Twenty-four hours ago, we were in Avon, over in the snowy part of Colorado, and I was giving a talk for the opening of the Ninth Annual High Country Speakers Series. (The photo above is Camp Hale, on the way to Avon, where the 10th Mountain Division trained in World War II.) Now we’re home in our own cozy living room with a fire in the woodstove, not a flake of snow on the ground (darn it–we could use the moisture!) and the constellation Orion striding across the cloudless southeastern sky.
In between Avon and here, we’ve been to Denver (not exactly on the way home, but an important destination in this particular journey) via Interstate 70, a spectacular trip over Colorado’s Rockies, climbing up and over 10,600-foot-high Vail Pass, and then through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which bores straight through the Continental Divide at over 11,000 feet elevation (the Colorado Department of Transportation claims that it’s the highest vehicular tunnel in the world).
It’s gorgeous drive in the daylight. But we left Avon after my talk in the inky darkness of a moonless night, with tiny snowflakes sparkling in the headlights. It was difficult to distinguish between dry pavement and black ice. Still, whenever I had a moment to look up from the road, the brooding black forests and silvery snowfields took my breath away.
This morning was Richard’s oncology appointment at the Denver VA Medical Center. The first thing we did when Dr. Klein called us into her office was give her the gorgeous loaf of sourdough whole wheat bread Richard had baked for her. (She’s a sourdough-lover; they talk baking all the time.) When she asked how he was feeling, he pulled his juggling balls out of his briefcase and entertained the entire oncology clinic staff.
When the laughter settled down, we learned the news: Richard’s latest brain MRIs show no signs of tumors in any other parts of his brain. That’s the good stuff. The not-so-good: The margin of the cavity where the tumors and most of his right temporal lobe were removed last August has developed some nodularities (technical for “bumpy bits”) that bear watching. They’re not identifiable as tumors, but they could go that way.
On the positive side, there’s his general good health and the fact that he’s gradually been resuming projects he put aside a year and a half ago, after he first saw the bird hallucinations that led us to the hospital and into this walk with brain cancer. We’ll keep supporting his health with the anticancer diet, laughter, meditation, exercise, juggling and other good things. And we’ll hope that the nodularity turns out to be brain tissue healing in sculptural ways.
This afternoon we spent a couple of hours with my folks. My mom’s much less communicative than she was even a week ago, but she seems much more peaceful. Part of that could be having great drugs–her hospice nurses make sure she’s as comfortable as possible despite the broken left hip and ulcerative skin sores. I don’t think the change is all the medications though.
Mom’s never been one to look for inner peace. Yet now she lies in bed, listening to the activity around her and smiles. Her attention seems focused more inward than outward, as if she’s beginning the walk from this world to the next. Where a month ago she was very clear about not being ready, now she seems at peace.
All the long way home up and over the mountains, across South Park with its heck-a-cious winds, icy roads and blowing snow, we talked about this journey. Sometimes it feels as perilous as the highway in the photo above (from South Park this afternoon). Navigating that icy road safely asks that we slow down, pay attention, and exercise thoughtfulness and care.
Hmm. Those are pretty good instructions for navigating life.
It would be a shame to miss the beauty all along the way too, even amid the peril.
Thanks for watching and walking with us.