Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our journey of joy and grief

Last Wednesday we packed up our van, left our messy home, and travelled over the mountains. Part way we got stopped for construction, then we moved a bit, then we stopped then moved then stopped... then WAITED. We were coming out of our skin with aggravation when ONE HOUR later we were finally rolling again. We stopped at a beautiful teal lake to eat and the boys kept going deeper in until they basically could have gone swimming in the first place. I drove over the highest pass and got terrified for a split second when my headlights made no dent in the darkness that quickly smothered us in the tunnels. It was stressful to negotiate the length of the passing lanes and other traffic on those mountain roads. No consideration did I see.
When we arrived in Kamloops, forest fire smoke nearly blocked the sun and turned it red. The pictures don't do it justice. We eventually found our "campsite" (after calling the poor woman because we left our directions at home on the counter) and set up our tents. It went a lot smoother than I thought so we had time to silently get back in the van to deliver some food from our cooler to the Tow family. We had such trepidation because we did not want to disturb them as we knew they were on watch 24/7 with Jeremy who is dying. We left the boys in the car at first and went to knock softly on the door, but Anita and Lucia were already there opening it for us with warm hugs and whispers. Right away, Sebastian (Donovan's first friend, who is also eight) was out the door asking for the boys. I told him they were in the van across the street and he ran to visit his old friends.
...It 's so sad and strangely beautiful to see close friends under extreme life situations. We stood on the porch as I pulled out individual portions of lasagne in foil boxes and a chocolate "just because" cake with homemade frosting and sprinkles. It was really all we had to give. Then we all laughed hearing how Lucia and others had brought loads of food already that morning and their coffers were full.
Soon the boys made their way around to the backyard to a trampoline and more laughter was spilling. I wondered if it was too loud, but Anita just smiled and shook her head and touched my cheek to drink me in. She was open. I was so glad. There are times when Anita keeps her grief close, but during our visit she generously let us in.
We stayed and visited a while on the back porch while the kids play-play-played. When it was time to go and we herded the boys back in the vehicle as Anita walked me to the front. The inevitable facts came then about Jeremy. We were so ready to know. But it worse than we had imagined in some ways. --The inability to communicate, the frustration on both sides, the deterioration. Good stuff to be told.
We drove back to Amy Baskin's backyard to our tents under the apricot trees and slept under the stars. I rarely slept. Thoughts of Jeremy and the night sounds pierced my consciousness so I awoke after 2-3 hours morning slumber.
Back at the Tows, the boys played in Sebastian's room and outside while we had tea and conversation again with Anita. Then we took Sebastian for a day of play. (His sister Emma was away in camp still.) We went to the river and I swam against the current and wept with the exhilaration and grief into the water. The boys spent hours creating an amazing sand castle that became a mud hot tub. Sebastian was quite the foreman and I mused about his need to lead and invest in a project.
Then we had a picnic followed by more swimming and sand building. It was exactly what Sebastian wanted: "We'll swim for a bit, then sit on a blanket and have a bit of a picnic, then swim some more" had been his request. Before we left Riverside Park the boys played for a good hour on the playground. I got involved too. At first, just to intervene with the mean spirited competition that was creeping in, but then suddenly I was the tickle troll under the bridge and all the young boys of the playground were trying to run past without being nibbled by my fingers. I'll never forget this adorable tiny East Indian boy who squealed so loud with gleeful anticipation anytime I got near him! -So much life.
When it was time to leave, Dave opened the trunk to put things away and a glass bottle of warm grapefruit Fruitazza sprang out and broke into a 1000 pieces. We just stopped. Glass shards as tiny as grains of rice were everywhere. It was such a humbling slow task to get them all up. Both Dave and I got slivers. Again, like the construction the day before, we were suddenly ground to a halt. The shattering kept replaying in my mind as so symbolic of our frustration in releasing our friend from this life and the helplessness we felt in trying to pick up all the pieces. We could never get every one. We stopped three times and then saw more. So trying and sad.
Then we went out to dinner and eventually back to the Tows. We scooped Sebastian away again to see a movie in the boys tent back under Amy's apricot trees. Sebastian loves Star Wars, so Dave splurged and bought the original trilogy on DVD and let our boys be initiated too.
The next day we had Sebastian again all day as Anita was travelling to Maple Ridge to collect Emma and Jeremy's parents were tending to him on their own, so we went out and about. The boys swam at a large pool with lots of diving boards and a 5 meter platform while I went shopping. First to Pier One for some special gifts, then to Super Store for more necessities. Surrounded by endless options, I lost it again. I bought things for Jerry and Leah (Jer's folks needed a new reliable razor for Jeremy's steroid strong beard), a nice sand bucket and shovel for Sebastian, some fun imported foods we don't have in Drum... but then I just had to weep right there in the aisle. There was NOTHING on the shelves I could buy to help Jeremy live. I was so tired and sad I didn't make sure the cashier gave me half off the expensive razor so I had to return the next day after I'd already given it as a gift. (Thankfully, there was another one in the 50% bin to get the bar code.)
Leaving Superstore I made a wrong turn. Well, to get to where I needed to go, I went in the right direction, but not knowing Kamloops well, I ended up in neighborhood after neighborhood trying to travel like a bird toward the NW, but the roads wouldn't let me. Humiliated and frustrated once again in my tired grief state, I went all the way down town and started again the way we came originally. I was craving being in that water so bad. I wanted to have another cathartic cleanse like the day before in the river. Thankfully, the boys and Dave were still enjoying the pool and I was able to get some time in. When I came to jump in Donovan encouraged me to go off the high platform. I didn't flinch... until I got up there. It was like jumping off a bridge. I hadn't even tested the water yet, but here I was about to commit to a huge fall. "I know how to blow out my nose" I thought, "shouldn't be too hard." Down, down, down... and then down I fell before being assaulted by the water. I blew out, but water rushed up even faster and cleaned out my sinuses. Under the water after such a violent entrance my body went into automatic and I clamoured for the surface. I was fine. But I felt throttled. I had to laugh. Who in their right mind enters a pool for the first time from a 5 meter fall?
After the pool we took three water-logged boys to Tim Hortons and then on to visit Anita's mom and Sebastian's grandma, Doris Wittenberg. Doris is 91 and lives in a residential care facility. I was prepared to see a frail, slightly senile woman, but Doris was glowing. Incredibly, she recognized us -- even Dave with his huge hairy ponytail didn't throw her off. She smiled and let Sebastian wheel her like a Nascar driver back to her room so we could give her the donuts and put the flowers in a vase. We chatted a bit, and I saw a picture of Jeremy and the family taken back in April, which was really helpful. It was good to have a picture of him still smiling, but in his weak state.
Doris blew me away. She looked so happy and alert. She was aware of Jeremy's situation and sad for Anita and her family, but later she said. "If I'd known how good is was to get old, I'd've done it sooner!" Doris is truly an inspiration. I believe it is her positive attitude that keeps her alive. "I going for 100!" she told us.
We finally made it back for dinner at the Tows, thanks to Jeremy's mom Leah. I was alone with her for a bit in the kitchen fixing a salad when suddenly she burst out: "I just thought God was going to heal him!" Her cry was so distraught. I realized this woman who had been praying for a miracle was suddenly allowing in the very real possibility that she would have to watch her son die. I could tell it shook her and her faith to the core... but there was something so right in the truth she let into the room like fresh air. I was proud of her.
I have blogged long. I needed to.
There's more to say, but my precious family is waiting for me to join them at the breakfast table.
I'll continue later.

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