Toilets, Flirting, and other Life Lessons

This morning I decided to make a hot breakfast. (Hello, oven bacon. Why didn’t we meet sooner?!) As I was stirring the eggs, I thought of how much Dave loved to make breakfast. He liked to grill and cook in general but breakfast was definitely his thing. Then my mind meandered to the beginning of the school year. I think about him all the time but especially so as we get ready to launch another year. There are so many things that we talked about when it came to work. I think that he would have been enthusiastic about my second year as a resource teacher. He would have urged me on to whatever the next step might be. He was the ultimate cheerleader.

I was also thinking about the passing of another principal recently – one whom Dave worked for and admired greatly. In reading about him in the paper, I couldn’t help but think about how much his style of leadership reminded me of Dave. Perhaps those years that Dave worked for him rubbed off in a way that I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago.

Then I started thinking about Grant and how he graduates this year. How incredible it is that it is already time again to welcome another kid into the post high school years. Dave and Grant had a really unique and special relationship, very different than his with either of the girls. He would be so proud of the man that Grant is becoming. I know I am.

Time marches on and there are new challenges to be faced and milestones to be reached. I have learned a lot about myself in the last years. I would have always said that I was a strong and capable person. I still believe that this is true. Historically speaking, I have never been all that great at making decisions, but I have definitely learned that I can plan trips with a few clicks of the mouse and that traveling with the kids is something easy and fun that I can do to create new memories and strengthen bonds. We already have two more adventures in the works for this fall and winter.

I have also realized that there are some areas for growth.

By way of example, right before we left for Williamsburg to pick Parker up for camp, I noticed that the toilet in the master bathroom was running. I lifted off the tank cover and jiggled a few things trying to determine why the water wasn’t shutting off. In my efforts, something broke off into my hand which in turn caused a geyser from the tank. Who knew water could travel so fast and furious into the air?! Clearly, I will not be hiring out my services as a plumber any time soon. I tend to think that I can handle things myself. I am still learning when I need to ask for help.

At a recent hotel stay, a man got into the elevator with me, and I think he was flirting. If memory serves, the conversation had some familiar characteristics. Then again he could have been drunk or crazy too. I am not really sure. This is obviously an area that has long been ignored. I’m not anxious to figure it out any time soon. However, note to self, if I do decide to become more social, I am going to have to brush up on my people reading skills. Seriously.

School starts next week. Grant’s last year of high school. Parker’s last year of elementary school. Sam’s junior year of college. I am looking forward to seeing what adventures this year brings.  We are ready.  I think.

xoxo,

Robyn

Goodbye, Sweet Friend

We took a blow today.  Our sweet old dog, Cupcake, went to the big meadow in the sky.  This wasn’t a surprise – when we had him at the vet in May they didn’t expect him to live much longer as he was in heart failure.  But with the miracle of diuretics and bronchiodialators, we got to spend the summer with him.  He was a people dog up until the end.  When the vet and tech came into the house his tail started wagging.  He just loved his ear rubs and pats and all the attention he could get.

So, while not unexpected, it was devastating nonetheless.  Last night his breathing got labored and he stopped eating and drinking.  I am grateful that our caring vets could come to the house and save him the added stress of a car ride and being in the office.  It is pretty quiet around here.  This is the first time since before Dave and I got married that we don’t have a dog.  The kids are handling it as well as they can, but they are pretty crushed.

I think we’ve had enough loss for a while.

xoxo,

Robyn

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Camp Kesem William and Mary

Nancy, one of Dave’s absolute favorite people (and mine too), emailed me today to ask about donating to Camp Kesem.  It was truly such an incredible experience for Parker.  Here is the description from their website –

“Camp Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, supporting children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. We strive to give kids the opportunity to just be kids, and have a lot of fun. Camp Kesem operates many different chapters at colleges coast to coast. Each camp is funded, planned, and run entirely by student volunteers.”

The cost to support one camper for a week of camp and throughout the year at the reunion activities is about $1000. This summer they were able to grow from hosting 30 campers to 55. I am sure the goal is to be able to accept all families that apply.

If you are interested in donating you can go to – http://campkesem.org/wm/donate

On this page you have the option to donate online or by check through the mail. Make sure that you click on the “please click here” link as this gets the money to Camp Kesem William and Mary, if that is the one you are interested in supporting. They also accept donations of t-shirts, art supplies etc. You would want to contact them directly at williammary@campkesem.org to inquire about this.

I can’t say enough about how joyful these kids were at the family potluck yesterday. This camp truly makes life changing differences for the campers, the counselors and the families.

xoxo,

Robyn

She Loved It

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She loved it. In fact, when it was time to leave, she cried. She didn’t want to leave her new friends who had become like family is just a few short days. We talked for ages on the drive home. She told me about the fun things – archery, canoeing, swimming. Messy Day, slip and slide kickball, and the fun songs and crazy games (her mattress ended up being dragged outside)! She told me about the cabin chats and some of the stories of the other campers.

There was an Empowerment Ceremony which was an opportunity to share out with the entire group. She said she cried through most of it. She said that she stood up and spoke about Dave – his personality, his story, and how last summer we “became a family of four”. Oh my child. She is inspiring and brave and truly so incredible.

xoxo,

Robyn

PS And speaking of incredible, I am forever grateful to the William and Mary students who spent time fundraising (the camp is free) and also spent this past week providing the kids with this invaluable opportunity to have an absolute blast while at the same time honoring their healing..

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Oh boy. Part II

I read Lisa’s comment on my last post and was struck by the idea that she interpreted it that Parker was talking about me when she mentioned “a parent who has overcome it”. Then I read Lora’s comment and realized that maybe they were on to something. I took Parker’s comment to mean that Dave was not able to overcome cancer and go into remission or cure mode. At some point during the car ride, we did talk about remission and that even that brings its own challenges.

But Lisa and Lora’s comments did give me pause to think. Parker hasn’t had a parent overcome it. I started to wonder what that might look like or if that ever really happens. We all talk about Dave. We certainly laugh about lots of different memories. Sometimes we talk about the tough times and sometimes there are tears. Is there a point where you move on from that? I worry that overcoming might look like forgetting.

Cancer beat us. It took Dave away. Cancer won that battle. That I accept, I guess. Though in its wake, although we have been left a bit shellshocked and weathered, we have also emerged stronger than ever. I can honestly say that I am not the same person I was a year ago or two years ago. I would hate to think that we went through all of this to come out on the other side having learned nothing.

I am not sure how any of us; patient, family, or even survivor can truly overcome cancer. It is a powerful beast. But thank you, my friends, for showing me another point of view. You have definitely given me a lot to think about. I’ll let you know if I figure anything out.

xoxo,

Robyn

Oh boy.

I dropped Parker off at camp today.  I wish I had a picture to share, but I left my purse in the car since our hands were full of necessities for the next week.  I believe that I handled myself in a textbook “How to drop your kid off at camp” way.  We checked in, got the mandatory lice/foot check (I have no idea what they were looking for on the feet), and moved her things to her cabin.  After meeting her unit counselor, we headed back outside where there were animals milling around eating grass waiting to be pet.  Parker was in heaven and broke out into a run when she saw a tiny pig amongst the bunnies in a pen.  She made sure to give equal pets to all – some sort of cow, some tiny goats, a mini horse, a donkey and a llama.  With some gentle prodding, she tried to strike up a conversation with a boy who was also interested in the animals, but he wasn’t really interested in talking.  Eventually she ran into a girl whom she had met at the early spring meet and greet so I used that as my opportunity to leave.  After lots of “you are going to have the best time” comments, I suggested that she and her new friend might like to hang out since I had a long drive home.  No tears.  No big deal.

I realized as I was driving down the long, long drive to get back to the main road that I was going to cry.  I held it together long enough to pass the waving, enthusiastic counselors who were dotted along the way.  I certainly didn’t want them to see me cry and think I was some weenie parent who couldn’t handle dropping their kid off.  Truthfully, I was okay with dropping her off.  She’s been away before, and I have full confidence that she will be safe and have an amazing time.  What hit me hard was the reason she was there in the first place.  She gets to go to this camp because Dave had cancer.  What a shitty qualifier.

I appreciate the opportunity she is being given.  I am thankful that she will have the chance to be around others who truly understand.  In a letter that she had to write to her counselor before camp started, she answered “I am coming to camp because” with “my dad died of cancer.”  There was another question that asked how she felt about hanging out with other kids who know what it is like to deal with cancer, and she responded by talking about a friend whose dad also died who shared some stories with her that helped her but also made her sad.

From the time they are born, as a parent, you want to protect your kids.  You cushion the corners of tables and are careful with what they eat and drink.  You talk to them about friends and kindness and you try to shield them from any bad in the world.  But cancer steps all over those good intentions and they learn more than they should, earlier than they should.

Parker and I had lots of time to bond on the drive down due to the always reliable traffic on I95.  We sang along to a favorite soundtrack.  We talked about leap seconds (She did.  I listened.)  We even talked about our plans for Christmas this year.  As we closed in on Kings Dominion, she quietly said she has regrets when she thinks of that park.  She played hooky from school one day and she and Dave spent the day there.  She was afraid to try one of the rides and got teary eyed remembering that she wouldn’t go on it with him.  I told her that I didn’t blame her one bit.  There was no way I would go on that ride and that her dad absolutely understood that she was afraid.  And I reminded her that she more than made up for it when we went to Disney and she rode the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Rollercoaster many, many times with him.  This has been a  burden she carried that I hope was relieved a little bit today.

She said she was a little nervous about camp, and I told her about some of my experiences at boarding school.  She worried aloud about being around a lot of little kids.  I told her that I didn’t think there would be that many but that they would probably really like to be around someone who has experienced what they are going through.  We talked about how some kids had parents who were currently fighting cancer and some whose parents or family member had died.  This conversation followed –

  • Parker – I have 2 out of 3.
  • Me – I don’t understand.
  • Parker – I had a parent who had cancer and died.
  • Me – What’s the third thing?
  • Parker – A parent who overcame it.

So, the tears that I shed on and off on I64 and I295 and probably on I95 were thinking about that 2 out of 3.  And my kid who is so brave when she shouldn’t have to be.  And who has experienced and witnessed more than she should have.  And I was sad and angry.  I am grateful for the week she is going to have, but I kind of hate it too.

xoxo,

Robyn

August 15, 1992

When the calendar told me that it was August, my mind focused on various dates –

  • August 3  My sister in law’s birthday, also the 4 year mark of when we learned of Dave’s cancer
  • August 3 – 7  Hershey/Philly trip
  • August 11 and 13  need to go into work
  • August 15  Anniversary
  • August 16 – 22 Parker goes to camp
  • August 17 Sam goes back to school
  • My birthday

I woke up this morning thinking about how today will forever be the anniversary of the day that Dave and I got married.  But it is not our anniversary any more.  I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a pretty big heart ache today.  I am sitting here shaking my head as I type this.  One year and two months later, I still struggle to believe that he is gone.

When I look at pictures from that day 23 years ago, I am struck again by the laughter and joy that permeated that day.  That laughter and joy would serve us well especially through our darkest and toughest of days.  I miss that, and I miss Dave.  Every day.

xoxo,

Robyn

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