Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

As I said on Facebook: "This was the oddest Thanksgiving I've ever spent. I liked it. And I didn't."

My children don't come home for Thanksgiving because they'll be here for Christmas in a few weeks and it's such a terrible weekend for traveling. Usually we go to Greensboro to be with my dad. We've done this almost every year since we quit going to my grandparents' house in Carolina Beach. There's lots of food and family.

But this year, our tether has been severed, and my dad isn't around to host us. So with my kids away and my dad gone, we decided to do something totally off the wall. We took the boat to Georgetown, South Carolina.

It took us all day on Thursday to get there. Most of the leaves had fallen but there was color here and there among the brown trunks and the evergreens.

We pulled into a little creek off the waterway for lunch. It was beautiful and peaceful. The weather was warm and we enjoyed the sun and sustenance.

Thursday night we ate turkey, collard greens, and the last of our garden squash. It felt so strange, thinking about this day being one that we usually spend with so many people. I got a little melancholy, so we decided to watch a few episodes of Season 1 of the Showtime show, "Weeds". I'm hooked, and it did take my mind off the sadness. Friday we rode our bikes into Georgetown, had lunch, window shopped, and browsed the wonderful indy bookstore. As we headed back to the boat it started raining. Rainy afternoons are great for napping, so we read and slept.

Saturday morning we started the seven-hour trek back to Southport. The seagulls saw us off.

It was another warm, beautiful day. I took lots and lots of photographs, including some amazing water reflections. The waterway is so scenic. And of course, there were lots of reminders of my dad.

I had such mixed feelings about this weekend. But I couldn't have asked for more in the way of a beautiful distraction. For that I am grateful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Note: I realized after posting this that TOMORROW is the anniversary. I've been thinking all day that this was November 19. :)

Five years ago today I made a move that changed my life: I quit drinking. And four years ago today I gave up cigarettes. This blog has been part of the journey too, putting my thoughts and challenges out there for people to see and comment on.

I remember so clearly the day I quit drinking. I had had a particularly humiliating night the day before. When I woke up, I said, "Today's the day you give up the booze." I wanted to be farther down the road - years even - from that day, and here I am.

I planned that day to give myself one year, then give up cigarettes. And again, on the day I quit, I remember thinking, "Wish I had some time in my pocket so I could feel confident that this is for good." Again, here I am.

These two events have helped me so much as I deal with the radiation treatments. At the beginning, when thirty-two sessions under the evil rays loomed large, I reminded myself of the other times I wanted to be farther along. Today I'm two-thirds finished.

Some people make changes at the new year, but for me this day has proven lucky twice. It is my great-aunt's birthday so I can always remember it even though she has been dead for many years. Last year I thought I might be able to give up sugar, might have even vowed it again later, but today, sitting here at the computer, I ate a whole roll of Menthos!! Maybe next year I'll give up the sugar, hmmm? Today I'll celebrate how much farther along I am.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh Yeah

Last week I was cracking myself up. This week, it's the gods who are laughing.

Thursday the tiredness hit me. I feel like the floor is one end of a magnet and my body is the other.

It started on Thursday afternoon. When my husband got home from work, I was sulky and irritable. His way of dealing with that is to quietly walk away from the aura of the bad mood. Unfortunately for him, that was the wrong move. I started fussing and fuming and at one point he had retreated to the downstairs room and I was at the top of the steps yelling at him. Then I started crying. And I cried for about thirty minutes as hard as I've ever cried. I cried about the cancer, about my dad, about the tiredness and fear of what the next few weeks will bring. I'm sure I threw in a couple of other things while I was feeling...well, feeling.

The rest of the weekend, I tried to take it easy. This is not my style; I like to be busy. I finished the 400-page novel on Vietnam, Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes. I alternated between reading and staring at the beautiful colors of the trees outside my den window. I went to bed fairly early. I asked a few more than normal favors of my husband, and I let go of the expectation that he would get them all done. Or that it mattered that he got them all done.

So. I got ready to be tired, and here I am. Now I'm going to have to get used to letting go of a few things, and take care of myself. The countdown is still on: fifteen more treatments. I can do it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Ready

My oncologist, the nurses, the techs, and several friends have told me that I'm going to get tired as I have more and more radiation treatments. Well, folks, I have to tell you: I'm going to wear myself out getting ready to be tired!

I love a crisis that you have to get ready for. I've talked about it before. Here's what I've done so far:

1. Cleaned out the refrigerator, freezer and food cabinets. Re-stocked them with easy-to-fix foods like soups and frozen meals. Unfortunately, we have nothing to eat because I keep saying, "Don't eat that; I may need it when I get tired."

2. Written or revised at least seven stories for my writing class. Since I read at the most every three weeks, this will last me twenty-one weeks, or until sometime the middle of 2011.

3. Gotten everything ready in my workroom in case all I feel like doing is sitting around writing and making cards. I've also made about fifty cards in case I'm too tired to make cards. And you already know about the writing.

4. At work, I've almost finished closing out the year 2010 and getting ready for my insurance audits (which happen in February). All I have to do is set up the 2011 files. At this rate, I can go on a restful vacation in January, traditionally the busiest time of year for me.

5. Cleaned out my closet. Again.

6. Stocked up on books and movies. I can't read or watch any of them right now in case I need to do that when I'm tired.

As you might imagine, all that getting ready is making me very tired. But I can rest as much as I want now. And rest is good if you're thinking about being tired.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Veterans Day

I'm sure you've seen the statistics--increased suicides, domestic violence, child abuse--among our returning veterans. Then there's traumatic injury, higher survival rates due to advances in medicine, PTSD.

I took this picture at a Veterans Day parade in New York several years ago. The man was a Vietnam War vet. I'm reading the book Matterhorn by Carl Marlantes, a very realistic and graphic look at that war. And no matter how you look at it, war is an ugly, inhumane business. A huge, complicated business venture.

There are women in wars now too, but I want to look for a minute at the indoctrination that happens mostly to our male children. We give them video games at young ages where they shoot, kill, and maim imaginary characters. They play these games competitively with their peers, cheering at every death. They play at home, they play in stores while they wait for their parents to shop, they play on their phones and their televisions. Death has no meaning.

Then some of the join the military. We beat them down and wear them out, give them guns and send them to war. And when they come back? What do we do for them once they've realized that killing people isn't all that much fun?

I believe that if we're going to continue on this insane warrior path we've been walking as long as man has existed, then we'd better come up with a way to deal with our soldiers when they come back from doing the job we asked them to do. Only a handful of them will voluntarily seek mental health care--it's not the warrior way--but I believe that the government should require and pay for a minimum of two years of mental health care for every returning military person. We've brought them home from a brutal arena, thrown them and their families into the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, then we read the papers and watch the news and wonder why these guys are harming themselves and their families.

I've written a couple of Congressmen about sponsoring a bill to make this as available as the GI Bill was to our WWII and Vietnam vets. We owe these men and women something. And their sanity is the least of it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Show and Tell

One time my sister wearily told me, "You're always wanting to show me things."

I've realized lately how much of that showing I did with my dad. Articles, pictures, anecdotes about the family. I wanted to share it with him. And I can't tell you how many times in the past four months I've resignedly said, "There's no one to show that to," because my dad isn't around.

We saw the ship in the photograph this weekend on the water. He would have loved seeing it. He served in the Navy in WWII on the USS Anzio. He was interested in so many things--sports, the arts, people, religion, wars, politics, family history--just about anything you could think of to talk about he would participate in the discussion. I swear he had a photographic memory because he remembered everything. And he knew a lot about a lot.

These are my saddest moments lately, realizing that the person who consistently wanted to look at my life and hear about what I was doing is gone. He cared about when I left on a trip and when I got back. He wanted to hear the details. He always asked how my children were doing. He could fill me in on what others in the family were doing because he was keeping up with them too.

He, and he alone, never got tired of seeing my literal and figurative stuff.

PS A perfect example of what he would have loved to hear is something that happened to my sister recently: Twenty people out of 6000 were randomly chosen to get tickets to the final shuttle launch. She was one of them. "VICKI!" he would have said, in awe of her good fortune.