Friday, October 23, 2009

October Gifts

Among the many books I read to my boys when they were little were the Bunny Planet books by Rosemary Wells. In the Bunny Planet books, the main character - a little boy or girl bunny - would have a terrible, awful day, then be whisked away at bedtime to the Bunny Planet where they would be given "the day that should have been." After a day centering on something very simple - a warm meal and a game of checkers while a storm rages outside, soup made from the first tomato of the season - the little bunny would wake up back in his or her own bed, restored and refreshed and ready to face everyday life again.

Those books were very reassuring, both for my boys and for me. We read one of them, The Island Light, repeatedly. That one began with the little bunny throwing up at school and even without my having seen the book recently, I can still recall the distressed eyes of the bunny as he looks up, stricken at what he has done.

The literary transition between the real world and the Bunny Planet was by way of a rhyme:

Far beyond the moon and stars,
Twenty light-years south of Mars,
Spins the gentle Bunny Planet
And the Bunny Queen is Janet.

I sometimes think I need a voyage to the Bunny Planet.

October has been a mixed bag.

On the one hand, it has been rich and generous with its gifts. The excellent opening concert for the Central Ohio Symphony (which now has a Facebook page!) My aunt Ginger's 80th birthday party (a good time was had by all, especially the birthday girl, who was completely and totally surprised). Our first wedding anniversary. Beautiful October skies. Flaming fall colors. Warren any day of the week and any hour of the day.

Riches beyond compare.

October has also brought some difficulties with it. In my case, it is last week's head cold that settled in my throat and caused me to be hoarse all week, leading up to being voiceless today. I canceled a walking date with Patricia this morning and just canceled coffee with Nancy later today because of it. I was pouting when I canceled the coffee date.

That's nothing, though.

October has brought phone calls and emails from friends with news no one ever wants to hear or read. My friend Larry, not Myeloma Larry but just plain old Larry, has just been diagnosed with lymphoma. His emails now come to me titled "a note from Lympho Larry." (That's cancer humor, okay?) He is meeting with his oncologist today to get the stage of the disease and the game plan for treatment. They think they caught it early (good news); it is the most common form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and responds well to treatment (more good news). The type he has - diffuse large B cell - is often very aggressive (not so good). When I touch base with Larry next week, I expect to hear a schedule of chemo and radiation, along with some really terrible cancer jokes.

The other call came from my colleague and friend, Doug, who started his call with "so what do you say to someone who has just found out they have cancer?" Not knowing where this was going, I asked "who?"

It was Doug. Doug with whom I have sat through more goofy court meetings than either of us thought we could stand, telegraphing our thoughts to one another with a carefully raised eyebrow or quick glance. Doug who has given his time and heart to community, church, and family. Doug whose innate decency shines through no matter when or where.

Doug's doctors are still deciphering and staging his cancer, but it appears to be stomach cancer (adenocarcinoma), past the early stage. Not the kind of diagnosis you want to hear. I have only heard bits and pieces since Doug and I talked earlier this week, but the bits and pieces I have heard from his coworkers are not promising or positive. When asked, one of them could only offer a few comments before his face fell and he said "I don't want to talk about it right now. It makes me too sad."

Where's that Bunny Planet when you need it?

When Doug broke the news to his staff at Adult Court Services (felony probation office), where Doug is the chief probation officer, they reacted the way you would expect a bunch of people who work in the criminal justice system would. One of his staffers immediately emailed the rest:

We all have had time to absorb Doug's diagnosis. Now it's time to think about how we are going to help him. Our focus need to be on Doug, Susan, and Rachel during the next few weeks and months. We need to start thinking about how we can help them. It could be cooking a few meals, cleaning their house, taking Doug to appointments, getting meds for Doug, (not the ones in our evidence drawer!!), grocery shopping, or even plowing their driveway when it snows. We all know that Doug is stubborn and may not want to ask for help, but we just need to jump in and do things for him and his family. I know Susan just started a new job so she may not have much time off to do things for Doug during the weekdays. We all have some vacation or comp time that we can use to help Doug do some things.

Doug really needs us right now. We all need to remember how many times we have gotten a call here at work and had to leave on a moments notice. It may have been a sick child, spouse, parent, or some other emergency. What is the one thing Doug always says when we tell him that we have to leave………."Take care of your family and don't worry about this place"!! Now it's time to take care of "our family". We are a family here. We are the 13 member, slightly dysfunctional, ACS family and one of members needs our help. We all know that Doug would do the same for us.

Let's be thinking about what we can do to help him, Susan, and Rachel. I would like to have an office meeting soon and discuss more ideas of what we can do.

Doug has done a lot for all of us. We may not always agree with some of his management decisions, but we all realize we have it pretty easy here. Who else would let us create our own schedules and pretty much come and go as we please. Let's take some of our time and show Doug how much we appreciate him and appreciate working here.


(I asked Carolee before writing this post if I could include her letter. Thank you, Carolee!)

When I read something like that - a spontaneous outpouring of care and concern, when I think of Doug, who has traveled over some hard roads in the past and is now facing the hardest one of his life, and of all the people in his life who will be there to help him make that journey, when I think of Warren calling my friends today because my voice won't carry, I realize I don't really need to visit the Bunny Planet. Not today, not ever. I may not always get the day "that should have been," but it is moments like this - life like this - that restore and refresh me and leave me again grateful for every moment that I have.

This one is for Doug. We're all with you, big guy.


Sharon said...

This post was a wake-up call for all those taking life for just never know.

I loved the way you tied everything in, with the Bunny Planet (boy I wish I knew where that planet is...) to how much you appreciated what has already happened for you in October...(Love the foliage picture!). Happy belated Birthday to your Aunt Ginger too! I loved reading about her life!

I will send a little prayer Doug's way as well, he sounds like a great guy with great office workers...

Hopefully November will be a bit less eventful with that type of news from your friends, and I hope you are feeling better soon!!!! Hot tea and honey, maybe?

Captain's Wife - Jennifer said...

Ugh. Not another one. :( A friend of mine who is 34 (younger than me!) was just diagnosed with malignant melanoma - last week they were pretty confident that they removed enough and that the path reports would come back good. I hope so! I love the way your co-worker responded - that is amazing. I love to see the good that comes from the bad, know what I mean? I hope your cold gets better soon! Never heard of the Bunny Planet books - and I have 3 kids ages 5 - 16! I will definitely check the library for them. :)

Ellen said...

April, it was my turn again today to take dinner to my friend I've written you about. She adheres to a specific diet--no flour of any kind, no sugar--that makes it a bit difficult to plan for her (especially as I eat pretty much the opposite of this! Pasta! Chocolate!) so I came up with baked apples with walnuts (cinnamon, no sugar) and a squash casserole with onions and cheese. But the best part was that I also had gifts to deliver today--a hat and scarf from my mom (who doesn't know this friend) and two hand-knit scarves done by a friend of mine from high school who lives in another state. These two strangers helped to boost my friend on a rotten, day-after-chemo day. I'm so lucky that my friends support not only me, but those in my community. I'm sure your friend will see this kind of outpouring as well.