The Coronavirus Curveball

We are two weeks into Dad’s treatment for cardiac sarcoma, and now the rehab center, where he lives full time, is on lockdown.

Before today, we’ve been able to spend as much time with Dad as we wanted to at the rehab center. In fact, Mom spent most of February sleeping in his room at night so he wouldn’t be alone.

Now, and for good reason, the facility isn’t letting in any visitors, and all employees must get a fever check prior to coming inside.

Today I visited Dad one last time (outside the facility) and reassured him that we’d still have time together during his weekday treatments. Truth be told, I was put off by the idea of DAILY radiation two weeks ago, and now I’m grateful. See how quickly everything can change?

The disconnection we’re all feeling is palpable. Mom and Dad want to be together, and Becky and I want to be there to help them, but we’re all separated by miles, and the coronavirus has thrown us a curveball.

Yet, in an attempt to remain grateful for every possible blessing, I’m reflecting on our ability to be with him during treatment, to help him re-learn to walk when we’re together, and to share stories from years past (nostalgia has always been my favorite drug).

We are still laughing and smiling as much as possible (sometimes too loudly, as seen in this photo – Mom was trying her best to hold it in). 🙂

We have no idea how long the lockdown will be in place. The administrators probably don’t know either. No one knows anything, so we’re all doing what feels best and right. I want to stay well so I can sit with Dad during chemotherapy, so I can be his taxi after radiation, so I can keep doing whatever I need to do to help my mom. If that means shutting the world down for three weeks, then that’s fine with me.

As for Dad, he’s is determined and steadfast. “Just tell me what to do,” he keeps saying. I love it. I see myself in him so frequently these days. Stubborn yet self-critical. If they told him to climb Mount LeConte, he’d grab his walker and give it a go.

And we’d be right there cheering him on.

On the Eve of Chemotherapy and Super Tuesday

Those two things, in theory, should be unrelated, but sometimes things fall together on a calendar for a reason.

For what it’s worth, I have no idea why or how my father’s first chemotherapy appointment and the primary election in Tennessee have aligned this way, but here we are.

It’s been a little more than a month since my parents returned to Tennessee from their two-month stint in California. Dad has made tremendous progress in these last few weeks. His goal is to walk independently (with a walker), and he’s as stubborn as ever, God love him. I spent Sunday afternoon with Mom and Dad at the rehab center, and his resolve is solid. Up and down, left and right, he was practicing. He wants so badly to go home. We all want that.

For now, though, he needs to stay put since he’s in the best possible place. We have no idea what chemotherapy and radiation will do to the tumor or his body. We don’t know what side effects he’ll have, how tired he’ll feel, or whether or not this treatment will have any impact at all. We don’t even have statistics to rely on. That’s how rare this cancer is.

But I digress. We will do what we’ve always done as a family – keep moving forward and laugh as much as possible.

As far as Super Tuesday is concerned, I’ll slip in to vote tomorrow on my way back from the hospital, and then I’ll stay up tomorrow night to watch the returns. It’s been a wild election year already, but I’m feeling the way I always feel – the people I vote for don’t get elected. That’s what it means to be politically homeless.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings for us as a family or us as a country, but faith is good for times like these. I may not know what’s going to happen, but I’m not worried in a philosophical or theological way. Life goes on. The sun sets, and then it comes up again the next morning. God is faithful. He’s near. And, we have each other. These are the things that truly matter.

The rest, I guess, is left to the wind.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Another special occasion has come around and we’ve still managed to keep our immediate family spread between three states and our extended family spread between six (or seven, or eight? I can’t keep track…). Anyway, regardless of distance, I’m thinking of you this weekend, Dad. I wish I could bake you a cake and join you for dinner and hang out for a movie like usual.

Instead, I’ll post this picture and send my well wishes from a distance. We love you very much.

Why I Wear an Army Hoodie

I’m not sure exactly when I stole it. It could’ve been before I left for college in 1996, or when I moved back home from college in 2000 before getting married. It might have been long before any of that. I really don’t remember. All I know is that this is my father’s Army hoodie from his two decades of service and I wear it just about every day.

It’s extremely attractive. Just ask Chuck.

Almost every time I put it on or get a glimpse of those big, black block letters in the mirror, I think of my dad. He and I have always had a really good relationship. (Minus that summer before my junior year of high school. I don’t know what I was thinking.)  When I was little, I’d follow him around always seeking a hug or praise, anything that reflected his approval and affection. It was with him that I’d watch old “Star Trek” episodes or hours (upon hours) of golf. I started gardening with him when I was in middle school and we carpooled to school together throughout high school. I’d tag along on errands or help him in the yard, but it was only  just to be with him.

As I got older and began to read him a little better, I noticed many of my own personality traits were similar to his.  We are known for our occasional impatience, our sometimes coarse humor and our affinity for black and white movies. Since living apart there’ve been many times when Dad and I have sat in the living room together saying very little, and in the end we each consider it a “good visit.”

Something else I stole have of my father’s is his high school class ring. I think I’ve had this since the early 90s when we lived in Atlanta, but it truly could’ve been before then too. It’s been in my jewelry box a long time.

Today is my dad’s 59th birthday and even though I live on the eastern side of the Mississippi River now, we’re still a good 11 hours away from each other. So this is a long-distance birthday wish for you, Dad: May this year bring you closer to home, may it bring you contentment in life, and may it bless you with more laughter than your body can take.

I love you, Dad! See you soon.