Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Your Healing Thoughts

Writers are taught to show, not tell.

If you've been following my blog (all two of you) since its birth, you are aware of my mother's amazing journey with ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed with badbadbad Stage IV disease in May, 2006 and is miraculously still alive. We found out today she's been approved to be Patient One in a groovy clinical trial.

But then.

But then her doctor noticed she was listening with one eye closed. Mother's explanation? Her "glasses must be messed up or something," because she's been seeing double for a week out of her right eye.

So off we dashed for an MRI of her brain; we will know the results tomorrow when we go for a spinal tap.

I've known the word "metastasis" would enter our vocabulary eventually. I hope it will not be tomorrow.

No words, at least none I can wrangle, can do justice to the destruction of this disease. I clicked on an "event" in iPhoto yesterday and saw it like some perverse makeover ad. 

I simply cannot tell you. 

So I will show you.

My mother (age 82) and daughter (age 3) in October, 2003:

My mother (age 87) and daughter (age 8) in December 2008:

I'll let you know how it goes.

Update 12/31: Mother's doctor confirmed metastasis to the brain this morning, and ordered radiation treatments that began this afternoon. Thanks to all who have responded by email, phone, facebook, and in person.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It's happened, the big birthday.

I am now fifty years old. 

I wish I could say that today was full of joy, but the universe chose to remind me of impermanence and physicality. And that is as it should be, no?

The planned celebration, pared back this year to a few close friends, was cancelled as The Man, Small Child, and I are all suffering from various layers of an infectious parfait. We've been unusually healthy lately, but all running at hyperspeed.

And now, we're forced to rest.

When things do not turn out as you plan, try to find the real plan. The one that time reveals.

It's there, underneath your worries, complaints, aches, impatience. 

I haven't quite found it yet.

I suspect it will turn up when I stop looking.

Thanks to all of you who sent greetings and good wishes. Your friendship will mean even more in the next half-century.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Dreams

I adore winter.

Those who live elsewhere think it never gets cold in Texas. It certainly doesn’t seem to get as cold as it did during my childhood, when we enjoyed at least one snow day each school year and our parents suffered multiple bouts of black ice. Now our snows are freaky…like the
March week this spring when we had six inches one day and nine two days later, with a 60 degree day in between that cleared the yard completely.

The climate has definitely changed in my lifetime.

But winter still arrives acutely in these parts. As I always remind some shivering transplant, our only defenses against the frigid Canadian cold fronts are barbed wire fences.

Everyone has a story. My friends C & L “fondly” remember a west Texas high school football game where balloons were released during a balmy halftime show, floated gently northward on a light southern breeze, and blustered back during fourth quarter on a fierce north wind that dropped the temperature 40 degrees.

My special memory? The year before I married, our town endured ten days with high temperatures below ten degrees. The Man had renovated a turn-of-the-century farmhouse. Our Christmas tree stood against the north wall, and the water froze in the stand. We went out twice a day with an axe to chop holes in the tanks so the cattle could get to water; the ice was four inches thick at the edges. The night skies were crystalline. I’m not sure any subsequent Christmas has ever measured up in terms of natural magic.

This year we’ve been weather waiting. Waiting for rain. And waiting for winter. And I’ve been waiting: for understanding, enlightenment, calm, clarity, direction.

Our first  “
norther” blew through this week. While the slight promise of snow flurries did not prove true, the wind chill did drop into the teens and the koi pond was encased in a thin film of ice. I was caught off guard by it. I’d left the house in a t-shirt and yoga pants, but somehow never made it to the Y, instead whiling the day away with coffee and a book at Starbucks. I stepped outside at 2 p.m. into a different world: gray, gusty, and 35 degrees toward winter.

I was early to pick up Small Child that afternoon. First in line, I turned off the engine and listened to the roar and whistle. And as I watched the wind, as I could almost see its linearity – north to south – in the motion of tree limbs, I felt my need for winter stir deep inside me, particularly sharp as my fiftieth birthday approaches.

I want to stand, vulnerable and exposed, facing the north.

I want the wind, harsh and unforgiving, to rip the unnecessary, the obsolete, the dead weight from my soul and my life just as it tears the last remaining leaves from the trees.

I want to know my basic architecture, my trunk and my branches, from the roots to the tiniest twigs, with nothing to interfere.

I want, when the wind dies down, to gleam under the crystal stars of the winter sky.

I want the snow to come.

I want to rest under its blanket, to store up energy.

I want to dream of what is to come, of the next chapter, of the new growth that lies ahead.

I want the peace of  winter solstice.

May it come to me and to you, my friends.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Good Place to Remember Leslie Marenchin*...

The vast majority of good times I shared with my friend Leslie were spent as part of a triumvirate of mirth. The third leg of the stool (heh...heh....I just typed stool, with all its scatological connotations...that one's for you, P.J.), the inestimable
Freebird, has created a blog in Leslie's honor.

Friends, students, and others who wish to leave comments or read what others have written will find the blog at:

If you don't like the comment posting process, you may also send comments directly to Freebird at keithjon@hotmail.com and he will post them for you If you prefer to leave a comment here, I will send them on so Leslie's family will have a central site to visit.

Thanks again to all of you who have expressed your sympathies to me in words spoken and written. 

A memorial service is tentatively scheduled in the chapel on the University of Houston campus at 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 7.

*or, as Leslie might have said, "A Clean, Well Lighted Fart."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Be Careful Out There

I received word this morning that a friend from my graduate school days died over the weekend. I have many, many memories of Leslie, bookended by a spur-of-the-moment Who concert in early 80s Houston and a reunion of our cocktail-consuming-trio on an Oregon beach in 2003. 

The one constant in all these years? Laughter.