Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thoracic Park

Christmas is a time for telling the old familiar stories of journeys:  Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, and Wise Men following a star to a manger.  So it was entirely appropriate that at this particular season, we, too, made a pilgrimage.  Our destination:  Houston, affectionately known as “Thoracic Park.”

We prepared for our flight by checking the Heavens for navigational lights.  Then we way over-packed, and stayed in optimal physical shape by squat thrusting our luggage. 
We have never been gone for over two weeks, but we were most willing to hie ourselves to M. D. Anderson for the opportunity to eradicate a significant portion of Dennis’ lung nodules with high intensity radiation.

We met and conferred with the Three Wise Men:  Tom Buccholz, a dear and trusted friend; Dr. Joe Chang, a thoracic wunderkind; and Dr. Robert Wolff, who, as his name implies, is a ferocious oncological canine. 

There was no room at the inns, so we stayed in a local Best Western.  It was adequate, consisting of two rooms (with two beds and a bathroom) and dimly lit interiors.  I began to realize how minimally one can live when great opportunities present themselves.

However, the interior of our particular stable was dimly lit, and the lights cast a grayish, yellowish tint to one’s reflection.  When the post-shower fog on the mirrors vanished, we both looked sicker than we actually were. 

So I resorted to the Kardashian make-up handbook with tips for drag queens and smut mags, and applied several extra layers of mascara and foundation to counter the specter of my ghostly appearance.  I have decided that mascara is the opiate of the masses. The mirrors at the hospital, unfortunately, were truer than those at the motel, and I realized I looked like a geriatric refugee from the Kabuki Theater, gaunt and apparition-like.  I hate mirrors.

Things could not have gone better for the first five treatments. We were high on optimism and egg nog.  Dennis received his daily dose of radiation, and then we spent each day letting our light so shine and seeing the sights of Houston.  At the end of that week, he could have guided Santa’s sleigh. 

But that Friday night, there was an episode of such severity, we rushed him to the ER, where it was determined that he be placed in the ICU immediately.  His blood pressure  plummeted, his lungs became “fluffy,” and throngs of doctors and caretakers swarmed him round the clock.  Of the two of us, I was the only one cogent.  We all panicked.

At one point, in order to avoid a catheter, I decided to try persuasive imaging on Dennis.    After all, I watch “The Mentalist.”  I understand hypnosis.  So I started counting backwards from ten, telling him in my most velvet voice, that when I reached one, he would pee.  It didn’t work the first time…nor the second.  By the third try, I was looking frantically for a bathroom.  Dennis got the catheter.

In spite of all my protestations that we were going to be fine, Erin and Brodi boarded a plane for Texas.  Apparently long-distance “clotting” was insufficient for them. I mark Dennis’ turn-around from the moment he saw their faces.  The light in his eyes was beyond radiation.  And to tell the truth, their faces looked awfully good to me, too.

The three of us went “commando” and never left his bedside, except when hospital rules forced us out after 12 hours.  Then we rocked Houston.  We went to see “Mission Impossible,” and realized just how many impossible things are possible.   

We never felt alone.  In fact, at one point as Dennis lay semi-conscious and wired to every contraption conceivable to the mind of man, I asked him how many angels he thought were in the room with us. I didn’t expect an answer. Most of our conversations are one-sided anyway.  Besides, he was not awake, and I’m used to speaking in monologues.  But this time he responded, saying he didn’t know exactly how many angels were attending, but it must be a multitude.  Wow!  Out of the mouths of the comatose.        

Dennis began to improve dramatically.  He endured, and eventually prevailed.  I was in a constant state of wonderment, but not surprised.  We began to see things in high def.  We witnessed miracles that would astound and confound the Magi.  So many miracles that I lost count…but there were definitely more than 17.   

Our family was gone so long that we lost track of time. When Dennis began to recover, he asked me what just happened.  I asked him what he remembered.  He said not much.  I said good.  One day I’ll give him all the details. But not now. Some things are better left unspoken. We are at peace knowing we were exactly where we were meant to be at this time.

Staring down cancer is a monumental task.  But my New Year’s resolution is singular and simple:  NEVER EVER BLINK.  (Of course, I’m aided in my commitment by copious amounts of caffeine.  I actually CAN’T blink!)

If life is a journey, it is good to travel in multitudes, as in days of old, and to choose one’s traveling companions wisely.  I have.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Houston, We Have a Solution

Stricken by my annual Nesting Instinct, and staking out territory at the top of the food chain, I decided to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.  Personally, I prefer to munch on invertebrates and microscopic algae, but we’re surrounded by a family comprised mostly of carnivores, who become predatory at this time of year.

So I donned my monogrammed “GRILL MASTER” apron and started preparing the feed bag. 

I began the “apocalypse planning for future survival” by freezing the bird’s packaged innards.  I’m not really sure just what each item is, and I do not ask questions.  I don’t know whether to read the entrails or cook them.  So, I simply place them next to the ice trays and wait till freezer burn dictates date of disposal.  Very tidy.  No guilt.

We managed to prepare all the traditional dishes and achieve a degree of nutritional value at the same time.  Thankfully, we live in a country that has decreed pizza a vegetable, so we are able to hit some serious food groups simply by having Domino’s on speed dial. 

As usual, it was a requirement for everyone to tell what they are thankful for.  But with restrictions.  Family, country, etc. were not allowed.  This left the field wide open.

There were some creative and thoughtful things presented.  Josh was grateful for drive-ups.  Without them, it would be more difficult to get a “happy meal” so fast.  I liked his thinking. 

I personally was thankful for thumbs.  Without opposing digits, (and an upright posture) life as we know it would be quite different.  The kids proved my point by trying to eat using utensils with only their fingers.  I stopped the demonstration when most of the contents of their plates ended up on the carpet.  Our daughters went into collective depression when they realized without thumbs, they couldn’t text.  Only MY routine wouldn’t change without thumbs, technologically speaking.

I stuffed the bird and then the bird stuffed us.  As we were hauling out the carcass and hauling in the Christmas tree, our phone rang.  It was Tom Buchholz from M.D. Anderson in Houston.  He told us he had gone over Dennis’ PET scan with Dr. Chang, head of the thorax division and all things lung.  Apparently they decided that high-intense radiation known as SBRT could take out three of Dennis’ five remaining lesions. 

Dr. Chang said he was going after the hot lesion and two of its satellites.  In order to ensure I understood exactly what he was saying, I said, “So, you’re offing three of the little buggers?” He concurred, with only a barely detectable eyeroll.  I don’t think he was aware that whenever I refer to the “lesions,” I am accustomed to dropping the “B” grenades, “bugger” being the only one fit for blogging.   

Of course, this changes the whole equation.  I was overwhelmed. I wish I could master Kim Kardashian’s technique of crying without moistening a single manicured eyelash or dislodging so much as a single layer of carefully applied mascara.  All her tears are contained within the boundaries of eyelids that remain botoxed in cement and unblinkingly carved in an impossibly perfect, vainglorious face…a mutation of inbred narcissism. 

My tears splash out of my lids and mock my claims of eyes of cork.  They wash over my mascara and carve rivulets of India ink down my cheeks, joining the streams of viscous nasal pond scum that compels onlookers to avert their eyes in disgust.  But I mopped up the mess, and couldn’t stop doing the moonwalk as we packed our bags and headed to Texas with less than 24 hours notice.

In spite of all of the above, I landed in Houston looking laudably perky in my sunshine yellow cardigan and pathetically matching saffron shoes.  Thanks to the moisture content of the equatorial atmosphere, I arrived at the doorstep of M. D. Anderson looking like a bedraggled, jaundiced fur ball coughed by a stray cat with toxic dyspepsia.

I heard from a Jesuit priest that yellow is the color of intelligence.  Thankfully, I had packed plenty of burlap, the color of the neuron impaired.

 We met with doctors and technicians, who created a body mould for Dennis, and then did calculations that would stupefy the intelligently elite, to prepare for the two weeks of intense radiation that will eradicate these invading nodules. 

In order not to nothing ourselves to death, we decided to explore some points of interest while we waited for Monday.  We went to Galvaston for a romantic walk along the beach and release our inner sanity.  However, the wind blew so hard, it swaddled my head in platinum and root re-growth, making me look like a cross between cro magnon and the missing link.  Not exactly a Kodak moment.  But somehow none of that mattered.

It has been said that what is past is prologue.  Dennis began his intense and precise treatments today.  For us, it is Christmas.  And perhaps that’s what this season is all about…prologues and possibilities.


Friday, November 18, 2011


Recently a friend of ours said he thought we were courageous.  He seemed to include both Dennis AND me, so I was a little taken aback.  Actually, I was stunned.  I recall sitting there with my usual vacant, saucer-eyed noncomprehending stare that so often makes me appear slightly genetically challenged.  It’s my “Duuuhhhh!” face.  Perhaps he didn’t notice. Perhaps my application of excessive mascara was a distraction.  Perhaps my appearance was deceiving.

But his comment prompted me to think about courage.  It is such a noble trait, a characteristic of grace and dignity, a virtue to be acquired and assumed.

 I have never thought of myself as brave.  Episodes of paranoid excess due to an accumulation of unknowns expose my “Barney Fife on steroids” underbelly.

I am more the burrowing nocturnal marsupial in camouflage fatigues and pith helmet whose primal instinct is to run through the neighborhood shrieking, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid,” with the irrational conviction of a Harold Camping.

I confess I don’t understand exactly what courage is.  As much as I’ve studied Shakespeare, I don’t really know just what it means to “Screw your courage to the sticking place.”

I am much better acquainted with the attributes of fear, which include paranoia, alarm, dread, anxiety, doom and gloom. 

Fear is bile green with tentacles that strangle and suffocate.  It is base, a mongrel that prompts one to carry talismans as big as the Hindenburg to ward off the emotional brown-outs that tend to suffuse one’s subcutaneous.

On the hierarchy of emotion, fear can trump even the most righteous attributes.  Fear generates revulsion, especially to those possessed by it. 

In fact, on a whim, Dennis and I went to see Ballet West’s production of “Dracula.”  Talk about VAMPIRES IN TIGHTS!  Their fangs were uncomfortably apparent.  The scenes in the crypt were so well performed that it actually gave me the wubbah wubbahs.  Absolutely nobody gets the gruesomes at the ballet.  (I being the notable exception.)

But then I began to examine the facets of courage, and the people I most admire who  seem to own it.  I decided there is an integral psychic after-burn associated with this gift – a sense of sun on their faces – an empowerment, an enlightenment, an elegance.

They persevere… simply putting one foot in front of the other.  They are patient and positive. 

I have concluded above all, that courage is not the absence of fear.  Quite the contrary.  Perhaps Admiral Rickenbacker said it best:  “Courage is doing what you are afraid of doing.”  OK.  I get that.

Monday Dennis had  an eyes to thighs PET scan.  It revealed that only one of his nodules seems active right now.  It’s “hot.”The others are apparently comatose.  We are jubilant.  Now, how to eradicate the obscenity.  We are entertaining suggestions.  But at the moment, the three most rational options are:
  1. ablate
  2. radiate
  3. operate
We recognize the miracle of having one option, let alone three.  Each one, however, comes with its own set of possible risks, side effects, and scary terrors, which send us into cold sweats and drives us to willful misconduct.

Sometimes the thoughts are disturbing.  But less disturbing than thinking about ballet dancers doing pirouettes in tights.  Now that takes courage!

But there is no room for doubt or fear.  We will do what we are afraid to do.  And we will put the “ablate” in “celablate!”   

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ghosts of Halloween Passed

After every Halloween comes November.  We began celebrating the transition at 12:01 a.m. – not because we were partying, but because we’d overwhelmed our digestive systems with scones and hot chocolate consumed at a speed unsustainable by our age.  I believe there’s actually a mathematical formula for figuring the intake/biological-rejection-time ratio for really old people.

So we raised a cup of “projectile pink” Pepto Bismol and belched a toast to the new month in unison.  It was one of our proudest moments.

November is a month of promise and possibilities.  It’s just that we have to get beyond October before November arrives.  Now, no one isn’t graphically aware of how much our family hates Halloween.  In fact, Brodi has re-named that day as National Suck It, Doc Day.  How appropriate.  But we did receive some much appreciated assists in getting us through dreaded October.

The first was courtesy of our grandson, Carter.  Of course, pink is the color of breast cancer awareness month. It is the color of hope. It is also the color of Carter’s costume.  Nothing gothic for this kid, no sir.  He was a pink human woopie cushion!  We all agreed it was most appropriate for the occasion.

Another significant assist came on our recent pilgrimage to Houston.  Dr. Wolff was very pleased with Dennis’ progress.  At one point he stood over him and said, “Just look at him!  He’s amazing.  And he’s not going anywhere any time soon.”  I took that straight to the bank.

Dr. Wolff further reiterated that the way to fight this disease is with brute force, as if battling some foul and narcissistic creature from the Black Lagoon.  We were with him so far.

But then he lost us. Dr. Wolff said that after inflicting blunt force trauma, we should consider backing off chemo for a while. 

Oh yeah, like that’s going to happen.  We have fought so hard for so long, and have reduced the number and size of the nodules by half.  Was he actually suggesting we “un-chemo?”  AS I-IIIIIFFFF!  No.  No.  No.

But apparently, Dr. Wolff is smarter than I am.  He said that those who take a chemo break actually do better over-all.  Hmmmmm.

OK.  OK.  We promised we’d confer with our family about it and then decide. 

When we discussed the issue with Erin and Brodi, we all agreed that because of the degree of difficulty involved, this called for drastic action.  We reasoned that in order not to squander our existence or our options, we’d go platinum en masse.  When in doubt, bleach it out.  Lightening our hair always enlightens our minds.  It’s easier to get to our alpha state when blond.  And, it’s cheaper than recreational cosmetic surgery. 

So the girls and I assembled around Erin’s bathroom sink, shrouded in towel turbins like terry cloth burqas, empty boxes of Loreal platimum 01 littering the countertops like spent cartridges, and foamed our collective scalps.  We muttered incantations over our cauldrons of peroxide, reciting ancient recipes dating back to Jean Harlow calling for eye of Newt, Mitt and Herman and invoking the spirit of Dulcolax, which caused our squirt bottles to foam and bubble by the light of the full moon.

To ensure maximum potency, we drank anything with caffeine and ate our weight in Halloween candy.  Within an hour, we went platinum…and then we went stupid.  Too many calories per hour, but we really put the “duh” in “duhlicious.”  We rocked blond!

But most importantly, as we emerged from our cocoon of platinum, our family had arrived at a 3-pronged plan of action:
  1. Ablation
  2. Vacation
  3. Celebration

We are considering ablating two nodules in Dennis’ right lung.  This involves killing the buggers with high intensity microwaves.  I offered to shout dirty words down Dennis’ wind pipe, but he didn’t think that would have the same burn capability.  I’m not so sure. 

While ablation is invasive, it is not a huge operation.  (My way wouldn’t require anesthetic, but whatev.)

If all goes well, Dennis will take a chemo vacation for several weeks under strict surveillance.  We will then celebrate with significant G-force, which includes daily “Tebowing,” and give the stink eye to cancer. 

We gathered in a very blond huddle, and after a moment of silence, we shouted in unison, “Happy ‘Suck It, Doc’ Day!”   

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fright Sprite

I’m not exactly sure why I have an almost Biblical vengeance against Halloween.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a good old scary movie by a roaring fire on an autumn eve as well as anyone. 

Perhaps it’s because every year its presence invades our consciousness around Labor Day, seeping in like a malevolent fog, and lingers through November, when all the smiling jack-o-lanterns have decomposed into frowning faces more ghoulish than my own.

Perhaps it’s because Halloween is a holiday dedicated to celebrating a sinister accumulation of dark and terrifying unknowns that makes it so fearsome.

Perhaps it is because four years ago on that very day Dennis was diagnosed with cancer.  Yes, I think that’s it.

Nevertheless, the occasion does have a bright side.  When I asked Necie what she wanted to be this year, she suggested being a hippie.  Last year we were twin witches.  She asked if I knew what a hippie was.  I replied of course I did.  It is a condition singular to every woman post menopause.  She just looked perplexed.

So I explained that long, long ago in a decade far away, hippies inhabited the earth wearing flowers, long skirts, sandals and tee shirts with peace signs on the front. 

Necie’s face lit up as she listened.  And then she asked if she could go to my clothes closet for a costume.  The little darling.  I guess I should be glad she didn’t ask for a flapper dress and lessons in learning the “Black Bottom.”

Then Necie asked what I was planning to be for Halloween.  I said I was considering a sociopathic exoskeleton because I’m seriously into decadent nobility.  Again, she just looked perplexed.  Nothing like a little verbal propofol to stifle further questions.  It worked for both of us.

Dennis has been considering being a scarecrow.  He’s got the clothes and the figure.  Lately he’s been singing, “If I Only Had A Brain.”  Now this is ironic, because he had just had a brain MRI at the Huntsman on Saturday.  We spent the weekend waiting for the results and trying not to think thoughts.  Only one of us succeeded. 

On Monday we received the welcome news that he indeed has a brain, AND that brain is NORMAL.  No evidence of metastasis.  We celebrated by defying the laws of gravity…and propriety. 

I heard of an elementary school principal who claimed Halloween sends the wrong message to children.  So she cancelled it.  Huzzah!  I ratify that! 

And I will go and do likewise.  I’m canceling Halloween too, right after I consume all the chocolate I planned to distribute.  This works for me.

I’ve been investigating other calendar events to take the place of Halloween.  And last week was National Bosses’ Day.  OK.  I can do that one.  But not one person wished me Happy Bosses’ Day.  I was so mad, I fired the world.  I cancelled the whole week.  I am now in the process of founding an entirely new reason to celebrate…National No More Night Sweats Month.  I figure it will not only make every grandma more tolerable, but it will also reduce global warming.  Both will be beneficial for the eco-system.

A while ago, Brodi decided to “de-Brodify” her computer.  She was suffering from www fatigue.  Very interesting.  Apparently, there are actual physical ailments associated with over-use of one’s amazing inventions.  For instance, there’s “tech eye,” and “pc elbow.” 
Can you believe it?

I find that intriguing.  Now I don’t use my technology that much, but there have been occasions when I have threatened to disembowel my computer. Had one just now. And lately I have noticed I have developed my own set of peculiar adversarial syndromes.  I have “android ear,” “ipad paranoia,” “allergic techno aversion,” “aggravated granny jiggle,” and “snuggler’s flab.”  I’m not sure pitching my computer into the Grand Canyon would help.  But it’s tempting.

I love autumn.  Enough leaves have fallen to kick through on our daily walks.  The days are golden, bright and sunny. 

There are definitely more things to celebrate than fear. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Against All Odds

Last week Dennis and I took a road trip to beautiful downtown Cedar City for SUU’s fall lineup of plays.  We went with old and dear friends.  Jeff and Barb Booth are very comfortable to travel with, partly because we have made this annual pilgrimage to indulge our fetish for drama every year since medical school. We four have passed through every phase of life together, from sideburns to mullets, new babies to grandchildren, internship to practice. Shared time and experiences tend to mellow people through the years, and seasoned friendships take on the relaxed contentment of cozy slippers.  We have arrived at that golden point of our lives where we have stopped denying bowel realities and laugh uproariously at the preposterously embarrassing bodily emissions of the aged.   

The two plays we attended were “Dial M For Murder,” and “The Winter’s Tale,” by Shakespeare.  The first is a tale of suspense, dramatized to challenge one’s sphincter control.  This could have been dicey because much of the audience was composed of seniors from a tour bus, wearing name tags.  Seeing this production motivated me to do a lot of scrapbooking just so I could keep a pair of Samaria scissors handy.  Dennis gave me a wide berth when he noticed me sorting through old photographs.

The second play centers on a king, whose tyranny wrongs his queen and destroys a cherished friendship.  Both plots involve mischief, murder mayhem, and jealous husbands who, except for the mercy of a humane playwright, could have caused the death of their wives.  Hmmmm.  The concepts were compelling. Husbands who murder their wives.  Hmmmmm.  Oh, the power of the theater!  And the power of suggestion on a weak mind.  I kept a close eye on Dennis as I trimmed our pictures with the scissors from my sewing basket.  (OK, I don’t really have a sewing basket, but it serves to produce tension.) 

Finally, I nonchalantly asked him, “Do you think you have any jealousy issues?  I mean, do you ever have suspicions about…me?”  He just gave me that “look.”  I had recently visited my dermatologist, Dr. Igor, who had assaulted me with an evil vial of smokin’ liquid primordial ooze and a cattle prod.  I looked like I had done fifteen rounds with a blow torch whose cauterizing quotient could have stemmed the flow of Niagra Falls…and lost.  Dennis pointed me to the nearest mirror and said gently, “You’re safe!”  I was reassured, sort of, but a little disappointed.  Did his lack of jealousy stem from default?  Hmmmmm.  So I decided to put down my scissors and begin investigating the possibilities of body dismorphia.

From Cedar City, we headed for scenic drives through Escalante, Torrey and Bryce Canyon. We went on numerous hikes (mostly consisting of easy walks on level terra firma), and ate like starving carnivores.  When we returned to our room, I noticed that the diamond was missing from my wedding ring.  I nearly hurled the fatted mastadon I had just consumed.  I became dizzy and disoriented, which is my behavior of choice in any crisis. We searched the premises in vain. Dennis was meticulous.  I was uttering profanities. To make matters worse, I wasn’t even sure when I’d lost it. It could have been at Bryce.  It might have happened when Margot stabbed Lesgot. It could have fallen into the last spoonful of mashed potato inadvertently left on my plate.

 I was sick.  I slept sad.  In fact, I didn’t sleep.  I just lay there and cursed obscenities into my pillow.

The odds against finding that little gem were enormous.  But Dennis awoke the next morning with a smile and a plan. That’s his behavior of choice in any crisis. We would carefully remove our luggage, and then search every inch of the room until we found it.  I was OK with that idea, because my plan was to “Thelma and Louise” ourselves over the Grand Canyon. 

After all our luggage was loaded in the car, we knelt on the floor. As we lifted my final duffle bag, the diamond rolled between us.  Whoa! We were all amazed.  Whoda thunk it.  The odds of that happening seemed definitely not in our favor.  The odds were wrong.

There are those who claim that numbers don’t lie.  Digital calculations are immutable.  But I think they can be deceitful and misleading to the point of pernicious perjury.  After recovering the missing diamond, I have decided to ignore any odds not in our favor.  I will respond only to positive numbers.  I will reset my mathematical compass daily to the sweet spot of the affirmative.  And should there be those foolish enough to offer anything contradictory, the last thing they will see as they skid under the bus is the flash of my diamond ring.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grandmas and Alligators

I wish I had the words to express all that is in my heart.  But unfortunately all the words in Webster’s Dictionary are woefully inadequate.  So perhaps I will, instead, rely on numbers.  We just received the results of Dennis’ labs and CT scan of yesterday.  His CA19-9 is 45, and his CT scan shows no new growth, and some shrinkage.  Translation:  his tumor markers have been reduced by nearly 25 points, and the scan shows no new growth, and some shrinkage. 

We had no doubt all would be well.  But it is always nice to have actual verification of what you already know. 

I was never any good at math.  Numbers and I have always had an adversarial relationship.  To me, “double digits” simply means two fingers flashing the peace sign.  I don’t like to tabulate, quantify, or balance equations.  But there is not always safety in numbers.  Usually, I’d prefer indulging in belly paint than look at the latest stats. I have discovered over the years of being assaulted by my own reflection that REAL measurements have nothing to do with numbers or statistics. But in this case, I will ratify tumor markers of 45, and celebrate with Twinkies and laxatives.

Tomorrow Dennis and I are taking a road trip to Cedar City to see the plays “Dial M For Murder” and “A Winter’s Tale,” by Shakespeare.  I love a good mystery. And I am curious to see if the Bard himself has the words to bare my soul, although I am skeptical.  We will not be sensible.  We will be optimistic.  And we will fight on.  Mostly we will be grateful.

A few weeks ago, an alligator attacked and severely injured an elderly woman in Florida.  She was walking near her home when the 8-foot-behemoth lunged out of a canal and tried to drag the woman into the water.  But that 90-year-old grandmother hung on…and prevailed.  There is a lesson for everyone, especially for those about to be swallowed by numbers.  Hang on, and prevail.  It is better to crunch the numbers than to be crunched by them. 

Word to the wise:  Never mess with grandmas!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Way We Were

This weekend, the country will be observing the anniversary of 9-11.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we do so.  It has been a decade since the act of terrorism that violated our territory and our collective psyches.  Healing has come slowly.  Many dreams and possibilities were buried at ground zero. 

Sometimes it is hard to re-visit the past, in spite of its therapeutic value.  I’m not always sure if it binds wounds or re-opens them.  Some seek closure.  Some seek memorials to honor the fallen. But some questions can never be answered, and some justice will be delayed until a higher Court pronounces a verdict.  Perhaps that is as it should be.

This weekend our family will also observe anniversaries. It, too, is most appropriate.  Saturday, 9-10-11, is my mother’s birthday.  One hundred years ago, she was born in Monroe, Utah, the third daughter of Kate and Sam Dorrity. 

The world has never been the same since.

The world was different then.  In-door plumbing was almost non-existent, and the telephone was a scarce commodity.  These were the pre-Steve Jobs days.  There was no Great Depression, holocaust, or Wars To End All Wars. And at this point, the Titanic had not sunk.  Life, if not exactly pristine, was, nevertheless, more innocent.

It is never easy to write tributes.  My mother wouldn’t have wanted that anyway.  So I will reminisce instead.  It’s far more joyful.

Mom was a maverick, and a true Independent, who ignored people who said it couldn’t be done.  She raced ahead, even where there were no paths.  I guess that could be considered foolhardy.  I always thought it was courageous.  She was actually a healthy balance of both.

Growing up with my mother was singular.  She didn’t think outside the box.  She threw the box away. 

She played the piano and the ukulele by ear, and could rock the standards of the day after hearing them just once.  Her favorite times were when the entire family gathered around the piano to sing songs like “Shine On Harvest Moon,” “I’m Alone Because I Love You,” “Two Little Blue Birds,” and “Try A Little Tenderness” in four-part harmony.  The song fest always concluded by swinging “Up A Lazy River” followed by “THE DUET” with Auntie Ferd playing the top hand.  These were the Dorrity songs, and woe be to any self-respecting family member who did not know by heart the lyrics from “Two Flies,” whose chorus told of insects who would “phhhhhht in the whiskers of the grocery man.”

Mom’s name is Bernice, but everyone called her Necie.  That is, until our daughters were born.  And then she was simply and always “Yaya.” 

As part of Erin and Brodi’s training, Yaya taught them to play the ukulele.  Even as tiny girls, they could strum the strings and strut their stuff while belting out “Five Foot Two” and “I Want To Be A Pal of Yours.”  My Mom’s particular anthem, however, was “Flamin’ Fanny,” with lyrics laced with double entendres, which made it all quite racy.  What a trio the three of them made. 

Although I was raised in an era when mothers wore high heels and pearl necklaces as they prepared the nightly dinners, my mother steadfastly refused to be locked into such stifling stereotypes.  She was no cook, and dang proud of it.  She figured if God had meant for women to cook, He wouldn’t have invented TV dinners.  There’s a certain logic to that that I have passed on to my daughters with stunning success.  But she made the best “Dorrity” coffee in the world, a temptation that to this day I consider an inspired addiction.  The angels in heaven would surrender their halos for one cup of that nectar.

My mother was a single parent, my parents’ marriage being a casualty of circumstance and imperfections.  Raising two kids alone was a challenge I appreciate more each day.  Understanding my life backward has given me great insight.

For instance, she taught me that I was not the product of a “broken” home.  The marriage was broken, but the home was whole.  Indeed, it was. In fact, she wrote a paper for a college class defending the institution of divorce where necessary.  This was radical for the times.  Larry and I were instructed that oil and water do not mix, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t good oil and good water.  We grew up respecting our father as well as our mother.

Mom always advised me to work a little and play a lot, again flying in the face of industriousness addiction.  I sometimes forget that nugget of wisdom, much to my own detriment.

She had absolutely no use for titles, celebrity or social caste systems.  Once, while she dated Wallace Beery, a famous movie star of the era, he asked her if she wanted his autograph.  She replied, “No, but I’ll give you mine.” 

And the best advice she gave me as a mother was, “Never get too tired to say No.”  I remembered that, much to the frustration of my adolescent daughters.

When Mom left us, we gathered around her bed with our ukuleles and sang with great conviction “Five Foot Two,” “I Want To Be A Pal of Yours,” and, of course, “Flamin’ Fanny.”  Passersby would have thought there was a great celebration taking place inside that little home on Chicago Street.  They would have been right.

So on 9-10-11, we will place roses on her grave and spend the day in simple gratitude for those who grace our lives with their light and make this world so lovely.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Whole Numbers

Since man first emerged from primordial ooze, he has sought a means by which to impose order on chaos. Chaos has tentacles that reach out and threaten to choke off our peace of mind. So man invented numbers. Numbers are a powerful tool for organizing and understanding our universe. They are characters, symbols to determine quantities that allow us to pick up the pieces and put them back in the right order. With numbers we can tally scores, make predictions, itemize unknowns, determine intelligence, and generate hierarchies and caste systems.

This is all very useful, especially for those who subscribe to the notion that numbers possess a certain immutability. Quotients, formulae, and factors can become almost a religious exercise for the mathematically endowed.

But sometimes numbers can be dehumanizing, like a jungle that threatens to engulf you. Mathematical precision can bully and repulse.

Jittery market numbers are harbingers of gloom. The plunge of the stock exchange sears images on the mind of Crashes Past. Numbers stun our senses as we begin counting our losses to 401K’s. Not long ago, Standard and Poors down-graded our credit rating from a triple A to a double A, which could actually be a good thing if referring to bra size.

We try to metabolize calculations succumbing to gravitational pull: Robert Redford is 75, Tiger’s statistics suck, and Utah is ranked 6th for worst drivers. Actually, that’s good news. I thought we were number one!

(Personal Rant in Progress) On our freeways it takes the courage of an elite Navy Seal just to negotiate a lane change and evade collision in an arena of clearly deranged drivers. Road gladiators with the ethical persuasion of trilobites frequently engage in the charmingly barbaric ritual of settling traffic disputes in Walmart parking lots with fists and screw drivers as weapons of choice. It is a heathen spectacle rivaled only by bench-clearing brawls by basketball teams on good will missions to China. Drivers in an arms race tend to cling to the tried and true Neanderthal code of social etiquette. Not all, but some Utah drivers form the ring on the bathtub of society. Number 6??? That’s actually good news! (End of rant.)

Recently, however, we received some numbers that were humane and most welcome. Dr. Sharma and his entourage entered the exam room last week in synchronized grins. After reviewing Dennis’ latest records, they pronounced him in the top 5% of responders. TOP 5%!! They concurred with Dr. Wolff that he is doing well.

Our first inclination was to shout Opa! and break into our happy dance. But reason prevailed, preventing us from affirming everyone’s suspicions that we are remarkably undisciplined.

But wait. There’s more. Yesterday, the phlebotomists drew barrels of blood from Dennis’ subcutaneous tissue via his umbilical cord, harvesting the liquid in vials topped with caps of blue and purple for his hematic profile. (I think I got that right.) They then sent it all to the Oracle at Huntsman for interpretation. After due diligence and a séance channeling Hippocrates himself, it was determined that Dennis qualified for the whole bag of gemcitabene. THE WHOLE BAG!! Our hearts swelled like yeast, and we began singing “Hey! Yada, yada, yada.” Dennis is now too sexy for his hospital gown. Good labs are always the ultimate fashion accessory.

The chorus of crickets outside our window heralds the start of school on Monday. Autumn will make its debut that day. All six of our flash mob will return to the classroom, and grandmas everywhere will feel a pang of nostalgia. I guess it comes with the territory. Separation is never easy.

Abram is about to enter jr. high. He sprouted his first zit on his nose recently which signaled his official entry into prepubescence. The whole family gathered around to welcome the new eruption and celebrate this rite of passage. We tried to explain to him that those with facial pustules are an elite group, pimples are the litmus test of great character, and all of us are members emeritus of that august congress we call adulthood.

He didn’t buy it. He refused to be persuaded by an avalanche of euphemisms. Gee, I really like that kid!

The start of school also means we’re on a zipline to the holidays, a fact that inevitably triggers the gag reflex. But it is all good.

Just to reiterate our mission statement: We will not retrench, and we continue to refuse to live our lives in fractions. Don’t tell me the odds. We’ve witnessed too many antigravitational maneuvers not to recognize miracles when we see them. We always round up. Right now, we’re all about whole numbers.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sheiks and Shakespeare

Arriving in Houston is a little like being sucked into the vortex of Hades in the humid season.  Just taxiing down the runway triggered a profusion of ringlets that made me look like a menopausal Shirley Temple.  I’ve often wondered why nausea is the constant companion of unremitting heat.  We were instantly swaddled in doughy, energy-sapping warmth.  We perspired so profusely, we looked like we’d been shellacked.  All my efforts to look glacial and glamorous were sabotaged.  I feared all our facial features would melt into one another like molten lava.  However, time has already accomplished what heat could not, so there was really no further disfigurement.  This was a good thing.

We met with our Oncologist Extraordinaire, Dr. Wolff, to confer about Dennis.  He is singular.  He enters the exam room and immediately launches into a monologue about his most recent adventures.  He had just returned from the desert sands of Qatar.  Apparently an obscenely wealthy sheik had flown Dr. Wolff to his obscenely enormous palace located on the entire land mass between the Tigress and Euphrates.  Talk about staging an intervention.  That’s the ultimate house call.  But it is evidence of the level of esteem Dr. Wolff is held in his area of expertise.  Dennis and I were just happy the sheik hadn’t purchased the good doctor and retained custody.  Flying to Qatar for our appointments would be terribly inconvenient. 

Dr. Wolff is quite pleased with Dennis’ progress, and has modified the chemo regime to be a little more humane.  He assured us this would not compromise the efficacy of the drugs, but would allow for greater tolerance.  Ok.  We can do that.  In fact, Dr. Wolff is trying to persuade Dennis to consider taking a 1-month sabbatical from treatment altogether.  I’m not sure either of us is willing to consider that right now, but it is on the table for discussion.  Each decision demands deliberation.  We were pleased it is an option.  We continue to focus on the possibilities.

As if it were a feral instinct, the urge to live life in the left lane prompted us to drive to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival.  This has been an annual tradition since medical school.  It is our cultural sweet spot.  We reunite with old friends and young grandkids to celebrate the creative imagination of a playwright who lived light years before computer-generated special effects.  The strange thing is, the kids were entertained by it all.  Perhaps seeing sword fights and Professor Harold Hill’s marching band with seventy-six trombones live on stage was actually better than 3D.  Go figure.  Everything old is new again.

We had tickets for “Richard III,” but decided to turn them in.  It takes a certain energy reserve to watch the dastardly villainy of “Dicky 3.”  (Talk about disfigurement!) Where Shakespeare is concerned, the “Wars of the Roses” is not exactly a stroll down the garden path.  Besides, we get enough of murder, ambition, fatal curses and colossal ineptitude just watching the nightly news. 

So, reciting our own soliloquys parodying “Richard III”:  “Now is the summer of our discontent…” we waxed hysterical in iambic pentameter and opted out of the historic carnage.  We’ll save the cruel swath of blood for next year when we return to The Globe.

At the moment, our favorite quotes are from Dr. Wolff, the preferred Bard of the moment:  “Based on Dennis’ CT scan, we’re heading in the right direction.”

No poet could have said it better. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Out To Lunch

Recently, as Dennis was being infused, we had an interesting discussion. We had been inspired by, of all things, the Geico gecko.  Now ordinarily I am not influenced by a green lizard to buy car insurance, or by cavemen who are easily offended by how easy it is to switch to this company.  Actually, I tend to avoid allowing any opportunistic burrowing nocturnal marsupial or beast of burden to determine how to invest my money, or my conversational priorities. Personally, I’d prefer consulting with a skin tag.

Nevertheless, while Dennis was in a posture of repose, (and incapable of escape), I asked him with whom he would have lunch if he could choose anyone in the past or present, and what he would ask them.  Single stipulation:  The Holy Trinity is excluded.

Dennis, bosom heaving and nostrils flaring, making sounds like rapid-fire glottal stops,  sighed like he’d just expelled the air from hand bellows.  (I recognized this as a familiar reflective response, with a slight undertone of annoyance.  He was, after all, being saturated through engorged tubing with a highly potent cocktail of napalm and kerosene, akin to primeval mud, the spilling of which would require clean up from a Haz-Mat squad.  And this after several weeks of popping pills comprised mostly of nitroglycerin and methane from cow dung.)  I know he wonders if I will ever get custody of my tongue. Sometimes my questions don’t always require a response. Not this time.

But pondering has always been higher on Dennis’ hierarchy of emotions than irritation, a fact that has allowed our union to be preserved.  So after some thought, he posted his short list, which, oddly enough, was parallel to mine.  After so many years of marriage, people tend to cross-pollinate each other.

  1. Dennis:  Abraham Lincoln – Do you have any regrets?
  2. Joan:  Lizzie Borden – Yes, but did you do it?
  3. Dennis:  Thomas Jefferson – Didn’t you have a debt ceiling?  Why didn’t you free your slaves upon your death?
  4. Joan:  Cleopatra – An asp?  Really??!!!
  5. Dennis:  Aristotle – What is the meaning of life?
  6. Joan:  Eleanor Roosevelt – Do you have any idea how beautiful your compassion has made you?
  7. Dennis:  Hannibal – How did your elephants get traction?
  8. Joan:  Mom – Thank you.

Friday Dennis was scheduled for a CT scan that would reveal the current status of his condition.  In the past, there has been a reduction of the disease burden.  But results are not always predictable. These moments can be stressful. However, the report came back that there has been further reduction and stabilization.  It was what we had hoped for.  Could there be any greater privilege than to witness miracles? 

So in that light, we revised our list of lunch guests.  We decided our greatest desire would be to break bread with all who have loved us, prayed for us, supported us.  It has been said that you live life forward, but understand it backward.  Perhaps our only contribution to the conversation of that meal would be “Thank you.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What's in a Name?

Shakespeare’s young (much, much too young) lovers, Romeo and Juliet, first asked that question centuries ago.  What’s in a name?  Turns out, there’s a whole bunch of stuff in a name.  (Remember Anthony Weiner?!)  I always think as this tragedy moves inexorably to its conclusion, that somehow things will turn out differently. For once, the timing will change, and the pair will live on into middle age as a paunchy, bickering couple as it’s supposed to be in the grand matrimonial scheme of things. But it never happens. It’s always too late.  Just like “Gone With The Wind.”  Every time I watch this movie, I’m convinced that surely Scarlet will prevail. When Scarlet asks Rhett, “Where shall I go?  What shall I do?”  he invariably retorts, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dang.”  (Sorry. This is a family blog, after all.)  Just once I’d like to see Clark Gable turn around in the mist and say, “Oh, all right.  Let’s give it another try!”  Hasn’t happened yet.  I continue to hope.  Ah, but I digress.

This past weekend, the nation celebrated its birth with fireworks and an inexplicable obsession with British royalty.  No one seemed to notice the 800-pound oxymoron in the room.  Independence Day is a time when high-spirited citizens, armed with a match and everything from rockets to bottle bombs that rival Molotov cocktails, take to the street curbs and scorch the road with explosives ignited in the name of our illustrious forefathers until, mercifully, the garbage trucks arrive, grinding and flatulent, to harvest the debris of this pyrotechnic, patriotic celebration.   

Dennis and I, in a flourish of health, good intentions, and mind-numbing insanity, decided to celebrate the Fourth AND accomplish a “one of these days we should…” things on our “one of these days we should…” list.  So we filled the car with petrol and headed for, where else?, Little Bighorn battlefield.  

Having seen numerous documentaries about this historical event, we were well prepared to be an eyewitness to history.  And there’s no better way to observe our nation’s birth and adolescence than by making a pilgrimage to the site of a bloody clash between two nations, two cultures, two philosophies, two polar opposites.  However, the more we learned, the more difficult it became to decipher which opponent should rightly be labeled “savage.”

The Black Hills were green, lovely and reverent, and concealed their history.  The landscape was silent, as if the hills had all conspired to take a vow of omerta and not yield up its secrets willingly.  Of course, this calm was in stark contrast to what had taken place exactly 135 years ago.  Then, Cheyenne, Miniconjou, Oglala, Blackfeet, and Arapaho warriors clashed with the U. S. Seventh Cavalry, and saturated the soil with bloodshed.

Now here’s where names come in.  The consortium of tribes was under the command of leaders and holy men like Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall.  Indian warriors were called Wooden Leg, Low Dog, Bloody Knife, Rubbing Out of Long Hair, Standing Bear, and Two Moons.  These monikers would strike greater terror in the hearts of the enemy than, say, Tom, Bill and Jim, (actual members of Custer’s Company). Sometimes, names carry great significance and spiritual power. It is ironic that some of the fiercest carnage occurred at a place called Rosebud.  Sounds more like the opening scene of “Citizen Kane.” 

One cannot walk these hallowed grounds without being inspired by courage, determination, devotion, and unyielding bravery in the face of overwhelming odds by warriors on both sides of the conflict.  I am familiar with such characteristics.  Brodi dedicated her book, “Everneath,” to her father.  She wrote, “For my Dad, a quiet man, a fierce warrior.”  It made me ponder. I have contemplated what Indian name would be appropriate for this man.  Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota.  Dennis is rather bony at the moment, but that won’t always be the case.  In fact, his bone structure protrudes in so many directions, one could actually calculate longitude and latitude and navigate the seas just looking at him. Nevertheless, spiritually, he’s every bit the “hunk” that Sitting Bull was. Perhaps, because of his diminished butt dimensions, he could be called One Moon.  Or Peeping Tom-Tom.  Or maybe Mini Ha Ha (aka LOL).  My personal favorite would probably be “Silver Stud Muffin.”

Today, he will once again wage a battle to rival any in history. And I will recognize the same traits our nation’s forefathers possessed that went into the forging of this nation. He will sit patiently as he receives his transfusion, grateful for the opportunity to go to war against an insidious interloper. No war paint or feathers – just a port surgically installed near his collar bone to transport the toxic fluid to the battle site.

Friends and family make a difference in every cancer patient’s war.  They are the battalions that cover our backs and say, “I am here.  Let’s heal together.”

Dennis’ personal manifesto comes straight from George C. Scott, although Sitting Bull might well have said the same thing.  “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” 

He continues to distinguish himself.  Fortitude is his nucleus. I do not doubt that, like all courageous warriors in the history of this nation, he will triumph.      

Sunday, July 3, 2011

That was the Week that Was

Last week it was my birthday.  I turned…flabby.  So I watched some Wimbledon, where there seemed to be a peculiarly unholy gathering of hard bodies concentrated at one time in the cathedral of tennis.  This put me in quite a crappy mood.  I found myself tempted to flip my middle finger at the lot of them and scream accusations of plastic surgery zombies to no one in particular.

But the biggest joy-buster of all was the round of doctors I had appointments with over the course of these past few days.  What’s up with that?  Was I born with some kind of built-in obsolescence?  They sucked out my blood, made me pee in a cup, pounded on my back, and placed bets on whether I had a pulse.  It made me quite weary, and I fought valiantly to stave off depression. 

So I did what every woman does when things look bleak.  I went to lunch with people who are just as flabby as I am.  Of course, we reminisced about the good old days, and recalled a whole dictionary of terms that are obsolete in today’s vernacular. 

We used to buy Yippee Cups and milk nickels from the Good Humor man who came down our street each evening at supper time.  And then we’d  pop tar bubbles in an era when there were so few cars, we could actually sit in the road for hours and not endanger ourselves.

Our Moms cured every ailment with ointments like merthiolate, cod liver oil, and paregoric, and cautioned us of the dangers of sucking on tooth picks soaked in cinnamon oil.

And teenage boys with “dagoed” cars hubristically drove laps around Liberty Park after they’d laboriously scrubbed the white walls and coiffed their hair into elaborate pompadours held in place with the grease extracted right from their own carburetors.

Everything was either “cherry,” “boss,” or “groovy.”

Ah, those were the days…before Facebook, texting and Anthony Weiner. Back then,  people who exposed themselves were perverts.  Now they’re Congressmen. 

But I am not exactly ready for laxatives and conversations about my latest pains. Oh my no!  I have decided to cannibalize my inhibitions, release my emotional liabilities, discard my mode of decorum and associate only with co-narcissists.  On my next visit to the dentist, I plan to get an NBA mouth guard and  become so skilled at twirling it, I’ll make it do a one-and-a-half gainer off my lower lip without dropping so much as a string of drool.  I will be the featured star of “America’s Got Talent,” and await the phone call from “Dancing With the Stars.”  I want to become like those fish that live so deep in the ocean, they must produce their own light. 

Since Dennis has a break from chemo treatments, we are going to visit some sites of true historic significance, starting with Custer’s last stand.  The Battle of the Little Big Horn saw fighting almost as frightening as the thought of Lindsay Lohan being released from house arrest. 

There is so much to learn from history.  Voices from the dust manage to inspire us still.  For instance, an Ogalala Sioux chief rallied his warriors by telling them, “We have everything to fight for.  If we do not fight, we have nothing to live for.”  I find that most applicable to many of the battles we face today.
Finally, one of my favorite authors, William Faulkner, once said, “I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail.”  That is our game plan:  to produce our own light, to fight and to prevail.  We will not be deterred.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Around the Kingdom in Seven Days

Last week the family went to California.  The entire tribe.  The “Dirty Dozen.”  That fact alone opens our collective mental faculties to serious question. This took guts.  However,  we were not exactly “Profiles in Courage.”  More like “Silhouettes in Cowardice.”  Not sure just what the rationale was there.  Seemed like a good idea at the time. Even when there are six adults and six children, one on one, mano a mano, somehow the big guys  are always out-numbered by the smarter, faster little guys.

The adults were each assigned a kid precinct.  But a blink of an eye and a ninja could vanish from sight.  There were some serious sphincter check moments along the way.  A child would disappear momentarily from our field of vision, and we’d all go into “intercept path” mode.  The Wild Bunch were in perpetual motion, throbbing, rumbling, and pulsing, even at rest.  They were like a collection of live-action cartoons, propelled in different directions.

We took precautions for every possible scenario, best and worst, that might arise.  We all had matching tee shirts.  I even inked my cell phone number across the forehead of each member of our posse.  (I wrote in my best calligraphy, but the numbers ended up looking like some kind of Mormon Mafia gang tatts.) 

I hemorrhaged instructions, warnings, taboos, and prohibitions, aspiring to perfect symmetry as we negotiated the sprawling kingdom, until I was threatened with eternal confinement to the “It’s a Small World” ride for dense, stupefying, irrational saturation paranoia infliction. What a horrifying thought.  Could anything be worse than forced incarceration with a collection of preposterous diminutive mutants? It’s enough to drive a sane person to justifiable character assassination.  But hey, I’m a Grandma.  What can I say?  I’m hard-wired to protect. Like Lady Gaga, I was born this way.

For the most part, things went smoothly, including meals.  Our motto was “No French fry left behind.”  And we honored that commitment by rescuing any morsels that fell on the ground and consuming them in toto, impurities and all.  So much for E-coli! 

There was one minor incident, however, that, in spite of everything, left me feeling like blood was going to explode from my face.  My cell phone rang with a number that I didn’t recognize.  When I answered, I heard an unfamiliar voice ask if I was missing some grandchildren.  Of course, I answered no. How absurd.  I had each kid on my radar. I could account for every Sasquatch in the tribe.  The lady then said a little boy named Carter asked her to call his Grandma because he was lost.  I shrieked, “Yes!! He’s mine!  Where are you?”  I was dizzy, weak-kneed, and my mind went blank, which wasn’t that far a journey.

We retrieved him from a darling young mother, and thanked her profusely.  Carter had done just what he’d been instructed.  And he had kept his little brother, Beckham, beside him with a death grip.  A dozen matching navy tee shirts swarmed in a clot, and there was a sea of blue as we celebrated the reunion.  Grandmas are the ultimate first-responders.  It’s what we do best. 

Carter is fearless and incredibly unique.  He once explained to me that if you don’t eat good food, you become strongless.  I felt as if some vampire had drained me of energy after that knee buckling episode, and so, feeling strongless, I opted out of riding on  “California Screamin’” a roller coaster conceived in the mind of a mad scientist with a perverted metabolism.  This particular obscenity propels from absolute stand-still to full throttle acceleration in 1.2 seconds, forcing the contents of one’s nose out of the back of one’s head and directly into the faces of adjacent passengers.  People exit this ride like a slinky going down stairs.

 There is nothing in this world that could compel me to climb aboard that contraption.
No, I want to get off the roller coaster altogether.  I’ve had enough of jerk thrust rides.  Speaking of which, we went to Houston just prior to embarking for California.  We received some good news there.  Dennis’ scans revealed further shrinkage of the nodules, a circumstance which continues to baffle the doctors.  Nevertheless, there is some stress associated with the process.  There is no ride in any theme park to match it. 

In between hurling and “Oh Crap!” moments, we have pledged ourselves to spending this summer in ritualistic, narcissistic, hubristic self-indulgence. It is our sworn duty to vanquish any sense of responsibility or decorum.  I will personally endeavor to ascend to the apex social pyramid by playing mindless games with my grandchildren and appearing at the swimming pool in various degrees of undress, ensuring mass evacuation of other inhabitants.  I will answer every request for more root beer with an added scoop of ice cream, and I will never deny a sleep-over.  I plan to perfect my kickflips on my skateboard, and allow my hair to return to its natural color – platinum.   

All these things will aid in avoiding the toxicity of becoming “strongless.”  We are invincible and unafraid.  We will do this.  In the meantime, we are five months and counting until the October Rapture.  Can’t wait.