Category Archives: Home is Where the Heart Is

David Keeps Giving

In case you haven’t heard, my family has been hit with another cancer diagnosis, but fortunately this one has an excellent prognosis, thanks in no small part to David.

David and Brittany 30 September 2016

Brittany was diagnosed, not quite two weeks ago, with invasive ductile carcinoma — breast cancer, fortunately still stage I. The doctors say it is fast growing, with 94% of the biopsied cancer cells in the act of duplicating, so they aren’t messing around. Surgery will be this Wednesday, what Brittany is calling “out with the old and in with the new” — a double mastectomy and reconstruction all in one go. She doesn’t yet know if post-op chemo will be required, but overall we are very optimistic. (Updates on CaringBridge.)

David and Brittany 1985 or 86

David comes into it because it is nearly certain Brittany would never have discovered this fast-growing cancer in time, young as she still is, but due to David’s cancer and subsequent genetic testing, we learned that he and Brittany shared the same BRCA2 gene mutation, so she has had careful screening ever since. If you knew David, you know he would have laid down his life without hesitation for any one of his girls. That’s just who he was. In a way, it seems he did. 

So even out of the ashes of loss and in the face of current uncertainty, we are grateful. For the warning Brittany received, certainly, but also for who he was and how he continues to impact our lives. I still often hear his words of wisdom, his perspective-shifting observations, even his slow teasing, “How’s . . . that . . . tea?” when it’s obvious I’ve let it grow cold in the mug yet again. Poor beverage management, he called it. How he could make us smile. He still does.

I think Brittany got her sense of humor from him, and it is serving her well at the moment. Here’s an old favorite shot of the two of them, matching dimples and all.

Brittany and her Papa – 1988  I’m guessing

And a few more, just because . . . 

Brittany and David – Disneyland – September 1988
Chelsea, Brittany and David at the top of Trail Ridge Road – 1991
Sunapee 1986 – Brittany holding the treasured Campfire marshmallows
Mexico 1996
David, Courtney and Brittany – Sunapee – September 1986

What a dad. What a man. 

At first I was thinking I should apologize for the poor quality of these ancient snapshots, but who cares?  They’re just place holders for the real memories, flashcards that bring up not only the facts of our shared life, but also a deep resonance of togetherness that doesn’t end when life on earth ends. How I thank God for that! 

*I promise to pass along any messages of support for Brittany you leave in the comments. Or you can look for her page on CaringBridge.org. Your thoughts and prayers are — and will continue to be — very much appreciated. 

Endings and Beginnings

I’m sure we’re all quite ready to see the end of 2020. The challenges and even heartbreaks and tragedies have seemed never-ending. But there is a very real possibility that 2021 will be better, even if not immediately, so I’m hopeful about the coming days. Mostly, I savor every good thing I can find: waking in a warm bed to sunshine and blue skies, funny texts from the girls, phone calls from friends, music that makes me dance around the house, a full moon rising over the trees out back, memories of my beloved David that make me smile more than cry most days, . . .

David and Sunny on the Ski Train (a bazillion years ago)
David and Sunny — On our way to France for the first time — September 2011

Like many, I’m still physically isolated nearly all the time, although I do make the occasional quick dash to the least busy grocery I know. Today I took the many accumulated empty wine bottles to the recycling center and it was mobbed. Everyone was masked and politely keeping appropriate distance, but it was kind of fun to be among actual human beings, even in that limited way.  I do have the occasional book club on Microsoft Teams,  French lessons on Skype, poetry classes and family happy hours on Zoom, so I am VERY grateful for the technology that makes those connections possible.  

And after some conscientious limiting of contacts, I had the opportunity to keep Beckett overnight a few weeks ago, which, let’s be honest, reminded me there’s a reason people have children while young. Yikes. Non-stop energy, but so much fun:

My house is not dangerous, but it certainly is not childproofed. Beckett got to practice NOT touching things…. . . with varying degrees of success . . .

Fortunately flameless flickering faux-candles!
Socially-distanced Christmas dinner

Christmas was different this year, of course. A socially-distanced dinner with Brittany and Andy, a masked gift exchange at Chelsea and Brian’s, texts and phone calls, but a lot of time alone, including the three-year anniversary of David’s passing. Still. Not all bad. 

In the midst of it all, I am grateful for new beginnings:  new books to read (as well as old favorites), new art supplies (thanks, Mom), a new jigsaw puzzle to do (thanks, Brittany), new wine to drink or save for a brighter day (thanks, Courtney and Chelsea), new poetry to write in my new OSHER poetry classes which begin again in February, new French conversations to have with my friend and tutor, Natacha (can’t wait to surprise Pascale and Jacky with my improved French when I finally get back to France), . . . Meanwhile, Natacha keeps me supplied with gorgeous photos of France. Here’s a recent one she sent me of La Rochelle (Merci, Natacha !)

La Rochelle – December 2020 – photo by Natacha

Here’s wishing you joy in new beginnings and hope for a 2021 filled with peace, love, safety, health and all good things. Bless you, dear ones! 

 

Wooden Boxes of Joy

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box . . . as rainwater, down into flowerbed. As roses up from ground. —Rumi

Here’s something I wrote for one of my Zoom writing classes. It’s sort of a lyric essay, inspired by the Rumi quote above. I added a few photos, of course. 

Wooden Boxes of Joy

If only I could box up joy for a rainy day, a bad-news day, a fearful, unjust, maddening day.  A day of covid spikes, wildfires, hurricanes, business fails, lingering grief. Not in cardboard, way too likely to disintegrate under the first flood of tears. I would choose instead solid wood, maybe with a strong latch to hold the joy inside. Then again, maybe I already have.

I think there’s some joy in the old trunk we had in our early days, nothing special, peeling paper dimmed with age between the ribs, but it held the comfort of extra blankets and pillows and the mystique of far-flung travel otherwise lacking in our poor-newlywed thrift-store décor.

And there is certainly joy in the miniature Narnian wardrobe on the library fireplace, crammed with tiny fur coats, . . . 

 . . . the carved wood, regal lion beckoning me in. There’s room enough and to spare for joy in Narnia. I haven’t yet made it out through the back, but I keep hoping.

And also in the heavy-grained dark wood, rounded-top chest holding the dreadful game Dread Pirate and memories of happy-dancing exultation after winning my first eBay auction to get it.

Impossible to resist gleaming gold doubloons and glittering glass jewels pulled out of soft velvet bags and the prospect of sailing heavy-cast frigates across treasure mapped seas.

No matter the game itself is boring, the company never was, and that wooden box holds many a laughing Argh!! from days gone by.

Certainly joy is in the cognac box that shared our travels, picked up at the end of our Charente river adventure, five days in a thirty-four-foot cabin-cruiser, the two of us navigating locks neither of us had the experience to manage without angst. A little cognac came in handy those evenings, once moored, but this box held a special bottle, untouched, thirty years old, a gift for friends who had done much to make our adventure possible. We just had to get it back to them. So the box—and the bottle—cruised the Charente along with us, then rode the train to La Rochelle, and a few months later, flew across the ocean to glory in the fall foliage of New England, to feel the power of the wind on the Outer Banks, to stroll the flat sands, shelling on Folly Beach and revel in the weird of Key West. Then on to Memphis for blues, booze and barbecue and Santa Fe for silver and salsa. And finally home to Colorado.

The bottle had made it, unopened, intact. We toasted our return, we four, but then it came out of the box only on worthy occasions, a few special dinners, weddings, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, usually shared with us. The cognac lasted longer than David did. We finished it together, the three of us, after he was gone. Then one day they brought me the beautiful wood box, our old traveling companion, to hold his ashes for a while. I have it still. And it is brimming with joy.

Wishing you joy even in these very difficult times!

Good News

It can be difficult to find good news these days, so thought I’d share a bit with you. Some of you may have already heard — Brittany and Andy are engaged! WOOHOO! Congratulations, you two!

Brittany and Andy are engaged!

I didn’t want to steal their thunder, so gave them plenty of time to spread the word themselves, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate. And what a fun story they have to tell about that day!

The relationship is still thriving after road trips to both coasts, so they seem to be VERY well suited!

Brittany and Andy at Sunapee in July 2020

Beckett, of course, continues to be a joy, whenever I get to see him, and I’ve actually seen him several times this month. Brian had an extended business trip, so I was able to spend a bit more time than usual with Chelsea and her active little guy. Here he is in his own private ball pit (except we kept getting in with him–too fun).

Beckett – 19 September 2020

Auntie Brittany and Beckett – 19 September 2020

Brittany and Andy also came up for an overnight the 19th and Chelsea and Beckett stayed, too. What a great twenty-four hours that was, with lots of wedding talk and Pinterest pinning. We’re all optimistic that an outdoor wedding will be possible toward the end of July 2021, but we know flexibility is a prime virtue these days. Still. It was a major morale boost to have something positive to think about and plan for. We stayed up too late and drank too much wine, but I loved every minute (even the next morning, I promise). The best part, of course, was spending time with my dear ones, something that I have very much missed in these complicated, challenging times.

It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m back to finding joy in new blooms on my bougainvillea, and that’s okay, too. Probably better to be easily pleased these days.

Bonus good news: Doug and Kristl can now actually breathe OUTSIDE in Portland, Oregon, which is a very nice change after all the smoke from the Oregon wildfires. And closer to home, I’ve heard from a reliable source that the Poudre Canyon Chapel, the historic Arrowhead Lodge, and my friends’ family mountain house are still standing even after the Cameron Peak Fire made another terrible run down the canyon. That was also very good news. I have so many memories of wonderful times there, mostly with David, but even some since. The fires are not out, though, so please keep all impacted – whether displaced by the fire or fighting the fire — in your thoughts and prayers.

Wishing you an abundance of good news! And time with sweet children, if at all possible!

Beckett – 12 September 2020