To my Son and Daughter-in-law

Speech I wrote for my Son’s wedding rehearsal dinner.

Michael and Deirdre.  Congratulations. Besides being a huge and important day in your lives, it is just as big a day in your parents’ life.

You’ve probably heard that Marriage is a 50/50 compromise.
It’s not.
Sometimes one partner needs more, so you must be able & willing to give more.
There is no ‘score-keeping’ to get back to 50/50.
You just do what you need to do. This is Marriage.

You will both be taking an oath tomorrow.
An oath is a promise.
I know Michael has heard me say this before;
“Never make a promise you can’t keep – and never break a promise you make.”
My Dad taught me that.
If you ever have doubts about something that comes up,
just say to yourself, “I took an oath.”

We are all excited to see what the future holds for the both of you and
I want to wish you every happiness and smooth sailing ahead.

And I’m pretty sure that both of your Moms would love being
called ‘Grandma’ in a few years

I love you both.

Some People Can Write Real Good

Writing.
Putting your thoughts on paper (or whatever medium works) for others to read, think on, and form an opinion about.

I am not a writer.

Oh sure, I can tell a good story.
I can hold the attention of my audience.
I can change the tone and pitch of my voice.
I can even do bad accents if it helps in the telling.

But writing that same story and getting the same result from my audience?
That is the “crux of the biscuit” as Frank Zappa once penned.

Putting pen to paper to express your thoughts has always been like my own Gordian Knot but with no ‘easy solution’ in sight. I know it can be done, but how it’s done is where the challenge lies. There is always a solution, but there is truly only one that is the perfectly obvious choice. I have not found that solution. The ability to put thoughts into words on paper that can express the same emotions or sense of urgency or patience or humor is very, very tricky. As I write, I have the ability to go back and edit my thoughts, go back and add a word, change a sentence structure or completely rewrite it.
Did I get my point across? How can I make them read it THIS way and not THAT way? How do I connote emotions without the ability to raise or lower the pitch of of my voice? Somehow, there needs to be words on this paper that will get that emotion into the reader’s mind.

The point here is that once written and in front of me, the author, I can read and assess my word choices. Is that the right way to use that word? Can I rework that sentence? Have I made the best choices to tell my story with the same intensity and feelings as I could have done using my vocal chords? [perfect example; I originally typed ‘voice’ and changed it to ‘vocal chords’. See what I mean? Was that a better or worse choice?]

I don’t have to do that when I tell a story or a joke. The words that exit my mouth are the correct words for that particular moment. They fit. They are perfect. They do the job they were intended to do.

Writing, not so easy. A lot of second-guessing-in-the-moment goes on. Typing along, got that chain of thoughts rolling through my head, fingers not keeping pace with my brain, and then there is a pause. I made a typo. I misspelled a word. I used the wrong punctuation, etcetera. Details have been my bane and my pride and the exasperation of my coworkers, friends, and family for as long as I’ve been around them. I am a detail freak and writing is something that does not lend itself to that precision without becoming dry and boring and technical. I look for things most people never notice. Details like closed and open quotes and apostrophes instead of inch and foot marks.
(“ ”, ’, “, ‘ yes, I look for that stuff.) To me, everything is in the details. Everything.

Writing is hard. Writing makes me think about my words. Granted, I have been known to freely and quickly give my opinion to anyone that doesn’t ask for it, but if I wrote, edited, and reread that same opinion, I’d have kept my mouth shut in the first place. It’s not that I perceive writing as too hard for me, it’s more that I’m not ever completely satisfied with the result.

So ‘Hats Off’ to those that can write. I applaud your abilities. I have no idea if you juggle these same nit-picking moments as you create and tickle the keys of whatever board you use, but I’m grateful for your efforts and I enjoy them. Thanks.

As for me, I’ll continue to keep most of my thoughts in my head and offer my opinions to anyone that doesn’t want them.

Then again, if something moves me to the point of writing about it, I’ll give it a shot.

Think you’re Tough? part 2

STOP! This site posts in reverse chronological order!
Please SCROLL DOWN to read Part 1.

 

 

January 1, 2016

A date that will be burned into our memories forever.

Winter in Chicago suburbs. Cold. Snow. Ice. Wind.

We are dog-sitting our son’s dog. Smartest dog on the planet. Truly a Wonder-dog. Listens to commands, obeys immediately, best dog ever. Unbelievably smart. Knows Left and Right. I swear she understands English and complex sentences.

I’m at work and my wife decides to walk the dog. There are sidewalks, but also unpaved sections.

She slips on ice and falls. Breaks her ankle and her kneecap. Yes, on her bad leg.

A neighbor sees her on the ground and comes to her aid. He brings her a blanket and she has him call me and an ambulance. There ARE good people around. Ambulance arrives at the hospital 3 minutes after I was already parked in the garage.

Meet a new Dr. (to us) in the ER. Another one of those guys that are so confident in their skills, that you feel better just talking to them. Yeah. He’s that good and proved it. Got her ankle all set with plate and screws and got her kneecap (the only part you keep with a total knee replacement) wired back together. She gets to go home a few days later.

While healing at home, she is having stomach problems. Vomiting for no reason. until she couldn’t stop. Ambulance ride later, she is admitted again. More tests and scans and x-rays. Emergency surgery.

Today is her birthday!

She is slowly waking up, a tube up her nose sucking the contents of her stomach and one of the Drs. is there as she is trying to figure out what is going on. Dr. tells her she has colon cancer. A tumor is blocking her large intestine. We had to give you a colostomy bag.

Happy birthday!

You know what happens next, don’t you? More chemo and more radiation.

Chemo is different now. No more of the medieval ways. This time around it would be only by pill form and only one drug, not seven or eight.
Lower probability of hair loss too. Only there’s something not right with her knee.

There is an infection in her knee joint. A bad one. Requires 30 days of two types of antibiotics, administered via IV. She gets a PICC line inserted in her arm and Yours Truly has to learn to do this twice a day for 30 days. Drugs are delivered in insulated coolers and I have to store them in  the fridge. One is a bag I have to hang and adjust the flow to one bag in 60 minutes, the rinse her PICC line, get the other drug, in syringe form and slowly push that in at the rate of 2 ml/10 seconds (or something very slow like that).

Sometime in March, she falls in the bathroom and breaks her wrist. Same Ortho Doc that fixed her knee, fixes he wrist, plate and screws. In surgery at 10 am, home before 5 pm. This guy is good! And almost no recovery time for the wrist!

All seems okay for a few weeks, waiting for radiation to be scheduled. Every day for weeks. I forgot how long. BY the time it is over, she has some burns on her backside, below the tailbone. 2nd degree burns. The Dr. denies it is from the radiation but the nurses knew that was the only way that happened.  When the sores are almost healed, she gets the Shingles. Guess where? Exactly where the skin was compromised from the burns. Schedule the tumor removal and re-sectioning of her bowel.

But the knee is acting up. Ortho Dr. determines the kneecap is also dead from the radiation years ago that caused her femur to break. A decision is made to have the colon surgery and immediately after, while still under anesthesia, open the knee and remove the kneecap.

8 hours in surgery.

As we wait for everything to heal, the day finally comes when they can reverse the colostomy! I wouldn’t wish a colostomy on anyone.

Here we are today. Almost 3 years to the day. Her leg is in frequent pain. Ortho Dr says there is nothing more he can do and any more surgeries may release more infection into the ‘film’ your body produces around an implanted prosthesis.
All this metal in her leg is anchored inside the remaining bone with ‘glue’ and cannot be removed without losing the leg.

Just below the hip.

Her decision is easy.

She wants to dance at our son’s wedding next summer.

Still think you’re tough?

 

 

This is a highly condensed version of a journey that is nowhere near over.
The chronology might be off, but most everything is there.

No one in this family ever gives up.

Think you’re Tough? (part 1)

Part One

I want to tell you about the strongest woman I know. My wife.
But first, you need some history. Not every detail, just pertinent parts.

Let’s start back around 1988-89. We had been together more than 10 years. We both worked, our oldest son still lived with us but he also worked.

She has a passion for Dance. She absolutely LOVED to dance at discos and weddings, but mostly she loved to dance Ballet. She was in the Orchesis club in high school and loved performing on stage. After we had married, she enrolled in a local dance school and became part of their dance troupe that put on shows at various events as well as the school’s recitals with the little kids all the way up to adults. She enjoyed that immensely. What she did NOT enjoy was the toll that ballet takes on the body. Blistered, bleeding toes, foot cramps, knee pain, sore ligaments. you get the idea. Her knee swelled up around this time and a Dr. suggested a cortisone injection, to which she agreed. The swelling never really went down, but it wasn’t hurting.

Sometime around the beginning of 1990 we discovered she was pregnant with our 2nd child! She continued with the weekly dance school practices and rehearsals. But that darn knee kept her attention. After another trip to the Dr., tests were done, and it was determined it was some type of cancer, maybe bone cancer but they didn’t know and we needed to go to University of Chicago for a biopsy. Since they didn’t know what it was, they also wanted a bone marrow sample, which is a horrifying experience not only for the patient, but also the person that holds their hand during the procedure. They gave her enough morphine, before and during, that would have made anyone else unconscious. It didn’t work. I’ll not describe it here except that I could hear bone crunching noises as they took a sample from the dorsal side of her hip bone. Biopsy and marrow taken, we went home. Turns out U of C hospital had to send them to the Mayo Clinic for help in identifying what it was..

About two weeks later, it’s confirmed that it is NOT bone cancer, but a tumor on the knee. A large-celled lymphoma. Next step, talk to the Oncologist for a plan. Sorry, can’t do anything until after the baby is born. Chemotherapy IS poison, you know. Some precautionary tests, checking lymph nodes, etc, we wait for our son to meet us.

The day approaches and our son’s birth is scheduled for a C-section, we go in, nervous as can be and everything works out perfectly! What a wondrous and happy moment!

Once home, it’s back to reality. Phone calls, Dr. visits, a plan is made. Because of her age, 36, aggressive chemo is planned because she is young enough to handle it for 12 weeks. Then radiation therapy for 5 weeks. The chemo was to be administered through a device called a ‘medi-port’, which required a day surgery to have it implanted in her chest. Two months after she gave birth, she is in a ‘chemo chair’ in the oncologist’s clinic. First time the mediport is used and the pain is awful. Not from the chemicals, but from inserting the needle into the port. Next week, they try again but it is still too sore. They don’t like to do it, but they gave the rest of her treatments intravenously. The chemo is rough on her. She is sick all the time, especially the day after, weak, tired, metallic taste in her mouth, food tastes terrible, and worst of all, she is losing her hair. To a woman, that is devastating. To her, it was THE worst part of chemo.
Let’s not forget about that 2-month old baby we have. For obvious reasons, she had to stop breastfeeding him once chemo started. This is where the Saints of our family appeared. My Mother, her Mother and even her sister’s Mother-in-law, were here for that baby daily. Not all at once, of course, we made a schedule. I could still work and the baby would would have the best possible babysitters with 3 of his Grandmas. Bless them all. Lucky baby.

When all is done, she is doing much better, the tumor has shrunken and died, no more surgery and she is back to working again. Life goes back to normal until 2001, when, as we were getting ready for Christmas Eve at my brother’s house, her leg breaks. She is standing in her dressing area of her bathroom, turns to say something to our son that is sitting on the bed, and her leg snaps. Our now 11 year old son heard the cracking sound, and she tells him to go get Daddy. I run in and she’s on the floor in a lot of pain. Ambulance comes, takes her to the hospital (where she works) and the Drs. are called in. On Christmas Eve. At 7 o’clock in the evening. One of her Drs. arrives and tells us that her femur broke straight across. Not a normal fracture. Dr. then tells us, they can’t fix it there. She needs to go to Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital, where they know more about these things. Next thing we know, she is being helicoptered to Cook County hospital and from there transferred to Rush. I have to get myself downtown pronto. I find her room and she is crying in extreme pain. I ask the nurses when is she going in for surgery and they tell me not until the 26th. Remember, it is late Christmas Eve. She has to lay in bed with a broken leg for almost 2 days.

To summarize the next 3 years, she goes through 4 surgeries that never actually got any results until the final, 5th surgery, done by a doctor that was asked to take a look and  see if he could help. This guy was something amazing. You could see and feel the respect he got from everyone around. He tells us, matter of factly, “that bone will never heal. I know how to fix it.” Talk about confidence! We actually felt hopeful! The lower part of her femur is dead from the radiation treatment years ago. Final surgery was a success; remove and replace dead bone with a total knee replacement and some extra metal. By 2006-07, she is walking again, but carefully, with a cane, that she eventually no longer needs. Things continue to improve and she is dancing with me at the Elks Lodge and an occasional wedding. Soon, she barely has a limp.

All is well and good. Life is normal again.

Until January 1st, 2016.

END part (1)