Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Month: March, 2016

Madness

“You say the world is full of bullshit so you kill just how you see fit. They say your fanatic with a mission.”   -The Kinks, Killer’s Eyes

There is madness in the world today. Brussels is still smoldering from the latest terrorist attack, Paris and Ankara live under the continual threat of follow-up attacks and the United States guards against a similar attack. There are pain and suffering on all sides and there is seemingly no end in sight.

And yet, it is our reaction to these horrific events that will define us. Our initial reaction is seldom based on facts but almost always based on emotion. No amount of terror can justify our lashing out. We have a responsibility to weigh our response against our humanity. To do otherwise is to lower ourselves to the level of those against whom we seek to respond. Blown out windows and screaming children will always garner our attention and foster thoughts of retribution. However, it is our clinical response that results in the best outcomes.

To blame these vituperative remarks on anything but our blood lust for revenge is to discredit our humanity and liken us to those who wish to do us harm; best to leave it to the professionals. We have the greatest military the world has ever seen and it is their job to root out terrorists and keep us safe. It is beneath us to judge our Muslim neighbors and paint with a broad brush a religion practiced by one-fifth of the earth’s population any more than it is reasonable to judge Christians by the Crusades, the Westboro Baptist Church, or the KKK.

There is always a knee-jerk reaction to want to elicit revenge. I would urge us to tamp down that reaction and allow our intelligence community to do its job before engaging our military to do its. The loss of life and terror inflicted on Brussels today is horrific and the result of the cowardice expressed by several individuals and an organization bent on the destruction of western society in favor of a world view already eclipsed by 500 years of civilization. No amount of retribution against the innocent practitioners of the same faith as those who carried out these attacks can be justified.

Pain is universal and we cannot trade in that practice if we expect to hold ourselves above the lowest common denominator of mankind. Please don’t misunderstand, I want these barbarians to be brought to justice as much as the next person, however, I don’t believe it is the job of the individual to do the heavy lifting, rather I believe it is the responsibility and duty of our government to find and prosecute terrorists.

Sharks and Cancer

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So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest…”  Quint, Jaws

It has been a very difficult year and a half. First, in November of 2014 my father died after a brief but excruciatingly painful fight with lung cancer which had spread to his bones. Almost one year later, last September, my wife died after a long fight with breast cancer which had spread to her lungs. And then only six months later, my dog died after a painful fight with a soft tissue cancer which had spread to his bones. One year, then only six months, part of me wonders what horror will befall us in three months. But I have to believe that the pain and suffering have ended now.  I can’t help but appropriate Quint’s quote to, “So, five of us went to Texas, three of us come home, cancer took the rest…”

Cancer has targeted my family for far too long now. I don’t want it to have any more power over us. My children have spent fully one-third of their lives living under the threat of cancer taking their mother and then their dog. Almost their entire teenage years, years difficult enough without cancer moving in to live with us, has been spent living under that dark cloud. They are 21 years old now and, in spite of these added pressures, will both graduate on-time from the University of Texas at Austin, each with over a 3.5 GPA. How they have been able to stay focused amazes me and is a testament to their strength of character.

I know people have had it harder than we have. I don’t claim to have a corner on suffering. And I am grateful for the seven years we were able to steal from cancer by moving to Texas and seeking treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I’ll never regret that decision. But if we could have a break from any additional pain for a short time, that would be great.

Each of us is dealing with these losses in our own individual manner. Certainly, grief counseling has helped, but we still face a world in which neither Lisa nor Delbow will walk with us any longer. We have had long discussions about faith, heaven, philosophy, and all of the accompanying topics. We disagree as much as we agree but the discussions are always lively and fascinating. I hope that we can each find some comfort in our positions.

Finally, there is the issue of moving forward. The house, already quiet from Lisa’s absence is now even quieter without Delbow’s rambling about. The kids are on spring break this week, so I have a respite before facing that still house alone. I now have six months of experience without Lisa and living alone. I hope this serves me well when the kids return to school. But before we know it, school will be over, graduations will have been concluded and we will be packing up for our trip back to Rhode Island. I hope it goes well and we can begin our new lives healthy. No sharks, no cancer.

Rhode Island Bound

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In three months, my children and I will be moving back to Rhode Island. And while Texas has been very good to us in some ways, we are eager to leave all of the bad memories behind as we try to build a new life without Lisa or Delbow. It will be incredibly difficult.

We will make our home in East Greenwich, a town I know very little about but which had the size and type condo I was looking for. I am excited to live there. It is centrally located in the state and will allow me to get to Providence or the beach with equal rapidity. My sister lives in North Kingstown, which is easily gotten to and my mother and brother live in Middletown, which is on the way to the beach.

Moving to Texas was the right move at the time and I do not ever regret that decision. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center bought Lisa, at least, six and a half years that she would otherwise not have had had we stayed in Rhode Island and sought treatment. I cannot say enough about the physicians and nurses at M.D. Anderson. To be sure, there are always bureaucratic snafus that occur and I was always Lisa’s best advocate to permeate the sometimes confusing maze of departments and silos. But, overall, the facility has earned its position as one of the best cancer centers in the world.

We have lived in this house now for over six years. And in all that time, it still does not feel like our home. Lisa decorated it with many of our belongings from Rhode Island and we painted it the same color as our home in Rhode Island inside. However, it never became “home” for us. It always seemed that we were leasing the space until the catastrophic happened. And now it has. The kids will be graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in late May and we will then pack up all of our belongings and make the trek back to Rhode Island and that which we know and love.

Wish us luck on our move and starting our new life without Lisa or Delbow. I would like to think Delbow is sleeping on Lisa’s lap right now as she looks down on us approvingly on how we have handled everything so far. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am grateful to my children for their support and love.

Delbow

 

We lost Delbow Ploppers today. He has gone on to live with Lisa in heaven.

Throughout his life he endured a number of medical procedures, none of them easy. He tore the CCL ligament in both back legs and had to have them surgically repaired. He lost one eye to a detached retina and had to have emergency surgery in Chicago to save the other eye. He endured three different battles with cancer. And he lost most of the remaining eyesight to a cataract. Our little bionic dog saw it all. And he never showed anything but love to us.

And now he is gone. The house, already silent because of Lisa’s absence, is now doubly silent because Delbow is gone. The loneliness I felt after Lisa’s death was mitigated somewhat by Delbow always being there for me. And now he’s gone too.

Will Rogers famously said, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” I couldn’t agree more.

The lone male in the litter of five Coton de Tulear puppies, we brought him home with us and he slept in Lisa’s elbow the entire ride home. We had just seen Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V with the kids and were reminded how the French princess, preparing in case her father’s army lost to the English, learned the new English language. Instead of saying “elbow,” she kept saying “d’elbow.” And that’s how Delbow got his name.

He lived to be twelve years old and encompassed most of the kid’s childhood. An era is gone. The kids are seniors in college now and will be off on their own soon. First it was my father in 2014, then it was my wife in 2015 and now cancer has taken my dog too. This continues a difficult time for us and closes another chapter in our lives. Cancer sucks.