The Strongest Man In The World

Nope. He’s not lifting cars off trapped people or flying through the universe saving the planet from stray asteroids.

He’s fighting cancer right this very moment.

And he is going to win.

My dad. My superhero.

My father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the blood, in December 2011. In May 2012, he underwent a stem cell transplant. In February 2013, it failed.

But that did not stop my dad. He immediately started a clinical trial, which turned out to be too hard on his body. So after being admitted to the hospital last week, he began a 96 hour aggressive chemo treatment to knock the cancer out.

Now, my dad is notoriously stubborn.

My favorite picture of my dad.  Summer 1970

My favorite picture of my dad. Summer 1970

Just ask my mom.

Or my sister.

Or me.

Last week, he refused to go to the emergency room even though he was feeling terrible. (Turns out, he had pneumonia!) The nurse came in and fussed at him for not heading to the hospital sooner, even though we had all begged him to go.

My mother said he sat there and patiently listened to the nurse as she ranted and raved about how if he had waited much longer before coming in, he could have passed the point of them being able to help him.

When she was finished, my father said, “You know, I’m a retired Colonel in the Army. I’ve been chewed out by drill sergeants and superior officers, but ma’am, I must say, YOU are second to none.”

Under normal circumstances, my dad’s stubbornness would get under my skin like a blood-thirsty tick, but being up against this cancerous kryptonite, it has actually come in handy. He is digging his heels in and is not letting the cancer get the best of him.

And I am thankful that he has superhero strength, and stubbornness as well to fight this villain and to get us all through this.

But I’m still wondering…how does he hide his cape under his hospital gown?

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Just Like Her Mom

They say if a man wants to know what his future wife will be like, all he needs to do is look at her mother.

That can be good OR bad. Some women might not want to be like their mother, but for me, I hope I’m exactly like my mom.

There is something about moms that make everything okay. I’m 44 years old, but when I feel like I’m going to puke, I want my mom. When something makes me sad? I want my mom. When I have good news?

Okay, first I call my husband, and then I call my mom.

But what if I need to complain about my husband? Who do I call?

Yep.

My mom, who everyone calls “Ninny”.

Banma, Mom, Me & Cathy, 1969

Banma, Mom, Me & Cathy, 1969

She is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, and most of the time it’s completely unintentional. We have always had many different ways to communicate – and not just looks or cryptic sounds. She actually taught us the sign language for “Watch out – Daddy’s about to blow his top” so that we would know without words when Daddy was in a bad mood.

Ninny learned everything from her own wonderful mom. My grandmother, Banma, is probably the sweetest person alive. She is 94 years old and still living on the farm she grew up on, going to the same church she was baptized in, and a friend to everyone she meets.

My mom said that she never heard Banma raise her voice. Clearly, that gene did not flow down to my mother or my sister or me. We have no trouble raising our voice but hopefully we got some of Banma’s sweetness.

Throughout their 52 year marriage, my parents have always been there to support each other. Ninny was a stay at home mom when I grew up, and my father happily worked because he loved his girls and wanted her to be at home with us.

Ever since we found out about my father’s cancer, I have been amazed not only with my father for fighting the cancer so hard, but I am in awe at my mother’s strength. I always knew she was strong, but to be strong enough to care for my dad, as well as her own mother, could easily cause an IronMan to crumble…but not Ninny.

To know how much Ninny is loved and needed, you only have to look as far as this Mother’s Day. I offered to stay with my dad, who has been sick from the chemo treatments, so that my mom could visit Banma for Mother’s Day. But he declined and said “No offense, sweetheart, but I need my Ninny”, and then went on the long drive with her to Mississippi even though he was feeling terrible.

I get it. She can make anything better.

And I thank God every day for her.

When I go to my final resting place, I can only pray that someone will give me the greatest compliment I can imagine.

I hope they’ll say “She was just like her mother.”

Mom, Banma, Me & Cathy, 2011

Mom, Banma, Me & Cathy, 2011

Time Marches On

My husband gets so tired of me correcting him when he says how old I am. Yes, I will be 45 years old this year…but I’m not there yet. I’m 44! So don’t say that I’m 45!!

I always joke with him because HE IS 45. I think he just wants to not feel older than I am especially since he is already getting AARP literature in the mail or it could be that when he doesn’t shave his beard he starts to look like Wolverine from x-Men because it’s turning gray.

It’s never seemed to bother him much, however, yesterday afternoon I think he finally understood my frustration with getting older.

Old Man Winter

Old Man Winter

We were in the car heading down to see my parents for the afternoon. I was driving, and Dale was in the passenger seat working on his laptop. Since my dad has been going through chemotherapy, his taste buds have become a little skewed and so we decided to stop at the Varsity and pick up some of their famous “Frosted Orange” drinks. He loves them and they are strong enough for him to taste so I love surprising him with them.

We pulled up to the Varsity and waited in line. When I ordered the drinks through the intercom, I asked the lady taking my order not to fill up the cups to the top. I just wanted them filled up enough so when she put the lid on them, it didn’t squirt out the top of the cup.

Dale just looked at me and said “You sound like Meg Ryan in ‘When Harry Met Sally’. You know how she ordered her food and had a zillion conditions to go with it – “I’ll have the Caesar salad but I don’t want croutons, and I want the dressing on the side”. The lady taking your order is going to think you are a nut.”

So I decided to explain myself to her when we drove up to the window.

“I’m so sorry for being so picky. My dad loves these, and since he is going through chemotherapy, we have to be really careful about not letting anything touch his food, so I didn’t want the cup filled up because I didn’t want it to squish out on your hand when you put on the top.”

She did look at me like I was a nut.

But then she smiled, leaned out the window, looked at Dale and said “Is that your father?”
I choked on my diet coke and some of it ran out of my nose.

Dale leaned over and looked at her, smiled and said, “Uhhhh no. I’m her HUSBAND.”

I couldn’t stop giggling.

She never missed a beat. “What kind of cancer does your dad have? Is he being treated here? I had breast cancer and beat it. I hated chemotherapy. I lost my sense of taste too. And I lost my hair. I’ll say a prayer for him”, she said.

I then thanked her and we drove off.

I giggled some more.

“Doesn’t it stink for someone to think you’re older than you really are?” I asked. I think at that point he understood why I never want to be labeled older than I actually am.

Dale just growled at me.

I remember a quote from “Steel Magnolias” where Dolly Parton said “Time marches on, and sooner or later you realize it’s marching right across your face.”

Yep. Getting older really stinks.

Especially when someone thinks you are your wife’s dad.