A visit too short

My daughter and my grandson have been visiting me for the last week. They were originally going to stay for three days, but decided to make it a full week. Since my kids all live far from me I don’t get much chance to see them, and although they stay in touch there’s nothing like sitting face to face and being able to reach out and give and get hugs.

We spent the week talking about the days of their youth, being reminded of things forgotten and reliving the remembered moments. To make each other laugh so hard we can’t breathe as we revisit events and to become somber over the memories of unhappy moments. To celebrate and re-celebrate my daughter’s and my grandson’s accomplishments. This made more rich through her recent graduation as she became a biologist.

While my girl is an avid woods-person, hiking and camping all through the Cascade Mountains, she also shares my interest in drones and looks for ways to use her skills flying to make her studies of the plantlife and animals that populate her specialties. She also lobbies other scientists to look at unmanned aerial vehicles and to have their oversight press for regulations that allow their use for research, management, and the other tasks involved in gaining understanding of the ecosphere -particularly for the Pacific Northwest.

My grandson thinks I’m a genius because of all the things he’s seen that I built, be it robots, aircraft or tools. I’ll wait and let time show him that I only know what many, many people know. He talks a mile a minute about his hobbies and projects and I listen avidly as he explains ventriloquism, magic tricks, making cartoons on the computer and complains at the volume of gas the family dog, Cletus, is able to generate and appears to expel mostly in his room.

I like that he is coming to know my wife and seeing her as grandma. The distance that separates us most of the time makes it difficult to come to know each other. An extended visit fills so many gaps and strengthens their relationship. The more people a child can have in their lives that love them, the better, and I can see the interplay between them as they develop their own relationships and develop their own little secrets as they start to develop that wordless language that closeness produces.

It’s fun to sit with my grandson and let him watch as I assemble or modify some device or other, encouraging him to participate and tell me what he thinks the next move should be. Congratulating him when he’s right and explaining the function when he’s not, invariably he gets it right the next time. Our family members all have a foot in technology, some genetic deviation that seems to drive us to understand how and why things work the way they do, and give us a leg up when it comes to technical subjects. All of my children are scientists; computer hardware and software development, physical sciences like biology and engineering, and my grandson is, it would seem, following in those footsteps. I met my wife working for a technology company and so she fits right in, and I think that helps her relate to my children better than she might otherwise.

I felt a deep sadness as my little girl and her 11 year old son pulled out of the driveway to make the five or six hour drive back to her home in the hills outside of Everett. Each time I get to spend an extended period of time with my kids I feel a piece of my happiness wrenched away from me, a replay of their reaching adulthood and setting out to create their own lives in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Lives I am incredibly proud of. Tonight I have been sitting quietly and going over the events of the last week, sometimes smiling at the recollection of a passed moment, then frowning as I remember the car’s taillights moving down the street on its way to the freeway.

The Pilot

I called him the pilot. The first time I spoke to my wife’s father was on the phone and he sounded like the stereotypical commercial pilot talking over the radio. His voice had that gravelly tone of someone used to talking above engine and wind noises. Actually, Jake was a railroad man, working for Burlington Northern for a full 30 years.

Jake was an opinionated man and I spent hours listening to him rave about just how screwed up people had become, how ludicrous politics were and how sure he was that the population had already doomed itself for its laziness and ego.  Jay-zuss kryste! He would bellow. What we need here is term limits in negative numbers.

Jake loved his kids though, and did so as best he could. He was always anxious to reach out to them to help and asked for nothing in return. That’s why his kids loved him right back and that’s why it was such a terrible shock when my wife found him dead this morning when she dropped by to do some house cleaning for him. He and my wife spoke on the phone last night and when she called him back later, he didn’t answer and his answering machine didn’t pick up. Being who he was, Jake was easily disgusted with devices that didn’t work the way he wanted them to (regardless of how they were supposed to work), and tended to shut them off out of spite. This morning he still wasn’t answering and we thought nothing of it, besides, my wife was going to see him anyway.

He failed to answer the door, and that rang the first alarms for my wife. Using her own key, she let herself in and found him appearing to be asleep in his favorite chair. He was cold to the touch.

My wife called me, of course. Upset as one might imagine and already feeling the pangs of guilt that he’d perished alone. He looked at peace, and had apparently fallen asleep in his chair as was his habit, and slipped away.

I can only imagine the images and vignettes pummeling my wife. She’s a very strong woman and she’ll need to be to face the many tasks that death produces. It seems unfair that she had just gotten past the death of her mother under two years ago, made harder by marketing people who still call and send promotional mails like the tenacious jackals they are.

And so the process will begin anew as my wife tries to move on. I will love her as hard as I can and try not to burden her further. Yet Here I am as another pressure having just been released from the hospital after a new bout of pneumonia. It’s not fair that she feels such pressure.

For her own reasons my wife will miss her father. For my own reasons I will miss Jake as well. The two of us sharing the common bond of loving his daughter. I will miss his booming voice and his syllable at a time curses, the tales he told of his days with the railroad and the stories of his life which kept me fascinated for hours at a time.

A BEaUtifUL MeSs

Family Easter Egg Hunt.
That cute little bunny is my grand daughter.

How can I explain all that has gone on in the past several months?  Life just seems to roll along and sometimes I can roll along with it and keep up with the daily normalcy of life.  Other times I have been the rock that silently lies still and immovable as life swirls too swiftly for me to catch up.
So How am I doing?
I am trying to make it through the last three months of maintenance therapy.  It seems to be getting harder.  I have been on 20 mg of Dexamethasone every three weeks.  I take it on days 1-4.  I used to get a little energy on those days but thats seems to be dwindling.  
From about day 5 to to 14 I get severe fatigue, achy muscles, and pain.  I slowly work my way back up and feel pretty good for a few days and then start all over again on day 21.  If all tests are good I should be off of any treatment by September.  If I can hold out that long.  It is SO tempting to just call it quits!  I have too many things to do, projects to accomplish, and people to do it with to spend half my life laying down!  
So that’s the latest report on “How I’m doing.”  I’m just telling it like it is.  

As for the home front it has been filled with great things as well as crisis.  I am writing about these things not to brag but explain how great, as well as crazy my life has been lately.
Trevor and Mallory. UVU graduation April 2011
Mallory our only daughter graduated from Utah Valley University in April.  She received a Bachelors degree in Behavioral Science.  We are so proud of her!  She has worked so hard to get through school quickly and can hopefully Trevor can do the same.

 Our son Jace has been out in the mission field for about ten weeks.  He Loves Puerto Rico and the people there.  Every week we wait anxiously for his next email.  Right now he is in Ponce.  He rides a bike along with another missionary-called his companion.  The companion instructed Jace on the fine art of catching lizards.  So as they are traveling along on their bikes they will catch a few and put them on their backpacks where they stay until taken off.  He has met many nice people and certainly stands out in a crowd.  He said several grandmothers tell him he has beautiful blues eyes.  
    It is so fun to share in his adventure.  If you would like to read parts of the letters he sends home you can go here.
Our two sons at home are keeping life rolling along, as I said before sometimes I can keep up and sometimes life just swirls around me.  Thankfully my husband pulls up the slack and spends a lot of needed time with them.
Last month, my son Trent completed his eagle project,  which took much planning and preparation.  He and several friends painted several buildings at a campground.  The total project took over 100 service hours to complete.  Trent demonstrated leadership and organizational skills to complete it.
   Our church has a very strong scouting program for boys and we really feel like it helps build Young men.  In a couple weeks their troop will go camping and river rafting. 
  Oh also this past month Spencer tested for his black belt.  He has worked really hard and for years to accomplish this goal.  It was more challenging to him then his older brothers,  We are so proud of him for sticking with it.  Now all my family have earned their black belts.  
Joe, Tyler, and Spencer after getting his blackbelt.
(whew stay with me here I’m not done yet.)  
So life has been just rolling along until Thursday May 26.  That evening I really  understood what it felt like to come so close to losing my husband.  As far as we can figure he choked on something and passed out.  When Trent and I found him he was turning blue with sporadic breathing.  I had Trent call an ambulance while I called my neighbor who is a Nurse Practitioner.  I was a basket case- (I guess becoming an EMT is out of the question for me.) Luckily his heart kept beating and he was getting some oxygen.  He was taken to the hospital and ended up spending three days there.  He had aspirated into his lungs so he was kept sedated and incubated for 24 hrs while they cleaned out his lungs and ran every imaginable test.  Nothing was conclusive.  The best possible medical reason this happened was that he just choked on something.  Thank goodness the other possibilities  were extremely serious.  Non-the-less this incident completely humbled us.  

    My body was already worn down from “dex week” and then with this added crisis, I ended up with an ugly case of pneumonia.  I’m sure you can imagine the chaos at our home this past week as he was recovering and I was getting sicker.  I am so eternally  grateful for strong family and neighbor support. 
Me at Huntsman Cancer Institute where I was treated
 March 2011
I have basically written the facts or events of the last few months, however the feelings and emotions are somewhat overwhelming.  It has been hard! and brings plenty of fresh prospective on what really matters.  I thought I pretty well had that covered with getting cancer but apparently the Lord has much more for us to learn.   It is absolutely a “Beautiful Mess” right now but as the song says, “here we are.”  I am still here and my husband is still here and we and our family are in this for the long haul.  But I do thinks its time for a vacation!