September of my 50th year is when my life began to change. During a period of 12 short months, my quiet, complacent world would be shaken to its roots.
Business was going reasonably well, our son was ensconced in his masters degree program and our daughter was a senior in high school. I was on yet another business trip, this one to LA. I had flown out on 9/11/2002 (yes, one year after) when the first episode of my many recent encounters with life struck. My father had broken his hip. I suppose that this ought not have come as a total surprise, but as with most unwanted events, it was. With the advantage of twenty-twenty hindsight, the accident was easily explained. But nonetheless, it was, at that time, a surprise, a shock, and a panic. I was three thousand miles from my parents, one thousand miles from my wife, having to act the part of supporter and nurturer with all of the facilities that remoteness and technology would allow.
As this incident matured, a numbing sense of fear began to take root in me. Life had changed. More importantly, it looked like life was headed into a new phase. An unwelcome one.
Two months following my father’s brush with old age, my father-in-law had a third “cardiac event”. He had had heart attacks before but this time his life was significantly altered. He was diagnosed with stage 4 congestive heart failure. He was unable to live life as he had previously. His activities, energy, and abilities were significantly altered. Life had dealt him a significant blow.
Unfortunately, the blow was not only felt by him, but by the rest of the family as well. My wife, a retired RN, was enlisted to support him in his ‘recovery’. This enlistment became all consuming. Stressors and angst were everywhere. As was the case in my father’s instance, a formerly vital man was laid low. In this instance, however, the inconvenience and stress associated with the degradation in health were augmented with a considerable portion of anger.
We juggled schedules, our lives, and our emotions for nearly six months when we were, yet again, challenged. In the midst of celebrating our daughter’s high school graduation and preparing for our son’s graduation from his Master’s program, my father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Two weeks later, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Within a month of both diagnosis, my father had completed his cancer surgery and the love of my life had under gone a complete mastectomy.
Our lives would never be the same.
From a marriage perspective, youth in all its glories was removed from our lives. My wife and I were directly and frighteningly confronted with our own mortality. Our families were ill prepared to support us, we were essentially left to face the demons of breast cancer as a nuclear family; our extended support network was pre-occupied else wise.
My worst fears had come to fruition. Life had changed. Youth was gone. Mortality was imminent. We were on our own.
There were many other events that occurred during this same time frame, some of them were, even, joyous. Our son earned a Fulbright scholarship. Our daughter embarked on her college career. These were, however, “expected”. It is perhaps indicative of me and my mental state that I had come to expect “good” things to happen. It was those “other events” which caused me to re-evaluate myself, my world, and my place in it. In short, these “beginning events” led me to writing and sharing my observations with you.