Sunday, May 31, 2009

Oklahoma, Where the Wind Comes Rushing...

When I let a lot of time drift by without posting I struggle for the right topic to resurface on.

There was the unplanned trip to Oklahoma following first a great-uncle and then a great-aunt's death. Both children and I traveled by plane and rental car to be present, gather with relatives unseen for decades (and never met by my children), and create "cousin bonds" I hope will stretch between Illinois and California. My mother's family, especially, is known for warm gatherings with open hearts and arms. This has been missing from my married life and I wanted our children to experience it. They soaked it up, learned firsthand about their family roots, and made me proud with their ability to adapt. It was 40 years ago that my mother took me out of school to accompany her to the funeral of her grandfather, in Oklahoma, and I still remember the mix of grief and joy the extended family experienced together. Now I was making a similar journey with my own children, and they were about the same age (7 and 9) I was those years ago.

When we returned home, exhausted from the many visits and reunions, the children asked me why they didn't know their uncle and his two boys, now 25 and 23. They had just met their aunt, my sister, and her children ages 7 and 10. Where was my other sibling? They knew that families didn't always get along - we had always been open although not specific about why some people were not in our lives - but this time I realized I didn't have an answer for them. I accepted that my brother had chosen not to be present in our lives but his kids were old enough to make up their own minds. With the confidence of a mother determined not to let her children miss out on an important family connection I took the information gleaned from the Oklahoma gathering and located one nephew through the internet. A gentle email inquiry and we discovered that he did want to get to know his black sheep relatives! Yahoo! We've begun an email correspondence with the eldest and will contact the youngest, too. While it may be true that you can't return to the home of your childhood, you can indeed create a home and childhood for your own family.

School is wrapping up and we're involved in the last concerts and plays of the year. Danny sang with his class, quietly, as he was overcome with stage fright. He'll get past that in a year. Gracie performed a flute duet, solo and played with her band with astonishing confidence. Tonight is the 4th grade musical and, having caught the early show, I can say it's really awesome! "Geology Rocks" is the title and it is a fun, creative way to learn about geology while singing some goofy songs. The California budget is threatening once again to destroy what's left of the public education system. This time we may really lose our fantastic library, the band and music programs, science specialists, the water to keep the playing field green, even some of the best teachers you can imagine. Our district's foundation for funding these "extras" (yes, can you believe a library is considered an "extra" in California?) is called SchoolForce and needs something like $500,000 by June 31, 2009 to save these programs and more. I'm going to put a link on my page in the hope that a generous benefactor will decide to donate via the Princess Hedgie Chronicles. Those nickels, dimes and $50 really add up!

On the cancer front, I'm happy to report a clean bone scan. NED, or "no evidence of disease" in the bones. I've gone back to Guru Beth, my incredible acupuncturist, for help with arthritis in the fingers, osteopenia, lack of spunk and weaning myself off aciphex, a treatment for GERD that may also be responsible for the fatigue I've attributed to treatment. Aciphex also interferes with the absorption of calcium, a problem when a body is already dealing with osteopenia. Nothing in this area is a covered insurance benefit, of course. Beth has offered me the best health advice of anyone and we'll just find a way to cover the cost.

My lovely friend, Marian, has ceased treatment and entered hospice care. Today I was finally able to reach her by phone and we scheduled a phone date for this Saturday. What I want to do is spend time with her. She is full of light and love. I don't know what I can provide her except my presence. I hope she trusts me enough to tell me what she needs and allows me to serve her.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Rumor Mill Grinds On

"Please call and let us know if it's true what our daughter says, that Danny has swine flu. We won't tell anyone, but we need to know."

Holy moly. This parent tried to reach me by two phone numbers before leaving a frantic message on my cell. His voice was shaking with worry. Mine was shaking too as I dialed him back and muttered to myself in preparation for the conversation I was going to have. Shaking not with worry but with genuine anger.

After he picked up I introduced myself and calmly told him that no, Danny had STREP throat, not the swine flu. He most likely contracted it from another child in his class who was diagnosed earlier; we notified the school office as soon as we learned of the diagnosis and Danny was on antibiotics. The school notified parents as required. His sister tested negative for STREP throat but was kept home today because she felt "icky" and we would watch her; I also tested negative for STREP throat. At no time did any one of three different physicians deem our symptoms worthy of the swine flu test. We had symptoms of STREP throat, which happens to be very common in the local schools right now.

The other parent explained that his daughter and my daughter had talked about Danny being sick and that "it might be the swine flu." Well, since when does a conversation between two 9-year-olds constitute a medical diagnosis? And why would it occur to any sane adult that we would hide the diagnosis (or illness) from others? As though we could hide the diagnosis from anyone; we'd be on every local newscast within minutes of leaving the doctor's office.

The girl's father told me the swine flu was a "huge concern" and he was sure I agreed they needed to be cautious. No, actually I don't. I kept that opinion to myself and also bit back the questions I really wanted to ask him:

"Did you really think we would hide this illness and put the school community at risk? Did you mean to suggest you would keep it to yourself if we told you Dan had the virus? Why in hell would you do that?"

Maybe this flu will flare up in the fall and turn into a nasty killer. Now? It's a mild flu and I'm not that concerned. I do worry about the folks who panic in times of low stress. What will they do when there's a horrific crisis? Spread rumors, push others off the drawbridge, and lock the castle doors?

Holy moly.