It’s not every day that we have the opportunity to attend an eightieth birthday party, and this particular celebration—in honor of my stepfather Jim—coincided with the date of my eighth infusion. What’s a girl to do? Obviously, delay infusion!
A week ago, I skipped my pre-chemo steroid and caught a plane to Las Vegas instead. I was met at the airport by Jim and my mother Evalynn. A short time later, Jim’s sister Jane’s flight from Dallas landed, and the four of us drove 119 miles northeast to St. George, Utah. The next twenty four hours were rather quiet, but by Thursday night a large clan was gathering. Jim’s son Ed, his wife Pam, daughter Kristin and her partner Elizabeth. Jim’s other son Dave, with his wife Amy and their daughter Lauren. My brother John and his wife Amanda. A handful of childhood pals (some of whom Jim has known since he was a small boy growing up in Wyoming) as well as an assortment of local friends and neighbors. That was party number one, with cold cuts and a birthday cake. And lots of conversation.
In the morning, Jim had a date at the golf course with Ed, Dave and John. Mom, Jane and I were to go to breakfast. However, our morning was not without incident. After I showered I went to look for mom and found her in the bathtub, which was drained of water. She was unable to get herself out, and I wasn’t strong enough to lift her. We tried all sorts of tricks to no avail. I told her we had three choices: we could call Jim, the fire department, or their next door neighbor ‘Big Bill’ (who was a fireman for thirty years). Of course, none of these choices felt particularly appealing, but I slipped mom’s nightie on to preserve her dignity and Jane went next door to fetch Bill.
Minutes later he walked in the bathroom, addressed mom: “Hello sweetheart! I’m going to help lift you up.” And then, easy as pie, he slipped his arms beneath hers and pulled her to a standing position. I was crying as I thanked him—it is not often that I am on the caretaking side of things and I found this experience humbling.
Well, Mom still wanted to go to breakfast so I helped her dress. The next challenge was figuring out how to start Jim’s car—a new push button affair. After several attempts the dashboard noticed that a dummy was behind the wheel and a helpful message appeared—I needed to depress the brake at the same time I pushed the button. Aha! Next up—opening the garage door. The only obvious control was attached to the wall fifteen feet from the door. Jane, who is a young seventy seven, gamely offered to push shut after I backed the car out and to make a run for it. I will never forget her face as she came barreling out of the garage just inches beneath the descending door. We laughed until we were crying, and I expressed how glad I was that she’d made it as I wouldn’t have wanted to go next door to Big Bill’s again—“Could you please help me pull Jane out from under the garage door?” Of course, when we heard later that this door had no sensor to stop when it hit something, we felt a little chastened. File this one under all is well that ends well.
That evening we had party number two: mexican food, the family members and Jim and Ev’s friends Bruce and Barb and Bill and Shirley. After dinner we all gathered in a large circle and Jim shared some of the creative exploits he has been up to. In turn, he asked each of us to give a brief description of where our lives were at. It was a moving experience. Afterword, we broke again into smaller groups for more conversation. I came away with such love and pride for this side of my family, as well as a renewed conviction that so much time should not pass in between visits.
Tomorrow (if I’m cogent after chemo; I couldn’t put it off forever), Goodbye St. George and hello Vegas!
I have very fond memories of spending my honeymoon, traveling via truck, in Utah. And St. George…my most grand resort stay was there. Thanks for reminding me of the good times! Great to hear your time there was just as memorable.
Kimmy, Utah has some gorgeous spots (and holds some fabulous memories of car camping with my two oldest when they were one and two). I’ll have to get the name of that resort from you sometime….sending good wishes your way (and psyched that you did some bouldering).
Green Valley Resort in St George. Amazing beds!
Note: I hadn’t had a shower in 3 days when we checked it. My judgment could have been slightly off. 🙂
What a joy it was to meet you during this wonderful celebration of life and the love of a family. I am extremely grateful that our paths crossed. My hope is that I will see your post tomorrow about Part 2, which means your spirits and abilities will be abundant. Much love Linnea.
Sending loving light from St. Louis,
Elizabeth, it was a joy meeting you! I was an overpromiser/underdeliverer on the upcoming blog (excuses to follow). Have been thinking of you guys as those twisters passed by again….hold tight: I’m coming to visit one of these days.
Thank you for writing this blog! I stumbled upon your blog in the search for more info on LDK378. My best friend was diagnosed with NSCLC almost 5 years ago (when she was only 32 :() and went through a similar journey as yours. She’s still on Xycori but her disease took a very bad turn recently. We are looking at LDK378 as her last hope but she’s not even able to go visit a doctor now. Looks like the road for LDK378 was not easy for you either. I wish you the very best in your fight against this horrible disease!
N, I am sorry about your friend and hope that she will rally and can get on LDK. This road has so many ups and downs….I wish your friend the best and thanks for your kind thoughts as well.
Linnea, again your determination astounds me. What a wonderful trip. Your parents are lovely. Being stuck in the tub is a common fear among the oler set, me include. We are changing out our bathtub for a walk-in shower asap, to avoid this and a stumble stepping into the deep tub. Oh the joys of the golden years! 🙂 Your Momma’s kitchen is so like mine, I did a double take to see if they were visiting me. Steve is having a rough week, back pain, fatigue and more than a bit of depression. My heart hurts for him. We try to keep each other up, but some weeks we both falter. Reading your adventures helps me and I always relay them to him. Thank you for sharing so honestly. Stand Strong, dear lady. Oh, I drove many miles with ours sons, but the daughter was all Dad’s.
Hedy, I always get a kick out of your replies. And yeah, getting old is not always fun (even if it is the goal!). I love my parent’s kitchen and now when I am there I can imagine sitting down for a cup of tea or coffee with you.
Tell Steve my heart goes out to him. I was feeling pretty good until chemo several days ago but that and the heat have knocked me on my keister. Sometimes it feels like one step forward and two back—if I could, I’d come on over and we’d hold hands and take a few of those steps (the forward ones) together. Hang in there!
Sounds like a wonderful time with family. I am glad you were there to help out your mom too. 🙂
Catherine, I had a wonderful time and being able to help out (however briefly) felt like a privilege—I wish we all didn’t live so far from each other so that we could have these interactions more often.
Great stories about your trip. It sounds good and fundamental. So glad no one was trapped in tubs or under garage doors, at least not permanently! I hope this infusion goes okay, and that you soon feel good enough to take us all to Vegas. love!
Cristina, I never tire of your perspective (good and fundamental are both apt descriptions). This was a trip I needed to make no matter what and I am so glad that I did. I’ll make good on my grand claims and share my bit about Vegas (I’m never sure if it is a real place or just a figment of someone else’s imagination—definitely not mine).
Vegas, baby. Keep us posted!
Joan, coming right at ya! (but don’t get too excited. My version of Vegas is quite tame).
Ooh, I’ve driven through St. George on my way to one of the best places on earth: Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab.
I’m glad you delayed infusion for something much more enjoyable!
Jessica, my mom (who came perilously close to being a cat lady at an earlier stage in her life) likely is familiar with that society—I will ask her. And as you know, delaying infusion for a party was my pleasure 🙂 Good thoughts your way!