Monday, January 21, 2013

I wonder....

Durward Wayne Clark
January 20, 1933 - February 10, 1970

This is my dad's senior portrait. He grew up in a Norman Rockwell-like small Indiana town, served in the US Navy, went to college, married and lived and had children and worked and led Bible studies, barbecued and gardened, loved his close and extended family well and died when he was 37 years, 21 days old. 

My brothers and I are now 16, 17 and 18 years older than he was when he died in a car accident coming home to our little house in the suburbs from Atlanta. We each talked to him on the phone that day when he didn't come home. Of course I have only the memories of a little girl. 

I wonder...

- what he would have thought of today's inaugural festivities
- if he would have played golf or bowled or traveled in retirement
- where his passions would have led his philanthropy
- what books would be on his nightstand
- who his friends would be
- how the not-perfectness of life would have effected him
- why in heaven's name he named me what he did

...and a million or so other things.

My brothers and I have been fortunate to have had two very kind men for stepfathers; beloved, wonderful and entertaining biological and step families who embraced us for real and modeled for us the spirit of adoption which molded our lives irrevocably.  In many ways our cups run over. 

But I can't help but wonder....

- what his face would have looked like when he saw our children
- what his advice would have been at our life crossroads 
- what he and Terry would talk about
- if he would still look at us with twinkling eyes
- if we'd argue politics or religion
- how we would have aged as a family

...and what it really would have been like to have grown up with him as our here-on-earth dad? 

Our funny granny used to comfort herself by saying, "in heaven everybody lives next door" whenever she missed someone dear who passed away or just moved away. 

I'm counting on being just down the hall, not all the way next door. 

So I can get all my questions answered. I think there will be bunk beds and a pink canopy. So we can all be together. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012


...or the beginning!

We got 'unofficial' word today that Terry's PET scan revealed that the cancer was "completely resolved" and "crystal clear".... barely breathing still! Lots of tears. 

Both oncologists are still out for the holiday, but our wonderful ENT called to say how excited he was for Terry and to congratulate him on a great report...he didn't know that we hadn't yet heard results. 

Terry will see this ENT and one of the oncologists next week for a more official report...but we're taking this one as sure and true. 

Ten thousand thank-yous to all of you who have encouraged us and prayed for us this year. Looking forward to a cancer-free 2013. 

God is good and faithful.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

the big 3-0

I married the best guy ever - thirty years ago today. 

My heart is ... full, thinking about this last year. 

Days and nights so difficult - watching Terry do the near-impossible - like sleep and eat. And the inescapable - suffering. So much that even now I can't think about the hardest days and nights in August and September without wincing. 

In three days Terry will have a PET scan. Positron Emission Tomography. It's when somebody sticks a needle, alive with a radio active tracer, into your vein. Then beams you through a somewhat magical ring which records what the tracer discovers. It just takes a few minutes. 

The PET is late Friday. Results are read by numerous doctors. Radiologists. Oncologists. ENTs. Surgeons. They pass them around electronically. And then they all have to talk about it. They are busy people. Monday is Christmas Eve. 

Last night I dreamed that scene from "Chariots of Fire" when Harold Abrahams stands at the starting line of his 100 meter Olympic race. Ten seconds from history. In the film he is almost overcome by the thought that all his years of mental and athletic preparation will be finished, rewarded by gold, or not, in a mere 10 seconds. His fear is that his sacrifice will be meaningless in loss.

I have heard that starting gun in my head all day.

I have also heard a still, small voice say it isn't so. The last 30 years, while relatively uneventful from the view of an outsider, have taken two people from lives of, well, two people and turned them into something else. And we are no where near finished. Winning gold is not the point, the living the 10 seconds is. The preparation and the sacrifice is. The joy of the race is. 

My full, robust, hardy, honest expectation is that cancer is gone forever from our lives. That all the other tests for the next 30 years (at least) will be perfectly clean and clear. 

But I am saying now...even. if. it. isn't. Even if there are more days and nights of suffering for the one who has become, somewhat unexpectedly, my hero, we will do it together. The "I do's" of two who really had no idea of what the cost would be 30 years ago are still "I do" and "I will" and "I covenant" and "I love you."

Not because we are anything special, but because God is good and faithful. And we are stubborn.   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

velveteen Terry

Only when forced by some big-eyed child will I read "The Velveteen Rabbit." My heart has never been able to stand it, and I'm not too certain why. Maybe there's too much truth in the story, maybe there's not enough?

But lately Terry reminds me of that tired, beloved object. Don't get me wrong, Terry is looking good these days - 2 months post treatment. He is stronger, he has regained some weight, his radiation burns are gone, his color is much better. There have been moments lately when I've seen a return to pre-May 10th Terry. His hair still looks a bit pin-feather-ish and he just has that well-loved look about him...if you didn't know the story of his last 6 months.

If you know to really LOOK, you see the ravages of cancer and cancer treatment. It's hard to stand it. And I am not too certain why. The body of the  beloved so, well, used. Abused. Burned. Hurt. Healed. Saved. 

Yesterday, almost 6 months to the day when there was a diagnosis Terry's oncologist read his first post-treatment CT results aloud to us. He said things like "this is as good as it gets" and "this is a very positive result" and "I believe after the PET in December you will see all will be well." It took our breath away.

Just two of the tumors are still visible and they appear to be shrinking still. I watched through my fingers as the doctor did a scope exam of his throat.  Compared to the photos from May, even to my eyes, this throat was beautifully clear and free from the angry cancer growth. Doctors don't use words like 'healed' and 'cancer free' for years after diagnosis and treatment. We are encouraged and hopeful and stunned and blessed. And other things we haven't figured out yet. 

Terry has a raging thrush infection, not unusual when your salivary glands aren't working and the chemistry in your mouth is messed up. He still has a mostly liquid diet. He has some pain and nausea and weird side effects and experiences lots of exhausted hours every day. There is still a road of healing - spirit, soul and body - to be walked.

But, oh, my goodness. 

God is good and faithful.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's a good thing....

It's a good thing we were wearing our Alex Reinis "Be Awesome" bracelets. 

Clerical errors abounded today and there was no CT as scheduled. We were all excited and hopeful to hear that the tumors in Terry's throat and lymph glands were gone as we've been praying- please God. But not this week. We're still on the roller coaster.

Terry had labs and his port irrigated and cleaned. We got loved on by the nurses and techs and one oncologist. We saw the kid who got diagnosed with cancer when he thought he was just getting his tonsils out - he was bald but had his trach removed and looked great. He told us his mid-treatment CT showed no tumor at all...we hugged and rejoiced with him in the middle of the hall. We saw one of our favorite breast cancer ladies looking really fragile. Her beautiful blue eyes lit up when we came in, we got to pat her gently and pray for her. 

Then it was sort of all downhill. The CT lab we were assigned didn't have the correct machine for the diagnostic CT ordered. They found another lab with an open appointment and we rushed across town to get there in time. Terry filled out the required pages and pages of paperwork and we waited for about an hour in a room full of crying children and miserable people. 

They called him back, I settled in for another wait .... and he reappeared. Too soon. The notes about the reaction he gets from the drugs administered for the CT and PET scans didn't get sent along with the orders. No CT without a week of prednizone and antihistamines and something else I can't remember.

We have to wait. Another. Whole. Week. Bummer.  

It's honestly not THAT big a deal. It is so great that he didn't get the drugs which would have made him really sick and put him in the hospital overnight. What does just a week of drugs that make him feel nauseous matter in the light of the long summer he has already so valiantly persevered?

But we both got teary. And the nurse got teary. One of us got mad and just went to the parking lot to get the car. (Me) One of us asked careful questions and made the game plan for the next week. (Terry) We got apologies from every direction. 

We sat in the car and cried some and laughed some. It's just so stinking disappointing. We are determined to be found faithful, even if we cry and get mad first. It's no stretch for Terry to 'be awesome.' I'm working on it.  

God is good and faithful.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

loving Waco....

I went to Waco today. For a girl who loves big cities, I can't seem to get enough of that place and all the people so dear to me who live there.  But I like to go, period. Often and there isn't a place on the planet I can think of I wouldn't like to visit. 

It was still dark this morning when I left home and I couldn't shake an unidentifiable feeling. Vague unease. Like I was forgetting something. Maybe missing something. About Belton I realized I haven't been out of the Austin city limits since May. I haven't been physically further away from Terry than the other side of Austin in that many months. 

It was that feeling when you leave your baby with a sitter the first time. Or when your loved one gets wheeled off down a hospital corridor. Or when your kid leaves the country. A little breathless.

I made it, he made it. We talked on the phone several times. We didn't used to be that kind of couple. We like being together, but we're ok to be apart a bit too. Hhmm.

We're nearing the first test since the end of treatment - 12 days until the first CT post chemo and radiation. It will tell us just what is happening to the tumors in the lymph glands and in his throat. It takes a lot of energy not to think about this too much. 

He's doing so well - enormously better than just a month ago - the radiation burn is just a shadow, not much crud left in his throat, no nausea, just a little pain, some ability to taste, maintaining weight and some fuzzy baby-eagle looking hair. A lot of exhaustion, not much salivary gland function, an easily overwhelmed nervous system, little appetite and really tired of smoothies. But so much better.

It poured rain all the way home. There were four accidents and stop-and-go traffic for almost three hours. My 200,000 mile plus-one-check-engine-light-on-beloved-Rav4 delivered me home one more time. The three people I love most in the world were in the house. And a grumpy cat. There's no where else I'd rather be. 

But. My new passport came in the mail. Hhmm. 

God is good and faithful. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republic Hill

Gardeners snipped hedges, sprinklers whirred, flags snapped in the breeze, the traffic on 7th Street moved briskly. I could hear a train and several times church bells. But all the sounds were swallowed up by quiet.

I spent some time this afternoon on Republic Hill in the Texas State Cemetery. Nobody I know was being buried, I just had to be in East Austin for a couple of hours and my favorite coffee shop was packed. So much for a working afternoon. There's no Internet on the hill, it was a beautiful day. 

The breeze was blowing hard enough to stir the many Texas flags up and down the lanes. There's a little flowing brook and lots of birds. The trees are amazing. There was thunder rumbling in the distance - and just enough ambiance for cemetery walking.

So I walked and prayed and read stones. 

I visited one of my favorite Elizabet Ney sculptures - Albert Sydney Johnson's reclining form. Such delicate beauty in such a place.

I felt braver about the upcoming elections, like maybe every elected official might not be a nut when I sat at Barbara Jordan's feet and read the words there - "Patriot" and "Eloquent Champion of Ethics and Justice."

I wandered by James Michener's memorial and was thankful to my bones for all the history I've enjoyed in his books. I got teary-eyed when I came upon Fred Gipson's stone unexpectedly.

A bigger than life statue of Stephen F. Austin stands high atop granite squares and points off into the east. There are the stones of governors and lawyers, judges, railroad officials, masons, football coaches, poets, artists and authors. Speakers and Signers and First Ladies. Medal of Honor recipients and senators. Susanna Dickinson and Ann Richards - oh, my. You have to be somebody special to be buried there.

There are angels and sheep and obelisks, fountains and sculptures, pink granite, gray and black. Old, undecipherable carvings and proud new ones made for the generations. 

There was one double husband-wife stone with a very long braggadocios list of the husband's accomplishments in education, government, lodge and church and the actual dates he did whatever wonderful thing he did. On the wife's side were the simple and almost apologetic words, "She was ever faithful." Good thing she died first. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson's lines, "Such a one do I remember whom to look on was to love" were present on several stones as were other sentiments both sincere and beautiful. There were scriptures and things that were sort of like scripture, poems and ridiculous sayings..."It was a great ride."

And there were rows and rows and rows and rows of dead soldiers. Two Revolutionary War veterans...although I can't figure how they got to Texas. Confederate generals and privates. Men with names like Claude and Martin and Sylvester from World Wars and 'conflicts.' New graves without grass to cover just yet.

It was a lovely afternoon place to pray, not sad or morbid, just beautiful. I prayed for our government, for my family far and wide, for dear friends, for creativity to abound in our lives, for the many children I love who started school this week, for troubles and grief, for soldiers everywhere. And the parents and spouses who send them off to war.

And I was mindful and thankful.

Terry had a good day off today. He mostly waited for repairmen to come and fix things that were broken last week. He puttered and napped. And drank so much tomato soup that he broke out in a rash.
: ) Thank you for your continued prayers. 

God is good and faithful.