Four years and seven hours ago, Dennis took one for the team and underwent “The Whipple.” To those whose lives have not required it, “Whipple” may conjure up images of an elderly gentleman inordinately obsessed with Charmin toilet paper. (Actually, I’m not knocking it. The older I get, the more obsessed with toilet paper I become. I think it’s a condition of menopause.)
But to those whose health depends upon extreme intervention, The Whipple is much more. The medical community speaks the name in hushed tones reserved for cathedrals, and genuflect at the mere mention of this formidable operation.
As I understand it, The Whipple is a relatively simple surgical procedure in which the patient is gutted by a skilled doctor with nothing to do for the next 8 to 10 hours, as he performs a total organectomy. We had the best. But it was one of the few times I prayed that Dr. Mulvihill had graduated medical school at the top of his class.
Dr. Mulvihill prepared us for what was about to take place by reciting an inventory of preparations for a long list of possible contingencies. He spoke of “harvesting” the carotid. “HARVESTING THE CAROTID???” And then he spoke reassuringly of the tankers of blood should Dennis spring a leak. Oddly enough, I was reassured.
However, I became dizzy with the contingencies. I tried to feign competence, but soon began speaking in sentence fragments. “What the…?” “You’re going to put what where?” “Is that possible?” “Is that legal?” My final question was, “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”
That’s not a direct quote. Anyone who knows The Clot, knows that harsh language is our Mother Tongue. We actually consider ourselves bilingual.
I looked at Erin and Brodi, whose saucer-eyes resembled the characters in cartoons where only the whites show up in the dark, as Dr. Mulvihill recited all the “what ifs.” Dennis, on the other hand, seemed quite serene. But he just had been administered the “I don’t care” drug in impressive quantities. We had not received said drugs. We cared deeply.
By the end of that long day, the girls and I looked pretty disheveled. But Dr. Mulvihill emerged from the OR looking impressively sheveled. As Dennis surfaced from the anesthetic, the first thing he said was, “What time is it?” I thought it a curious question, but told him it was almost 10:00 p.m. and all was well. He smiled. It wasn’t till later I learned that just before going under, Dr. Mulvihill informed him that if he got in and found spread, he would close immediately and terminate the procedure. Dennis accepted the terms of the contract.
I have always told our girls that you move in the direction you are looking. But sometimes it is good to look back, if only for a moment. Certain anniversaries must be observed.
It is no small thing to confront what is fearful. Allowing angst to lie dormant might cause it to fester and abscess. There are shadows that hover spectrally, but the best defense against shadows is to flood them with sunshine.
Are the uses of adversity really sweet? Do we need adversity to appreciate what is of value in our lives? Perhaps there are many answers to that question. Four years ago, one life was usurped by another. It was a hostile take-over, leaving a major paradigm shift in its wake. This event altered everything.
We look back on lessons we learned. What occurred during this re-awakening was good. We are able to hold on to what was of greatest consequence, and loosen our grasp on the unessential.
We cannot change the past. Nor would we if we could. Our task is to move forward. Our great concern is to be guided by our experience as we plan our present.
We will be directed by the things we love.
We also celebrate another anniversary today. It’s been one week since Brodi’s book launch.
She said to me that day, “What if nobody comes.” I told her that her family would be there. When we looked at all those present, I realized we have a very big family.
Some things we don’t understand. Some things we never will. Perhaps all that is expected is that we reverence the miracles.
We accept the terms.