Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler

That’s Cajun French for “Let the good times roll.” The Katrina Relief mission volunteers from my church are supposed to fly to New Orleans tomorrow. I had planned to be part of the mission until Marge’s illness intevened. Now, however, I’m wondering if anyone is going anywhere tomorrow as this years K-storm Kyle passes by New England. The wind is screaming, and we may get as much as eight inches of rain in the next 24 hours.

Note to Climate: We don’t need any more rain here. Take this water to the folks who need it.

Facing the C Word

“C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me,” sings Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. It’s a cute song and an engaging character, especially as re-imagined by Stephen Colbert. The problem is that C stands for a lot of other things, too.

Cancer, for example.

Last Friday, Marge and I sat listening to Marge’s newest doctor, a gynecologic oncologist, while he let us know as gently as he could that Marge has ovarian cancer. I felt as if I’d been slapped. In fact, I actually tried to get a look at the name on the case file the doctor had open while he was talking to us because I was convinced there was some mistake. Surely the message he was giving us was intended for someone else. But no luck on that one.

The cancer is apparently already advanced, and there may be several tumors. The next step is surgery, perhaps on September 30th, a week from today, but we don’t have a confirmed date for it. We’ll meet with the doctor again on Friday for more information about the surgery and the overall treatment strategy. I do know that the surgery will be both treatment and diagnostic tool. We have little specific information now, but there will be a mountain of it following the surgery.

The last four days have been long and difficult. I don’t know of a harder job than this waiting and waiting and waiting to learn how bad the bad news really is. The outpouring of love and support we have received and continue to receive from family and friends, however, is wonderful. I mentioned this to a friend yesterday, and her tone was matter-of-fact as she said, “Of course. You’re wonderful people. Everybody loves you.” I’m braced for bad news, but kindness can make me cry. I cried when she said that.

Today I’m in the process of setting up a CaringBridge site to record our journey through this. The URL is although not much is there just yet. I’ll post treatment and recovery information over there so that it doesn’t take over this blog.

And so, friends, if you’re familiar with prayer, please pray for us now. If you don’t know how to pray, it’s time you learned. We need everybody here.

Who Are You, Former Self?

Marge and Pete: 40th Anniversary PartyOur actual anniversary was back in June, but we finally got around to having a party a month or so ago. The whole thing was planned, executed and mostly paid for (!) by Elizabeth and Marge’s sister Dodie. It was a relaxed evening (cf. Hawaiian shirt) and a good time. The last month, however, has been jammed up with news and events, good and bad. More about that another time. For now I just want to remember that gentle summer evening in August when our old friends gathered to marvel at the fact that we are still smiling after 40 years of marriage.

Some of the guests were people we hadn’t seen in some time, including our friend Kathy, the widow of my old friend Gary. The card Kathy had made for us brought me literally face to face with myself of nearly 35 years ago. Gary, you see, was a photographer, one of the few people I’ve ever known who bought a nice camera and then went to the trouble to learn how to use it. He left his photos in pretty good order, too, so that when Kathy looked through them before the party, she found this one.

Faux Dr. LinguiniGary took this picture in about 1974. I seem to be making meatballs. The bowl shown in the picture, gone long ago to fractured crockery heaven, was the one I always used for meatballs. The intent look on my face suggests that I was attempting to channel my grad school friend Had who always assumed the identity of “Dr. Linguini” when making meatballs. The whole Dr. Linguini bit might strike the more sensitive among us as ethnic slur now, but it was great fun then.

I vaguely remember the gawd-awful shirt, but I honestly do not remember ever having been so thin, or so young. By my best calculations, I am 27 or 28 in this picture. Who the hell was I? What did I feel? What did I believe? If I ever tried to imagine myself at 62, did I get even one detail right?

Writing this now reminds me of going through old photos with my mother. Again and again, she would shake her head and say, “I just don’t remember.” At the time I thought it was her dementia, but now I wonder if it wasn’t just time itself. The person I am today is molded from the person I was yesterday. I’ve reworked that clay so many times now that its earlier shapes are gone.

I look at this photo and say, “Yup, that’s me,” but I am no longer the person in the picture. I don’t even know that person anymore. I know where he lived, who his friends were, how he spent his time. But he himself is somehow just another ancestor.

The supreme oddity, however, is to look at this “ancestor” and find myself wanting to say, “Get your hair out of your eyes, boy. And pull up your pants before they fall down!”

But he never would listen to that kind of talk from anyone, not even from me.

Rebooting the Blog

A lot of things are like this, I guess. You step out of your routine for a while. It’s hard at first, but then it gets easier. My last post here was almost four weeks ago!

For the first week, I felt vaguely guilty about it. By the second week, I began to understand the reasons why I had stopped writing. By the third week, I began to think “What the hell. It’s waited this long, it’ll wait a while longer.” By the fourth week, I began to think this blog might be dead.

Then I heard from my friend Ronni at Time Goes By. “I’ve been checking your blog now and then and nothing since 15 August. Are you okay? Is your family okay?”

Yes, and yes-although there are some stories to tell. Anyway, I’m back. And thanks for the lifeline, Ronni!