Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Steeplechase and Water Handball and the Rea sisters.

Phil loves the Olympics. Anything sports- competition- he's huge fan. He's also a huge fan of America. I like the swimming and gymnastics and bits and pieces here and there. I remember one summer we went to visit his aunt and uncle in Florida and Phil learning to juggle while watching the Olympics in their living room. Apparently that was the last year some record was broken and he reminded me we watched that race in Florida. Shared memory- he keeps those statistics, I can tell you how much garlic is needed in recipes. Hmm, all I remember is him learning to juggle- but I trust him. And yes his ability to juggle weighed heavily into my decision to marry him. And his love for garlic.

Our littles are pretty young in Olympic years, so they know of the Olympics but not all the sports. There is also not a lot of variety in sporting here in Hawaii- so they've really only been exposed to the basics. We are actually very excited to learn about Brazil as their uncle is moving there today. He met a lovely young lady from near Sao Paolo and I'm excited for him to have this adventure.  As I was prepping dinner one night- track was on. And Phil keeps saying- you have Got to watch this. So I obligingly wander over so he knows I am watching. The women are running, running, running- dude this is like watching paint dry- I have dinner to make. Wait for it- hurdle, hurdle, oh no- is that water supposed to be there? Isn't that puddle dangerous? Is this a Rio problem? How is the Olympic committee ok with this? Phil is laughing at me. It's Steeplechase. Hmm. I recognize the word- somehow thought it was related to horse racing- which this kinda seems like. But it's fascinating- they trudge through a puddle and can climb over the hurdles except for the one athlete- she ran right into the hurdle, ooh faceplant in puddle. This is great. How did I not know this was a thing? This could totally be a metaphor for cancering.

 Saturday I was ironing, getting ready for pictures and it occurs to me I haven't ironed in forever. wrinkles are a a part of our lives. It's kinda therapeutic- wrinkle, apply heat, wrinkle gone, progress. Tangible. I'm not too bothered by wrinkles, They add character. But- they would bother me on clothes in pictures- so there I was and Water Polo was on. Lily walks in, what is this water soccer? Phil and I laugh-she continues it can't be water basketball because water basketball has baskets and that's a net like in soccer. Bella hears the laughing and wanders over. What is that water hand ball? I've played handball before and its like that, but that's with water. Kiera- also wanting to participate in the laughter runs downstairs- Kiera- what sport is that? That's Water Polo. And the blonde for the win. She's not really blonde, but she's our blonde and we love her as much as the rest.

It was nice to have the Olympics to watch at chemo yesterday. Sometimes I hate to combine something someone loves with the cancer routine- but then again it becomes a good memory during a tough time. Steeplechase was on-so good for more laughs. There is just always that background fear that it might cause a twinge of sadness down the road- BUT that is when we make jokes to get through. Like at dinner the other night- the brother and sister in law were discussing college with the teen- which I am supremely grateful for. He's had the opportunity to chat with most of his aunts and uncles about their knowledge and choices and gotten some different input that he is more likely to listen to than out of Phil or I. Generally I listen and learn something new- like he was considering UC Davis in CA. My SIL offered to chaperone a visit since she travels to CA for work. Sudden twinge- snarky comment- Eh I've spent enough time at UC Davis- I'm good- you can have him. I caught them off guard and got the look from Phil- that said- I get it Jen but that was harsh. So I should explain.

In 1993 I was sitting in a senior class- don't remember which one and Phil and I were called to the counselor's office. My first thought is shit we are busted because we may have been known to be late to various classes. We had maniacal schedules being one of the first IB classes set to graduate and our teachers were pretty understanding about the stress levels. We didn't have time for a lunch period so we either ate in class or sometimes skipped a period to grab something.

We wander into the office and our good friend Rob was there, he pulls Phil aside and all I hear is, her dad. And I knew. Dad was traveling for work and had left a really strange message on the answering machine the night before and we kinda figured it was either a good business dinner with lots of drinks or he did the equivalent of 1993's butt dialing. It descended on me- that foreboding, I know this feeling- this is when it all goes to shit, again feeling. Our Counselor- a wonderful woman named Donna has my mom on the phone. She's at work and just got the call from Dad's boss. He passed out mid meeting and they took him to the ER. They weren't sure, but we suspected brain tumor. She was making arrangements for us to fly to California. She was weary. I was weary. Because this time we knew. With Bob we didn't really know. But now we knew. And sometimes that is harder.

We flew to UC Davis. They didn't want to let me in ICU to see him because I was a kid. I kinda wanted to throat punch someone and had enough experiences in hospitals at that point to say I've done this before and walk past the nurse. My memories of the time there are sharp and blurry at the same time. My uncles flew in to be with us- the Toms. My mom's Tom and my dad's Tom. They joked and made sure we were fed and watered. The hope was to get dad stable enough to fly home for surgery, but that wasn't possible, he started bleeding and they had to do surgery immediately. Which honestly was probably a blessing because UC Davis is a very good institution. And if Phillip goes there it will complete this bizarre loop. But memories and loss sometimes pop out at you when you least expect it and the mention of UC Davis was one of those moments.

My other profound memories of the time were the skanky hotel we stayed at nearby and the morning walks of shame by a fabulous Alice Cooper drag queen. I mean technically not a drag queen but maybe I don't know- although I had exposure to ER's, ICU's and hospitals- I was unenlightened on the inner workings of the selective sort of professionals that hung out near our temporary UC Davis home. Which also segways into the STD discussion mid hospital stay.

In dad's room, the standard white board- doctor's name- patient notes- today's nurse. Anarea was the day nurse. Dad had the mischievous smile and winked at me when he noticed me studying the board. I had been to California, familiar with a lot of different names. Anarea was different, but not strange to me. The nurse comes in, checks vitals and dad introduces us to Ana. He said we might know her sisters, Di and Gonna. I didn't know anyone in California so I assumed he was joking, but there was that twinge- the beginning of the losing of the mind. I look at Tom, and we are all thinking the same thing. Fucking brain tumor. Ana laughs. Goes over to the white board and adds a line to the second a- turning it into a d. The stem had been wiped off by accident. She has obviously already had this discussion with dad and he lets us know she sees a lot of her sisters in nursing- diarrhea and gonnorhea. And there was dad. The sense of humor, the piece of him we knew dominating the room despite the big part of his frontal lobe now missing. Sometimes you just have to laugh at all the shit because otherwise you might just faceplate in it.

Needless to say I have brain tumor PTSD issues. It is an interesting exercise in urgency and denial. Some days I am ok- other days are sheer panic and terror. I ground myself and focus on the moment and am so grateful I feel good. Whether the energy is artificially induced from the steroids or whatever- I am using it for good and counting it as a blessing. I know so many hate the phrase that everything happens for a reason, but that phrase grounds me and gives me focus. Notice all the active grounding. I don't lose sight of the fact that there may be a reason, I just don't know what it is. Sure it's frustrating. Sometimes the reason doesn't make sense and it isn't good. But I need to believe that this path, this journey has purpose and the only way to travel it is if there is purpose and to say there is no reason- eliminates purpose. I hesitate to call it "getting things in order" because well that feels more terminal than I do right now. It's not nesting because well- the tumor baby I'm growing isn't the little bundle of joy I'm prepping for. I'm still in search of the right term. For now I am going with Living. And for my mom and my dear friends who constantly ask- how are you REALLY? I am really busy and feel better than I have a lot of times in the past 4 years and I try to make the most of it- which I hate to say sometimes is scarier than feeling shitty. Why? Because fates sometimes give you a calm before the storm. But I do not want to waste the calm because sometimes storms blow over and especially if it doesn't. I keep busy because I can and will until I can't. run run run, hurdle, hurdle, pond. And watch out for the Rea sisters.

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Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)