I’m not sure where March and most of April went, but I’m okay with that (and if you locate those months, no need to return them!). Yesterday Annette completed her third round of chemotherapy. It isn’t actually the third round, as the doctor’s laughed at me and explained, but I’ve seen her sit in the chair three times, so I’m calling it three. I don’t care what the doctors say.
I am thrilled to report that Annette is doing remarkably well. She’s still somehow got a gorgeous head of hair, but when it goes, we'll chalk that up to the medicine doing its job. She gets out for walks each day through the neighborhood. And she’s keeping me on my toes with house projects, and the kids busy with schoolwork and art projects. (Atticus spent hours and several cans of spray paint, working on a yard installation). Her treatments are every other week, and on the Wednesday before I deliver the kids to my sister Jess’s house in Palmer. They’ve grown tired of their boring parents by that point and are thrilled to spend the time with their cousins. The wheels of our truck have barely stopped rolling in my sister’s driveway before the kids are out and running off into the woods. This situation between cancer and covid hasn’t really phased them. They miss their friends at school, and my son misses his teacher, but otherwise they are thriving.
As we passed through Anchorage this Wednesday my daughter, four, quizzed Atticus and I on the things we were missing during this pandemic.
“Do you guys miss Taco King or Happy Meals?” (We all agreed on missing Taco King.)
“Atticus, do you miss Dominic or Daisy?” (Atticus missed Dominic. Saoirse missed Daisy.)
“Dad, do you miss your friend Joe or his cats?” (I missed Joe. Saoirse missed his cats.)
There are those things we miss, but that sacrifice seems so small in the face of the loss so many others are feeling around the globe right now. And we’re so fortunate. The outpouring of gifts, and messages, and food, has buoyed and sustained us beyond anything I could have ever imagined, or asked for. We’re at a loss for how to express our gratitude, and then extra confounded when we can’t. How do you give thanks for boxes delivered with no name or receipt? How to express thanks for priceless seal skin slippers? Or emails from old friends or your freshman advisor in college? It’s crazy, and humbling – and such a powerful reminder of the importance of friends and family and surrounding yourself with good souls. We are so fortunate.
Annette says when this is all over, she’s having a big party. With a band. Perhaps Don’s Party Band? (Don’s Party Band consists of a group of my friends who played at my 40th birthday party, and subsequent book parties and a buddy’s wedding. No actual Dons are in the band).
I suspect there are many things that Annette will be doing “when this is all over.” Earlier today she mentioned something about land in Hawaii. And then on this evening’s walk, when we passed an old 63’ Ford, she said, “When this is over, I might have to get that old truck I always wanted.”
Until this is over, I’ll keep sharing news here when I can, and hopefully a few more of Annette’s poems. Here is the second one since her diagnosis --- this one about her morning ritual before we head into her chemotherapy treatments.
Enjoy – I sure did. And, thank you.
I have always been into rituals
perhaps from the hours spent in Catholic mass
kneel, sit, stand, repeat
superstitions carried out before past events
no washing hair during exam week
same socks, shorts, sports bra -- before a race
these days are no different
set an early alarm
only the dogs and I up
ingest two eggs with half an avocado, moose bacon, toast
sometimes forced; nerves
drink 40 ounces of water
1 cup coffee with frothed milk.
dress in gifts
homemade socks by Maria
seal slippers from Shishmaref
beaded rose earrings—a treasure from my son.
1 copper crafted by a Tlingit artist —right wrist
1 silver bangle inscribed: “wake up, kick ass, repeat” — left wrist
in my pocket — the ju ju
smokey quartz crystal, my father’s rosary, a silver Lion’s head
black tank top, black tights
blue hooded sweatshirt
race day chemo wear
complete with side chest zipper
easy port access for nurse
now we walk, two dogs — me
the same quarter mile mountain loop
down the steep slope, then flat
up the hill home.
on cue the two arrive
dropping good fortune on our heads
with a tip of their jet black wings
“Good morning Raven,” I say.
The ritual, now complete.