Belated Cruise

Before my father died he wanted to take one last vacation with the family.  Unfortunately he died just a few days before we were supposed to leave.  So this year, during school vacation, my family and I decided to take our “Last Cruise” as a family of four.  Like the slightly morbid and irreverent family we are, we decided that everyone should go—so we brought Dad.  He is small and doesn’t take up much room, so we didn’t have to buy him a ticket. We did bury some of him next to my brother, but he was a wanderer and explorer, so we wanted to honor that too.

So the whole family went on a cruise, and we had a great time.  It was really special to just be together, with no distractions or work.   We didn’t take too many photos because we were just having so much fun!

We were active most of the trip, trying to avoid the consequences of the open buffet!  Mom and I jogged each morning, and twice we climbed the Rock Wall.  The first time my mother didn’t make it to the top, so she dragged us back the next day and she rocked it! (Bad pun intended!  Sorry!)  She made it all the way to the top and rang the bell!

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Doing it another time allowed me to try the harder path the second time around.

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Elliot and I had lots of sib bonding time.  Though I kept getting the evil eye from the single girls because they thought we were a couple.  Apparently we don’t look alike as much as we did when we were young!

(Example A: Stone Cold Fox)

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Elliot had picked out a shore excursion in Cozumel Mexico that included ATVs and wild animals.  I was a little wary at first, but we had a lot of fun.

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They were raising money for conservation efforts and we were able to meet some of the species they were trying to help.

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In Cozumel, I passed a store named “Deniz”  and HAD to stop in.  Of course, the owner was Turkish.  He had moved to Mexico five years ago.  He thought his path in life was set, he was in his fifties and had never been married.  But, as it happens, he fell in love with the woman he hired to help run his store.  They married a couple years ago–he is 60,she is 35, and they have the most beautiful baby, named Deniz!  So I got to practice my Turkish, and he was excited to speak it.

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It was a lovely trip, which sounds a little like bragging after hearing about that cruise ship that had to be towed in from sea while the passenger reenacted Lord of the Flies.   It was a vacation, and a time to let go and say good bye.  As I mentioned previously, we had brought some of my father’s ashes with us.  We used this time to scatter his ashes around the Caribbean Sea.  We thought he would enjoy it as a (partial) final resting place.  So we returned to NH with one less corporeal family member, but some good memories of all four of us on vacation.

The Things He Was

One year ago today, my father died.  I could lament all the things he will miss. (Weddings, Grandchildren, and General Awesomeness)

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However, I feel this day deserves a celebration, because my father was truly amazing.

For starters, he had some good stories.  The first time I was going to bring Bülent  home, we had to take down the twin bed in my room and set up the old double he and my mom used to share.  Apparently he bought it in the sixties and I was treated to the entire history of the bedframe.  Which I suppose was only fair as I only set it up to share it with my BF.

Also he started the Wellesley Fuck Truck, oh, I mean the Cuddle Shuttle.  When my father went to Brown in the 60’s he took some time off.  In that time he chartered (and drove) a bus between Wellesley (all women’s school I went to) and Harvard, MIT and Dartmouth (all men’s at the time).  When he stopped driving the bus and returned to Brown, the student body at my school demanded a  replacement bus from the administration.  I was also slightly wary introducing myself to alumnae from the 60’s and 70’s should they remember my last name, via my dad. 

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He was awesome with kids.  Seriously.  He rocked the 2-10 age group like a rock star.  Reading stories, finding age appropriate activities on-line. 

Dude rocked the babies 

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He was a feminist.  My body was my decision from way back.

He was a family man.  I never doubted his devotion to us as a family.  He would love nothing more than spending time with us.

He was a reader and lover of books.  Both my parents instilled this in me.  There is still nothing more exciting than opening the first pages of a new book.

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He had strong hands for a computer guy.  Often his knuckles were bleeding from some home improvement project, but he never noticed it unless one of us told him. 

He talked to everyone and anyone, often creating friendships and bonds with strangers who entered his life. 

He swore like a sailor when appropriate.

He was a fighter.  Life couldn’t have been easy.  There have been tragedies and triumphs.  He was diagnosed with cancer back in 1998.  He fought with a vengeance.  Our family, and those who know us were able to appreciate that time we had.  Of course we wish for more, who doesn’t?  No one wishes they had less time with their beloved family members.  I am glad I had the time I did and the memories I had.  I have learned many things from my father, raunchy jokes and tragedy included, and am glad for everything I had.  Every movement of it. 

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Hoşgeldiniz to 2013

Welcome to the New Year!  I hope everyone had safe and happy New Years celebrations.  Bülent and I have been so busy lately that we welcomed the New Year from bed, where we had been snuggling and watching movies.  It worked for me!  Start the New Year as you mean to continue right?  I am sure many people are thinking about New Year Resolutions and how to make changes.  I think I am just going to continue the journey I started several months ago, trying to appreciate the good, and live a more balanced life.

It has been a difficult year.  This day last year I was packing my bags to go back to the U.S.  I  had taken a leave of absence due to my father’s health and was supposed to head back at the end of the semester in late January.  I had spoken to my family a couple of days before and I had decided to change my plane ticket on December 30.  It was expensive to change a ticket two days before the flight, but it was the best decision I ever made.  My father’s funeral was on the original date in January on which I was supposed to arrive. 

I had taken the semester off and my school had hired someone to take my place, so I stayed in N.H., grieving and healing with my family.  It was difficult to be separated from my husband for six months, but has changed our relationship for the better.  We are stronger and more united, we know there is nothing we wouldn’t do to help the other…been there, done that.  We have now had bad and trying times and just love each other more for our individual responses to them. 

My time in the U.S. last year was very precious to me.  It allowed me to spend time with my mother while she needed me, and while I needed her.  I was able to get to know my brother as the man he is now, as opposed to the boy he was when I left.  I was also able to get to know his long time girlfriend, who is as lovely inside as she is out.  I went to my college roommate’s wedding and celebrated her happiness with her, and our college friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in five years.   I drove from Texas to New Hampshire, meeting Bülent’s dearest old friends, and visiting mine along the way.   I also went to BlogHer ‘12!

My oldest and dearest friend made me an Auntie—albeit in a terrifying way.  Due to her daughter’s insistence to make a (extremely early) entrance I was able to meet her in the NICU before I came back to Turkey.  

Health wise: Bülent and I went vegetarian (almost six months now) and I joined a gym a few months ago.  The breast lumps have been vanquished—well not vanquished but at least identified as benign.  To top it all off, our dog, Butterfinger, is not letting cataracts get her down.   

The year has been challenging and rewarding.  I am hoping that this next year will be easier, because we kind of need a break.  But we are starting the year off right.  Last year my dad wanted to take our family on a last vacation, a cruise, due to his limited mobility, but he died before we were able.  

Well, we are taking that fucking cruise.  Come January break, my mom, brother and I are going to go.  We are going to celebrate what was, what is and what is to come, because that is what life is all about.  So 2013—bring it on!

Survived!

I have survived the first week of school.  It went pretty well.  I missed teaching and the kids.  There is something special about the first week of school, when the kids are a little scared and trying to make a good impression.

A lot of my students from last year have come looking for me and have asked how my father is.  They knew he was ill, but are surprised when I tell them he died.  A couple times little girls have actually teared up.

Being back I knew people might ask how it was to be home and how my father is. What I didn’t expect from people is the comment…Wow you had a really long vacation!  They seemed to skipped over the terminal illness and death thing.   I had a particularly awkward encounter with  my neighbor.  First she commented on my long vacation, I said I went home because my father was very ill—he had cancer.  So then she asked what kind.  I said prostate because I don’t know how to say endocrine tumor in Turkish.  She said, oh..that’s not so bad, my father has that, then she asked how my father was now.  Dead.   I think she has been avoiding eye contact.

On my quest to have a more balanced life, I have been going to bed earlier this year.  It makes such a difference to go to sleep at 10 instead of 12.  It makes the morning so much less painful.  On the other hand, it is a habit that makes mornings come early.  It means that by 9 am this morning, I had showered, blown my hair dry, had breakfast, and walked the dog.  I had tried to sleep in, but to no avail.  I have a wedding to go to tonight.  I will have to take a nap to be able to stay conscious past 10!

Another Month Gone

I am still having trouble posting regularly.  I feel like it has something to do with the intrinsic nature of sharing and blogging.  With blogging so often you give up pieces yourself, you share your experiences, share your thoughts, and share yourself.  I still really don’t want to go out much.  I just don’t feel social.  Getting together with good friends is one thing, making small talk is another.  I will attempt to post more, as I am now back in Turkey and taking trips.  It just feels like I have blogging inertia.  Fellow bloggers, do you ever feel blogless?

Resurfacing

I am starting to get back…to what?  Not to the way things were, but to a new normal.  After the wake and service, everyone else’s life went back to normal.   Ours still has a huge gaping wound in it.  Nothing works or functions the way it used to.  All of us have issues, and daily reminders.  There is nothing like starting the day by trying to cajole the dog to do her business.  Sometimes she will do so if bribed, but otherwise is still waiting for Dad to walk her.

For the last few weeks I have not wanted to really do anything, see anyone.  The impulse to isolate myself is slowly fading.    A couple of weekends ago I went to a good friends wedding.  I was able to see friends I haven’t seen in five years.  I had a great time, and opened up a little more.  Friday I met up with a childhood friend I haven’t seen in about 20 years, and we were able to really connect and had fun.  I have been off the grid for a while, but am slowly making my way back into life.  One day at a time we are building a new foundation for the way our lives are now.

Another Day

Thursday night my father died.  We were so stunned and exhausted that we came home, had a drink and went to bed.  It took us a long time to go to sleep.  I know this because I slept with my mom that night.  Neither one of us wanted to sleep by ourselves.

Friday we woke up, and the sun was still shining, and my father was still dead.  I made pea soup, called my husband, researched how to submit obituaries and managed not to die of sadness.

Saturday I woke up, and the sun was still shining, and my father was still dead.   It helped to know that my husband was coming in Saturday night.  My brother’s girlfriend is amazing.  She was (and is) so helpful.  She was at the hospital all afternoon on Thursday, brought sandwiches, and helped advocate for my father.  She drove down to Boston and picked up my husband from the Boston airport at 11:30 PM and then drove 2 hours north to our home.

I have felt so supported by my family and friends, people sending food and calling.  Many of my friends emailed me such wonderful things.  One friend tried to move heaven and earth to get food and flowers delivered to my remote home.  Another went through my closet finding clothes I asked to be sent to the States with Bülent.    The last few days have been extremely difficult, but with the help of friends and family it has been, maybe not less painful, but a more supported journey.

My Father, Dan

Born 1943-Died January 19, 2012 after a long and valiant battle with cancer.

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Dan was a complex person, passionate about life and his family. He had a raucous sense of humor and a quick wit—he filled our lives with warmth and mirth. He fought for the best he could provide, for our family and our community. As a man of conviction, he may have butted heads with others along the way, but never let that get in the way of his integrity and honor. Despite the many hardships he’s encountered, he’s always been an adamant optimist. I think there are few people who could survive what he had and still be able to say that.

He was a fighter, when he was first diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago, he fought with a vengeance. I remember him telling me he just couldn’t leave when we were so little. I am grateful to him for that, that though I still feel “little,” I am now an adult who knows my own mind and heart, largely due to him.

He had a presence so huge that it is hard to imagine a world without him. I am grateful for every moment I had with him, and every memory I have for the future.

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He will be missed.

Chemotastic!

This week we are back on chemo–Dad’s third round. While he does have some side effects and major fatigue he is in a pretty good spirits. When I came back he warned me that sometimes when he doesn’t feel well he is a ornery bastard (his terminology might have been just “cranky.”)  However, lucky for all of us he has been pretty chipper and not so cranky, though we would have overlooked it if he had been curmudgeonly.   His taste buds have  been slightly altered so we have been plying him with ice cream—so that have helped too!

Recently, we had some good news.  Apparently our darling SOB has started down the lovely path of telling Cancer to “F*ck Off!”  His nasty, fancy, rare tumor is starting to shrink significantly.  We just need it to keep doing so and his prognosis will alter dramatically.  Honestly, I think he is too stubborn for this bitch of a tumor to beat him.

I can hardly believe I have been home for more than three weeks. Alas it is true. On Sunday I drove down to Massachusetts with Bulent and dropped him off at the airport. We won’t see each other in person for a month. I will be exhausted by the time I get to Turkey. The problem is, I don’t sleep very well by myself. I am kind of like a toddler in that I talk myself to sleep–but I prefer an audience. Plus… I like to snuggle. My parents’ dog is too big and skittish to sleep with and the cat used to be feral and is not super cuddly. It likes to love you from a distance and on its own terms.  My brother will let me hold his hand during scary movies, but we are a little too old to cuddle.  Anyway he has a gorgeous girlfriend who he would prefer to snuggle with anyway.

So life in NH is going smoothly and without crisis.  Plus, the neighbors are still spoiling us with yummy soups and dishes like Pad Thai!  I may no longer be in the city or “Far from the Sticks,”  but our “sticks” are the place to be!

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Coming Home, For A Battle

If you have noticed, I have been blogging a little less in the past two months.  I have been preoccupied.  There is work, and my Master’s program.  And then there is the Big C.

My father has had cancer for many years.  He was given a crappy prognosis about 14 years ago.  He kicked major ass.  He refused to believe his life was over more than a decade ago.  He found new treatments, got into experimental programs and generally was a hard ass with the doctors and told them, No—I will not die—so figure it out.  And they did, and he won.

Well another battle has started.  A couple of months ago he started having some major health problems—turns out it is a new, more fancy*  cancer.  He has always loved to upgrade!

So, I am home for the summer.  Usually when I come home for a couple of weeks there is a lot of running around, visiting, friends and family.  This summer I will be home for eight weeks.  I will still be running around, but with a different agenda.  Running errands, taking Dad to chemo, doing chores to make the house run smoothly, etc.  I will be able to visit with family, too.   My mom has been amazing, taking care of the house, their business and Dad with good humor and grace.  My brother has been great too, as well as my parents’ community. People really want to help, neighbors and friends have been dropping by to help with house projects and leaving food.  However, this summer I am hoping to take over many of these things so that Mom can have a break from being on medical duty 24/7 and have time to work in the office.  I will also be the official “Kitchen Bitch” as we call it at our house.

It has been great to be home with my family, and be helping out.  I have been able to *do* something.   The last two months have sucked, nothing is worse than feeling impotent when your family needs help.

So, I am counting on my Dad being a stubborn SOB, and telling cancer to F*ck off again.  Because that is the kind of guy he is, never runs away from a challenge and never cowed by the odds.  I don’t do the God thing, but if you want to throw some good thoughts our way, positive Karma can is always a good thing.  Karma can be a bitch, and I want it to be our bitch.

WITH HER FATHER DAN

*fancy aka “wicked” rare.