Sunday, November 30, 2008

"these are the things that take my breath away..."

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately.

We've all done things, said things that we're not proud of. Maybe we had the best of intentions and it came out wrong. Maybe we had every intention of hurting someone. Maybe it was just ignorance, and we walked by, blissfully unaware of the pain we caused. Whatever the excuse, we have all done it. As I've grown older, I've started to think more about those wrongs committed on my part, I crave absolution and forgiveness. 

I had a friend some years back that I hurt deeply. I can sit and rationalize that everything I said was true, and that I was concerned about her life, her path, her children, but in the end... I judged her. I may have had the best of intentions, but it was poorly, terribly executed, and it cost me a friendship, one that I never ceased missing. Now, many years later, I'm mortified that I would ever judge someone I cared about so harshly. I don't want anyone judging me or my actions, and there is nothing about my life that puts me above anyone else. And I've learned over the years that there are some things you just keep to yourself - I think deep down, we are all well aware of our faults and shortcomings. None of us need them pointed out, it serves nothing but the make the other person feel terrible. 

I never thought this friendship was salvageable. I assumed I was beyond any sort of redemption in her eyes. I figured, at some point, I would run into her, and she would rip into me. And I felt she had every right. I felt I deserved it. Years went by, and I did see her out and about. She was always nice, pleasant, if a little guarded. I still waited for the other shoe to drop, until one day, through the strange miracle of Facebook, I found myself at her house for a Thanksgiving get together. Deep down, I still figured she must despise me, and I still felt I deserved it. 

The thing that struck me hard, I mean really blew me away, was her kindness to Dad. She hasn't seen him in years - probably since my wedding. She talked to him, made sure he got in line for food, introduced him to her friends. It was a selflessness that defies explanation, and I was, and continue to be, deeply humbled by it. The funny thing about forgiveness is: we often forget to forgive ourselves. We beat ourselves up over things we can't go back and change. We sit in an imaginary confessional, knowing full well that no amount of Hail Marys will take the bricks from our shoulders. When you go to church, and you confess your sins, do they really just go away? Does the hurt you caused cease to exist? Maybe the absolution serves as a placebo for the real thing. Because when it comes? It will take your breath away.

Thanksgiving this year had a deeper meaning for us: another holiday Dad has survived. I mentally tick them off in my head, a little morbid laundry list of things I hope to get to do with Dad before he dies. After five or so good days with Dad, we had a rough holiday. He was out of it again, and weak, nearly falling several times at my house. He was determined to go to Squaw Creek today with a friend to see the eagles. Mom and I were very concerned, but as usual, he pulled through and did fine. I talked to him tonight and he sounded like himself. We never know from one day to the next how he'll feel. We don't know what the future holds anymore.

Monday, November 24, 2008

sometimes it snows in April

In the end, sometimes, this is all that's left......

It's been a rough few weeks for our little family. Dad had a much more difficult time tolerating chemo, and had about a week of severe weakness and exhaustion. He was 'out of it' most of the time, it was difficult. He's made his way past the worst of it, and we've enjoyed several days of him being like himself. 

Last Tuesday, I woke up to our kitten, Mendel, falling off the bed. He seemed to lose use of his front legs. The vet was unable to find an underlying cause, but tried steroids and antibiotics, hoping it was an infection or parasite, but by Wednesday night he began having seizures, and by the middle of the night, I was up with him every 15-20 minutes. At one point, wrapping him in a blanket because I was afraid he'd injure himself after the 5th fall off the bed. By morning, what I had to do was painfully clear. I've never heard my daughter cry quite like this before, it was a wail of true pain and anguish. My kids, these last few months, have learned some difficult lessons: sometimes things can't be fixed. Sometimes doctors can't make you better. 

So, we lost our 7 month old kitten. Dad was devastated. Mendel had brought him so much joy. He said 'I didn't think I'd outlive the kitten.' On Wednesday night, when I was still vacillating as to what to do, he said to Mom 'If I'm ever suffering as much as Mendel, please put me out of my misery.' That offered me a real moment of clarity. We offer our pets more dignity in death then the people we love. That's something I can't understand.

Last night, as I tried to fall asleep, I felt like my brain was on repeat. I kept thinking: Leo is gone. Mendel is gone. And soon Dad will be gone. It was like a broken record, over and over, and I laid in bed and cried in the dark. I sometimes feel like the world is going on without me, and I move in slow motion, dwelling in an alternate reality, unable to really communicate with anyone outside of what I deal with. It's a hard path to travel, but we all eventually walk it. We all have to lose our parents sometime, face our own mortality and fear of death. I'd like to say that everyday I carry myself with dignity and grace and handle things perfectly (with a clean house) but I don't. I struggle and get angry. I lose my patience. I want to hide from my kids sometimes. But I keep going. We all do, we have to ride the roller coaster until the end.

Until then, we try to find joy in our lives, and there is always joy to be found. Even if you have to look a little harder some days. We celebrated Tyler's 13th birthday, and I felt gratitude that Dad was there. Now we look on to Thanksgiving and all the preparations that go with it, and I feel relieved that we've passed another milestone. 

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. Be sure to look for the joy. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

I am happy to report that the compression fractures are from his previous injury in 2004. For some reason, it didn't show up in the prior CT scans, so they thought it was something new. Thankfully, it is not! Dr. Kelly is also going to take him off of the Carboplatin, as Dad has suffered significant hearing loss from it. He will continue to get just the Taxol, and we're hoping that we'll get the same results from just the one drug. Dad is doing remarkably well for now, and we're relieved and grateful. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"There will, in my life, be other good nights. But none of them will ever be as good as this one."

                                  (Still life with Addie's foot and Obama. The morning after.)

When I was in highschool, I was obsessed with the 60's. The culture, the music, the politics, the movement of change, reform, and civil rights. I wore tie dye and listened to Hendrix. I read the speeches of Martin Luther King and watched tapes of JFK in Berlin. I wanted to be a part of something like that, to be a witness to real history. I thought I'd never experience anything like that in my lifetime. Until now.

I asked Dad the other day if this was what it was like when Kennedy ran. After a moment in thought, he said "no, this is bigger." Mom agreed that while the 60's were a time of change, they were also a time of great sadness and strife. This is bigger. This is hope. Last night, I thought of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Belloq says to Indy as he touches the Ark: "we are simply passing though history. This - this is history." And that was how I - and I'm sure millions of others - felt as I watched Barack Obama take the stage at Grant Park. I'm not sure there will ever be another election in our lifetime that has been as important as this one. I felt a deep sense of gratitude that I was able to share the evening with my parents, my husband, and my kids. When they called it for Obama, we shed our tears, popped the champagne, lit some sparklers, and enjoyed the moment. Bob Greene is right, there will be other good nights in my life, but this one is going to stand out in mine and my kids memory for several reasons. 

We have been awaiting the test results to Dad's PET scan he had on Friday. I wanted to wait to blog until we knew something, but we're still waiting. He had a CT last Tuesday, and they were concerned about 3 compression fractures in his spine. He has severe osteoporosis, and it could be from that - but it could also be the cancer spreading to the bone. Dr. Kelly seemed fairly concerned, which never does a lot to boost anyone's confidence. All we can do now is wait and pray. The other results of the CT looked good - more shrinkage in the lung tumor, and no change in the spots on the liver. 

Mom and Dad were overwhelmed  by the surprise generosity of a group of Highlands parents - headed up by the incomparable Nicole Browning - who donated money to help with mounting medical bills. I have said all along that Highlands has the coolest group of parents I have ever met, and this just clinches it. I know that there are people who gave who don't even know me, much less my Dad. If that isn't true compassion and generosity, I don't know what is. To just say 'thank you' seems to fall short. I am humbled at everyone's kindness, and it leaves me at a loss for words. I hope you all know how deeply grateful we are, Mom and Dad have been able to get the bill from his stay at Shawnee Mission paid off in full, and that is a very good thing. You are all amazing. You do know that, right?