Sunday, December 22, 2013

1996 Change and the other "C word"

When I first decided that I wanted to gather up all my old letters and add some photographs and retype them all into one location, I wasn't thinking that doing so would mean revisiting 1996
1996 was a horrible year for my family
but revisiting it reminds me that it also had a few of the last, best memories of my family

                                                 Hello,       April 10, 1996
For 13 1/2 years we have paid rent on someone else's property and we have moved 13 times in those 13  1/2 years. (if you think that sounds bad -remember we've only moved twice in the last 7 years!) - well those days have just ended (knock on wood) with approval of a 30 year loan on 2 acres and a 5bedroom house - - the land is lovely and includes several redwood stumps - one with steps carved into it and a deck on top which the boys love.  If you've never seen a redwood tree you may be wondering why the excitement but the stumps are as big as the bedrooms which tells you something about both :) - in fact our Tony Rosa Road is only a dirt driveway off of "Wonderstump Road."  Anyway, we love it and (hint, hint) there is room for company. So We're all excited and doing fine - Austin just turned 3 and is quite the big boy and even Emerson (2 in 6 days on the 16th) is rapidly losing any traces of babyhood.  Teaching, parenting and now moving!  We're numb with exhaustion, but not too numb to remember you often,  Love Dixie and Greg

Grandpa Paul, Dixie's Dad loved being a Grandpa.
Here with Lacy and Austin
     The night of Christmas 1996, my Dad was in the hospital in a room beautifully decorated but even that beauty had a message that life was ending. The hospice room was filled with Christmas lights and a small tree and there was something like 24 inches of snow, My toddlers and I made snow angels in the hospital parking lot and mom watched from the window. Friends and family came by, Ten we moved Dad back home to a hospital bed in the living room. 
      That New Year we were flying back and snow closed the roads to the airport and then we flew a day later to an area filled was flooding everywhere, Eureka, CA; Ashland, OR;  Klamath, CA. One month later, by Just after midnight on Feb 1st 1997 my Dad died. I guess I'm just remembering now how fast it went, but not as fast as the next death on the First of June, of the boys Day-care Grandpa, who collapsed of a heart attack during a stress test at the hospital and was dead before he hit the ground. So 1996, hard as it was, was at least a year all the family was still alive.
Paul, Pricilla and Emerson at Lake Selmac in Oregon

The last Christmas with Papa Paul happened here
In the Park County Hospital Hospice room

Papa Paul, August 1996
faced the boys on the beach to the top of a huge rock known as Battle Rock
But by October he could barely stand up from the couch where he slept in the living room
and jaundice was turning him Yellow
and he had missed my brother Lance's High School Graduation

The cousins on Greg's side of the family
sadly by now we have also lost Cody, the oldest

This picture taken in my parents yard in October

Merry Christmas 1996!

I hope the past year has been kind to you.  It has not been one of our best- but it has not been as cruel as it could have been either.  Every day we wake up knowing that "Grandpa Paul" is still alive and that in itself is enough miracle to require a celebration this Christmas.  To catch you up on the state of our life requires a quick journey back in time to April, when a weekend glance through the ad section of the paper changed us from rent payers to mortgage holders.  For 13 1/2 year we had paid rent o someone else's property - and moved 13 times in those 13 1/2 years. Well, on Emerson's second Birthday (April 16) we were moving into 2 acres with a 5 bedroom Farm House.  The land is lovely, with apple and plum trees and several redwood stumps - One with steps carved into it and a deck on top, and one with a small Fort built into the burnt out center - both of which the boys love to play on/in for hours - They quickly become Pirate ships, Castle or Fire trucks
If you've never seen a redwood tree, you may be wondering why the excitement about stumps, but the stumps are almost as big as the bedrooms which tells you something about both :)
Well, Finally buying a house and moving - while still dealing with two full time jobs and two toddlers is stressful but still joyous.
However we closed on the house the same day that we learned that Dixie's Dad had been diagnosed with esophageal Cancer and it has been a struggle to keep sight of the joyous aspects of our lives. The Emotional roller coaster of needing to be in Wyoming with Paul and in California with our jobs and new house have never slowed since April.  Paul needed major surgery - removal of part of his stomach and then was told he was cancer free - only to learn in August after a visit to us, showed him still strong, but with massive pain in unrelated places like his shoulders, that he has multiple areas of bone cancer with a need for serious chemotherapy but little hope for a cure. But because he really wanted to be around for his grandkids, he had to try. Time and some treatments completed made that hope grow stronger.
So we went to Wyoming on Emergency leave in October when things were grim and my toddlers were saying daily prayers and asking each day, "is Papa Paul still alive."  Now we return for Christmas to celebrate still having this wonderful man and the successful completion of four rounds of Chemo.  You sometime wonder if the cure isn't as bad as the disease but where there is life there is hope.

 (But between writing this Christmas letter and getting to Cody, that hope was replaces with the knowledge that life was measured in days remaining and the cancer had spread to kidney's and internal organs and hope was gone)

Without going into great detail - those who know Dixie's family know the detail, I must say that the major surgery done in Denver on my nephew Luke (at 6 months) and the cancer in the families of some of Paul's siblings all lead us to the heartfelt prayer that 1997 is a kinder - safer year for those we love.

On a happier note we decided to remember that we do have much to be thankful for - our jobs - our home - and most of all our family which may be battered but is intact and un-beaten.

So we gave ourselves a much needed Thanksgiving Vacation by driving up the Oregon Coast to see Keiko - the killer whale star of the Free Willie Movie in Newport's "Oregon Coast Aquarium" and he put on an awesome display of breath-taking intimacy - he came right to the glass and flattened his nose against it and bobbed and played in response to our waving.  In spite of the glass we were so close.  I was and still am profoundly moved.    ( note From 2013 I hear the talk of the movie Blackfish and the fact that whales and dolphins do not belong in captivity and the horror of being held prisoner and trained but I wonder, without marine land and sea world and trained whales, would anyone ever have known enough to care about them and map a movie like blackfish, or would they already have been exploited to extinction)

And that is not all - we spent some time with Greg's sister April and her husband which was great and they treated all four of us to three meals in quaint, ocean view, cliff top cafe's and we went to Sea Lion Caves and the Bandon Petting Zoo - so in our four days, we saw a killer whale - climbed in a sea cave filled with sea lion - petted a 6 month old tiger and visited "Auntie April"

So Greg and Dixie are doing OK, or so we keep reminding each other when the stress gets overwhelming.  One plus about having one family member with a serious illness is it does remind you to appreciate all your family members more - and the things which used to seem like major problems don't really seem all that important now.  Every time Dixie's jerk of a principal rears his ugly head she can think how insignificant his Harris-ment seems and laugh.

Daycare Grandparents, Dale and Nadine at Austin's 3rd Birthday
in old house
Now BRAG time about my two favorite boys.

Austin - at 3 years and almost 9 months he no longer allows
me to call him my baby although he is and always shall be my baby. He is also right.  He's growing and learning so much and is sometimes almost a miniature adult.  When asked what he wants for Christmas he said, "New muscles for Papa Paul so he'll be strong, and a train, and Candy."  He is learning to recognize letters and words - he saw WAL*MART and thought it said Willie*Marc  (Willie goes to day-care and Marc is her Dad) He is an observant, strong, highly verbal boy with a ton of energy but he can also be so warm and loving.  "I love you as much as the stars. I'm so glad I'm your kid."  He says almost as often as he says, "I can if I WANT to!"

Emerson on his second birthday at new house 18 days later

Emerson - 2 years and 8 month, wants to be "Captain Jim" the hero of his favorite book.  He is quiet unless he is screaming.  He's gentle, say-going but volatile and stubborn.  He is a contradiction and is OK with that, and uses the word "BUT" a lot to rearrange the world to fit his truth - When told Captain Jim Wouldn't wear diapers he blithely informed us, "But I'm Captain Jim AND I wear diapers."  And we love him.

Again, Merry Christmas

Greg, Dixie, Austin and Emerson

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