Pie Suppers and Other Fundraisers……..

I have been to many types of fundraisers throughout my almost 70 years.  When I was a little kid Pie Suppers were popular, if you don’t know about Pie Suppers ask an old person with a rural or small-town background.  When the girls were growing up we did lots of carnivals, raffles, auctions etc., I helped with a lot of those and on a few occasions I was one of the “go to” guys.  The proceeds always went to a worthy cause, usually class trips, or athletic equipment or just to provide things the schools couldn’t afford.

Recently I attended my first, but if God cooperates it will not be my last Relay for Life.  To say I was impressed is an understatement, amazed is more descriptive but I really think I was more than amazed.  The outpouring of generosity and support exceeded all expectations and it appeared to all be from the heart, I didn’t get the feeling anyone was there because they had to be.

I saw a clown with a bucket, I put some money in his bucket, or you could have a burger, popcorn or some cotton candy.  I visited with an old guy who paid to color his hair; it was purple; I don’t have enough hair to do that. All the proceeds went to increase the chance of survival or Life vs. Death over this thing called cancer; kind of makes the class trips or baseball uniforms seem insignificant.

Those responsible for putting it together and making it happen are to be commended, and I extend a personal Thank You.

I wasn’t obligated to go, I didn’t go expecting to have fun. I just, for whatever reason felt I needed to attend, my only contribution other than increasing attendance by one was a monetary donation I was comfortable with; this was in addition to what I put in the clown’s bucket.  I laughed a little, cried a little; I enjoyed visiting some old friends and I think I made a few new friends.

Sharyl was a volunteer for a number of years prior to her illness; it never entered her mind that she would be a victim of cancer and would not be among those walking the “Survivors Lap”.  My emotions hit both sides of the band during the survivors lap; so happy for the large group who have won or are still ahead in the fight.  I wouldn’t have wanted Sharyl to replace anyone in the group but it would be wonderful if she could have joined them. We never heard the words remission or cancer free, we were thrilled to hear stable on two or three occasions.

I mentioned Sharyl always volunteered, I didn’t. It shouldn’t be this way but it appeared the female volunteers outnumbered the males by probably 4 or 5 to 1.  Among the things I have learned a little about these past three years are compassion, kindness, and helping others; this should not be a gender thing. I’m going to try and do a little better.

The long-term goal is to no longer have a need for Relay for Life because Cancer is just something mentioned in history books along with Polio, Smallpox and some others.  The short-term goal is to increase the ratio of survivors to victims, or more “in honor of” donations and fewer “in memory of” donations. If we can change that ratio ever so slightly the effort is a success.

I think the very active evening, the complete focus on cancer caused me to relive or at least reflect on the last 3 ½ years.  I probably shouldn’t but I will share some of those thoughts.

Beginning with Sharyl’s diagnosis in’08 I have done a lot of research on cancer.  Some of what I have read is fact a lot of it is opinion or theory.  One of the things I have heard and read continually is the importance of a competitive spirit and a positive attitude; I am in total agreement, however some will lead you to believe if you have these characteristics you are probably going to beat this thing, because it worked for them.  This obviously is opinion and not medical fact.

I knew Sharyl for almost 50 years and served as her primary caregiver during her battle with (adenocarcinoma) lung cancer.  If you open the dictionary to competitive spirit you very well might see her picture.  She “laced them up” and came to play hard every day. It made no difference if it were a softball game, monopoly on the dining room table, a wildcat business deal or the fight to see another sunrise; she was going to do everything in her power to win; it was hard for her to intentionally let one of the grandkids beat her at checkers.  If you knew her personally I don’t need to elaborate on her positive attitude.  Within two weeks of her death she continued to believe she just might have one win left.

How many of you guys have gone to bed at night and asked god to please let your wife have breast cancer; I have. When we knew it was cancer but didn’t know where it originated the Dr. told me “if we’re lucky it started in the breast because there are some things we can do”.  I’m in no way trying to downplay the seriousness of breast cancer. It is just a documented fact the survival rate is much higher than with the kind of cancer Sharyl had.

The competitive spirit and positive attitude make the trip a little easier and may extend the journey but sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. I sometimes think it is more difficult to watch a highly competitive, sore loser get beat especially if the fight is for their life.

I definitely still need and appreciate your prayers and I will try to get back to something a little more lighthearted next time.

Dave

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Leave it in Hughes County……….

About 20 or 25 years ago Sharyl and I stretched (wrecked is probably more accurate) our budget, and bought a second hand mobile home and rented it a place to sit at the lake.  We thought it would be fun to once again enjoy being on the water. We did enjoy being back on the water, in fact we enjoyed it to the extent we have wrecked the budget a few more times and upgraded our “lake place”.  It is nothing fancy, if you know us I probably didn’t need to say that.  We now have a double wide (yes it was used) on a pretty nice waterfront lot.  Please forgive the reference to “we’ I just can’t get the keyboard to say “my” or mine; it will always be our lake place.

We quickly realized that being on the water; skiing, fishing, or just boat riding was secondary to just being here; yes I’m doing this from “our” lake place.  It is about a two-hour drive from home, our normal route is through Hughes County; we don’t get near the county seat.  The route is through Wetumka and Dustin.  Wetumka has a pretty good Dairy Queen; Sharyl always had a vanilla shake with one squirt of chocolate I had whatever sounded good at the time.  Dustin, well “we” never stopped in Dustin, when she wasn’t with me and I was a little sleepy it was a pretty good place to get a Red Bull and some peanuts to keep me awake, but I didn’t tell Sharyl because she didn’t think those things were good for me.  I think my girls share their mom’s opinion.

I didn’t mention Hughes County to talk about Dairy Queen and Red Bull.  On the way here as we passed through Hughes County, we would leave things like house payments, insurance premiums, tuition and books, mammograms, high blood pressure, next weeks business trip, the pile of unsigned leases, her mother’s illness, my mother’s illness income tax, prostate exams, last week’s business trip and even just a little bit of the physical and emotional hurt from the cancer.  Those things would be strung along highway 9 through Hughes County; of course we had to pick them up on the way back home, after all they were our responsibility, but being up there on the shoulder of the road we didn’t need to think about them while we were here.

If you knew Sharyl you know that relax wasn’t one of the things she did often nor well, however with all those trouble items up there beside the road she could actually relax and do nothing for extended periods here at the lake.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time here; if it were just the two of us, our entire family, just a couple of the grand kids, or some of our friends, it really made no difference.  The weather didn’t affect the good times much; some of the good days were when we just sat on the porch and watched it rain.  Fishing was fun anytime; catching fish just an added bonus.

Sharyl still skied occasionally until about 10 or 12 years ago; her skills didn’t decline (a few of you know the lady could ride a ski) I think she just got bored or didn’t like to ski by herself and the girls wouldn’t ski if their mom was on the same lake.

We were often asked if we planned to live here fulltime some day.  The answer; a quick and emphatic no, if we lived here we couldn’t leave that stuff beside the road up in Hughes County.

I hope I can learn to litter the Hughes County roadways with some of the things that trouble me today, I believe I will get there, I had some extended periods this time when I only thought about today’s lake stuff.  I think that is progress.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Viewer Discretion Advised……

I wrote this late last night assuming it would go to the Recycle Bin.  I read it again today and decided to share it with you.  The words are off the top of my head; the thoughts from the bottom of my heart. 

I love you babe and I miss you.  They say it gets easier; I guess it is, a little bit.

Every day since November 20, 2008 I hear the Dr., in a very compassionate voice say “There is some cancer”.  The good days I only hear it a few times; some days I hear it almost continually. Today was one of those.

As your illness progressed I told you on more than one occasion I would trade places with you if it were possible.  I know that sounds a little phony because we all know that wasn’t an option, but I really believe I would have. Your lust for life was always greater than mine; I had slipped into the twilight years and was doing the things old retired guys do.  You were still “on top of your game” enjoying a very successful career, and doing the things you always did in your spare time.

I always just took for granted that you would be here when I was gone.  You ate the right things, exercised, got regular medical checkups; I did none of those things.  I smoked for 25 years, dipped for about 10 and part of my career was in a less than desirable environment; the only bad habit you ever had was me.

I used to worry a little about you living alone, and because I have always been the do it yourself type, I was afraid you would be reluctant to hire someone to do the things that were beyond your capability.  I saw you as this spry little 85 year old scurrying off to church or a ballgame and probably to the office at least a couple days a week.

I have spent a lot of time trying to make it OK that it played out differently than I envisioned.  I have found a few positives.

Retirement was never in your vocabulary and it wasn’t necessary to add it. You didn’t have to spend those boring days at home when you weren’t really sick but you had some of the typical age related issues that prevented you from going and doing what you wanted. The way you approached life that would have been difficult.

You suffered much more than anyone should for three years but with the exception of a total of less than 15 nights in the hospital you were at home, constantly surrounded by those who loved you.  It wasn’t necessary for you to go to an extended care facility, however having me as your primary caregiver, some days an extended care facility may have looked pretty good.

You didn’t have to suffer the loss of a grandchild, I have never hurt that bad.  We could have helped each other through it, but with your illness I am so thankful it wasn’t necessary for you to experience that kind of pain. I guess in time some of that pain will also subside.  I think you would have shared this opinion, the most painful thing about that loss is watching one of our children hurt that bad and know I can’t fix it, the only thing I can do is “be there”.  I love you Con man and I miss you every day.

The positives don’t come close to offsetting the negatives, but we must look for the little things.  I would love to have spent a few more years with you here, we certainly had unfinished plans. I really believe there is a place called heaven and I look forward to continuing the relationship there.

As I said at the top, I love you babe and I miss you.

Dave

Taxes etc……….

It is almost April 15th and here in the good ole USA that means income tax deadline is upon us.  I don’t know how it is at your house but doing taxes was never a team thing at ours, we did a lot of things well together, taxes was not one of them. I did them for the first 15 or so years, and then as Sharyl’s self-employment complicated things she took over. Not because I was incapable of handling complicated but her input was necessary and for me to remain involved would have required teamwork; so for the last 25 or so years she did them.

On or about April 15 each year she would tell me to “sign here” and I would do so.  Even the last three years she continued to prepare our package for the CPA; during that time I was involved but just as a go-getter; you know, “go get me the checkbook” or go “get me that manila folder out of the second drawer”.  I had absolutely no input and didn’t dare ask questions. She always took the CPA a very neat package with X’s in the right blocks and all documents in order.  I sure hope he can figure out what I presented him with this year. I apologized and promised to do better next year.

Housecleaning is another event that although it should have been, was really never a team effort at our house. Sharyl didn’t work outside the home during the first few years of our marriage and we kind of fell into a routine of her doing it; after she went to work I think she just didn’t feel it was worth the effort to get me to do my part to her specifications. I did help a little but I certainly didn’t do my fair share.

The past 3-½ years housecleaning has been my responsibility.  Although I failed miserably I tried to do it exactly the way she would have if she were not sick.  We have a combination of hardwood and carpet for floor covering. There is a small corner between the bedroom and the living room on the hardwood part that I fully believe I could clean hourly and there would still be a little dust there.  Sharyl looked at that corner every time she passed by, she never said anything because she knew I was trying but I could tell how well she thought I was doing by the degree of disgust in her expression.

One problem I have always had is a little hard to talk about; I’m not really afraid of vacuum cleaners but there is something about the things that make me extremely nervous.  Sharyl and I never discussed this, although she probably wondered why I always left the room and most of the time left the house when she ran the sweeper.  At one point during Sharyl’s illness I had a complete come-apart when her sister decided to vacuum the house kind of late one night.  I apologized that night and probably should do so again.  The problem isn’t as bad when I am running the sweeper but the things still make me nervous.

I do an adequate job with the kitchen and laundry, and I am in the process of establishing a new set of standards for the floors, dusting and some of the other little things.

The bathrooms probably deserve a blog entry of their own.

I do have one laundry or housecleaning issue that I have been struggling with.  If you would like to provide your input, feel free to do so.  Do I continue to wash the sheets weekly or is it ok to alternate sides of the bed I sleep on and just do the sheets every other week?

I went to the Dr. this week; just a routine blood pressure follow-up. I checked it before I went; it was 160/84, not real good but for me not too bad.  I was expecting the typical “get more exercise and lose some weight” speech.  The nurse checked it and got 110/80 I think my numbers were closer than hers but I was happy to take theirs and I didn’t have to listen to the speech.  While I was there I mentioned that it had been more than three years since I had slept more than 5 or 6 hours in a 24-hour period and that with my present lifestyle I was comfortable using something to help me sleep.  He recommended an over the counter product called Melatonin; I have slept 7 or 8 hours a night all week and I feel better physically than I have in a long time.

Please donate to Relay for Life or your favorite cancer research organization.

Please continue to remember our family in prayer.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Holidays and Empty Chairs……….

Traditional observation or celebration of holidays varies tremendously from family to family.  I don’t think anyone knows they are starting a tradition it just happens or evolves.

There are three that our family always comes to our house and about the only real questions are; what time and do I bring the usual?  Easter is one of those; the other two are Thanksgiving and Christmas. We enjoy and observe the other holidays, but the way we celebrate them varies from year to year and on most years because of our varied interest we aren’t all together.

I can’t remember the last time we were not at our house on Easter eating baked ham and the normal trimmings followed by a session of egg coloring and hunting.  I think it was a goal of my girls and then of the grandkids to get big enough to help hide the eggs instead of hunting them.

Today we observed the first one of those since we lost Sharyl and Conner.  There really was no discussion of if we would or what the menu would consist of. The girls and I teamed up and fixed baked ham and the normal trimmings.  The food was very good, even the stuff I fixed.  No one said anything but we were all very aware two chairs were missing.  There were probably a few more hugs and at times the napkin would be used to wipe a tear instead of the mouth.

After lunch we moved to the patio and backyard for a round of egg coloring and other activities.  We didn’t have an egg hunt; I think Luke is now big enough to hide them, but if he hid them we don’t have anyone to hunt them.  Maybe some great grandkids in a few years and we can resume the egg hunts.

Throughout the day we managed to smile a lot and laugh a little, as I said earlier we probably hugged more, and that was because we needed to instead of just to be nice.  I think we all slipped away from time to time for a private moment and to regain some composure; I know I did.  The important thing; the tradition continues.

After my guests had gone home I went to spend a little time with Sharyl and Conner. Conner I hope you were OK with Buddy Holly singing in the background while I was there.  I know that is not your kind of music but your Maw Maw and I enjoyed that beginning many years ago when two chairs would seat the entire family.

They say the first one is the toughest and that it will get easier.  I have no who is included in “they” but I hope to god they are right. Today has been very difficult.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

I almost forgot. A pic of most of the group.

New Pictures……

I replaced the “generic” WordPress pics with some of mine, thanks for the help Lori.

The shot on the left was taken at a small lake somewhere in the Rocky Mountains off the beaten path in the Rio Grande National Forest near South Fork Colorado. I don’t remember the year; I think it was ’93 or ’94. We thoroughly enjoyed the few days we spent there, and always planned to go back.

I took the middle picture in the early 80s while I was on a business trip; you get lucky and go somewhere pleasant once in a while.  The location is in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains on state route 116 near Conway, Massachusetts.  Sharyl and I planned to take a trip to that part of the country, in fact we decided in ’08 to wait until next year.  Let me give you a little advice; don’t wait.

The one on the right was taken from the front yard of the place we have called home since ’05. It’s pretty obvious it was in the fall; probably ’06 or ’07.

Are you beginning to understand why I call it Random Thoughts?

I probably won’t do this again for a while so enjoy the Easter Holiday; remember the reason we celebrate. I can still use your prayers and please consider a donation to Relay For Life or the cancer research organization of your choice.

Dave

I Can Hear You Now…………

The list of observations and adjustments continues to grow as I transition to a one-person household. As I share with you I will try to keep it lighthearted and limit venturing to the emotional side; not only is that difficult to put in words it is also very personal, and yes every day is still an emotional struggle.

About two years ago, because of Sharyl’s insistence (a couple other words came to mind first but we’ll go with insistence) I purchased some hearing aids.  As usual she was right, I should have gotten them ten years ago.  I won’t go into detail just believe me life was a lot more pleasant with the new hearing devices.

If there is nothing to hear you really don’t need hearing aids, I’m not much of a daytime TV watcher so after Sharyl’s death and I was home alone, some mornings I wouldn’t remember to put them in. About the first time I ventured out was a trip to Seminole to have lunch with Sharyl’s co-workers. I left a little early so I had time to turn around at Tecumseh and come home and get my other set of ears. Even though there is nothing to hear I now remember to put the things in every morning.

Sharyl and I have always taken pride in the appearance of our home.  Most of the time it wasn’t “yard of the week” nice but it might have placed on any given week. The last three years we had other things higher on the priority list; the yard didn’t look bad but it didn’t look like our place.

During one of our many conversations after it became pretty evident that she wasn’t going to beat the cancer thing I told her that in a reasonable amount of time I would get the yard (about 2 acres) back to her specifications.  I sure wish I had had the foresight to find a diplomatic way to exclude the flowerbeds.

Throughout the years my help with the flowerbeds was limited to initial construction, some springtime tilling, you know “power tool” type stuff and maybe carrying some bags of mulch and dumping them where she told me. I never helped with the planting and routine maintenance and can’t tell a periwinkle from a petunia. I don’t have what it takes to enjoy pulling individual weeds by hand.

One of those emotional moments I said I would stay away from: last year Lori, Steve and all three of their kids came out and did the front flower bed, Sharyl felt like sitting on the porch and giving her support along with a little instruction.  It is one of those lasting memories I will cherish.

We have five of those flowerbeds; I think Sharyl was planning for her retirement. With the spring rains to say they needed attention is an understatement. Monday I knew I had to do something, Sharyl would have been very proud of me for weeding them however, I don’t think she would have approved of me using the biggest gas powered weed eater I own to do the job.  At one point I actually looked over my shoulder and shed a tear, just at the thought she might be watching, veering toward the emotional side again.

I think I’m going to eliminate two of the beds and see if Monkey Grass will grow in the other three; I’ve heard it will choke out the weeds.

Please keep me in your prayers and consider making a donation to “Relay for Life” or the cancer research organization of your choice.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

What Can I Do With the Lemon???

Luke (my youngest grandkid) and I were at a Mexican restaurant for dinner. The waiter brought our drinks, Luke had a Sprite and I had ordered water but I got water with lemon.  Sharyl and I usually ordered water with lemon, I don’t like lemon with my water and Sharyl liked more than the one small slice so I gave her my lemon. I was caught off guard, it would do nothing for the taste of Luke’s Sprite, and I didn’t know what to do with the slice of lemon.

I know it is a silly little problem; I am just using it as an example of the kinds of unexpected little things I have encountered as I continue the transition from we to me.  The restaurant was a favorite place for Sharyl and I to take Luke and I knew it could be emotional because the two of us had never been there without “Maw Maw”, but we like to eat there; and the rest of the family are not big fans.  We enjoyed the meal, Luke didn’t know about the lemon and we plan to do it again.

It has been just over two months since we lost Sharyl and just over a month since I last posted to “Mom Life Cancer”.  I feel a need to resume “blogging”; this time it will be different.  The content will be random; imagine that coming from me, and there will be no schedule, maybe every day and maybe monthly.  The other blog was started with you in mind, to let you know how Sharyl was doing. This one will be for me, I need the release; I hope I can do it in a way that you can enjoy reading it.

Since we last talked our life has been flooded with additional heartache.  Forty days after Sharyl’s death Conner’s life came to a tragic and sudden end on March 2nd. At some point I’m sure I will share more of my inner feelings relating to both losses and my “take” on how they have affected our family.  Today all I will say is I have never hurt like I did following Conner’s death, it caused me to question a lot of things and search for a reason to continue.  That reason was pretty simple, I have a baby (yeah I know she is forty something) and other family members that need all the support I can muster. For a while I had to remind myself to “breath in, breath out, repeat” and to “place one foot in front of the other, repeat”.  We are functioning; some days are better than others. None of them are good yet, but maybe some good ones lie ahead.

Oh yeah almost forgot; I just left the lemon slice on the rim of the glass; the busboy probably tossed it in the trash.

Yes I still need and appreciate your prayers.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave