By the time I get back to California, I’m sure something will have changed in the SCV. I do know that one change was completed. How is the new roundabout in Newhall working out? Has the first accident happened yet?
This has been a good trip to Kentucky for Christmas. The grandkids were fantastic. The food was too much, and the laughter and joy were beyond compare. It is just what we all needed, considering what we might be facing in the coming year.
This could very well be the last Christmas we get to celebrate with Grandma Kathie. The cancer isn’t stopping, and the doctors are fresh out of what they can do. We are all praying for a miracle.
We are divorced, but one cannot erase the feelings and memories of 40 years. It is now that we are remembering the good times and not the hurt of events leading to the marriage ending.
We’ve managed to recount almost every Christmas together – and apart – since 1968. Sometimes, because I was at sea on a submarine, Christmas came in January instead of December. There were times, when money was tight, that we gave each other gifts of a car wash, or raking the leaves or any other “chores” we could give.
Later on when the boys were grown and had families, we spent far too much on the grandkids, and loved doing it. Still do. We went on a cruise or two. It was the time we spent together that was so important.
We gave each other the gift of love. We still do. It has changed but hasn’t gone away. We know we can’t live together or even in the same town or state, but all of those years still bind us. Is this bad? I know it isn’t bad. We are better friends today.
But it hurts. It hurts knowing she is having her last Christmas, her last time watching the New Year come anew. We are planning to watch the Rose Parade, with all of us gathered around the TV. It was and still is a tradition we can have one last time.
This year we are all celebrating her life. She has given so much to us over the years. The joys and laughter far exceed the pain of the divorce. In fact, we no longer talk about our being apart but just enjoy the family so much more when we are all together.
At this point in her life, as the cancer invades more of her brain, she falls asleep during conversations, and she has a real problem with time. You can call her at 5 in the afternoon and she’ll ask you why you are calling so early in the morning. Her short-term memory is very short-term. She can walk out of a room to get something, and I’ll find her sitting in another room reading and not realizing she went to get something. And then she asks me when I got to her place. I just say “a little while ago” and turn away with tears in my eyes.
I hate cancer. I hate the disease and the word, too. It took my mother in 1967. Now it is taking the mother of my sons. Her sons. Our sons. And it hurts. I can’t describe the pain of watching her slowly fade. The doctors say there won’t be much pain, but she will just sleep more and more until she is in eternal sleep. That thought is so painful.
Celebrating her life, indeed all life, is a lot better than sitting around in tears. I’ve a picture of her taken in 1969 or so. We were both at San Fernando Valley State at the time. That place has a new name today. Anyway, the picture was taken at William S. Hart Park. She is leaning on one of the big trees.
She sure was beautiful then. And is now, too. That picture traveled all over the world with me. Usually underwater. In fact, it made some extra time underwater because I left it on the submarine and had to wait to get it back when it arrived at port in Connecticut.
One time I took her up Pico Canyon and we walked to the top of PCO Hill, all the way from Pico Cottage. Sure enough, there are pictures of us on that little hike, too.
I won’t share those pictures just yet. They are memories we aren’t ready to share in pictures. Just know we had smiles on our faces and looked so young.
I’ll let you all know how she is doing, the next few months. How I pray it will be years, but I don’t know. It isn’t in the hands of the doctors or any medical treatment. The family has no say, either. Only God can work the miracle we are praying for every day.
But I like to think we’ve already had the miracle. We’ve had Kathie as a part of our lives since 1968. However how much longer she remains in this life is up to God.
Each passing part of time is a miracle. Our prayers are being answered in God’s way. Not mine.
This last day of 2013, I wish you all the happiest of New Years and pray that you’ll not have to face what we are facing with Kathie.
And when that day comes, I will have to go to Hart Park and the top of PCO Hill. She and I saw some golden eagles there once. A pair. They seemed to be playing in the air. She will soar with them that day. And I will celebrate her and her memory until we all meet again.
Happy New Year.
Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].