Today our family is celebrating Byron’s 74th birthday. There is chocolate cake and lots of laughter. I reminded him that he told me early in our relationship that he didn’t think he would live to be 30 years old (not an unusual statement from a man facing the draft during the Vietnam War). We will pamper him all day, make his favorite dinner for him this evening, and let him know in as many ways as possible that he is so dearly special to all of us. A happy day!
Category Archives: Life
About Today’s Header
Today’s header (just for one day) is an old photo of my daughter, Jamie. She was born on Halloween and so our celebrations of this day have always been joyous rather than spooky. She is a beautiful and talented person, and is such a delight for us with her humor and compassion. We are so very proud of her. Happy birthday to our lovely daughter! And happy Halloween to you all!
This week, I have been focused on finishing one of my enjoyable reading challenges. It’s a great feeling to meet a challenge one sets for oneself! However, it’s another level of good feeling to meet a major challenge that Life throws at you. In the last month, my husband has been faced with another major physical and mental challenge related to his Stage IV metastasized cancer.
One month ago, he finished the radiation treatment he underwent to hopefully lessen the pain in his hip caused by the bone metastasis there. He walked into the five-day treatment on the first day, unaided but limping from his sore hip. Unfortunately, by the end of the five days, he was suffering from a not-so-common side effect from the treatment called a “pain flare, ” which is an inflammation of the lining of the bone due to the radiation. And it is extremely painful. So for his final treatment, I had to wheel him into the building in a wheel chair.
The inflammation was treated, the pain has slowly lessened throughout the month, and Byron has worked hard to regain his mobility. Truly a challenge! But he has embraced each step in this process, which started with the arrival of a cane we ordered on the day after that final treatment because he could not walk unsupported. A few days later, a simple walker was delivered to our porch, a surprise ordered by his primary care physician! He was delighted with it because he was much steadier getting around the house and could now do some limited walking outdoors. After a week with that more limited walker, we went shopping for his “off road walker,” as he calls it. And he was thrilled with the new walker we found!
So now, he does laps around the house with his fancy walker. We load it in the car and walk the sidewalks around the campus here in this university town. And the more he walks, the better he feels, even though energy and endurance are limited. It was not the kind of month we expected, but I am so proud of the way my husband faced the pain and the setback, and embraced the challenge to return to better mobility, one level at a time.
The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
For many of us who are around my age, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, was a guide and an inspiration in our early adulthood years. My husband and I used his passage “On Marriage” as part our wedding ceremony. And we took Gibran’s wise insights “On Children” to heart when we began our family. Some of my other favorite topics he wrote about are “On Love” and “On Joy and Sorrow.”
I pulled the old book off my shelf the other day and reread it, and was once again inspired by its wisdom. If you’ve never read it, you might find a cozy reading spot and a quiet, uninterrupted afternoon, and treat yourself to the beautifully-written and thought-provoking wisdom of Kahlil Gibran.
Kahlil Gibran was born in Lebanon in 1883. He immigrated to the United States with his mother and siblings in 1895. The Prophet was published in 1923 and became a best selling book that has been translated into over 100 languages. He died at the very young age of 48, and is buried in Lebanon.
I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.
I also chose to read this book for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book written by a Lebanese/American author, so I am counting it for the country of Lebanon.
Joseph Conrad Nailed It
My husband has long admired Joseph Conrad’s writing. Conrad’s stories are both powerful and profound, and his writing is impressively beautiful, especially considering that English was not his first language. Byron’s old, yellowed copy of Heart of Darkness sits on our coffee table these days rather than on the bookshelf.
So I wasn’t surprised the other day when Byron asked me to read a quote from Conrad’s, Lord Jim. He had just run across the quote in his handwritten reading notebook, copied down from his reading of the book in 2018, and told me that the quote described what having terminal cancer is like for him. He said that Conrad nailed it. It is heart-wrenching to read, but I’m glad that he shared these really deep emotions with me, through the words of one of his favorite authors.
I decided to share this quote with you, because I think it perfectly demonstrates a big part of why we read — to find those nuggets of truth that explain, give an understanding of, or put into words what we are going through in life at the moment.
Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, Chapter 2
There are many shades in the danger of adventures and gales, and it is only now and then that there appears on the face of facts a sinister violence of intention—that indefinable something which forces it upon the mind and the heart of a man, that this complication of accidents or these elemental furies are coming at him with a purpose of malice, with a strength beyond control, with an unbridled cruelty that means to tear out of him his hope and his fear, the pain of his fatigue and his longing for rest: which means to smash, to destroy, to annihilate all he has seen, known, loved, enjoyed, or hated; all that is priceless and necessary—the sunshine, the memories, the future,—which means to sweep the whole precious world utterly away from his sight by the simple and appalling act of taking his life.
Wise Words from John Lennon
I am awake in the middle of the night listening to a pair of Great Horned owls calling to each other from the tall trees in our neighborhood. This is such an unusual happening — being awake like this at this time (yes, I have too much on my mind) and also to hear the owls. So instead of sleepless worry, I am simply enjoying the song and the amazing conversation between the two owls. It is magical!
Whoo! WhooWhoo! Whoo! Whoo!” As the nights passed the booming of the owls became more and more frequent. Bubo called from his beech tree, Black Talon answered from her elm roost. Then Bubo called from the sugarhouse and Black Talon answered from the marsh.
~ from Bubo: The Great Horned Owl, by Jean Craighead George
August Reflections 2021
August turned out to be a very busy month. It was filled with doctors appointments and treatments for my husband, lingering summer heat, beautiful flowers in the garden, and some enjoyable reading. I am hopeful that, in September, we will spend less time in waiting rooms and more time in our reading chairs or in the garden. We’ll see.
I hope your August was full of good reads and happy summer activities!
Wise Words from Ray Bradbury
Last fall, my husband received a devastating diagnosis. He has Stage IV metastasized prostate cancer. Although this news packs a powerful punch, and there is no soft, kind way to share it, I need to let you know about this major change in my life, dear friends. I am sorry for the pain such news causes.
We have had time now to process the initial shock, to learn much more about what happened and is happening to his body, to begin the process of “getting everything in order,” and to start letting people know about it (although he’s a very private person). And in the middle of all the adjustments and doctor appointments, we are living our new life, which now has a one to four year time limit to it.
We have entered a new world — the world of cancer patients, survivors, caretakers, doctors, nurses, technicians, counselors. Cancer has become the kernel of truth within our daily lives now. Ever-present.
Cancer is a tremendous opportunity to have your face pressed right up against the glass of your mortality.” But what patients see through the glass is not a world outside cancer, but a world taken over by it—cancer reflected endlessly around them like a hall of mirrors.
~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My husband describes the first months of his disease as “surreal.” Surreal because he felt mostly healthy and normal except for the side effects of his treatment medications, and some pain that came occasionally. His body has been tolerating his treatments well so the cancer has been controlled for the time being. That is slowly changing as this disease finds new ways to get around treatments, but the inevitable decline has not started, yet.
Cancer is an expansionist disease; it invades through tissues, sets up colonies in hostile landscapes, seeking “sanctuary” in one organ and then immigrating to another. It lives desperately, inventively, fiercely, territorially, cannily, and defensively—at times, as if teaching us how to survive. To confront cancer is to encounter a parallel species, one perhaps more adapted to survival than even we are.
~ from The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
He entered this disease in excellent health, with excellent vital signs for his age, and no “co-morbidities,” using the term we’ve heard so often during this Covid-19 pandemic. He was, and still tries to be, active and fit. He feels his best when he is out on his bicycle. Genetic testing showed no genetic mutations that would have caused this to happen, and that, gratefully, are not something our children and my husband’s brothers need to worry about. It just happened. It is real…but it is not yet “real”. Surreal.
Right now, we are deeply grateful and profoundly sad. Grateful that we have time left to be together, to live life together. Grateful that we can face this disease side by side, as we have faced every other challenge in our 52 years together. Grateful for each day that he wakes up in the morning and is “mostly well.” At the same time, we are both profoundly sad, and the sadness comes in waves between otherwise “mostly normal” days. We are seeing everything in life now through this new lens of impending loss, and are living each moment with crystal clarity.
And from this vantage point, with deep feeling, I want to ask you to please cherish those you love. Please cherish yourself. Please cherish the daily-ness of your lives. Please cherish all the little things, because, as they say, those are truly the biggest and most important things. Live your life to its fullest, each day, because “today is all of time,” as my grandmother wrote in one of her poems. Today is all of time.
My husband had a bone scan done today. That meant a trip to the hospital at 11:00 to get the infusion, and then back to the hospital at 2:00 to get the scan done. Since it’s a distance to the hospital from our home, rather than driving back and forth, we decided to make good use of the in-between time and go out to lunch and then to the bookstore. It was so wonderful to be in the bookstore again! Spending time at Powell’s is definitely bibiotherapy!
May and June…where’d they go?
Oh my goodness. Yes, we have a lot going on here, but May and June just seemed to get lost in the shuffle of busy-ness. Reading has slowed down, gardening has sped up. In both May and June, all of us now vaccinated, we enjoyed a couple of visits with our daughter. We took a one day road trip to see her home and garden after 15 months of not being able to travel. Then, her visits in May and in June to our place. When she comes for a visit, there’s a lot of garden stuff that happens. We always visit our favorite garden centers, AND she helps in my garden! She weeds my flower beds and makes things look so nice. Her way of “helping,” which is a major understatement!
Two days after she left this last time, I was outside picking our bumper crop of cherries which took three busy days. I hustled to pick as many as I could before THE heat event hit the Pacific Northwest. Then I spent my mornings watering to keep things alive in the intense heat, and afternoons in retreat from the most intense heat I’ve ever experienced. Thinking back over the last two months, it’s no wonder I am feeling very fatigued! But here I am, checking in and letting you know I am still here, and still reading!
Books finished in May and June:
- Seesaw Girl, by Linda Sue Park
- Beginner’s Mind, by Yo-Yo Ma
- Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
- A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
- Death by Dumpling, by Vivien Chien
- The Firekeeper’s Son, by Linda Sue Park
- The House in the Clouds, by Victoria Connelly
- The Living Reed, by Pearl S. Buck
Hopefully, with the hot afternoons of July upon us, I will be getting more reading done while staying cool indoors parked in front of our window air conditioner. And hopefully, we won’t have a repeat of that record-breaking heat wave! I don’t want to repeat those three days of 104, 109, and 112 degrees!
I hope this post finds you enjoying your summer, and that it is filled with sunshine and books…and nice mild temperatures!