapy myself in my battle against terminal cancer.

This blog was one attempt on my part to deal with all that I was feeling. Through this blog, I slowly became connected with others who use the bloggosphere to journal, rant, write, sing, and to carry on in whatever fashion they wish. I have found friends out here. One person is becoming more than just a friend.

As I said before, the timing is not great for those around me, but for me, this could not come at a better time. This new relationship helped me to find my feet again and to stand up for the first time in a long time. The dark place that I had been in is dark no longer. I have felt happiness. This was such a simple thing - taken for granted in a life that seems so long ago now - not taken for granted now.

I am sensitive to the needs of my extended family and support group. They are my rocks and my foundation. They help me and my children in ways that I cannot praise enough, or repay in any reciprocal fashion. C was their sister and their best friend. Their loyalty to her is fierce and eternal. They are protective of my children and would do anything to see to their welfare. The thought that someone else would enter my life is a hard thing for them to accept.

They have shown the utmost quality of character in this. They have told me that I must find my own way and they will not stand in my way as I do so. They will continue to help me with childcare and the future support of my family. Still, it is not an easy thing for them and I understand that.

So, what now? Now, I hope to get to know this person better. Who can foretell the future. I learned that I cannot so many years ago. The best I can do now is to strive for balance, happiness, love, and to be the best dad I can be.

Someday, perhaps I can share this "someone" with you.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Young Love and Viri

Well, it’s official – J has a girlfriend, K has a homecoming date, and I have their cold.

That sneaky little virus that turned K and J into a pair of honking geese has finally taken up residence in my nose and throat despite the precautions I have taken. Poop. And, whereas the younger members of the household shake this stuff off in a couple of days, I will pay a harder and longer lasting penance I am sure. Oh well, complaining never got me very far before, and it won’t this time either. It just makes me cranky.

I was hoping to go up to Duluth this week for a short visit, but I will have to rethink that. It all depends on how I feel. One thing I do not want to do is share this with anyone. We’ll see.

I am taking Zicam to try to mitigate the effects and duration of this. Zicam is an over the counter product praised by a family member and so I will continue to use it in the hopes that it will rain on the little virus’s (or is that viri?) parade and allow me to function.

Now, back the breaking headlines.

A mysterious young man came knocking on our door yesterday and presented K with an ice bucket filled with ice and containing a bottle of hot sauce, hot candies, and a couple of other things. This is the new way of asking someone out on a fancy date and a pretty mild production considering what I have heard of others doing.

Now there will be a flurry of shopping (dress, etc.), phoning (working everything out with the other girls), and finally, hair, flowers, and primping. Unfortunately for me, homecoming will happen in two weeks when I am on the tail end of my next chemo run and feeling like whale poop. I guess she’ll have to have fun without me.

And speaking of phones, there is heavy competition for our suddenly inadequate land line as J has developed a heavy jones for a certain young lady and needs to hear her dulcet tones for hours on end. There have been instances of near fratricide as other members of the family demanded access to the phone.

K, of course, does have a cell phone, but is apparently smacked up against the limit of minutes she gets without having to pay a bounty – and it’s only the middle of the month. Hmmmm. What to do, what to do?

Well, it’s time for me to go and ponder the menu and shopping list for the week. I didn’t do so well at that last week so I am trying to make amends. I suddenly feel the need for homemade soup and other comfort food. The weather has turned and all of my hibernating instincts are kicking in. Later.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Happiness Search

Wow, time for an update. When I look at my calendar, I can’t always understand why I end the day exhausted and feel like I had been on the run. My part of the calendar is relatively clear – it’s full of K’s events and some of J’s. Of course, I don’t schedule a time to pick up the house, run to the store for some forgotten food item, work on the endless flow of paper associated with the settlement of the estate, take J to school, meet with someone for coffee to discuss financial planning, and so on and so on. The days seem to fill themselves and I still haven’t weeded the front garden. It is a mess.

Aside from things like that, we are settling down into the school year routine. The kids are more self-managed this year, which is good. K has such a full plate that I worry about her overdoing. She picked up a cold right off the bat and is treating it with sleep deprivation. She is working about four nights a week plus Sunday afternoon so she comes home for an hour and then takes off for work. The homework load from school is fairly light at this point, but it won’t remain so and she will have to be much more organized than in the past. We will see.

I am trying to find a hole in the schedule so I can run up to Duluth and see my parents. This week is out so now I am looking at next. There are all these little (and some not so little) things that need to be taken care of.

The weather has been mixed around here lately. We went through a patch of cold, rainy days and nights, but the weather shamans keep saying that we will warm up, so I have procrastinated bringing in the fern and palm from the screen porch. I hope that I have not given them too much of a chill. My track record on keeping the indoor plants healthy has taken a couple of hits and I worry about more.

I am feeling pretty good in this interlude between treatments. I took all the precautions I could to keep from getting K’s cold. I remember getting sick when I was doing this treatment ten years ago and it took forever to get rid of it. My immune system is losing steam and will continue to do so over the course of the treatment. My next scheduled round is the last week of this month. It is always possible however that they will push it out a week if my blood counts are too low, which plays havoc with making plans.

Overall, things continue to feel like they are getting better than they were. I find this very difficult to actually judge being in the epicenter and also being subject to mood swings impacted by who knows what all. I cannot tell you all how good it feels to feel good when it happens though. I know, bad grammar and sentence structure, but you know what I mean. When that feeling of happiness strikes, it is like drops of water falling on the parched lips of a stranded pilgrim in the desert.

I know that sometimes I feel like a junkie waiting for my next hit – it’s asking for a letdown if it does not come, but what are you going to do? There is always the opportunity for pain in this world. Happiness has been in short supply of late and so I take it where I can find it.

We are still working on family plans for down the road. I would like to do a little traveling during the school holidays. Trying to get agreement from all contingents is proving to be a trial however. Still, we will work at it.

Well, got to go. K is home from her doctor’s appointment and I have to drive her to school – wait, that’s not on my calendar…..

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Weight

It’s Friday morning, the kids are off to school. I have some bookkeeping and reading to do before the guy comes to inspect our furnace/boiler/HVAC system to make sure we are ready for the upcoming heating season.

I have been getting my much needed sleep and feel sooo much better than I did when I put up my last posting. Amazing what six hours of snoring will do for a guy.

Tomorrow, J and his good friend, A, will go with me off to the Wisconsin river town of Osceola (the birthplace of my paternal grandmother, Mildred) where we will spend the day with a thousand or so other car enthusiasts at the annual Wheels and Wings car and aircraft show. I think that I have talked about this in the past and maybe even put up pictures of some of the exotic autos that we have seen there.

It is easier to enter your car in the show than to find a parking place and make the walk in as a visitor, so for the past eight or nine years, J and I have entered my car and tried to park it with other Audis if we can find them in the mix of over one thousand other cars. It is a big deal for J and he and A spend the day discussing the finer points of all different vehicles they see.

Some friends from Duluth are coming down for the show and I hope that they will stay the night with us. I had hoped to get a little poker game going, but I didn’t give folks enough advance notice. Who knew that people actually made plans and commitments to other people. As you can tell, my planning horizon has been measured in minutes for quite some time. I think that is beginning to change.

And speaking of change, I am feeling it. I can’t really do justice to the internal thoughts and feelings that have been fermenting in me over the past six months. When C was so deathly ill and it was apparent that we had done everything we could to reverse or delay the progression of her disease, it became a waiting game where my role was to try to minimilize the pain and care for her basic needs as best as I could. Emotionally, it was a dead zone. I knew something was coming, but I did not know when, or in what shape it would appear. I thought I had prepared myself as well as could be expected, but in the end, I never really had a chance.

When C did die, the emotional impact was profound. Others have written beautifully and poignantly about the process of grief and the impact it has – Joan Didion comes to mind – so I won’t try to detail my experience here, now. Let me just say that for the past three months, I have felt like I have been living with a huge weight pressing me down into the ground. That is starting to change.

There have been moments when I have actually felt happy; felt joy; felt lighter. The weight is still there, but it feels like someone chipped a chunk of it off and has allowed a bit of sunshine to beam in. I can’t tell you how nice that feels.

I hope that this process will continue in this direction. I hope that I can continue to process the grief and the “letting go” steps that need to happen over time. I hope that I can report positive results in the battle with my own disease in the next couple of months. And I hope that we, as a family, find ways to cope with the upcoming holiday season, which will include C’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and her favorite, Christmas. Wish us luck.


Monday, September 04, 2006


General rant.

A little while ago, I succumed to Google's offer to switch to the beta version of their new "blogger" system. It appears that has been absorbed by Google.

Anyway, I did it and now, I can't post comments to the blogs of my on-line reading list who are still on the old version of Whenever I try, I get this message that I need to sign onto the beta version of blogger, and after I do, I am at a point where I can manage my own blogs (the dashboard), but cannot access any other blog. It is a circular loop of frustration.

So to Lime, Crystal, Cheesy, Rebecca, Tess - I am trying to comment on your posts, but am being stymied by LBB's "invisible conspiritory force."

If I had known about this issue, I would not have made the transfer.

Does anybody know what I am talking about? Is there a cure? Help?


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Summer Time Blues

It has been a quite Saturday morning so far. We have guests from up north this weekend. Aunt P drove down with her son, M, yesterday to take J to see Garrison Keiller’s Prairie Home Companion show at the state fair. M came back to our house fairly early last night, but then did not go to bed until his mother and cousin came home about 1:30 AM.

And of course, no one else went to sleep until then either, so this morning was very quiet for some time. The dog and did our usual thing, make the coffee, read the paper, listen to the birds.

I eventually heard P stirring around on the lower level and then remembered that she had made a date to meet someone at the local Farmer’s Market. So she left me with three sleeping children. One has now awakened with a headache (perhaps from staying up so late) and has been treated. The other two (mine) are still dead to the world.

My main task today is to put my car door back together so that it can be driven. I have been dealing with a faulty electric window motor for the past few weeks and yesterday received a used unit from one of my east coast suppliers, but when I disassembled the door to make the swap, I discovered that the parts did not match. Ah, the joys of doing your own mechanical work. So, now, I have to button up the door again with the window stuck in the “up” position (which is much better than the “lets let the rain and burglars in” position).

This is the last weekend of freedom for my children. They enter the gulag next week for an eternity of homework, projects, tests, reading assignments, and other torture as assigned. K has decided to prove that there are indeed more than 24 hours in a day by taking on advanced placement coursework, sports, music, Youth-in-Government, and a job all while serving as the massive black hole around which orbits her personal universe.

J lobbied for, and was granted, a change in his schedule to advanced math which will provide many moments of family entertainment and force me to dust off my remedial math skills. In doing this, J skipped over a good portion of the math curriculum that will have to be learnt on the fly. I think he is certainly capable, but until this year, he has not shown the desire to do that much work. We shall see.

We have no plans for the Labor Day weekend. I wasn’t sure what shape I would be in and am trying to stay away from crowds due to lowered white counts. So we will be the “slug” family and just hang out looking at each other – thinking of the looming shadow of the school year.

Have a happy holiday everyone.