for Pat Adair, and the people who love her...

Our beloved Pat got some shocking news recently, and we're off and running on a mysterious medical adventure. Not an adventure we would have picked, but we're off just the same... (If you're new to the blog, start here.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nine days, 23 hours - but who's counting?

Today's post was written by Dave's good friend Whitney:

Hello friends and family of Pat,

I spent a warm evening with Pat and Dave on Friday night, and Dave asked me to write a word or two about it. Pat is looking extremely well and is having a great week since leaving the hospital. I think she must be tired of hearing people say, “You look GREAT!” when what they’re really thinking is, “You sure don’t look like a person with cancer.” And she doesn’t. It’s confusing. And a relief. Lets dare to believe things might just work out fine.

Dave and Whitney in Mexico, 1996.
Ten years ago, Dave and I had several long, meandering conversations with Pat’s Mom, Elgin, when we were passing through Orange County on our way to Mexico (and Central America, though we didn’t know at the time that we were headed that far). I come back to these conversations often, because she taught me so much about how life is long and how much love and life comes after even the most unbearable losses.

Friday’s conversation with Pat started there with stories of her Mom, and then we ranged over the history of the Johnsons and the Woods. She got out the wonderful book of Crook family history (what a deeply generous gift to future generations!) and Pat shared recollections of uncles, aunts, grand uncles, grand aunts and cousins. We pieced together Pat’s own early chronology, which isn’t as easy as you might think because she and her immediate family moved pretty much every year until they landed in Southern California, bought some land and built a house (garage first, with the whole family of 6 living in one room, until there was a mudroom, then a bedroom to share with her sister and eventually a kitchen).

I have an abiding interest in what it means to have a sense of place, and Pat and Elgin’s lives have strong place-based themes, beginning of course with Star Valley and ranging over the years to family centers in California and Utah. Friday happened to be one of those sharp blue early summer days, contrasting sprawling and green Walnut Creek against the sparse browning hills of Mt Diablo, so typically California. This is where Dave, Pat and Mike and his family have made their place for a long time now. We talked about what California means to both Dave and Pat, and what it means to be “from” somewhere.

We got to talking about how much the various family reunions have meant to her over the years. She related how brother Bob sent out the invitation to bring the Wood clan together one year and pretty much left the details to Pat and Char, lots of work but so very rewarding and memorable. She described the color-coded t-shirts that helped everyone remember who belonged to what part of the extended family. I asked her if she felt deeply connected to people she perhaps didn’t know or hadn’t seen in a while, and she responded urgently, eyes widening, “Oh yes! Absolutely!”

It is so helpful to be reminded that we are part of a long chain reaching backwards and ahead. We three talked quite openly and easily about death on Friday night, but it was in a sense-making way, not heavy or tearful, gently sharing how losing a grandmother or a parent ties us more meaningfully into that web through shared experience.

The extended Adair/Wood/Johnson/Crook family history continues to instruct me, and I am so grateful to be connected in a small way your big loving web of life, even if we have never met.



Whitney and Dave (on the far right) last weekend
with friends at Tassajara Zen Center.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

Mom came home from the hospital on Friday afternoon, and has been getting a little stronger every day. She is restricted to 1 liter of fluids per day, and is continuing with the  diuretics. In combination with her low sodium diet, it seems to be slowly working to rid her of excess water.

Brooke, Courtney, and Mary came down today and we celebrated Mom with a nice lunch. To cap it all off, Mom took a walk up to the end of block and back when we got home. She took a couple of brief rests, but it was at least 3X as fas as she walked yesterday.

Everybody tell your Mom you love her today (and every other day too!).

Lots of love,


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

No news is good news? Maybe.

Not much to report on Mom's first day back at the hospital. Her fever is gone, but the edema in her legs is trying to stage a comeback. She's really exhausted but managed to take a short walk down the hall. When she got back into bed she looked like she'd run a marathon. She was in good spirits most of the day, and laughed at my jokes, which brings into question her sense of humor. I was adjusting her pillows and said, "Are you comfortable?" And she said, "Yeah." I said, "Are you glad to be here?" And she gave a deadpan "Thrilled." Mom managed to stay up long enough to watch "Dancing With the Stars" and cheer when what's-his-face got the boot. When the show was over she summarily gave me the boot, and was practically asleep by the time the door shut behind me.

The cardiologist came by earlier and ordered some more tests, but didn't have any solid opinions about what's going on. So we're back to square one. Or maybe it's not square one - but it feels like a square. And we're on it - waiting, again, for that elusive period of "relative health" that I keep talking and dreaming about. While we're waiting, here's a quote about the journey:

On the Fear of Death, from Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941)

Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers
but to be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain
but for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not look for allies in life's battlefield
but to my own strength.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved
but hope for the patience to win my freedom.

Grant me that I may not be a coward,
feeling your mercy in my success alone;
but let me find the grasp of your hand in my failure.

Much love,

Monday, May 5, 2008

What's another word for unbelievable?

Mom just left the house in an ambulance. She was pretty incoherent but she knew where she was headed and was unhappy about it. She's been tired since chemo Friday, but a home nurse came by today and checked her vitals, pronounced her fit and said, like everyone does, "you look good!" An hour and a half later Mom thought it was 1908 and couldn't move under her own power. I talked to her oncologist and he suggested letting her rest for a couple of hours and watching her carefully. About two hours later she felt hot and had a temperature of 101.6, so I called 911 right away. Infections for chemo patients are really serious. I'm on my way to the hospital just now...

This is hard.


Friday, May 2, 2008

An entire week out of the hospital

Mom has been out of the hospital for a week, and seems to be on the mend. Maybe. I don't believe in jinxes but I'm also not going to say it's going well - that hasn't worked out so well in the past! Anyway, she had chemo today for the first time in over a month. All the doctor's have said that her underlying issue, not surprisingly, is the cancer, so treating that is the best way to combat the other ailments. We went to a kidney specialist this week for the first time, and we'll have a chat with the cardiologist next week. In just over two weeks Mom's lost 30 pounds of water weight, so she's breathing much better and doesn't get out of breath like she was. She doesn't have much oomph, though, so she's moving really slowly.

Last weekend, the day after she got out of the hospital, we drove up to Mike and Mary's house for a birthday barbecue for Brooke. She's the beauty on the left, with her friend Chelsea. This is what 15 year-old girls look like these days. Scary! (As in scary how beautiful and mature they look!)

I still finding myself clinging to Mom's good health and well-being, even when I know that future is uncertain at best and downright scary eventually. I'm distraught when she's throwing up and giddy when things are going well. That's natural, but I'm not sure that it's entirely wise. There's a parable I heard some years ago that I've been thinking of. I found this version on the web:

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"May be," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"May be," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"May be," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"May be," said the farmer.

Love (and I don't mean maybe!),