Wednesday, February 22, 2017

LAST LETTER

I am finished with 800 pages of letters. 400 pages, 2-sided. It has been a great journey with my dad, full of his angst and delight and worry and adventuresome spirit and longing. I have brought so very little to these little installments, so much less than what I have absorbed through his words. I just had to leave out so many wonderful details and anecdotes due to time and space. But I have loved reading his every long-hand stroke. And it has been fun to share the trip through the letters with my blog readers.

These last week of letters are filled with many housekeeping details about the trip. It takes away from the richer anecdotes about his work and life. I am sad to see this journey ending in such a mundane way, but all those travel details just means that Dad is getting closer to having his family with him again.

Dad asks Mom to send a trunk full of civilian clothes before she embarks. Why he didn’t bring them when he shipped over is beyond me. “At the moment, I am wearing red sox, grey flannels and a blue wool shirt and I feel like a million bucks. You can’t imagine how tired you get of army uniforms.”

I smile when Dad tells Mom about all the letters he gets every day…..from his parents, her parents, her aunts, his grandmother, his dad’s associates, friends from Jamestown (where they lived), and his little brother Bobby. Bobby came along 18 years after Dad. I’ve never asked Uncle Bob if he was a “bonus baby” or planned, but their middle brother was born when my dad was 10 so Grampa and Grama had some wide gaps in child rearing. Dad had already left for college at UND when his baby brother was born but they became close. Bobby, age 9 or 10, would write Dad in France these long one-full-page letters with details about life back at the home place and it delighted him.

“I had another letter from Bobby today. He sure writes good letters. He wants a letter just to himself so I’ll have to write to him.” And a week later, “Got a couple more letters from Bobby again. He sure is good about writing and writes the best letters. I really enjoy them.” Dad would be crushed if he knew that his brother would, 60-years later, be fighting cancer.

He is talking with his buddy Bob about how they would love to begin a small medical practice together when they return to North Dakota. Problem was Dad was already hired at Jamestown Clinic and they were paying a portion of his salary as an incentive for him to return there, so the idea lost steam.

The last letter is dated Saturday JANUARY 28,1952, and under the date he writes, 16 DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS. Seeing my mom and brother was a Christmas morning present that he couldn’t wait to open in February! He ends with this:

Darling,
I am getting so antsy I can hardly wait for you to get here. I am in a new room at the Hotel Lion D’or and am very happy about it. Madame Salm moved me into Hans Stibold’s room. I’m alone now and have the nicest room in the hotel….new bed and all. Am very happy to be alone. Storment and I were incompatible (as roommates). Can now go to bed and get up when I like.

Gee, Darling, I’m happy tonight. You seem so close. I’m so anxious I don’t sleep well anymore. Meeting you and Mike will be as wonderful, or more so, than when we were married. Sure seems like ages since I left you weeping at the Fargo airport. Sometimes I get such an anxious feeling, I think I’ll bust before you get here. Hope our boy makes the trip OK. Hang on to him tight, honey.

Not much in this letter, darling, except that I sure love you with all my heart and it won’t be long now. Kiss for Mike.

All my love, Ed




One last post to come: The rest of the story

Saturday, February 18, 2017

DENVER HAS SPOKEN

For those of you who have wondered about the results of my Denver doctor's consult with me, I am relieved to tell you things are not dire. The new drug (his own) is not FDA approved and that is where my angst had its genesis. How long could I wait for this drug if mine is not working? Dr. K told me that April 29 is the federally mandated day that the FDA has to make a ruling. It could, by some miracle, become approved before that, but it HAS to be ruled on in 2 months. He sees no reason it won't go through. I would have access to it as soon as 2 weeks after it starts being distributed.

He wants me to stay on the chemo that is no longer effective, because it could be slowing any progression in the tumors until the new chemo is out. He was not too concerned about all the fluid in my lung cavity. My cancerous lung may be trapped (meaning, it won't descend into the cavity even after removing the fluid) so if I am not symptomatic, he wants me just to hold off on that. I guess it has good proteins along with the cancer cells! Go figure.
This is what they tapped out of me 2 weeks ago (a little over a quart). Hard to believe I didn't slosh when I walked!!



So the news is overall positive and I am not out of options, which I worried about. Looks like I can plan my summer! I am so blessed to have my Denver doctor who is such an expert in the type of cancer that I have that he is creating the chemo to combat it!!

Thank you for praying. Continue to pray that the FDA might come through earlier than April 29.

I continue to have faith in total healing someday. The drugs can't cure me, but God still can.

Monday, February 13, 2017

TIRED OF BEING ALONE

INSTALLMENT 4


Dad is still in Nuremberg with friend Bob. He is becoming a shopper. Buying things for their future home back home. Hummels, musical beer steins; checking out Rosenthal and Limoges china sets, which they probably could never have afforded in the US. He tells Mom that they are going to leave Europe with some nice things, even if they don’t save a penny. I know that they also bought their parents many beautiful things in Europe.

I was amazed that the folks had already chosen the blueprint for the dream house they were going to build someday. Dad asks Mom to bring the specs with her so they can plan. The house was built when I was 6.

“Honey, did you receive the silk scarf and the French perfume I sent you?” and “Bring some fancy clothes with you for parties. When you get here, I will buy you a Paris creation and you’ll knock everyone’s eyes out.” Ah, he was so romantic!!

I am sad that Dad gets down a lot. He uses the word morose to describe himself. Tells Mom that he “will feel like living again after you and Mike get here. His daddy will have to give him lots of loving when he gets here----and Mama too!” I share his loneliness as I read.






Their separation during these many months, I am presuming, set the tone for the rest of their 64 years together. They were rarely apart for more than a week, when Mom would go to one of our homes when we had babies or when Dad took one of the boys on a fishing trip. They knew separation and never wanted it again. "Believe me, we're staying together every day possible from now on. We're just too close to be apart."


Dad is already checking the train schedule for Cherbourg, where Mom is going to disembark, so that he has all their ducks in a row. He is concerned about buying a baby bed and asks Madame Salm to price them out for him. She actually offers to buy one for them to use. He must have gotten the "shopping itch" out of his system during his years in the Army, because the only thing my dad liked shopping for, to my memory, was cars and cameras. 


I am high-fiving Dad for finally calling the Colonel in LaRochelle on the QT and asked him what was up with this major. When he heard the story, he whistled and almost blew his top. The Colonel guaranteed Dad that the unscrupulous major would be out of Dad's camp in 2 weeks. "My conscience tells me I did the right thing by reporting him, but I hope I don't get into a jam or have repercussions over it."

I am stoked as he tells me about the new hospital construction coming along well at Captieux and it promises to be one of the best medical facilities in the European theatre. Then, the surprise to me....he tells Mom that he heard a new OB/GYN center is being built in LaRochelle. "Maybe we'll have Catherine Ann here after all."

CATHERINE ANN? I was supposed to be a Catherine? Not that I dislike the name. I am just not a Catherine. I'm glad they re-thought the name options before I arrived!!

We're about 3 weeks away---

Sunday, February 5, 2017

SPEED BUMP

I am at a crossroads. My chemo has stopped working. My scans last week yielded some good news and some not so good. My 4 remaining brain tumors are now 3. That's good. But I have 2 lung tumors that are growing and 3 new ones. I have accommodated to the chemo. A fourth generation drug which targets my cancer is developed but not yet FDA approved and could be months before it is. Unless God intervenes.

I will be consulting with my Denver doctor about my options. If the drug doesn't become available, I will be on a descending path of growing cancer. I don't know that there are any further options for me. 

I will know more after I talk to Dr. K in Denver.

My prayer request to any of my blog-followers who might want another cause to put on their prayer list: A miraculous rapid FDA approval of the drug I need.

How am I doing? I dropped my basket of faith for a few days and had to battle fear. But we went to Mpls to see the kids this weekend and I was able to still my soul enough to start gathering all the pieces of faith that I had dropped. I may be blindsided again this week, but I am trying to remain strong and positive. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

WHERE DID YOU LOSE THEM?

I am interrupting my journey with my dad through his letters in order to share my thoughts. Maybe I am too apolitical or not culturally refined enough or not socially aware enough. I don’t know. But I just don’t get these Marches for Women that have overtaken the country. Women fighting for “women’s rights.” Color me perplexed. When did they LOSE their rights? As far as I know, women in the US still have all their rights intact. Where was I when the female population lost their constitutional rights?

I still have the freedom of speech. I can say anything, write anything, at any time, without reprisal. I can worship in the church of my choice. I could easily pass a background check and buy myself a pistol and start packin’ heat if I wanted to. Nobody prevented me from voting a couple months ago. If I am arrested for any reason, I have the right to an attorney and a trial jury.

I have the right to get in my car and go wherever I want. I can accept or reject any job I am offered. I have the right to assemble any group I so choose. I have the right to due process of law. I have the right to own a home and property. I can associate with anyone I choose. Oh, the innumerable blessings of my rights!

What do women think they have lost? If they are irked because their pay is not equal to their male counterpart’s pay, is marching down a street with a sign magically going to incite their boss to increase their pay by 10%? Have some chutzpa, ladies! Go HAVE A CONVERSATION with your superior. Face to face negotiation probably goes a whole lot better than marching down a street hoping your boss will be moved to promote you.

There IS one right that women currently don’t have. We don’t have the right to PREVENT the slaughter of our unborn.

To women considering abortion: In exercising YOUR legal right to abort your baby (it’s not a choice, it’s a child), you forever and always silence the rights of another. Another human being who will never know the rights you have.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

NO FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

INSTALLMENT 3

My father is obsessed with cameras and camera accessories. He regales Mom with details about what he is currently purchasing to go with his fancy new Roloflex.  

He wants Mom to bring with her Cooke’s Tour of Europe book so they can travel a lot (which they did). Dad takes a trip to see his buddy Bob in Nuremberg, Germany. He takes a bus to Bordeaux and declares, “the French drive like hell” and “just manage to miss every other oncoming car.” I know this disturbs him as he is always a conscientious and safe driver. I assume he buses the next leg of the journey too. Nuremberg, an “ancient city with Roman walls” was heavily bombed during WWII. I am intrigued when he says that it was one Hitler’s favorite cities. In 1952 it was the location of the War Crimes Building. He and Bob enjoy being together again.


Dad feels as if the residents of Bazas are getting to know who he is. He is surprised when many of them acknowledge him on the streets in the town square with a “doktor” and a nod of the head.






He now is telling Mom that he thinks they should buy a Hillman Minx convertible since one of their dreams is to own a convertible someday. WHAT? With a baby? WHAT? My pragmatic parents? Of course, car safety was not of prime importance back then. It wasn’t until 1968 that seat belts were mandated in all cars. Obviously they thought (for a moment) that breezing across a dozen countries with the top down was romantic. Reason apparently usurped their romanticism and they ended up buying a Chevy.


The house at 43 Rue de la Taillade in Bazas
where I was conceived

My dad has scruples, he does. A lifelong trait. The major wants to lower the venereal disease rates in the camp. Now, one would think that some serious classes about sexual behavior and sexual safety would help. Oh no, this major wants to change some of the diagnoses of VD to “non-specific urinary infections.” Ethical issues even in the 1952 army. Seriously? Dad laments, “Getting mad at him is like hitting your head against a wall.”

Dad tells the major he is against lying about the statistics, but “has to cooperate” because he is outranked. What I love is when Dad says he has every intention of reporting the fraud and deceit to the Colonel when he comes! Good for you, Dad!

Dad is wistful about his baby boy. “I only hope he won’t be afraid of his daddy as he is probably going to be strictly a mama’s boy until he gets to know me again.” That thought must have been hard. (Apparently it only took a couple days and Mike and Dad were reconnected.)



Apparently Mom brings up pregnancy and Dad puts it quickly on the back burner. "The OB care and hospital are both too far and I would rather wait so we had one when we get home." Mom agreed with the wisdom and they waited another year to get pregnant.

I’ve always been a little miffed at them for not staying long enough to give me French citizenship. But their duty was over and Mom could not fly after 7 months so in my watery womb, I had to bid adieu to the City of Lights and come into the world in a good old Midwestern hospital. Not born in France, but being conceived there holds a special place in my heart.


25 more days…

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

STILL WALKING

(For you who read my last blog, this is a continuation of that post. A journey with my dad through his letters to my mom during the Korean War.)

                                              INSTALLMENT 2

The news is unsettling: One 2-star general and one 1-star general are coming to Captieux to inspect the camp. Not music to Dad’s ears. Nor mine, as I know my Dad’s unease with any sort of confrontation.

That happy news is accompanied by the acquisition of five new ambulances, a dentist and several more troops coming to join his outpost. He is happy about the ambulances, not so much about the increase in enlisted men to supervise.

Because of the increase however, the army sends over a new major, who outranks dad (a captain), and assumes authority. The major is “hopping mad” because they made him leave a very soft assignment in Boston and sent him to what he thinks is the worst assignment in the world. Dad says the major feels he has been “banished to Captieux.”

Dad is neither upset nor threatened. He is relieved about now not having to be camp spokesman when the generals come to inspect. Dad is let off the hook! The first day, the major asks Dad if he will get up for the early sick call, and if he will, he can leave at noon. I am pumped along with him for an afternoon off!!

A few letters later, it is clear that the "job-sharing" arrangement with the major is more permanent than one day. Dad is very content with this.

The Army has finally given Mom a departure date on the Queen Mary ocean liner for Feb. 9, a month away! I wonder how long she and Mike have to sail. Dad is ecstatic and now counting down days. She is bringing with her a washer, a car, and a refrigerator for starters. Dad is adding to the list daily! He says they are so expensive in France that shipping them over and selling them when they leave will make them money.

He has secured his lease of the old house but still living at the inn with the officers. Fleas are still a problem. He has bites everywhere and I wish I could give him some 2016 remedies. Right now, I cringe as he sprays his room with DDT...all the officers are using it. He wears long johns to bed to keep the bites at a minimum. Madame Salm continues to make extraordinary meals for the men staying in her hotel, Lion D'Or. Good thing Mom was an excellent cook or she would be feeling slightly threatened with the meal standards that Madame Salm is setting feeding her husband!

The men still sit around after dinner and "share their Kodakchromes." Pictures and slides being mailed back and forth from families stateside is something he writes about almost daily. The Kodachromes are lifelines.  As are all these letters filled with such love: ”I will have enough staples bought at the commissary for us because we’re not going to want to leave the house for 2-3 days when you get here" and "You are due for beaucoup loving; come prepared!” I am warmed by their love as I read.

I wince mockingly as he writes to mom that he wonders if he could ever love another child as much as he loves Mike. I wanted to whisper in his ear that he could. And did. Lavishly. Never was a daughter more loved.

I love this daily accounting of Dad's army career, thoughts, decisions, feelings and tasks. He sometimes writes twice a day and then sends both at one time. Mom writes daily to him. In our digital culture,we have lost the treasure of a letter written on paper, in long-hand and found in our mailbox....to be read over and over. I feel so blessed to have these.

....now the last leg of the wait for Mom and Mike....