debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Sometimes I find myself walking down the street and thinking, "My Uncle Bobby won't get to see the neighborhood kids walking to and from school this year," or "Eileen's new students won't ever learn checkers from my uncle."

I miss him. The acute stage of grief has passed. I no longer cry for hours on end. Still, almost every day has lonesome moments. I cry through some. Other times, I just feel... less, somehow, than I was before.

What is most interesting to me is how every grief is different. It carries the signature of the person missed, I guess. For example, when Frank (my godfather) died, I slept for weeks. When Anne Cote died, I wept like a baby. Later, a baby I cared for died while I was away for a few days. What I felt then was sadness and regret that I could not do more.

This is a new kind of grief. Life keeps moving, but Uncle Bobby is in his way my companion through it. That's how I feel right now.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Church today - it's been far too long. I got there in time for the Gospel reading, which was pretty good considering that every bus and train was late today. I was amazed at how much a church can feel like a home - more like home than one's own house and bed. I guess I've really missed going to church.

There was a modified panikhida service (prayers for the dead) for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I cried a little, mostly because I was thinking of Uncle Bobby. I unconsciously (but appropriately) turned to the icon of St. Pantaleimon and prayed about whether the right choice was made. We all thought chemo was the right choice, yet the chemo killed him. He would have died of the leukemia, so didn't we have to try? Or at least, didn't we have a right to try? He died in all the comfort anyone could give - he mostly slept those last few days, in a haze of pain medications and antibiotics. When it was clear that his organs were shutting down, all but the pain treatments were stopped. That's doing as well as we could, right? I know the choice was ultimately E.'s, but all of the close relatives, myself included, thought the course of treatment was sensible. Still, one second-guesses oneself a lot, wondering if the outcome could have been any different.

I was glad to see big signs in the parish hall and out on the lawn advertising the 9/11 Interfaith Unity Walk. It's the church's role to give members more opportunities to get to know and love all other people.

The sermon was also nice. It was given by Fr. M., who is a missionary and has just returned from Outer Nowhere in the Arctic Circle. He talked about God loving the world and wanting to save all of it. Great stuff. He normally preaches very well, and I enjoy hearing him. He also has a goodly crop of children, mostly daughters, who are very sweet. One of them, who is about ten or eleven years old, contributed a plastic baggie she wasn't using so I could take some antidoron home to [livejournal.com profile] papertigers.

[livejournal.com profile] papertigers has been trying to get me to go back to church for weeks, and I guess she is right.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Today was my uncle's funeral. I attended noon Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, where John F. Kennedy's funeral Mass was held. In the meantime, in Los Angeles, my family was holding their funeral service.

This is the eulogy my father gave )
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
As it turns out, not going to Uncle Bobby's funeral isn't going to be the drama I was dreading. The funeral is on a Wednesday, so unless I wanted to miss a week's work (and therefore a quarter of my monthly income), there was no way to do it. I'll be saying a rosary on Tuesday while they have his rosary service at Holy Cross, and I'll try to take a half day on Wednesday so I can go to the noon Mass at St. Matthew's here in DC and do a funeral pray-along. (My family is mainly Catholic - French, Irish, and Italian - so this is an act of solidarity with them.)

I actually had a conversation with my dad today. He's pretty down about losing his only older sibling, and is expressing it in angry terms, as he often does. He says he's lost four pounds this week, and with the way I was eating and sleeping on Wednesday and Thursday, I believe it. He and my little cousin A., who is going into her Senior year of high school and was really, really close to Bobby, are going to do the eulogies. I am proud of my cousin for being strong enough to make herself so vulnerable.

I am still very upset. We will miss him very, very much.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Uncle Bobby fell asleep in the Lord tonight at about 5:35. Thank you all for your prayers and kind messages. May his memory be eternal.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
For all of you who have been praying for Uncle Bobby - we just got word from his doctor that he is in multiple organ failure and will most likely die in about a week. It does not help at all to know that he is cancer-free.

That's your update, folks. I'm just sorry it wasn't better news.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Uncle Bobby is doing better, and on his way to feeling a lot better, too. From my point of view, there is this: I now realize that the chances of my uncle surviving leukemia are very, very slim. That may sound like a bad thing - and it is, in its way - but it's also a good thing. I was really, really shocked by the suddenness and severity of the revival of this cancer. It threw me for a real loop. That is not going to happen again. When he goes home (and it really looks like he may go home), we are all going to realize that there will probably be a lot more medical intervention coming. The focus is soon going to be keeping Bobby as lucid and comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.

And that's OK. It's almost good news, really.

Thank you all for your hugs, good wishes, and prayers. Please keep them going.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Today, I talked to Farba Sow (my Mauritanian brother) via Skype. He found me about a week ago on facebook, and we've been writing back and forth a lot since. Apparently, Mali ("book name" Mutar) misses me, and I miss her, too. We used to sit together every evening and discuss things before dinner: cooking, TV shows, words in English and Pulaar, and we taught each other songs and folktales. Farba and Idrissa were mostly away at school (the town had no high school), but home on many weekends and for the summer. Ceerno and Bebe were younger; Bebe (book name Jeri) was one of my students. Ceerno was a little young - he was still in elementary school. Mamadou, who died two years ago, was in Nouakchott being a young rogue. Aissata, who is now an English teacher, was in Nouakchott until she got pregnant with Jellia. It's encouraging to know that she's finished her studies even though she had a husband and kid. Marieme, our aunt, was unhappy with Aissata's pregnancy because she believed it would be the end of her studies and career aspirations. Fatimata is still married to a soldier and living in heaven-knows-where.

Mali has two kids now, a remarkable feat for someone whose husband lives hundreds of miles away and gets back to visit only every couple of years. As [livejournal.com profile] papertigers pointed out, it only takes a few minutes.

Sadly, one of my favorite kids died. Little Zakaria had such personality. Fate has made a clean sweep of that family. While I was living there, his mother died, followed by his tiny, sickly baby sister (my particular pet, only about six weeks old) and his grandfather - all within a few weeks of each other. His dad was despondent, and sat around the compound like so many clothes. The dullness behind his eyes was terrible to see. Now father and son are both gone, too, giving a little more credibility to the idea (voiced by my friend Miranda) that it was AIDS that killed the mother. There's no way of knowing for sure; there was no HIV testing to be had in the village, or even in Kaedi, and in general, when people die and you ask the question "What did so-and-so die of?", people look at you blankly and respond, "They were sick." Malaria? Influenza? Dehydration? Heart disease? Who knows?

Some things have changed, but most stay the same. Jeynaba Moussa and Kadja Silley are still at their regular posts. Their kids are well. Little Aissata must be eight or nine by now, and little Jeynaba as well.

The number of names is limited - I was also Jeynaba in the village, better than my Boghe name, which was a nickname (Boobo) rather than a proper name (their daughter in Nouakchott who was called Boobo was also - surprise! - Jeynaba).

I'm rambling on, but it's been an interesting day. Tonight, I'm going to call Uncle Bobby and talk to Aunt E. a little.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
My Aunt K., whom I bless for so many reasons, has sent me a true update on my uncle's status. Some excerpts from her email:

A. and I were by to see Bobby yesterday. He was up in dialysis (it is a 4 - 5 hour process every day at this point) and we stayed about 2 hours.

Here is what I learned from E.
(Uncle Bobby's wife)

He is most likely finishing chemo today. They test him every day for his platelet count. It has been very low, which means his blood isn't clotting and Tuesday night he had some bleeding.

He has been spiking fevers at night (anywhere from just over 100 to 103+) and that has been a concern but manageable.

Hopefully after the chemo is done his dialysis can be cut back to 3 - 4 times a week again.

I was able to pull up the Care Pages from my phone and share with E. all the comments. Bobby has not been able to really read anything, nor get on the computer. His first post was dictated to C.T. The second was written by
[my baby uncle]* at E.'s request. I told her that people said "he" sounded better and her reply was not what I wanted to hear.

Her actual words were "Oh no. It has to be pessimistic, not optimistic." As A. said, Aunt E. was saying "We hope for the best but brace for the worst." It isn't looking good, but no one is giving up.

Bobby was listening from time to time, but not participating at all ... and when he tried it was hard to understand him. C.
(my dad) and [my baby uncle] will both be visiting this weekend, and E. is not really going home except to change, eat and turn around and come right back.

That is where it is.


If you are praying folk, please pray for my uncle and my family. He is really quite young (in his early 50s) and all of this has been a shock, especially after his seeming recovery. Uncle Bobby is not a glamorous or exciting uncle, but a solid one, always ready to be the pillar of strength, the first person to show my aunts that they were appreciated even though they weren't boys, and the main reason I was always one of my elementary school's top earners in the annual jogathon. He is quiet, maybe sad, and very stable - the calm point in a stormy family. He and Uncle G. (who is in fact a cousin who was raised by my grandparents) are the only ones of my fifteen aunts and uncles on that side that I've never seen angry.

*my pet name for my youngest uncle, who was 15 when I was born
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Happy new year, everyone.

I worked today. There were few students, but I hope the ones who were in class got a lot out of it, for all that.

I've been thinking about 2009 as a year ever since [livejournal.com profile] melebeth mentioned something about its not being so good.

She's right. I started the year with a sprained ankle that acted like a fractured ankle. There have been health problems for me and mine - everything from cancer to bad teeth. There have been emotional upheavals. There have been family upheavals. There was even a fire.

Still, I will say that some things have gone well. I've continued to learn just how valuable my friends and (extended) family are. I've learned, too, just how strong the support of my Family-of-Choice is. [livejournal.com profile] papertigers and I have drawn closer together, and (not coincidentally) I have grown a lot less emotionally dependent on her. I have been lucky in many ways. I still have blessings to count when anxiety tries to keep me awake.

Tomorrow, we will continue our Christmas celebrations with [livejournal.com profile] scooterbird and [livejournal.com profile] efbq's oldest, redheaded child. (Though I suppose, at 16, she is almost not a child anymore!)

Tonight, we have a clean house and Christmas carols on the stereo, good food, and cute cats. We are going to have a quiet and relaxed New Year's celebration with just the five of us (two humans, three cats). That is my favorite way to mark the change of the year. I feel good about this. May 2010 be a year of blessings and favors, joy and goodness for everyone who is reading this.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Just to make my day a little better... here's tonight's cancer update.

I called my Uncle Bobby tonight to see how he's doing. He's in the ER waiting for a blood transfusion. The doctors aren't sure why he isn't producing enough blood, but they don't like it.

Our friend S., whom we went to help in Florida, had a biopsy of a mass in his parietal lobe yesterday. It's a slow-growing tumor. He needs chemotherapy and radiation.

My cousin Mary also has cancer. She had a session of chemo last week.

In better news, Vince is slowly improving, and the doctors think they may be able to cut down his chemo regimen - he could be out a little early.

I hate cancer.

Busy

Jun. 3rd, 2009 12:36 pm
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Sorry I haven't been writing - it's been a heck of a time. In the past few weeks, among other things, two of my students have died (one committed suicide and was found by another of my students; the other died in a car accident while he was on vacation). Uncle Bob is going back into chemotherapy this week. I had kidney stones. I went to an interesting Africa Day event, but no one I met there has yet replied to my emails. I was invited to volunteer for another event that will take place in a couple of weeks, which includes a private party at the large local embassy of a rich country and former colonizer of Maryland which shall remain nameless.

Most interestingly for me, I have been working very hard on my genocide book. I am beginning to really formulate my questions and solidify my methodology. These are the less interesting brass tacks of the work, but they are the most important things to get just right. Now I am feeling a little more focused and confident, which is a good thing. More about this later (probably in a locked post).
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
I love this time of year. The cherry blossoms have gone; even the double ones are being replaced by leaves. The second round of magnolias is blooming. Best of all, some of the trees have been taken over by lilacs, which are now blooming. I love seeing that. The trees and their fresh young leaves... and the clusters of sweet-smelling flowers filling them.

We just got mail encouraging us to participate in fundraising marathons/half-marathons for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I'm really tempted to participate, and at the same time I know I'm probably not going to. For one thing, the one person who has always donated, and donated well, to these sorts of things when I've participated in them has been the very person I'd want to participate for, Uncle Bobby. I wish I knew how to feel better about this.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
No, really, I'd like to know.

My uncle has been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He's going into the hospital for four weeks on Thursday or Friday. We are not sure whether he will come out or not. The prognosis is not clear because they haven't identified exactly which kind it is... but cures are rare.

My Uncle Bob is going to be 55 years old in two weeks.

So please tell me why this seems to be my family's year for Bad Medical News. I'm rather tired of it, really.

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