Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A November to Remember

(Subtitle: what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger)

Blogging should not be a torturous writing activity. But for me it has been! For the last month or so, I've read umpteen Facebook and Twitter posts of people I know who have joyfully announced: "My Blog! It's been updated!" Last summer, it was a goal of mine to update the Betrovia blog at least once a week -- and not with just commentaries/updates about my writing! And I felt that I had done a admirable job in maintaining that goal. (I especially like the short series on UAVs!) The goal of blogging at least once a week even carried into September. But after that month, I must confess that I've been a slacker. I suppose one reason is I've been spending a certain amount of time tweeting. Now, of course, blogging is to tweeting as having bacon, eggs and hash browns for breakfast instead of a milk-drowned bowl of Raisin Bran.

As I waved good-bye to September and welcomed the cooler but shorter days of October, the desire to tweet compared to blogging became even stronger. My desire to tweet instead of blogging was fueled with the notion that tweeting was going to be more productive in sending people to Amazon to buy my stuff. About 1/10 of my tweets have been directly about Betrovia, etc. so I don't feel that I've used my tweeting time to spam my stuff like I've seen too many authors do. (I mean, really, how self-depricating is it to beg someone via a tweet to buy or to even just "like" your book and/or Amazon author's page?)

While I munched on left-over Halloweeen candy the first few weeks of November, plans to head to Kansas for a Thanksgiving celebration began to fly into my in-box. (Wifey has developed this curious habit of emailing me her travel ideas instead of just talking to me about them!) Her plan for this year? Invite ourselves to one of her sister's place. And that is exactly what she did! We checked the long-range forecast and it appeared that neither ice nor snow was not going to hinder us from driving to Kansas on Thanksgiving day.

However, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I got a phone call from one of my older brothers who said that Dad was going in for emergency surgery on Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve). He sressed that if Dad chose to not go through with the operation, he would most-likely die fairly soon. Our travel plans were consequently altered so I could use the 2004 Altima (which had been loaned to us by our wonderful daughter for the trip) to head to Topeka from Lawrence to visit Dad after the surgery. And there he was, laying in the hospital bed on Thanksgiving Day, watching the dog-show on NBC that people who don't want to watch NFL football choose to watch instead. We had a good talk, one of the only ones we have ever had between just the two of us. Before long my sister and Mom arrived. Before I left, there was talk about Dad undergoing a blood transfusion later that day (which is a normal follow-up procedure for the surgery he had experienced). So I volunteered to take Mom home and on the way to her place the two of us had a wonderful, one-on-one talk as well.

We made it back home before 8 PM Thanksgiving night--a perfect time for Wifey to hit the hay in preparation for getting back up at 4AM for some frenetic Black Friday shopping. So at a few minutes in front of 4AM she got up and was out the door by 4:30. I laid in bed until close to 6 when the phone suddenly rang. Of course, I thought that it was Wifey wanting to get my opinion about something she was thinking about buying. But it wasn't her; it was my eldest brother. He called to tell me that Dad had not survived the transfusion. What else could I do after getting that bad news but call Wifey? The Black Friday shopping came to an abrupt halt.

By Saturday, the funeral plans were made and the following Tuesday we headed back to Kansas. The temperature that morning was in the lower twenties when we left Jefferson City--nearly 40 degrees cooler than our excursion just six days earlier. Instead of borrowing the Altima again, we rented a 2013 Kia Optima. (I have never driven a brand-new car before so that was an interesting and thought-provoking experience!)

Dad's visitation was Tuesday night and the funeral was on Wednesday afternoon. Both took place in the first church that our family attended when we moved back to Kansas from Florida in 1968. Needless to say, it felt very strange to talk to people who said they remembered me when I was only "this" tall. It was also amazing to see three of our Jefferson City current-home church pastors walk in the door Tuesday night! It was a great blessing to have those three men there praying with us at that time!

About 30 minutes before the funeral on Wednesday, my oldest niece Sarah (who's been battling a rare form of intestinal cancer since last Spring) arrived. She was in a wheelchair. It was the first time I had seen her in at least three years. During the funeral service, I glanced a few times over at her and it looked like her head was bowed as if in prayer. After the funeral I found out that the plan was for her to go very soon to the Cancer Treatment Center of America facility located in the Chicago area. I've heard many good things about the CTCA and was hopeful that they would know what to do for her.

At the sun-lit but windy gravesite service, Mom was asked if she wanted to say anything and yes, she certainly did. She said that she felt very blessed to have such wonderful children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. By 3:30 Wednesday afternoon, we were leaving Kansas and headed for Jefferson City.

In less than a week's time, we had made two trips to Kansas in two different vehicles but for two related events. Three days ago I got an email from Sarah's dad (my oldest brother) and the CTCA people in Chicago said they were not able to do anything for Sarah that had already been done. He wrote that she promptly informed them to unplug her so she could go back to Kansas.

I told Wifey last night that I do not want to go back to Kansas for another funeral. She replied that God is a miracle-worker and that we should continue to pray for Sarah's complete healing. I had to agree. What else could I say?

Dad's sudden departure from this world and Sarah's serious and now somewhat-terminal condition have made the 2012 holiday season one destined for somber reflection. The head pastor at our church has been preaching a series on The End Times (the rapture of the church, etc.). And of course people around the world continue to over-react to this wacky Mayan calendar thing!

Like I wrote at the beginning: what doesn't kill you ...