Saturday, March 8, 2008


Greetings, Dear Clotters,

Good Friday came early this year. It began in the morning when I asked Dennis how he was feeling. He said, “Good.” And he said it without hesitation or qualification. I was so amazed, that I asked follow-up questions. How’s the pain? Any nausea? Are you leaking? He said, “OK.” “None.” “No.” (We always try to converse in sentences of three words or less…and we succeed wildly!) Well, I was so thrilled, I decided right then to make an appointment for a hair cut. Dennis hasn’t had one since b.c.w. (Before Classic Whipple…see previous blog) And both hairs needed to be clipped. Dennis requested that I not use the toenail clippers this time. Since this was such a special occasion, he thought it warranted a real barber. I don’t know what the big deal is. After all, I graduated with honors from the Sweeney Todd School of Cosmotology and Meat Pies, and I can split hairs with the best of them! But whatever.

I had a premonition it was going to be a good day while I was on my morning walk. Just as I was rounding a corner deep in mental oblivion, I was met by a strange and rather foul odor. I was pretty sure it was not coming from me because, as is my custom, I had brushed my teeth just prior to inflicting myself on society. But with every step, the odor intensified. Being the usual quick study that I am, I finally identified it as the unmistakable “eau de skunk.” Judging by the intensity, it had to be a whole herd of the creatures. (yes, “herd!”) With each reluctant step, the “odorometer” increased until I really got worried, and I thought, “Oh Great! It’s dark, and I’m all alone. And I’m about to be attacked by a pride of kamikaze skunks! Now what do I do?” But just at that moment, the “Pissy” arose in me. And it wasn’t Pissy, the Mutated Dwarf. It was Pissy on Human Growth Hormones…Pissy on steroids…Pissy on performance-enhancing drugs! I was ready to engage. In fact, I welcomed the encounter. What a perfect outlet for my pent-up rage, going head to head with glorified rodents. Game on! But just when I was ready to go to the mattresses, the odor began to dissipate and eventually disappear. My heart stopped pounding, I removed the brass knuckles, and Pissy shrank down to his normal diminutive size and returned to the inner recesses of my subliminal attitude. I resumed my walk convinced that it was going to be a good day. Sometimes premonitions are really weird, but not to be denied.

I love words. Those who know me well…and read the blog…can attest to that! Words have such power. They can do collateral damage, it is true. But, more important, they have the ability to enable, to nourish, to re-direct, to over-come, to encourage, reassure, and define, to comfort, to give meaning, and to transcend predicament. There is a group of Baptist prayer warriors in Texas who have centered their prayers on our family. Every few days we receive a “prayergram” from one of them that begins with five beautiful words: “I prayed for you today.” And then there is a note of personal experiences, encouragement, scriptural references and expressions of love. And then they sign their names. I do not know Ben Massaras, or anyone else, personally. But I love each one dearly. I do know that shared adversity galvanizes people. And that prayer elevates both the one who prays, and the one for whom the prayer is said. Prayer and kindness and love are holy places, where, as an invited guest, one feels prompted to remove one’s shoes. This is the highest form of poetry. There is an articulation that is born of sentiments of the heart. Sometimes that power of expression does not require orality. Even words not spoken can generate the hope for the future that sustains us in the adversities we unavoidably encounter. Paul Wortley made a CD of a collection of some of his favorite guitar arrangements, and labeled it “Cancer Killing Music.” Optimism and good will are so therapeutic.

Dennis and I went walking at Liberty Park in the afternoon. And he felt well enough to crank up the pace from “mosey” to “stroll.” The velocity was such that no one was able to pass us. (In the interest of accuracy, there was actually no one at the park, but that is a minor detail and does not detract from the basic premise.) We did a full lap in 35 minutes, and never once did we stop for “navel inspection.” We listened to some old time rock ‘n roll, and Dennis sang “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with the Beatles. I think he lip synced (lip sanc? Lip sunc? Whatever!) because I saw his beard moving, but I didn’t hear anything. However, in a moment of unbridled passion and shameless display of affection, we actually did hold hands. I told you this was a good day.

Tonight we will make a pot of gruel and watch Bull Riders Only to see if Renato Nunes will stay the 8 seconds on “Booger Butt.” Can’t wait! We have had so many moments of appreciation today, none the least of which is the fact that Dennis can no longer eat and run. Now he simply absorbs and remains. This is a good thing. Adversity and joy can reside simultaneously with a fair amount of companionability. Thank you for sharing both.

All our love,

The Clot


New York Sims said...

Hope the rest of your weekend, month, year, is just as great!

Love and prayers ~Mel

Deanna said...

My heart is happy to read about your nice day. How thankful we are for "good one day at a time days". Love you guys and keep up the good work.

Derek and Brittany said...

I kind of feel silly for leaving a comment, but I came across your blog through a friend of mine! My children have been seeing Dr.Ashton since Kasi was a baby and she is 7 now. I was just so happy to get an update and hear how things are going. My children love you and miss you! I especially adored how you always bopped them on the head and called them "kiddo"! So keep up the great work! We are always thinking of you!!! Love , The Kuehne Family!

Arizona Ashtons said...

Glad to hear that you had a good day to take a walk on--spring is in the air, now to get it in the step one step at a time.
Glad to see such neat progress being made by Dennis and his supporters. Keep up the great work and wonderful prayers.
We ar epulling for you down under in Arizona.
Love ya Bro, Dave and Sandy

cristie said...

sending our love and thankful that we have been blessed with a sunny day :-) xox

kristilee said...

What an inspiration your entire family is to so many people. By the way, I am one of Brodi's "DC pals." I've met you all a couple of times before. Joan, I feel so inspired by the things you write. You have such a beautiful way with words. I laugh and cry at almost every post. Dennis, we pray that you are blessed with strength and weight....I could donate some fat if you need any. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. We continue to pray for your family.
Kristi, Jono, Cami & Brooke

kate o said...

Hi Guys
So glad to hear you are walking without springing leaks! I know the sun and extended days will help you on the road to recovery. We miss you at WCP. Love, Kate O