Archive for June, 2009

Father’s Day

My sweet dad has cancer.

A horrible cancer, aggressive and disfiguring.

That’s kind of a graceless way to tell you all this, and I’m sorry. I have been trying to wrap my mind and heart around this reality for several weeks now. Mom and Dad don’t have a computer so they won’t be reading this– my sister occasionally prints a few posts out and brings them over, but obviously, not this one. I am hyper-sensitive to their right to privacy, but this situation is not a secret and I am weary of trying to ‘write around it.’ It has been the elephant in the virtual room every time I sit down to write this blog, wracking my brain to come up with something light, or funny or interesting. It follows me around, tapping me on the shoulder and reminding me of its reality whenever I start trying to make plans for my summer, or the week ahead, or the next… hour.

I’m really not trying to be all dramatic or create a ‘moment’ here. I mean, Daddy is 93 years old. He has had two heart attacks and stent surgery. The fact that he is mortal and won’t be with us for much longer is not a startling new concept to me. But the method of his passing, the actual cause of his death is not anything I have let myself spend a lot of time thinking about, except for an inward, involuntary “Oh dear God, NO!” reaction whenever I would hear a horror story about the agonizing, lingering death of someone’s friend or uncle or whatever. I guess I thought/hoped/prayed that maybe his heart would just continue to slow down until one morning, he simply wouldn’t wake up. Peacefully in his sleep. You know, the way every one of us wants to go.

And of course, this could still happen. But what looms large on the horizon is this diagnosis, this unthinkable diagnosis that puts a very different face on what we all want the end of Daddy’s life to look like. He and Mom are facing the news with their usual dignity and faith, but they are frightened, I can hear it in their voices when I call them. They are also more than a little confused with all of the medical jargon and the various specialists talking about possible options (very very few) and courses of treatment (even fewer). They are trying their best to keep life as normal as possible- one of the first things Mom said to me was, “We can’t treat him like he has one foot in the grave!” When I talk to them on the phone, our conversations are very much like they have always been; it isn’t until we are wrapping things up that I allow myself to oh-so-casually ask, “So, Daddy, how are you feeling?” “Fine!”, is his usual answer, which is true, I guess. The symptoms haven’t yet reached the point where they greatly affect his day-to-day, and last week’s MRI showed that the cancer hasn’t yet reached his brain. How much of their attitude is denial, and how much is hope? I have no idea, but you know what? I’m thinking a little denial is not a bad thing under these circumstances. I wish I had some.

My two sisters live in the same town, thank God. It is incredibly hard to be removed from this situation by time and distance, as my brothers Joel and Matt and I are. But I know it is even harder for the ones that are there. My sisters are on the front lines of all of this, they are driving mom and dad to the doctors and taking notes and patiently explaining the medical terms, and showing up with casseroles and encouragement. They are also the ones researching the disease on the internet, stumbling onto horrible pictures and calling me with shaking voices. I ache for them, and for my brother Jonny, who lives about 20 minutes away and comes over to mow the lawn, and work in the garden with Mom and fix things around the house. He is a good son and a good man. But it is Carolyn and Liz that are, and will be, bearing the brunt of the caregiving and my love and respect for them knows no bounds. They are the salt of the earth, my sisters– true Southern women, filled with grace, grit and guts.

Once again, this is where the rubber meets the road as far as faith is concerned. Either I believe all of those things I have been writing and talking about my entire life, or I don’t. Sadly, I have lived too long and seen too much to have the illusion that God is some kind of Celestial Santa Claus, doling out goodies according to our ‘naughty or nice’ list. I know that believing in God does not translate into a Get Out of Life Scot-Free Card. I have seen too many tragedies occur in the lives of faith-filled, innocent people to believe that bad things only happen to bad people. And frankly, I don’t understand that because trust me, in Tori’s World that’s exactly how it would work. Good people would never suffer uncomprehending loss, children would never get sick and die, wars, famine and man’s inhumanity to man would simply not exist, and my parents would effortlessly and painlessly slip into the next world where they would be greeted with a big ol’ angel parade, or something.

But I don’t get to choose what life is going to bring,  just what I will do with it. I do get to choose how I will process my pain, what I will believe and what I will reject. And this much is clear:

I do not believe in a God that dangles healing and protection over our heads like a doggie biscuit, instructing us to jump a little higher, pray a little harder, be a little more perfect and He just might be moved to dole out a miracle or two. Or not. You never know, He’s tricky like that.

That is not my God.

My God is filled with such love for us that we can’t even begin to comprehend its depth and intensity. It is all-encompassing, not remotely dependent on how ‘deserving’ we are, or how closely we follow the rules. He is so much more interested in knowing us than keeping score. He is who He says He is, but He also remembers that we are basically mudpie people, made from dust and subject to being kind of a mess-making species until the day we return to it. He loves us anyway. And at the core of my belief system, my personal Apostle’s Creed if you will, is the unshakable knowledge that whatever shitstorm this life can bring (and it can bring some mighty ones, self-induced or not– sometimes I wonder if He’s ever second-guessed that whole ‘free will’ concept…) my God has promised me that I will not be alone in it. He will never leave me or forsake me, even if I shake my fist at Him in anger and frustration and beg Him to please make this world a little less scary and unpredictable and a little more like my imaginary, trouble-free Tori’s World. Especially for my Dad.

But He won’t leave Daddy alone in this either. I know that. I believe that. I have to.

So if you think of it, please send a prayer (up or out or in) to God this Father’s Day, and please mention Don. God will know who you’re talking about. (See: “eye on the sparrow”, “very hairs of your head are numbered” etc.) Please ask for travel mercies on this, his last journey. Ask for courage for those of us who love him so. And please ask that as we gather in Arkansas to celebrate him, this Father’s Day will be filled with all of the laughter and family and steak-grilling and card games and Homecoming videos and sitting around talking and fun that he can hold; because there’s nothing on this earth he enjoys more.

OH– and chocolates, too. Daddy just loves a good piece of chocolate.

Thanks, you guys.

Miscellaneous Thursday: The wedding was gorgeous! Also? My Facebook account got hacked, what’s that about?

First, the wedding.

Lake Tahoe looks like a dang Disney movie, all blue water and snow-capped mountains and trees as tall as sky scrapers… Also? Big honkin’ blue jays. They’re everywhere, just as noisy as our Southern version and twice as cranky. They are a really beautiful shade of blue, though:

It was a gorgeous setting for a wedding. I have a million pictures, but here’s the deal: they are on my friend Lynne’s camera and I have to go to her house to get the little thing that dumps them into my computer. So, hold that thought, OK? Here’s a Google image photo to whet your appetite:

Now on to the hacking thing.

What the heck?! I’m minding my own business and all of a sudden my inbox is flooded with all of these very concerned emails saying things like, “Uh, Tori, I just got this weird message from you.. WHAT’S GOING ON?” Apparently somebody hacked my account and sent a message out to all of my  Facebook friends from me that said, “Killzself.” Nice, right? I got all huffy and took it personally until about a million people replied to my panicked “That wasn’t me, I swear!!!” email by saying that either the same thing had happened to them, or they knew someone it had happened to– so I got over myself. My nephew Daniel The Computer Genius said that it is like a ‘phishing test’ by spammers trying to see if they can actually get into the account, then apparently they’ll spam the snot out of it. I think it is some kind of terrorist plot that may or may not tie into the Kennedy assassination and possibly the Lindbergh kidnapping. Spammers are scum.

We are rapidly closing in on finalizing the plans for our Big Trip To London, and I am FINALLY starting to get excited. Frankly up to this point it has just seemed kind of like an overwhelming task to plan and coordinate and blah blah blah– which is unusual for me, because hello? I am a travel planning maven. Usually. But I am finally hitting my stride with this one, and when I look at the little pictures of our little flat, and start making airport transfer arrangements, and start trying to even begin to think about packing… Well, it’s starting to feel less like work and more like OMG-we-are-actually-going-to-be-going-to-London-with-the-girls-this-will-be-a-once-in-a-lifetime-trip!!!! Russ and I have been to London several times, but never with kids, so I am going to try my best to find that balance between cramming an entire country into 11 days, and just picking a few can’t-miss sights and leaving plenty of down time for just wandering the city. I am going to call my sister-in-law Kim (oh hai Kimmie!!) and get all kinds of inside info, since she and her family lived there for several years. She will be great at helping me plan our day trips. Stonehenge with the Taff family, can’t you just picture it? It will be the ‘Spinal Tap’ movie come to life! I’m leaving you with a clip that I plan on making the girls memorize so I can quiz them on it later. It is Nigel of ‘Spinal Tap’ finally revealing the secrets of Stonehenge… Enjoy. And don’t ever let anybody tell you that Babybloomr is not a learning experience.

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