Friday, April 26, 2013

Call me a space cadet...

Call me a space cadet. While Chris was in surgery having his knee and femur replaced, I had been waiting and reading for two hours before the irony of my book choice hit me like the tail of an enraged whale. That's right, my friends, Moby Dick was my book of choice. I read it for the first time a few years ago, honestly because it's one of those books you're supposed to read. I expected to slog my way through it, painfully, but loved it. Why?

The characters, even the minor players, are vivid, unforgettable and rendered with a kind of awe of humanity in both its awesome and awful aspects. Melville has a deep respect for human dignity but also for truth. Nothing is glossed over Pollyanna style, but no one (with one notable exception*) is just bad or shallow or cruel. Here are a few...

Pious skinflint and owner of the ship, Bildad

"For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used to swear, though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them."

Relentless, majestic maniac, Captain Ahab

The more profane but also more empathetic owner, Peleg's assessment of Ahab...

I know Captain Ahab well; I’ve sailed with him as mate years ago; know what he is—a good man—not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man—something like me—only there’s a good deal more of him.

But be all this as it may, certain it is, that with the mad secret of his unabated rage bolted up and keyed in him, Ahab had purposely sailed upon the present voyage with the one only and all-engrossing object of hunting the White Whale... He was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.

Brave Queequeg

You cannot hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor... Queequeg was George Washington cannibalistically developed.

Noble, reverent Starbuck**

A staid, steadfast man, whose life for the most part was a telling pantomime of action, and not a tame chapter of sounds. Yet, for all his hardy sobriety and fortitude, there were certain qualities in him which at times affected, and in some cases seemed well nigh to overbalance all the rest. Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in some organization seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance.

Starbuck, after an argument with Ahab...
“Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but for that I ask thee not to beware of Starbuck; thou wouldst but laugh; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man.”

After Ahab has been rebuffed by Moby Dick twice, once even losing his artificial leg in the chase...
“Great God! but for one single instant show thyself,” cried Starbuck; “never, never wilt thou capture him, old man—In Jesus’ name no more of this, that’s worse than devil’s madness. Two days chased; twice stove to splinters; thy very leg once more snatched from under thee; thy evil shadow gone—all good angels mobbing thee with warnings:—what more wouldst thou have?—Shall we keep chasing this murderous fish till he swamps the last man? Shall we be dragged by him to the bottom of the sea? Shall we be towed by him to the infernal world? Oh, oh,—Impiety and blasphemy to hunt him more!”


The language is beautiful - perfect for those of us who drift to melodrama. Given my current life circumstances, here is a particularly timely quote. Ishmael describes rowing a whaleboat out for the chase. The men sit among coils and coils of rope attached to harpoons which may be hurled from the boat at any time.

Thus the whale-line folds the whole boat in its complicated coils, twisting and writhing around it in almost every direction... at any unknown instant the harpoon may be darted, and all these horrible contortions be put in play like ringed lightnings; he cannot be thus circumstanced without a shudder that makes the very marrow in his bones to quiver in him like a shaken jelly. Yet habit—strange thing! what cannot habit accomplish?—Gayer sallies, more merry mirth, better jokes, and brighter repartees, you never heard over your mahogany, than you will hear over the half-inch white cedar of the whaleboat, when thus hung in hangman’s nooses; and, like the six burghers of Calais before King Edward, the six men composing the crew pull into the jaws of death, with a halter around every neck, as you may say...

All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, everpresent perils of life.

This, my friends, is some of what it feels like to battle cancer. It's grueling, terrifying and may end horribly, but humans, God love us, grow accustomed to almost anything.

So, in the wake of my ironic reading selection, I'm praying for the dauntless courage of Queequeg, the clear-eyed faith of Starbuck and the stamina of Ishmael and remembering that...

But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure delight

* In my humble opinion, only the efficient, apathetic Carpenter is thoroughly evil and that's because he's devoid of love and empathy.

** I wonder, but obviously not enough to google it, if this is where Starbucks gets its name.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Things for which I'm thankful...

  • Dr. Bird let us go home yesterday. There may be some Stockholm syndrome going on there as in a certain light he was also our captor.
  • Chris and I are still married even though

I had to maneuver him around a crowded hospital in a wheelchair with his sore, fragile leg sticking straight out in a leg prop that was too short for him. I didn't get us over to the first elevator fast enough, and we missed it. I managed to wheel him over and wedge a foot in the next one, but he barely fit through the doorway. There was about a half inch clearance with that leg sticking out.

I'm now the driver. He makes me nervous. Trying to exit the HOV:

Me: Do I take the left lane?

Chris: No, you don't take the lane with two big orange cones.

  • The flowers are blooming in my backyard.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Glimmers of hope...

Chris has lost his crazy morphine eyes. He got a blood transfusion and regained his freckles (too pale for them before). Then, in an unbelievable demonstration of athletic prowess (Seriously, I'm not being facetious. Imagine walking 100 ft on a knee and femur bone that were not a part of your anatomy 5 days ago.) he walked a full lap around the nurses' station. We're starting to claw our way out of the post surgery pit of despair.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Notes from the hospital...

Some scattered thoughts because that's the only way mine come these days...

  • I think voice lessons should be part of medical training. I had a hard time leaving Chris at pre-op. What if I needed to be in the operating room to ask the right questions? Something like, "Can you help me understand why that's the right scalpel? Are you sure you need to use a saw?" The nurse anesthetist was an easy-going guy from New Orleans. He noticed my angst and in that smooth Cajun drawl said, "We're going to take good care of him," and I thought, "He sounds like Harry Connick, Jr. Everything is going to be okay."
  • Cancer has done for me what six pregnancies and about a million blood draws did not. I've always been queasy about anything to do with blood or needles. When I was pregnant with Rand and at the OB for bloodwork, when the nurse took out the needle, I closed my eyes, turned my head and started taking slow, deep breaths.
Nurse: (sympathetic concern) Is this your first pregnancy?
Me: (sheepish smile). No, it's my sixth. I'm just a wimp.
Maybe my mind has a limited space for fear and worry and cancer has monopolized that real estate because when the surgeon offered to show me a picture of what he removed from Chris' leg, I looked at it. For a long time. I wasn't even a little unnerved. There's a category of food I won't be eating again, but I'm not a big fan of it anyway.
  • PT guys don't mess around. Fourteen hours after surgery they had him on his feet.
  • A volunteer came by and asked if we were okay. I said, "We're alright considering that he just lost 1/4 of his leg. She's a cancer survivor and quipped, "We're all missing bits and pieces around here."
  • And it's now clear why the doctor wouldn't give us many post-op details before surgery. He didn't want us to curl up on his floor and cry. This is going to be a long, hard recovery.

From the Book of Common Prayer, Prayers for use by a sick person

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.



Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Knee replacement day...


Sitting with him...

Well, tomorrow is the day Chris goes bionic.  Surgery is early in the morning.  The boys are all staying with our wonderful, amazing siblings.  We divided them among my brothers and Chris' sister.  My brother, John, dropped them off at their various destinations.  

They all buckled in twenty minutes before departure time to make EXTRA sure they didn't get left behind.  Why were they so eager to leave me?  Because this is what it's like to hang out with Uncle John and Uncle Boo:

Bryan:  Aunt Amy is the best at cooking breakfast.  Her house is really fun.

Chris had a great pre-surgery weekend.  It was the Chris H Board Game Cancer Con.  You can read more about it here.  It was a fabulous alternative to me following Chris around all weekend asking, "How are you feeling, babe?  Are you nervous?  Can I get you anything?"  

Do you remember that scene in the book of Job when his friends sat with him and mourned with him for a week.  
When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. Job 2:11-13
Well, there wasn't any crying (except amongst the womenfolk when we talked about how great these guys are to come hang out in solidarity), and no one tore their clothes or sprinkled dirt on themselves, at least not while I was there.  It was more of a queso and chips, cigars, zombies and nerdy strategy board games scene.  But, it was the same in spirit.  Sometimes you just need someone to stand beside you, and, in a culturally, genderly* appropriate way say, "This sucks, man.  I wish it weren't happening to you."

* Genderly - of, or pertaining to, one's gender.  It should be a word.

Monday, April 1, 2013


My parents and my grandmother came down.

My mom set up the Easter egg hunt.

I see one more!

Jacob and Bryan put prayer requests in the offering plate.  Please note that Jacob is interested in Children's and Men's ministry and also has not fathered any children to date.


 And my favorite guys.

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