Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Changing Gears: Courage, Cancer and Family!!!

The diagnosis of cancer is a very scary thing. It touched our family and many of yours. As I write this I am thinking not just of our family’s reaction but about my very special friend Josie’s Mother who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about one year ago. It was a shock to her family and friends. Anna Mariea went with the flow and did all that was requested of her with her very large family’s support. A few weeks ago she decided to have no more treatments. Anna Mariea told me that during the time she has left she wants to live it her way, “It does not matter how long or how short my time is, she says. This decision was not easy for her family; it takes courage to make that kind of decision against family. Anna Mariea. is holding her own, she has been traveling and intends to come back for a visit to Healdsburg. Her spirit and the love of her family are keeping her centered. I am sure there are other cancer patients who do the same to stay as self - reliant as long as possible.

I can identify with this need. My husband Marc made the same decision. I will try to solidify the reaction of our family. For 18 months Marc struggled with radiation, chemo and being a hero in spite of his health. He did go back to work for a time. He did have Histocistic Sarcoma Lymphoma.

Marc was diagnosed December 31, 1974. Talking to the children about his illness was hair rising. During this time, I took the job of opening the Restaurant “Annie’s Firehouse Soup Kitchen” in the spring of 1975. Every morning I got up at 4 am to go to work. Marc got up with me and made me coffee and some breakfast even though he did not feel well it was his gift to me for helping to keep things as normal as possible. Marc’s fight with his cancer ended August 1976.

One day after Marc died I received the job offer as General Manager for The Graduate Club in New Haven Connecticut an exclusive private dining club; which I accepted.

Walter our oldest was on a walking venture through the Western US and Alaska. He only found out about Marc’s illness month’s later. Walter never thought he would not see his Father again. Communication with Walter was sporadic because he never had a phone in the wilderness. I recall that a few days before Marc gave up his fight Walter called and I told him that his Father was holding on to know that he was okay. Walter said, “Do not tell him I called I am on my way back home.” I told Walter that I could not do that - his Father needed to know that he was okay and coming home. He never made it in time. Walter arrived the day of the funeral; I took him to the cemetery where he stayed awhile. After he came home he locked himself in our garage/work space and every time I tried for him to come out and join the family and friends he threw any thing he could find at the door. We could not get in to talk to him. After a couple days of this Walter did join us and since he was the oldest he chipped in wherever he could. Eventually Walter decided to go walking again which I believe was good for him.

Neal son number two has always been the quiet and very smart one with his father’s sense of humor. He just shut down and I could not reach him emotionally. Every time I had to go to work or just left the house Neal got frantic wondering if I would come back. Neal the joker of the family became more and more withdrawn. However he helped me with chores, now he hates to do them for himself, ha, ha. His academics dived (actually the four oldest boys academics dived). Neal also would help me with catering, but never among the guests he always stayed in the kitchens and did prep work or dishes. I always felt sad because he did not work up to his potential. He is the kindest man you want to meet, shy but has a big open heart.

Paul who is the third born did not feel comfortable with his own family. He wanted to go and live with his Uncle Russ (Marc’s brother) and Aunt Carroll, who lived in the LA area.  I let him move for one year. If that was good for him I am not so sure. Paul covered his sadness with being obnoxious at times. I hate to say this but I feel I lost a son during that year away from us.

Rodmond the family savior. Rod and the older boys were at Grateful Dead concert the evening Marc died. When the boys came home and I had to tell them that their Father passed away; Rod climbed on the roof of our house and did not come down for hours. Rod was very angry. Once he came to terms with the death of his Father he became the caretaker of the family. He made sure the house was in order especially the kitchen when I came home from work. Many years later he and the other kids told me that a big percentage of “Amity High”, hung out in our home while I was at work. what went on I can only imagine. Rodmond was only 14 years old; he took on all that responsibility with out being asked.

Steven the loner; Steven also pitched in when needed. The first few months were such a blur. I remember Steven going to his room and hiding behind a book. He would help with meals and work outside in the yard after homework. Once he decided to move Walters Mustang in our drive way and ended up in the ditch. Needless to say Walter was livid. Steve did not get hurt but could have he was but 13 years old.

Kurt and Heidi; neither child was home when Marc died. Both had been in New Jersey spending a couple of weeks with friends, Christina and Thomas who were the same age. Margot and Jim their Godparents brought them home the morning of the funeral.
It was so hard to tell them that we are going to the cemetery to bury their Father.
All the friends and relatives comforted them. I really did not see many tears; I am sure in the comfort of there room they were. Heidi found refuge in playing the piano. Kurt just hung in there and found a good friend Charlie who he spent time with along with his family. Heidi also had a good friend Lisa and she did spend time with her and her family. A few years later, Heidi also spent a lot of time with another friend, Andrea and her family. It was a relief for me because I had to work and at times I had to work in the evening when I had a big event going on at The Graduate Club.

Part two of this blog will follow, writing about this is not easy. I will elaborate next about some of the antics the kids managed to get into and survived all of them.