Thursday, January 27, 2011


Prostate Cancer update:  Charley's back at school and doing okay.  It turns out that the biopsy of his prostate showed a tiny bit of much more aggressive cancer than the original biopsy showed.  It was very localized and the blood test at one month showed he had no cancer in his body.  So that means he was probably right to have his entire prostate removed.

On the other hand, recovery is a lot worse than we had been told by the doctor and his nurse.  It's a lot worse than most of our well-wishers predicted.  "Oh my uncle, brother, neighbor had that done and it was no problem at all."  I think that uncles, brothers and neighbors don't like to complain to people outside their immediate family.  That is understandable.  But what I don't understand is why the hospital educational system was so misleading.  For example, they told us many times that it would be 3 to 6 weeks before he was back at work.  He was in no condition to go back to work at 3 weeks.  He's a teacher, not a brick layer or something.  He does have to stand all day, but he doesn't have to pick up heavy things.  Even so there was no way he could go back at 3 weeks.  

Even at 4 weeks, it was difficult, but he went back.  This was partly because he was worried about work and partly because he was spurred on by the "3-6 weeks" prediction.  He figured that he was still at the young end of people who have prostate cancer, so he "should" be on the short end of the recovery spectrum.  When he went back to the hospital on Wednesday of week 4, the nurse asked him when he thought he'd be ready to return to work.  She was surprised to learn that he was already back.  None of the other guys who had the surgery the week he did had returned to work yet.  So he IS at the short end of the recovery spectrum, but why in the world did they say 3 - 6 weeks if it's really 4-8 or even 6-10?  That's just one example of their overly optimistic predictions.  The entire process of recovery has been much more difficult and painful than predicted.  Post-surgical catheter care is a whole other story and not a pretty one!

It was actually quite nice to have him home.  I wonder how much of this was due to having 3 weeks away from school and how much of it was the shock of facing his own mortality.  Whatever the reason, we had a chance to notice that we still really like each other!  We spend so much time getting through life that it's hard to take time to notice why we are doing it and with whom we are traveling.

I've known Charley since I was 15 and we've been a couple pretty much since we met.  I'm going to be 60 in August, so that's 45 years!  He really is my "Life Partner."  It was lovely to have the time to talk about that and talk about plans for the future without him jumping up to go to work or to work downstairs on lesson plans and IEPs.  

Life is really hard and unpredictable.  It's that way for everyone of us.  It's easier if you go through it with a friend.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I don't know how you do it

I went to the 40th birthday party of a good friend last Saturday.  I had so much fun!  She is the single mom of a very delightful fourth grader.  I always enjoy these two because they obviously have so much fun together.  

There were two conversations I particularly enjoyed.  One was with  a single mom of two active boys and the other was with a step-mom who is writing a book about her experiences navigating the very tricky waters of negotiating child care issues with the ex and her new spouse.  I was delighted by the skill and wisdom of both these courageous women.

I had a great conversation yesterday with my wonderful DIL (Ben's wife) about the shock of having a 3 year old.  ("Even if you say Puleeeze, no still means no.")  She mentioned how much she loves Ben because he gives his time so generously and patiently to their three challenging kids.  I remember the struggle of raising Ben.  He was never aware that he had changed in any way.  In his opinion, he was always exactly the same person he had always been, but annoyed by my failure to "get" him.  Meanwhile, I had to scramble to adjust at least annually to this completely new person living in my house with new requirements and challenges for his faint but following mom.  

My brother Bil and his wife also have three kids.  The last time I visited, I was amazed at the skill with which she juggles, every day, the very different interests and needs of these three individuals.  When I talk to Bil, he talks about the stage of development and the needs of each kid in a careful, thoughtful way that shows he is aware of how fast they change and how carefully a good Dad has to pay attention.

I stay home all the time with my adorable Peter Pan who never changes, never grows up and has such a fragile hold on life.  We know way too much about medicines and hospitals.  We also know all the toys at Target and Toys R Us from infant to about 3 years old because in the last 29 years, we have purchased ALL of them.  Some of them twice.  Whenever I manage to get out I get such lovely compliments, "You are amazing.  I don't know how you do it."  Well, right back at you, folks.

I know that every one of these superheros has bad days and days when they doubt their ability to cope with the challenges life has presented them.  But they are doing absolutely amazing jobs juggling careers, relationships and the ever changing challenges of child-rearing.  I don't know how they do it.  I really don't.  They are each so incredible.

So hats off to Sue and Emily; to Sara and her family; to the brilliant woman whose name I forgot with the two boys; to Ben, Cher, Tasha, Tahreq and Zora; to Bil, Lisa, Jack, Faith and Will and to everyone else out there who cares about raising children to be responsible adults.

Actually, I do know how we do it.  We get out of bed every morning and try again because we love them.  Great job!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy 2011.  This is the year that I turn 60 and I have three grandchildren.  I think that endows me with certain inalienable rights among which are the right to rebel against certain absurdities.  Why we do things is sometimes more important than what we do.

For example, there was this young priest who took over his first parish in northern Minnesota - or maybe it was Saskatchewan.  After he celebrated his first Christmas Eve Midnight Vigil, he noticed a certain growing resentment on the part of his rural parishioners.  So he went to his deacon and asked him what the trouble was.  

"Well frankly, Father, many of us are having trouble getting used to your new ways.  We aren't used to these shorter rites."  The priest asked him to explain further and the deacon explained, "Well, many of us missed the way the old priest used to bless the church at midnight during the Christmas Eve Vigil." 

Bless the church?  The young priest had never heard of this, so he went to to see the old priest in the retirement community which was now his home.  After an hour or so of discussing various parishioners, their children and cattle, the old priest asked, "And how are you settling in, young man?"  This was the opening he had been waiting for and the young priest asked for an explanation of the rite of blessing the church during the Christmas Eve Vigil.

After staring at him blankly a few moments, a smile dawned on the wrinkled old face.  "That old church is so cold and drafty!" He explained.  "Even in mid-summer I got cold.  But Christmas Vigil was the worst!  So before I began to celebrate Eucharist, I used to go over to the radiator and warm my hands!"

Or there were three generations of women who passed on family traditions faithfully.  As each one got older, her daughter would take over the task of preparing the Christmas Dinner for the extended family.  Each mother carefully taught her daughter all the family secret recipes.  As the youngest daughter was being inducted into the mysteries, she was told, among other things, that it was important to cut off the end of the Christmas Ham before putting it in the oven.  "Why?" she asked, bringing the proceedings to a screeching halt.

"Because you'll ruin it if you don't." Said her mother.  "Isn't that right, mom?"  

"I don't know," replied the grandmother, "That's just the way it's done."

"But why?" asked the rebellious daughter.  "Let's go ask Great-grandmother."  So they went out into the living room where Great-grandmother sat in state, knitting, of course, and asked her why it was so important to cut off the end of the Christmas ham.

"Because" she told them, "my old wood burning stove was so small the whole ham didn't fit in."

So back to being almost 60.  I'm old enough to start asking why and stop worrying about the "Right way."  Well, maybe I've always been a little that way, but I'm going to be a lot MORE that way from now on.  

Beginning with knitting.  Why do we pull from the center?  It's a neat little magic trick that goes wrong about as often as it goes right.  But why do we do it? I just spent 40 minutes trying to find an end that didn't come out of the center smoothly.  I'm done.  The only reasonable reason I can think of for pulling from the center is if I'm knitting with a double strand and only have one ball.  Otherwise, I'm knitting from the outside from now on.  

If I want magic, I'll buy a Fushigi.