2 Mondays ago, I went to the post office to mail off Carrie's birthday package. On the card, I wrote that I wished more than anything I could be with her on her b-day, and had planned to write about the perfect day we could have had on the blog for a post in her honor.
Then on Thursday night, at 7.30, I got a call from my mom telling me my dad's leukemia had returned, and on Monday he would be admitted to a hospital in Denver for chemo treatment. By 9, I had purchased plane tickets for Oz and I, and spent the rest of the night frantically packing for an undetermined amount of time. There was a chance I would stay for the weekend, or maybe stay longer and send for the big kids (the idea of S and C on a plane by themselves makes me simultaneously freaked and thrilled. I know they they could do it, but do I really want to find out?)
I barely got to say goodbye to them. I kissed C early Friday morning but he didn't wake up, and when I went in to tell S I was going she smiled like she does when she knows I'm joking. Then she looked in my eyes and realized I wasn't. She was very mature and said she could handle being in charge and helping Amy with the kids and that she would be praying for Grampa. She's growing up so much, I can't believe it.
As luck would have it, Palmers had been living with us for the past 1.5 weeks while waiting to close on their new house, and then waiting while it gets painted. Amy was a real trooper to take on 2 extra kids, on top of being pregnant, watching her cousin's two kids all day, and her own three. So if you think about it, she was in charge of 8 kids (I'm counting the one in-utero) for over a week. She amazes me. She handled all the end of the year school festivities, birthday parties, and even offered to take my kids to their annual physicals but I drew the line at that. I should have made her take Calder for his Lyme disease blood test... I am NOT looking forward to the inevitable drama that will come with that event.
Travis and Enoch acted as Amy's lovely assistants, filling in where needed at such events like the Kindergarten picnic, C's birthday celebration at school (Enoch took C to purchase which ice cream treats he'd give to the class, the cousins put together the goody bags, and Trav went in to hand it all out and read C's favorite book to his class, missing work to do so). I emailed with C's teacher to make sure he was handling it all okay, and she wrote back that he was doing fine and didn't seem to mind that his parents weren't at the picnic because Amy and Enoch were there. My kids are so lucky to have a second set of parents around! So many other people here filled in too, taking my kids for playdates and to swim and letting S attend all kinds of birthday parties she had not been officially invited to. Never one time did Travis tell me I should come home. He kept telling me to stay as long as I needed, and assured me that the kids were great and doing fine.
So, in an ironic twist, on the morning of Carrie's birthday she picked me up from DIA with Nana, and in the backseat was the only person more social than Carrie, ready to bond with his cousin and attempt to maintain constant eye contact with me for the next week. We headed to Boulder and had time to do Tae bo and put the babies down for naps before Grampa came walking in from his golf game (upon learning he would be going to the hospital in three days, he made as many tee times as was humanly possible). I didn't want him to know I was coming, because he would have told me not to. So when he walked in and saw me in an all-too-familiar Billy Blanks pose, he smiled and said, "What are you doing here?"
Everyone celebrated Carrie's birthday that night with take out from the Cheesecake Factory. Saturday we hung out with Rand's family in Broomfield, and Sunday was a nice Father's Day dinner from which Dad, even though feeling fatigued from his low white blood cell count and the beginning symptoms of the leukemia, refused to let us do the cleaning up without him. Typical.
We have come a long way from the first time cancer entered our family. We are even able to make the occasional joke about it, such as at the end of Carrie's birthday party when we adjourned to the living room for Rand and Dave to give my parents blessings, and my dad quipped, "Well, that's one way to kill a party." We are optimistically hoping for another remission, though we know achieving it will be a long and painful road. If this remission is achieved, a bone marrow transplant is likely, which will also be long and difficult. This time around we have a better idea of what to expect from his treatment, which in some ways is better but in many ways worse.
Monday morning the mood changed dramatically, when Dad called the hospital and was given an arrival time of 1 PM. He was stressed and scared, which shook us all to see. He has always been the rock we all lean on in times of distress. He patiently waited in the hospital until Wednesday morning, when finally all the necessary testing had been completed and his body was ready for the first round of chemo.
It was a long week for all of us. Crosby developed a fever on Tuesday afternoon, and I was afraid to go visit my dad until I was sure I wasn't contagious. A virus at this point entering his system would be a disaster. When we visited him, we wore gowns and gloves and my mom and I wore face masks to be doubly sure we didn't infect him with anything, which made our visits rather hot.
When I went to say goodbye to him on Thursday evening, we talked while I gave him a massage. Then as I was preparing to leave, I told him how much I loved him and to stay strong. He told me my job was to take care of my family and "not worry about him." Yeah right. He also reminded me not to be thinking about him while I drove home; he was worried about me being sad and getting in a car accident. Today Rand told me that my dad apologized to him for "ruining his vacation." It's so true to his character that even when sick in the hospital, he worries about everyone else more than himself.
I got back to NY late Friday night, and snuck in to hug and kiss the big kids who I missed like crazy. I spent most of the night with Oz, who woke up every two hours screaming. As I rocked him through the night, I was reminded to enjoy every moment of my life, even the bad ones.
I love you, Dad.
If you'd like more regular updates on Gordon's condition, you can visit tglewis.blogspot.com.