Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where I get nostalgic. Again.

My cousin (second cousin? Third? My Great Aunt Chickie's kid!) sent me a link to a bunch of family photos he had scanned, and I have loved going through them. There are a fair amount of ones of Dad as a child and young adult, and this one in particular got to me. When I blogged about my parent's anniversary, and described them when they were young, this is the image I had in my head. I know that people who haven't seen Dad in awhile are shocked at his appearance, but I see him all the time, and really, I look beyond the frailty. I see this handsome man. Maybe it's because it's too hard to look at him as he really is. Or maybe it's because when you love someone, your love transcends all that's on this earth. We all have to leave this mortal coil at some point, and what's left? Our memories, the people who love us. I hope that we can all live on in some form. 

I'm making apple dumplings tonight, as a surprise for Dad. One of my memories of childhood is going with Dad to Nickel's Diner down in midtown for dumplings. Which was fitting, because the place was a dump! But he insisted they were the best in town, and we'd go tooling down 39th street in our Datsun B210 - this is all before the Health Department shut down the Diner, and before the passenger door on the Datsun had to be tied shut - ah, the salad days! 

I hope that this will bring back good memories for Dad, too.

One more photo, this is one of my favorites. It's of my Dad and his Aunt Chickie. She was only 15 when he was born, as she was the youngest of the three sisters. She is also fighting cancer, so please remember her in your prayers, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How about them apples?

The kind and lovely Katie Farkes brought me a  
metric ton of apples. What do you do when you have a lot of fruit and a sick kid at home? Well, if you're me, you bake some free-form apple tarts:

I made four of them, with a little cinnamon and an orange/amaretto glaze. Of course, I had to try a bit, and they are to die for. I'll be delivering Two to Mom and Dad in a bit. And the bag of apples? Nary a dent, so I see lots more baking in the near future, and if you're lucky, and I get sick of apples, I may be showing up on your doorstep with a dessert in the next day or two. I'm sure you won't complain.

We've had a fair bit of drama the last few weeks regarding Aunt Henri. She makes Hitler look like Mother Theresa, I'm not kidding. It's too long and drawn out a story to get into, but suffice it to say, she has been truly hideous to all of us, but especially my Dad. My dying-of-Stage IV-lung-cancer-Father. I'm slowly realizing why it was she had no friends in California, and why her kids won't speak to her. No longer a mystery. In any case, today Dad signed papers severing any legal ties he may have had with her, while I stood by and prayed for Jesus to give me strength so I wouldn't beat her down with my Dad's cane. It was a white knuckle kind of morning.

It's been weighing very heavily on Dad's mind, so I'm glad that we're done. I'm very protective of my parents on a normal day, and given Dad's illness, I'm even more so. Anyone who treats him poorly had better take cover, because I don't tolerate it! It's a role reversal for sure that sometimes gives me pause. It seems fitting, though, since both my folks have always been in my corner and stood up for me. 

Alright, enough, I have to deliver these tarts, check on dinner (Italian chicken stew, in case you were wondering.), and then stop at the store for more butter. Baking! Anyone have a good apple cake recipe?

Thank you for reading, and for praying!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"now we say goodnight from our own separate sides"

Dad with Addie at her first soccer practice:
Dad in the fall of 2004, reading Jules Verne to Tyler:
There's lyrics to a song on my iPod that go: "you may tire of me, as our December sun is setting because I'm not who I used to be/ no longer easy on the eyes, but these wrinkles masterfully disguise the youthful boy below/ who turned your way and saw something he was not looking for: both a beginning and an end/ but now he lives inside someone he does not recognize/ when he catches his reflection on accident." It was playing the other day when I took Dad to get a bratwurst from Werner's (a favorite Saturday morning ritual) and I had to turn it off. 

I look at these two photos, and I think - this cannot be the same man. How can he change so much in such a short amount of time? There is no spark left in him, no light. There are flickers of him here and there - just mention Sarah Palin, and he gets fired up in a hurry! - but he's mostly just flat. Sometimes angry. Sometimes confused. And a lot of the times, terribly sad and lonely. Mom and I can only do so much, we can't replace the life he's lost: his job, friends, ability to drive and be independent. It's a helpless feeling.

The other day, he gave me a huge box of letters that Aunt Henri had saved, ones he had written to her. They start in 1988, when I'm 15, and go up until about 2 years ago. He wrote her nearly once a week, so you can imagine the volume. I have been reading them for days now, and barely made a dent. I skipped ahead and read some of the 1995 era letters, when I was pregnant and had Tyler, and I don't think I've cried so much in quite awhile. To read his detailed and proud account of his firstborn grandchild's milestones, I could feel the love emanating from his words. This is such an amazing gift for my children. They may not appreciate it now, but when they are older, they will be able to read this and know how much Apaa truly adored them. It will also be a chance for them to get to know him. He talks about his work, all his camping trips, his volunteer work with an inner-city Boy Scout Troop, his work with the Shakespeare Festival, and you get a real feel for who he is. In one letter, he refers to his letter writing as 'cheap therapy' - and right there, I can see where I get my love of writing from. 

It's been a rough few days - though, what else is new! - with Dad's chemo on Wednesday, and Mom being sick. I think she's just let herself get too run down, and I'm worried she's going to get a diverticulitis flare up, and that would suck big time. I'm trying to take Dad off her hands so she can rest, but she still has to work. I just hope she can rest and recharge her batteries.

Tonight we were supposed to be hosting a portion of the Progressive Dinner for Henry's school, but I had to back out. For obvious reasons. I look around my house, with the clouds of cat fur rolling like tumbleweeds, the mountains of laundry in the living room (clean! folded! just not put away.), the traces of black marker still evident on my family room carpet (thank you, Addie), not to mention that it looks like a toy bomb went off in our house, and I think: there was no way in hell I could have done it. And I'm relieved I said I couldn't. But I'm still sad. I still feel like I'm missing out. I get resentful - and then feel guilty for feeling that way. It's an isolating existence, but unless someone has gone through this, they really have no clue. There have been a few people who have reached out to me in the last few days - a mom at Addie's preschool, who I don't know very well, asked about Dad, and a fellow first grade Mom called out of the blue to check on me. And these small gestures meant so incredibly much to me. I feel such gratitude for people that reach out. 

Alright, I'm running out of steam, and I still need to do my kettlebell workout. I'm off. More later.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Brought Dad his sandwich and hung out until Steven could get there. He's tired and out of it. Cancer is widespread - lung, brain, spine, liver, adrenal, kidneys-  but they say it's 'contained' for now. Meaning - when the drugs stop working, it will be fast. He will go in a matter of days or weeks. So we continue walking the tight rope between life and death, hope and reality.