In the Land of Oz

Oz_GiveWayFive days ago, I arrived Brisbane’s international airport with Hook’s ashes and managed to avert a personal customs check of my baggage.

Before I left Austin, I purchased one of those face powder makeup containers and emptied it, then filled it up with my dead husband inside.  I was fully prepared to dip the mini powder pillow into his ashes and smooth it onto my face should the scene have called for it.  It’s just make-up, sir.

In Australia customs, a foreboding sign looms over weary travelers and reads:  Do you really want to pay an automatic $200 fine for these?  The sign posts photos of handguns and flammable liquids and other assorted crime paraphernalia.  Because I’d been rushed by other smelly travelers hurrying through to catch their connecting flights, I didn’t see that two of the ten forbidden items were fruit and nuts. Imagine my relief when the drug sniffing dogs passed right by me and did not pick up my scent of a fresh apple, a plastic container of cashews, or Hook’s ashes in the fake make-up kit in my luggage.

In customs, they asked, “Purpose of your visit?”

“My husband died,” I said in a dazed sort of way, my big cow eyes staring and blinking at him like someone with a nervous habit but really just someone who’d popped contact lenses onto bone dry eyeballs after a 14-hour flight.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” said the customs official, “was your husband Australian?”

“Oh no … but we were going to come here?  For a year?  Then he died …?” and I let the rest of my fake British accent drift off.

I’d sat between two of the nicest Australian men on the plane and in our forced time together, their beautiful Aussie accents had rubbed off on me but not to the point that I could duplicate them effectively.  I was opting for the easier route of doing a Madonna-fake-British-accent on the customs guy who was staring at me wondering where I was going with my death revelation.

Then I knew. I knew I needed to stop speaking.  I’d marked the box for ‘holiday’ on the immigration card because there was no box for Spreading Spouse’s Ashes.  If I were to state anything, I should have said “vacation” but I was confused and exhausted and still worried that my period was going to start, which is an emotionally taxing effort all by itself, especially when it involves three flights — Austin to Los Angeles to Brisbane — with one more still to go to get all the way to Perth.

I did not want to be fined anything for anything, but I’d lost an entire day crossing the equator and something about the congenial way of the Australians was going to have me blurting out:  I didn’t mean to sneak in fruit and nuts but there are some human remains in my big suitcase with the broken handle – Please, for the love of God, I need to get to the bathroom.   All, of course, in my new fake British accent … the closest thing to an Australian accent I could muster.

Giving Way in Perth

Yesterday morning I drove on the left side of the road with my rental car, the one with a steering wheel on the right side of the car instead of the left.  Those of you reading who are not from the UK or a former British colony, think about that for awhile.  The words –  stay left, stay left, stay left – played in a continuous loop in my head, and I’m immensely grateful that there are frequent Australian road signs that read, Keep Left. They must have known I was coming.

I’ve successfully fought off the inclination to drive or turn onto the right-hand side of the road or to think that all cars were headed down the wrong way each time they came towards me. Good Lord, either he’s driving the wrong way on a one-way or I am.  Neither of us was of course.

Several times a day, I drive over curbs on my left because I’m unable to estimate the amount of space I need for what feels like a huge passenger side of the car … on the left side of the car.  And when I drive, I continuously glance over my right shoulder as though I’ll need to Give Way for the cars I’m sure will be driving up on my right, from behind, instead of towards me.  Is it confusing to read this?  It’s confusing to write it.  Imagine what it feels like to drive in it.  I keep turning on the wipers every time I need to use the turn signal because those are switched on the steering wheel as well.  Seems my driving in Australia is as bad as my driving in Austin, but my front window is always clear and clean of any debris!

All the travel books talk about how nice Australians are, and all of my face-to-face contact so far has supported this except when it comes to driving.  They honk if you go too slow in what I have finally figured out is the fast lane (right lane instead of the left lane!), and they really honk if you constantly drive over the little lane bumps –  brrdrrpbrrdrrpbrrdrrp – which separate their car from your car.  They’re so picky.

This whole driving fiasco has me feeling like I’m speaking a foreign language, so much so that when I went to the McDonald’s (hey, don’t judge – my Perth apartment doesn’t have wireless internet but trusty Mickey D’s does) and they asked, “Dine in or take away?”

I replied, “Here?” and I wasn’t even trying to sound British.

The young woman stared at me like I was from Mars instead of just Texas as she repeated, “Dine in or take away?”

The first response that popped into my head was, para llevar.  My brain in its misunderstanding of Australian phrases and the thick Australian English has me pulling from the recesses of travel, a phrase in Spanish that I never seemed able to recall in Mexico when I needed it.  But because my brain is muddled and that was a state of being with which I was familiar living in Mexico, my auto-reflexive memory (I just made that up) pulled the response, para llevar, to the forefront.  Interestingly, I am still using this inappropriately as a Spanish response because my intent is not to “take away” but to dine in or drink in as it were since all I was buying was a “flat white coffee” or a coffee with cream or café con leche depending on which part of Texas you live.

“Here … for to dine in … here … I’ll eat here except I’m not really eating just the coffee, the flat-white-coffee-with-cream-or-milk-or-anything-white really.”

I jumble all of this together confusing us both then I lean over the register and whisper in a conspiratorial voice, “It’s okay, I can just have black coffee and I’ll drink it here so I can use your internet.”

I’m sharing too much just like with the customs guy.

Ashes in Australia

Today, I did what I had come thousands of miles to do, and which has been my only real goal since my non-planning for this trip began.  Not even the thought of snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef has held as much importance for me as seeing finally, 43 Hope Street.

Western Australian time is 13 hours ahead of Austin and my Wednesday, September 3rd, started while most of you in the west were still sleeping. This morning, I drove north of Perth onto the Mitchell Freeway which as best as I could tell does not have an actual highway number assigned to it, it’s just called, Mitchell Freeway.  I kept confusing speed signs with highway number signs, and I didn’t know if the speed limits were in metric, too, so I couldn’t figure out if I was going too fast or too slow unless cars were honking at me which they seemed to do quite a bit.

“Give way, damn it, give way!” I kept yelling but of course, the honking continued.

From Mitchell Freeway, I took Reid Highway until it turned into North Beach Road which took me to Waterman’s Bay, a quiet coastal town which was also the home to 43 Hope Street, the address for a house that Hook and I pre-rented for our stay in Perth.  It was going to be our year-long home base while he researched, and we traveled domestically.  After slowly driving by the residence several times and wondering if from the inside of the house I might look like a crazed stalker, I knew that a strange woman dumping white powder on a front lawn would not be cool. Instead, I parked two blocks over which happened to be only one street across from the mammoth Indian Ocean.

Once on foot, I immediately found an entry way with stone steps leading to a secluded rock cove near the water.  I walked down until I came to the base and before my butt even hit the stone step to sit, I started to bawl like I had not done since before the move back into the Hook House.  I howled from my gut not worrying if anyone could hear.  The waves crashing against the rocks hid the sound but not my tears which fell for all that had transpired, for all that would never be, and for Allan still being gone.

When I was done, I looked out to the ocean and said clearly, “I’m here,” as in, I made it, for both of us.

There was nothing else left to say because I was talking to myself only.  Hook was not there.  He has been long gone in spirit for some time.  He waited for me to move forward and he waited for me to get re-settled, but he’s had his own journey to fulfill which does not include me.  And as much as I have wanted otherwise, mine moving forward will not include him.

I looked down at my hand which held the pretend makeup case full of ashes.  Removing the lid, I spread my husband’s remains onto the rocks while the waves of water washed over them and I whispered this poem from our wedding:

Votary of nature even from a child,
he sought her presence in the trackless wild

To him the shell, the insect, and the flower,
were bright and cherished emblems
of her power

In her he saw a spirit all divine,
and worshipped like a pilgrim
at her shrine

When I finished I said only, “Okay.”

I sat for awhile on those steps until my eyes dried completely, and I allowed the peace that was mine for the taking to come. This time, I accepted it.

Allan and I did the best we knew how to do at the time.  Whatever deficiencies I had as a wife, and they were many, I had been there when my husband needed me the most.  I think again about the weeks before he died when every day was a new routine because his body was declining faster and faster.  In those evenings, I’d drain his stomach of fluid then rub him down with Ben Gay to loosen up his back and buttocks.  His sinewy swimmer’s body had been all muscle, perfect even at the age of 59.  Afterward, I set up the oxygen tank for a short 30 minutes, not because he had difficulty breathing, but because fresh oxygen in his lungs and muscles meant a deeper, more comfortable sleep.  With the tank humming, I’d begin to massage the edema out of his feet and in this way, I learned finally what it meant to really love a person.  To love meant to do for them, to give to them.  I learned that love was a verb and not a noun, and I felt closer to my husband than I ever had before.

When I first started massaging Hook, he liked to encourage me to think about massage therapy as an alternative career.  My brother, Dave, owns a massage business in Austin, and Hook thought that after he died, I should consider working for Dave.

“You’re really good, babe,” he’d mumble with his eyes closed.

“I don’t want to massage anyone but you,” I’d say as my fingers pressed into the soles of his feet.

Even as he lie dying, the practical side of Hook couldn’t help worrying about a backup plan for my future.  And as I would rub, he’d say over and over again, “I wouldn’t trade you for 10 nurses, babe.”

Once the oxygen had run its time, I’d stop rubbing his feet so I could turn off the tank, then I’d lean over to give him three quick kisses on the lips.

“You’re so handsome,” I’d say every time because to me he was.  Through all the chemotherapy and the radiation and the debilitating weight loss, through all of it, Hook remained incredibly virile to me.

“I’m a scarecrow,” he said once with a slight catch in his voice. I kissed him again, looking straight into his eyes, “You’re beautiful to me.”  And he knew that I meant it.

For the past two years, I thought that Allan and I had been dealt a crappy hand.  He would never ask Why or say Not Fair so I said it for both of us…screamed it…cried it…bellied it until the muscles in my stomach ached.  When he was still alive, Allan reminded me again and again that dying was a part of living and that his dying was just happening sooner.  He had accepted the circumstances, faced them, walked into his end with grace; but not me.

A few years ago I heard P. J. O’Rourke give a lecture at a Texas Book Festival on the subject of fairness.  He was reprimanding his daughter for something and she yelled out, “That’s not fair!”  He used this as the crux of his talk to list all the unfairness in the world, and how each of us living in a first world country had better hope things don’t start becoming fair any time soon.

I don’t think, Not Fair, anymore because I don’t want to know what would be fair.  I don’t ask Why either. That’s for another lifetime. I say now only, “Okay.”

You will always be beautiful to me:  Allan William Hook, September 3rd 2013

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A Pilgrimage of Milestones

Australia_kangarooIn two weeks, I’ll be on a plane to Australia.

Someone said that I was taking a pilgrimage but I’ve realized that this entire year has been nothing but a pilgrimage of milestones.  The first birthdays, the first holidays, the first trip back to the Texas coast, our anniversary in June which by the way is not an actual anniversary if only one of you is still alive, are all the beginning of the end to a new beginning.

Confusing, yes.

After the anniversary was the ritual of going through Hook’s clothes, his closets, everything he ever owned, made easier by the presence of my family.  They helped me to pick through what I was willing to part with then adopted some of his things which was more reassuring because it felt like he wouldn’t be far away. Then finally, there was the move back into the Hook House, a house I have to admit that I did not want to return to. Living here again was never part of the plan, but nothing of the last two years was part of any plan ever.

Yes, it’s a great house. Yes, I am grateful. Yes, everyone who walks into this house has said what I said the first time I ever saw it: “It’s so cute and such a perfect location!”

He should have died in this house but if he had, I wouldn’t be living here today. That’s one thing I know for certain and it goes with the only other certainty that I have:  I need to finish what we started which is why I re-booked my flight to Australia with little to no time to plan.

Early in 2014, I doubted that I would ever step foot in the land down under.  That country no longer held any interest for me.  Instead it was a reminder of unfulfilled dreams and not just of a sabbatical but of an entire future.  Occasionally I would say without conviction that someday I’d go and take his ashes, but I lacked any enthusiasm to make that happen until I moved back into the Hook House.

[I refer to my home as the “Hook House” because in the future it will become the Hook Scholar House where I sponsor students from outside of central Texas who travel to Austin from all over the world to conduct creative research at the Wild Basin Preserve.]

The first week back home, I had to give myself permission to feel relief, yes relief, that I could start anew, relief that it was okay to feel happy again, relief that no matter what I did to improve my future did not mean I would forget about Hook.   How could I?  This house was the only home I’d ever known with Allan.  It was his home then our home.  Now it is my home.  His Jeep is parked in the driveway while my Nissan is tucked away in the garage. Do I keep both cars? I don’t know but I no longer feel the need to figure everything out all at once. Somehow being back in this house has released me from feeling like I’d never find my way back to the land of the living.  And even as I walk through the house with the constant sense of he should be here, I know I can’t change the past.  I cannot make my husband be undead.  The only way forward is forward.

He would want you to be happy.

Sort of.  I mean, Allan would not have wanted me to be unhappy. He would have wanted more than anything for me to be productive, for me to get going.  I could cry all I wanted so long as I kept making progress.  Hook was from the generation that if you were too happy, you probably weren’t working hard enough.  So yes, he would want me to be happy but not too happy.

What is Allan saying to you now?

Multiple people have asked me this, but I couldn’t answer because I’d started listening more to what I needed than what I believed Allan would have wanted for me. That’s how I decided to make this trip to Australia which is neither a vacation nor a holiday. The same knotted ball that was in the pit of my stomach when I took my first trip back to Port Aransas without Allan has resurfaced. I struggle to feel excitement for a trip I once couldn’t wait to take.  But that was when I thought my husband would be sitting next to me on the plane not resting in an urn.  Everything is different now even my reason for going.

I go because there is a circle to be closed. I go to complete a two-year journey I never wanted to be on. I go to spread the last of my husband’s remains on the anniversary of his death.  I’ll do finally what we’re both now ready for me to do:  I’ll let him go.

The widow books that used to decorate my nightstand have been replaced by books about Australia.  Each time I open one of the Oz books, Australia_booksI barely skim through the pages, not really reading at all.  Instead, I stare at the maps of this continent, mentally planning a counterclockwise, southwest trek from Perth to Melbourne to Sydney to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef then over to Darwin and down to Alice Springs then back down to Perth for one last peek at Hope Street.

Australia’s vastness used to intrigue me and my hope is that once I get there, it will again.  I’m giving myself exactly one month.  And all that traveling inside the country that I mentioned?  I’ve no way of knowing if I’ll actually do it.  I’m as likely to hunker down in Perth and do absolutely nothing as I am to figure out that anamoly of an island and make a solo trek around the circumference.

As I live through the next three weeks which this time last year were Hook’s last three weeks, I find it impossible not to return to that time in my head. We had lived a year for every day in that last month.  The intensity of feeling doesn’t go away just because 347 days have passed. I can actually see it more clearly now, see that no matter what happens in my life, nothing will ever touch me as deeply as those last days helping my husband to die.

We didn’t know, I didn’t know — our last conversations, our last everything. Some might think that that time was tragic or horrible or possibly even disgusting to have to live through.  When you can’t stop what is happening, when you can’t save them, when all you can do is wipe phlegm from their mouth or carry them to the bathroom, then those actions become ultra significant.  So you push back any thoughts of he’s dying and instead you think, He would have done this for me, or, I can still do these small things for him.  And you make that be enough for both of you and you never break until he’s gone, because he’s no strength left so you must be that for him, too.

If Hook were saying anything it would probably be:  Just keep going orYou’re right babe,” a common phrase in our home.

My husband did not want me to take his ashes to Australia.  But I have always known what was best for us and now I know what is best for me.  I need to release him.  I need to begin a new journey that starts with finishing this one.  I’ll make this pilgrimage to Australia and I’ll face this milestone like I have faced all the others: With my heart and my mind wide open.

And I’ll cry and I’ll cry and I’ll cry and when I’m done, I’ll remind myself that it’s okay to be happy again.

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Where In Australia – Part II


I’m on a quest this morning.    Actually, I’m back on a quest, a re-quest.  Ha!  I’m also on a coffee high so if this blog sounds like I’m bouncing off the walls, it’s just the caffeine working its way into my fingers!

Okay, the quest.

Before Hook’s and my sabbatical detour into no-where-near-Australia took place, we’d been in the process of collecting stories about Australia and Perth.  After we’d answered the questions How Did You Choose Australia and Where in Australia, we were on a mission to collect as much information from people who had stories and recommendations for “must see” places in Australia.  Editor’s Note:  Hook wasn’t really on the mission with me.  He mostly just rolled his eyes at things that I said “we” were doing.

Your Favorite Places to Visit in Australia?

I need your stories.  If you’ve ever been to Perth or any other place in Australia and you’d recommend we visit, would you tell us your story?   Or, if you’ve never been to Australia but you’ve heard from multiple sources about a particular city or tourist spot, we’d love to hear about that, too.  (If you’ve always wanted to go to Australia but haven’t had the opportunity yet, tell us where and what you’d do.)  We want to hear from everyone or so says the caffeine in my bloodstream.

Note:  If you’d rather I didn’t share your recommendations in a future blog post, please be sure to let me know.   Most people love to share their experiences but they do not necessarily want to see it in writing on a blog and I totally get that.   This isn’t Hard Copy so your anonymity is safe with us.

Stories About Perth

A colleague of Hook’s spent part of a summer in Perth awhile back and came over to the house one evening to take us through a slide show of photos he’d taken.  This was about two months before we were originally set to depart for the down under.  It was the first time we’d seen photos that hadn’t come off the web and weren’t edited to appear better than they really were.  Hook and I felt like we were seeing Perth in the raw and we loved it.  (Thanks Bill!).  Then I met a guy at a networking event last year who had lived in Perth for a short while about 12 years ago.  He had specific recommendations of places to visit in Perth except neither he nor I had pen and paper on us so all of the details of what he told me that evening have flown out of my memory banks.  I remember the company this guy worked for but I don’t think I can dial them up and say, Hey, is there a guy who works there that lived in Australia like 12 years ago and loved a place called Perth?  Actually, that sounds like the kind of Lucy thing I’d do so please save me from myself.   Tell us your Australia stories.  And to those Aussies who are reading:  you know better than anyone the hidden gems, so please share!

Psst … types of sharing to avoid:

  • People who visited, lived, or moved to Australia and didn’t/don’t like it:  I met a guy who had visited Perth for a week and hated it.  He kept asking me, “Why do you want to go there?”  I really had to resist the urge to slap him.  Hard.   Don’t be this guy.
  • People with shorteimers:  A friend of a friend, upon hearing the news that Hook and I were moving to Australia for a sabbatical, told us that she’d lived in Perth for a year as a student.  But, she couldn’t recall any specific details of the city, what to see, suggestions of places to visit inside Perth.  I wasn’t sure who to feel bad for — her or me.  Me because I wasn’t receiving any helpful information or her because she couldn’t remember an entire year of her life.  She did give me a good piece of advice, though:  Travel as much as possible within the country.   She said it was her greatest regret not to go outside of Perth. (This helpful advice redeemed her shorteimers.)

I can’t believe I haven’t thought to ask this of all of you before.  Oh, wait, that’s right.  I was busy losing my mind.

An Update For The Dr. Hook Fans

It’s a day to day thing.  Some days are better than others.  Sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back but at least we always gain a step.   Today he feels good enough to take a short trip to Boomerang’s, the Australian pie place here in Austin that I mentioned in my last post.   It’s drizzling outside this morning but we’re not going to let that keep us away from our first Australia Day Party.   Oh, and if you happen to click on that Boomerang’s link to their Facebook page, feel free to check out my new Hook The Talent, Inc., Facebook company page, too, and Like the sh*t out of it for me, okay?   🙂    (It’s the coffee!!!!)

G’day mates!

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From Funk to Super: The Hook-Australian Update

The Olympics came and went, August came and went and now, if I’m not careful, September will come and go, too.

My lackadaisical attitude hit right after my last blog posting.  I’d been in a bit of a funk, the kind where you have all these different directions you could go but none of them are completely where you want to go.  Instead of going anywhere, you decide to go nowhere.  You come to a dead stop like slamming on the brakes in the middle of the road even though there’s no car in front of you.

Some of you know what I mean.

August required some Brothers Johnson to help me get the funk outta my face.  Snoop Dog wouldn’t do.   And to help this process along, I did what any self-respecting, mature woman of 47 would do:  I ran away from home.

Running Away From Home

When I was 14 years old, my father, Lou, took a stand against my late night talks on the phone with my then boyfriend.   Remember the kitchen wall phone with the long, winding cord that you could twirl around your fingers as you talked?  I would sit on the steps leading down to the basement with the door between the kitchen and the basement partially closed so I could giggle in private.  Exercising his patriarchal rights, Lou took away my phone privileges.  In an act of teenage defiance, I hopped a bus from Saginaw to Flint. 45 miles away, learning the hard way that $10 dollars doesn’t go very far when you have to buy a $4.50 bus ticket.  I was gone for what felt like an entire week but was really only three days.  I chose Flint because I had a friend who lived there and it felt brave to my 14-year old self.

Flint, Michael Moore’s Flint of Roger & Me, is not a place people run to but away from.  No one runs to Saginaw either but at least Saginaw had one thing going for it – it wasn’t Flint.  I was taking a stand (so was Lou), fed up (so was Lou), and I meant to take drastic measures (again, Lou).

Running away from home when you’re 14 is eye-opening.   Running away when you’re 47 is just another charge on the credit card in San Antonio which is where I ran to.   My tastes and my friends have changed, but my lifelong desire not to be stifled has not.

I sent a text to Hook the next day just in case he hadn’t realized I wasn’t there anymore.   Poor Lou agonized over my absence.   Hook probably didn’t notice until I didn’t show up for dinner … the next day.

After getting our lives back in order, Hook’s and mine, I realized that I hadn’t taken a break.  Oh sure, we’d spent weeks and half weeks on and off in Port Aransas but that was more for Hook’s decompression.  Beach or no beach, I still worked doing my virtual recruiting and career coaching.

Within a three-month period, we went from planning a life overseas to planning to save Hook’s life to redesigning what our new, temporary lives would be.   In a bad case situation, it’s the best of circumstances.  No sane person could ask for more and that’s not just a repressed Pollyanna talking.   We really couldn’t ask for things to be better.

But the summer came and went and I missed it somehow and then Hook said something he shouldn’t have said (what husband doesn’t?) so I waited until he left for work one Friday morning, just like I’d waited for Lou to leave that morning back in 1979, and I packed a bag and ran away.

And it felt great.   Just like it had before.  And this time I could drive myself, so there.

I know most women, if presented with the right amount of alcohol in small intervals, would admit to the secret desire to walk onto a train, hop in a car, get on a plane and just go.  No note, no call.   Nothing to anyone.   Ppfft.   Figure it out for yourself.

 And What Does Any of This Have To Do With Being Down Under?

Well everything actually.  One of the allures of Australia, and one of the reasons we are still determined to get there, is that Aussies have this knack for going with the flow.  It’s different than say with the French who pretend to care only about wine and taking it easy but who are closet tight asses and whose weather can really suck.  Or even the Mexicans who claim to live on a mañana schedule in siesta time which feels great initially but the flow still needs to flow at some point and the whole mañana thing eventually gets on your nerves.

We chose Australia because it is on the other side of the world with an 11-hour difference, sometimes 12 depending on how we are monkeying with our clocks.  When Americans are sleeping, Australians are awake.  When we’re working, they’re dreaming.   People in Perth have the Outback in their backyard and they rest against the Indian Ocean.  We here in Austin have some incredible parks and Lady Bird Lake.   I love Austin but there’s just no comparison to the beauty of Australia.

One of the gift books I’d received, Mutant Message Down Under, was written by Marlo Morgan, an American woman who takes a four month walkabout in the Australian Outback.  There was some controversy surrounding the book because the author wrote it as fiction but then later said it was non-fiction but then changed her mind again and said it was fiction.  Fiction schmiction.  That woman did a walkabout and she convinced wellness gurus Og Mandino, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and Wayne Dyer to write praises for her book.  Then Harper Collins turned around and published a million copies.

Here’s what we know:  there was a woman, there was an Outback, she walked.    And I want to walk, too, in the Outback in 2013; we think/hope/are planning.  “We,” remember?  Everything is ‘we’ now.

The Super Hook Update

Hook has passed through six weeks of intravenous chemo and is now onto daily radiation with chemo pills as a chaser.   The radiation with chemo sandwich will continue through the rest of September and the first week of October.   Then his body will take a rest from all the drugs with surgery planned for November.

Hook is doing great, a teensy tiny bit on the tired side, but otherwise great.  Or “Super!” as one of our nurse practitioner/advisors/doctor’s assistants (I have no clue what she is) says to us every, single time we meet.  “Do you feel tired or do you feel super?”

You cannot ask Hook if he feels tired because his automatic answer is, “Tired?  Well, yes, yes I do feel a little tired.”   And then I have to butt in with, “No, he’s not tired.   He sleeps a little more in the morning but his energy is the same.   He’s still swimming and bugging and fishing.”

“Super!”  Our assistant doctor-like person says.   She is who the doctors have us meet with so we’ll feel like we’re meeting with them.  We only actually get to see the doctor every third visit.  Do they really think we can’t tell the difference?  Our person is bubbly but annoying, perky but forgetful, genuinely nice but eternally distracted so much so that I want to punch her in the face before her mouth ever opens to save us both the hassle of conversing.

But I keep my hands to myself, screaming only in my head, when our practitioner/advisor forgets to tell us what we really need to know or says things like, “I just can’t keep all these prescriptions straight.”  And how does she think we do it? Or, she forgets to set up a “very important appointment” that is so important she cannot tell us why it’s important or who it is going to be with.   “It just is.  Trust me.”   Super!

You should have seen Hook’s oncologist and radiologist fist-bumping him after the first set of test results came in.  That’s how excited they were that the chemo was killing off what it was supposed to, and the radiation was not burning a hole in his skin.

The doctors exclude me from their excitement; they do not raise their closed fists to me because we are not on the same team.  I am on a maybe-surgery-won’t-be-necessary team, and they are on a he’s-almost-ready-to-be-cut-open team.   I’d have a little more faith in the process, in the medical system, if it seemed everyone was reading from the same game play.  But we meet and re-meet and discuss and re-discuss and have the same conversations over and over and over again that it takes everything in me not to punch them all in the face and say, SUPER.  But I don’t.  I am antsy but quiet; stoic with a wide-eyed hysterical look which I’m quite certain doesn’t look super.

2013 Australia Plans

Our plans are still on for Oz-land in 2013, so much so that Hook will meet with an academic guest from Curtin University of Technology this month.   The Curtin contact will be in Dallas and a connection to a connection to a connection was made and viola, they will stop in Austin to meet.

Why It’s All Going to Work Out

Four months ago, when Hook and I received the soap opera-like phone call about his diagnosis from a nurse who couldn’t answer any of our questions, we sat down side-by-side and scrolled through websites together to read what we could about pancreatic cancer, the stages, and the possible outcomes.

My first thought after reading was, Okay. This is going to be okay.  Hook read the same sites and thought, I have six months.

We communicate like all married couples communicate– we don’t– and our initial reactions to the situation were comical:  Hook wanted to update beneficiaries; I wanted to update our plane tickets.

We did update the beneficiaries and we cancelled the plane tickets but only because I didn’t listen to my instinct, and my instinct is this:  The only thing that’s ever going to kill Hook is me.

It’s all super!   And I am keeping the funk outta of our face(s).

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