Hook Stories: Wasps and Things

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Dr. Allan W. Hook, 2011

Bill Quinn, also known as “Willie Joe” as a youngster, was a long-standing colleague of Hook’s.  Bill was part of the hiring committee that brought Allan to St. Edward’s University more than 25 years ago.   I’m not sure if Willie Joe realizes it but he and Jimmy Mills (and the St. Ed’s indoor swimming pool) were the reasons Hook accepted their job offer over a school in South Carolina … way back in 1988.  Over the years, Hook looked to Bill as his ethical and sometimes moral compass.  If Bill was on board with a decision, it must be the right thing to do.

Because Hook trusted him and because he was Catholic and because we all had a good sense of humor, Hook and I asked Bill to take the bold and daring $35, online step to become our ordained minister.   Twice, Bill brought Darwinism and Catholicism together — once during our marriage ceremony and again when he presided over Hook’s memorial service.  The things men do for each other.

Two of My Favorite Hook Stories by Bill Quinn

Wasps and Kids at Blue Hole:  Back when we were the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences, somebody swung a faculty party over at Blue Hole near Wimberley.   Allan had probably been here for two years at the most.   At the most.  He was not all that obvious at the social scene, not because he was being rude, but he had to go out and check the area for his “girls.”  My kids caught wind that he was up to something wonderful, and they asked me to ask him if they could come along and hunt wasps with him.  I expected him to be reluctant to take a couple of 6 – 8 year olds around with him, but he just lit up at the idea. About an hour later they returned, and it was my kids who were lit up.   He mesmerized them, and they recall the day still, telling how much the loved that time.  They (and I) have marveled at insects ever since. On many occasions, people marvel at how good he is with kids, as if it is some revelation. He has always been good with kids.

My kids especially liked the way he would swear when he mistook a male for a female and got his hand stung. In fact, he did apologize to me later that evening at Blue Hole in case he had taught my kids any new words.  Fat chance – they were already way beyond what even Hook had to say.  He could teach them about wasps but he couldn’t teach them much when it came to swearing.  Colin, my younger son, came here for a semester and deeply regretted that he was not here for a semester when Hook taught freshman biology, but I think Al did ultimately play a role in him pursuing biology as a career.

From Dr. Hook to Dr. Mellow:  Makes me laugh every time I think about it. We had two teaching labs on the second floor of Fleck, 200 and 210.  For some reason, 200 had a window that opened into Jimmy Mills’ office.  Crazy design!  Anyway, sometimes we had to use 200 as a lecture room, since lecture space has always been tight around here.  On several occasions when he taught in 200 (and I mean several) Al would start going off on the students, especially when he returned tests that they had screwed up on.  His ranting was actually very effective.  I know for a fact that it turned the attitudes of at least three subsequently very “successful” people who needed some serious course corrections.  They got some serious “advice” from him, that’s for sure!  Well, it might have been effective, and well-thought out, but it was also as entertaining as hell.  He would start with just a slight comment and then it would build and build. By the time he got going, he would be telling them about how they dressed, carried themselves, probably what they ate for breakfast or watched on TV. It was GREAT theater.  I am pretty sure he never had any idea that several of us would stand out in the hallway, often clued in by Jimmy’s foresight, and just keep hoping he wouldn’t stop.

Ah, those were the days. Anybody will tell you that then the fool had to go get married, and goodbye to the rants. Dr. Hook became Dr. Mellow.  Oh, and the equally funny yet regrettable thing is that Al would always (ALWAYS) feel bad about yelling at the students.  That’s BS; he should have been yelling at them.  He was right! But he always always apologized to them. You could set your watch by it.  Touching.   But very funny.  I wish you could have seen him just crescendo. I miss those days more than I can tell you.

~   ~   ~

More from Rosemary:

HTT_AnneLamottMy apologies for the delayed Hook Stories.  I got sidetracked.  Okay, that’s not true.  I couldn’t get out of bed, and when I did (had to) pretend that I was still part of the human race, it took all of my energy to stay focused on the simplest of tasks.   Posting a blog felt monumental so I mentally declined.  This inertia was how I began the now passed Thanksgiving weekend and how I ended it.  But in between the beginning and the end of that holiday, which I spent on a clouded coast in Port Aransas, there was at least one ray of sunlight that peeked through the overcast sky for the briefest of moments as I walked along the beach.  It was this sliver of hope that let me know: all was not lost even if it still felt like it was. But then, of course, I had to whisk myself back to reality and Austin, and the clouds returned permanently.

This week, I’m giving a talk to a group of job seekers titled, Transcending the Holidays When You’re Suffering a (Job) Loss.  I feel desperate to kick start some adrenaline into my days, because the four cups of Ruta Maya coffee I’ve been drinking every morning aren’t working.  I’m going to stand in front of 150 professionals and tell my story, then connect the dots for them on how losing a job and losing a spouse have odd similarities. I’ll share what they can do — must do — to move forward.  I signed up to speak because I knew that if I didn’t make this work commitment, and all the other commitments I’ve been forcing onto my calendar in December, that I will continue watching endless, streaming Netflix from my pillow wondering: how long can I really go without a shower.

I’m trying my best until the light returns …

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Hook Stories: Growing Up in New Jersey

A friend came into town unexpectedly and as old friends will do, we sat up talking and catching up until 3 o’clock in the morning which meant that I fell behind in my blog posting.   But, this did help me to choose from the Hook Stories … a series of short snippets from one of Hook’s childhood friends, Ken Curchin.   Following Ken’s sharing, I share something of my own.  Enjoy …

Growing up in New Jersey by Ken Curchin:

I have known Allan since kindergarten.  We used to hang together all the way through high school.  Here are a few stories….

  • Playing hockey on the pond at “the nursery.”  Allan lived near a pond that was shaped like a hockey rink. We used to play hockey there whenever it was cold enough in New Jersey — maybe 1-2 weeks per year — for ice thick enough to skate on.  When it snowed, we would bring shovels to keep the snow off “our rink.” His older brother Walter would also play with us.  We even played on an organized team our senior year in high school at The Navesink Country Club.  Allan had to wait a week to play on the team because he was playing high school football as an offensive lineman.  I remember a game vs. Red Bank and Allan had to play against John Lee…..6’4″ and 240 pounds…..Allan was maybe 5’11” and 170 pounds. John was the best player in the area and went on to play in the NFL.  You can ask Allan how he did….but I remember him saying that “John Lee killed me.”

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    Allan Hook, Rumson – Fair Haven High School, 1971

  • Allan smoking a pipe (with tobacco) as a 7th grader.  He thought he was so “cool.”  Of course, he only did it when he was not near his house.   I remember it had a big stem….he must have thought he was Sherlock Holmes.  
  • As we went off to college, our paths did not reconnect as much.  He was at University of Maine and I was at University of New Hampshire.  He was a lifeguard and that occupied much of his time.  We would see each other on occasion though.  Allan…do you remember after graduation (we were 24) when we met at Doug Herr’s house?  I had a woman with me…..it was Claudia..now my wife of 34 years!  We were just friends…until sparks flew — along with all of our clothes — right after we left you guys that night!  Now you know….the rest of the story.

I had not seen Allan in many years but we kept each other in the loop via Christmas cards.  Or…I sent a note updating him on my life and he sent a postcard with a bug on it. I live in Massachusetts but about 6 years ago was flying into San Antonio and decided to go see Allan (before you guys were married).  Claudia and I drove up to Austin and went to Allan’s house that day…we picked up like we had seen each other all the time instead of the first time in 25 years!

~    ~    ~

From Rosemary:

I finally dreamt about Allan.  He was waiting for me at my favorite coffee house, sitting at a table in the corner with his back facing the door.  I recognized his bald head from behind because it was covered with his white baseball cap with the worn blue flap.  He had on his black fleece zip up HDU_OpaCoffeeBarjacket and his maroon flannel shirt peeked out from underneath it while the rest of him was clothed in his regular blue jeans and tennis shoes.   He was hunched over his laptop typing away, so I slipped into the chair across from him and stared, not sure exactly if I was in the present or the past.

Normally when I dream, everything is fuzzy and confusing.  But in that coffee shop with Allan, I saw with clarity the hardwood floors and the burgundy colored walls, tables with four chairs.  I waited for Allan to notice me, and when he finally looked up and saw me, this huge smile spread across his face.  It was the same smile he’d greet me with whenever we’d agreed to meet somewhere or if we’d gone to an art event together and somehow gotten separated.

He looked so healthy, all tan and clean shaven, with his face full like it used to be, before the surgery.  Then I knew instantly:  This is a dream.  He’s still dead, but he’s coming to me in a dream.  So I asked the question that had been swirling in my head for the last two months, the one that had turned me into an insomniac.  With wide open eyes staring and my heart — not pounding or anxious — waiting and wondering what he would say:

“How are you?” I asked.

Such a simple question but so monumental in its query.  How are you? How have you been? Is everything okay? Are you all right?

Allan smiled again, even larger than before, and with a twinkle in his eyes — the kind he would get sometimes when he had a surprise for me or if he wanted me to guess something.  He started talking, his face becoming animated while his hands gesticulated whatever it was he was trying to describe.  My eyes were so fixated on his face that it took me awhile to figure out that I couldn’t hear him.  It was as though the volume had been muted.  I felt a bit nervous because I didn’t want to interrupt, but I needed him to know — I can’t hear you! — but he was so excited to be sharing whatever it was he wanted me to know that I struggled with how to let him know I couldn’t hear.

Then I woke up.

My eyes popped open with no sleepiness in them.  After about two long seconds, I said out loud, “You came to me in my dream.”  The sound of my own voice in the quiet of the bedroom so early in the morning startled me.   I realized then that it had not been me waiting for Allan all this time, but him waiting for me as he has always done.  And even though I couldn’t hear, I could see.  I could see he was all right.  I could see he was safe.   I could see he was happy.

Editor’s Note, December 2013: 

There was a small detail I left out of the dream about what Allan was wearing when I saw him.   I didn’t mention it because I was trying to convince myself it didn’t have any significance but that was only because it didn’t make any sense to me.

Hook sometimes had the bad habit of placing his feet up on the arms of a chair or on a table to stretch them out.  He didn’t usually do this in public only in his office at work or at home (and he got a lot of grief for it, too.)   In the dream, once Hook noticed me and sometime before I’d asked him how he was doing, he’d swung his feet over the arm of the wooden chair he was sitting in.  I was so focused on his face but I’d noticed in my peripheral vision the tennis shoes on his feet were black.  Black tennis shoes?  I remember thinking that was strange because Hook didn’t own any black tennis shoes.  But my attention was on his face and what he was about to say so I ignored the shoes.

The image of the shoes stuck with me, though, long after I’d woken up so I googled, black shoes in a dream.  One site had a comment to a blog about whoever is wearing the black shoes in a dream is going on a great journey of exploration, but the explanation seemed vague and random in thought.

The day after the dream, I looked through the master closet, then the guest room closets, then the hall closets, then the garage and finally Hook’s Jeep and even my Nissan Altima but nothing — no black shoes.  I didn’t remember him owning any black tennis shoes so what did it mean?   I kept reminding myself, he looked happy, everything’s okay, but I couldn’t get those damn shoes off my brain.  Then one of Hook’s Trini friends emailed some old photos of Allan that he thought I’d like to have from one of Allan’s many collecting trips to Trinidad.

Hook in the Aripo Valley, Trinidad, 2008.

Hook in the Aripo Valley, Trinidad, 2008.

I almost screamed out loud when I saw the first photo.  There was Hook, standing on a trail in Trinidad in his collecting clothes and holding his net.  On his feet were the black tennis shoes from the dream.

Because Allan traveled every summer to Trinidad, he didn’t bother packing those shoes when he returned to the U.S. but left them behind along with other collecting gear.  Allan was going on a collecting trip in heaven.  Of course.  Why else would he have been so excited?

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Obituary: Allan W. Hook, Ph.D.

Services for Dr. Hook in Austin will be held Sunday, September 8th, 5pm at St. Edward’s University’s chapel followed by a Celebration of Hook aka a “Hookabration” in the Maloney Room inside the Main Building, 3rd floor on SEU’s campus (look for the tallest, red-peaked building).  

In lieu of flowers/plants of any kind, please consider a tax-deductible donation to Hook’s legacy, The Dr. Hook Wild Basin Endowment, instead:  http://bit.ly/1KR8YDv  (Choose OTHER for donation then type in HOOK ENDOWMENT)

Condolence cards may be mailed to the Hook House, P O Box 151240, Austin, TX 78715-1240.  (I’m torn between not wanting you to waste paper but wanting to support the U.S. Post Office.  Your call.)

~      ~      ~

OBITUARY:  Dr. Allan Hook, November 17, 1953 – September 3, 2013

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Allan William Hook— known to the masses as “Hook”—passed away at his home at age 59 on September 3, 2013.   Surrounding him were his family and friends who gently guided him through to his end here.

Hook was born on November 17, 1953, in Quincy, Massachusetts, but spent most of his childhood in Fair Haven, New Jersey, where he excelled in school science fairs and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Summer days spent as a lifeguard at Sandy Hook beach on the Jersey shore would help shape him, physically with a trim physique that he maintained with daily laps in the pool, and spiritually with a love for the sand and salt that later led him on many fishing junkets to Port Aransas, Texas.

But it would be wandering in the wild with his mother on nature walks that ultimately inspired his passion and lifelong love for natural science. Hiking through creek beds for fossils and taking the time to stop and turn stones and leaves in search of bugs fueled his curiosity about the natural world.  He embarked on a journey of learning that began at the University of Maine (Orono) where he received a bachelors in biology. Hook obtained a masters in entomology and zoology from the University of Georgia (Athens) and under the direction and guidance of the world-renowned wasp expert, Howard Evans, he completed a doctorate in zoology and entomology from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Academia led him to Austin, Texas, where Hook taught at the University of Texas and then as a professor at St. Edward’s University, where he spent over 25 years teaching evolutionary biology to undergraduates. His research focused on the social behavior and biodiversity of solitary wasps.  Hook spent much of his time roaming the fields and woods of Texas collecting insects, then collaborating with colleagues on research at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory on the West Austin shores of Lady Bird Lake. He also enjoyed several sabbaticals in the rain forests of Trinidad, Honduras, and Brazil collecting and collaborating with fellow biologists and smuggling home fiery homemade hot sauces. For his peers, he was a source of respected research and knowledge, and if they were lucky enough, a hilarious companion for collecting trips into the wild.  He was dependable as a loyal friend and an endless source of ribald jokes muttered from an infectious smile.

In addition to a large body of published research, Hook had the honor of discovering three new species of insects which now bear his name: Nemomydas hooki (fly), and two, solitary wasps—Solerella hooki and Pseudopolis hooki.

In 2009, Hook married Rosemary Guzman (a non-bug person), and as any good hymenopterist would do, he took his wife on a honeymoon to the jungles of Chiapas.  Together, Hook and Rosemary created the Dr. Allan W. Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund to support his reverence and study of nature.  This fund provides fellowships to any student in the world interested in conducting creative research at the Wild Basin Preserve in Austin, Texas.

Hook was preceded in death by his parents Walter Allan Hook and Andrée Jeanne Gougé Hook. He is survived by his wife, Rosemary Guzman Hook, his sister, Claire Hook Patton (Curtis) and brother, Walter David Hook (Paula), step-mom Faith Hook, stepsisters Sandy McCray (Big Mike), Gay Benedict (Roger), Amy Bergh (Greg); and numerous nieces and nephews.

Hook’s ashes will be spread in Texas and in the countries of Trinidad and Australia.  

Services for Hook in Austin will be held Sunday, September 8th, 5pm at St. Edward’s University’s chapel followed by a Celebration of Hook, a “Hookabration” in the Maloney Room, 3rd floor of the Main Building, on SEU’s campus.  All are welcome.

As an advocate of sustainability, Hook’s final request was to encourage a donation to the Hook Wild Basin Fund in lieu of flowers/plants.  You may make that tax-deductible donation to the Dr. Allan W. Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund at http://bit.ly/2lEHKyW

Or, you may mail your donation to St. Edward’s University’s Advancement Office, ATTN Hook Endowment, 3001 South Congress, Austin, TX 78704.   To read more about the Hook Wild Basin Endowment, click here:  http://bit.ly/2ASJGrb.  To watch the YNN Austin interview about Hook’s life, click here:  http://youtu.be/OmFFv0hfYbI

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Votary of Nature

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CLICK to hear The Band sing The Weight

A lack of time continues to creep up on me and this is a now or never post so I hope it ends up making sense.  In my last blog, I said I’d be writing about God and religion with the caveat that there would be no preaching, soapboxes, or soul saving. 

Given the enormity of these topics and the limited discussion of them with Hook, I wanted to share because you’ve been with us on this journey from the beginning.  You’re as much a part of this story as we are, at least that’s how it’s felt to me.

What is Votary of Nature?

Votary of Nature, in addition to being the title of this blog, is also the beginning of a haunting poem Hook chose to have read at our wedding.  (I chose Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 — not a predictable reading for a wedding either but not as evocative as Hook’s choice.)  As beautiful as I found the poem, I didn’t completely understand the honor of the words written at least not until these past couple of months.  Votary of Nature was etched on the tombstone of Thomas Say, an American Naturalist, considered the father of entomology in North America.   I’m not sure if Say wrote the poem or if it was written for him but it goes like this:

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

Before Votary of Nature

It was not an easy decision for me to marry a non-Catholic, someone I used to joke was a closet atheist but is probably more an out-of-the-closet agnostic.  But if labels and categories were based on how a person acts, then by most behavioral requirements of common religions, Hook would be considered a Christian.

I take my Catholicism seriously or as seriously as a consistent sinner like me can.  I am as drawn to my religious beliefs as I am frustrated by the organization of them.  I’ve been baptized, made my first communion, been confirmed all in the Catholic Church.  Although I do not always agree with the man-made hurdles of religions in general, I appreciate the desire for structure, the insistence of practicing the faith.  Some traditions I honor without thought, others begrudgingly so; regardless, I believe. I choose to believe without all the hard data.  But, I do not believe that anyone who is not of the Catholic persuasion or has never been baptized, communioned, confirmed, wetted down with holy water, ashed on the forehead with black smoot, or has stuck a wafer to the roof of their mouth to chew on later, said ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers, is any less likely to make their way into heaven than someone like me.  I need the ashes and the water and the wafers.  I need all the help I can get.

Forget what a man says and watch what he does.

Have you ever heard this saying before?  I’ve attributed this quote to my father, Lou, but I’ve always wondered if someone famous said it first.  Doesn’t it seem too obvious, too of course, for some philosopher not to have graced an audience with these words centuries before?  This saying stuck with me the entire time I was dating Allan.  It has been the perfect barometer for measuring the sincerity of a person, and it was with this benchmark of words that I watched what Allan did and forgot what he said.  Choosing to marry Hook was easy.  He may not have professed an allegiance to any religion (or even if God exists at all), but what he calls himself or how he has spent his Sunday mornings has been significantly less important than how he has treated others, how he has treated me. 

Until May of this year, I bowed to this wisdom.  Then Allan became terminal and I temporarily lost my mind.

Hook the Scientist

Organized religion and God and all the history and feeling that are wrapped up in these words are not topics even the best of friends might discuss.  They’re not subjects I’ve completely reconciled with myself as an individual let alone as a wife.  For the last 90 days, religion has been a trapped, solitary wasp in the Hook house, flying overhead, demanding to be released.   Once the final diagnosis of two to three months was made, I got scared for Hook thinking he was going to die never admitting that God might exist.  It wasn’t that Hook said, ‘God doesn’t exist.’  His position has been that he doesn’t know what, if anything, exists outside of what has been proven by data — the stance of a true scientist.  Something may or may not be — what does the research show?

Then several months ago, two of our loved ones, one on Hook’s side of the family and one on mine, coincidentally gifted us the same book, Proof of Heaven.  (A third person tried to loan the exact book just last week and I quietly declined.)  It was written by a scientist who professed a belief only in that which could be studied and validated with data.  The author, an M.D., had a near death experience and as a result wanted to share with the world that science alone cannot explain the mysteries of the universe.  That’s the short version. 

Out of concern for Hook, our loved ones wanted him to read this book.  For weeks, I pestered him about reading the book, placing one of them on his nightstand while the other sat on mine.  Sometimes he would pick up the book and pretend to read, but I knew it wasn’t something that held his interest.  With all that must have been going through his mind and all that he had to bear, Hook said nothing as I tried to shove religion and spirituality and a higher power down his throat. These were not the actions of someone who was supposed to love and care for him through his last days. But I was afraid.  I was afraid that somehow I was letting him down or letting God down or letting myself down, because I believed I was now tasked with getting Hook to acknowledge Jesus Christ while he was still lucid enough to do so. 

I honestly do not know what I thought would happen.  Except, asking Hook to read a book like that or reading it to him would be the closest thing to torture I could ever inflict on my entomologist.   I struggled with what to do:  Read, don’t read; Ask him to read, leave him alone.

When I found myself in that scared straight place of thinking I was failing badly as a fake Catholic wife (because let’s be honest – what could God have possibly been thinking to pair Hook with such a demented disciple like me?), I turned to the one place that holds comfort and wisdom for me, the one place that regardless of my rebellious religion misgivings, I still trust:  the Church.  I spilled my anguish out to a priest and asked for guidance on how to resolve the, Save Hook’s Soul dilemma.   This is the response I received via email:

If Hook is as close to nature as I think he is, then he has experienced more of God’s tiny glories than you and I ever will. Don’t worry about his “professing it”. Our God – the God of Jesus – does not require confession. He only asks love of us. Did Hook love? Then he has known the God of love, the God of Jesus Christ.

What Hook clearly doesn’t believe in is the “god” that has been presented to him by religion in this day and age. And that’s not his fault or my fault or your fault. It just is. But it’s got nothing to do with his salvation or with his being welcomed into the arms of the One who made him, along with the rest of the amazing creation that Hook has spent his life crawling around in.

Job 12:7-10. “Now ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds to tell you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of God has done this?…”

Hook has had some very good teachers about the hand of God. Who are we to say that he has not been listening?

Hook the Man

Reading the priest’s response brought on waves of gut-wrenching tears while at the same time lifting an enormous burden from my heart.  I was asking my husband to be inauthentic about who he was, has always been.  I was asking him to say words he did not mean, to announce something he did not believe.   But even all of that is not what snapped me back to a place of reasonableness and sanity and acceptance.  My reaction to the priest’s response was, in addition to relief, that of shame because in my overwhelming fear, I’d dismissed some validated data about my husband:

To say that Hook is a kind man is to remark that the sky is blue.  It is obvious, consistent, natural.  It’s not something he thinks about or has to focus effort to do.  It’s a way of being for him.  But his kindness goes deeper than that.  He’s a man who never seems to hold a grudge.  When he’s been wronged, he shrugs it off.  When he gets frustrated or ornery, his annoyance comes not from the person he’s interacting with but is born from the desire to do the right thing.  He is loyal, too, even when it’s obvious another may not be, even then he does not sacrifice that person or the relationship.

This doesn’t mean Hook is perfect.  He is not.  Oh boy, Hook is so not perfect.  Still, he’s inclusive rather than exclusive of those different than him even when he doesn’t understand them.  He’s a man who takes care with children and the elderly (I’m not making this up) treating both with a tenderness that seems to take others by surprise.  Allan is a man who is almost incapable of telling a lie.  He can tell small ones like saying that he wants to do something with me when really, he’d rather poke his own eyes out.  But if he fibs, he will eventually tell on himself with an indignant, “I can’t lie.  I’m an Eagle Scout!”  

Hook is someone who is, quite simply, joyful.  It would not be unusual for him to wake up singing on any given morning.  True, sometimes they were naughty songs (he will be a juvenile till the end) but who wakes up singing on a Monday morning?  Who wakes up singing on a Monday morning with terminal cancer and the end of their life near?   I hear his cracked voice, almost inaudible, through the audio monitors in his room, “My baby’s red hot, the other babies ain’t doodlely squat.”  He’s a gentleman while being a scoundrel, a jokster with the guys but the crabby professor in a classroom who’s kind of dorky but hippy and cool at the same time.  A man who would risk his own safety by driving his Jeep to the grocery store (only three weeks ago!!!) so he could surprise his wife with fresh cut flowers.  “I wanted my baby to have flowers,” he said.  (Imagine not my surprise but my horror when I realized he was out driving around.  For exactly ten minutes of my life, I alternated prayers of please-don’t-let-him-hurt-himself with please-don’t-let-him-hit-anyone.)     

And all of this, the total of Allan’s character, is embodied by the most endearing quality of all — his childlike approach to nature.  This appreciation for that which exists in the outdoors or all living things is to me quite magnificent.  Actually, Hook’s not into all living things – there are some Homo sapiens he would do without.  Still, he has a reverence for the history and future of nature, a constant inquisitiveness, a keen sense of observation as he explores and discovers with his eyes and ears, the life surrounding him.  It’s educational to watch him absorb his natural environment.  Even just sitting in a Texas backyard, Allan sees and hears all that is alive.  I used to think he had exceptional hearing but remembered how sometimes he had to ask me to repeat something or would lean in to hear.  I knew he didn’t have the best eyesight even with eyeglasses, but when we sit outside on the uncovered deck in the mornings, he’d point out birds or insects or changes in vegetation that my eyes or ears did not catch. 

This gruff, cigarette-smoking, lap swimming, solitary wasp loving, dirty song singing, crazy fishing hippy is more than just an entomologist, a hymenopterist.  He is a worshipper at the foot of Mother Nature.

I need to stop, because I am overdosing on Hook right now.  I’m writing all of this because he’s going to die.  He’s going to die, and there is nothing I can do about it except this one thing: Allow him to die the way that he lived. 

Hook is a blessed (my word not his) man.  He has said over and over again that he has no regrets, no last wishes, that he is satisfied with the life he has led.  From my view in the sofa chair next to his hospital bed in our home, I see that my husband has accomplished what most only hope to do.  He has lived the life God intended for him, to the best of his abilities, all the while treating others as he would like to be treated, forgiving selflessly regardless if you wronged him once, twice, or forty times.  The face that my old, ornery, obscene man shows the world is a face God already knows.

I look to my husband as a benchmark (minus the obscene) for how to live life completely, how to honor the gifts graced to us, how to nurture these and one another in a way that leaves a lasting mark on earth.  If I could act – be – half as good as Allan, I might just have a shot at heaven, the eternal glory I know in my heart to exist.  And if heaven truly does exist, then Hook will be on the fast track to it when he takes his last breath.  This I know the same as I know Jesus waits for us all.  And there you have it — my lying, cheating ways because I am preaching and from a high soap box, and there will be one soul saved but not the one you think.

When we married, some people thought maybe this Catholic girl was going to open Hook’s mind to a higher power, that perhaps I was going to help him redeem his soul.  But Allan’s votary of nature is more than enough for him and more than enough for God.   It has taken my husband’s illness, his inevitable death and my rapid-paced train of daily memories reflecting on his life to realize:  It was never going to be me who saved Allan.  It has always been Allan who’s been saving me.

Forget what a man says and watch what he does. 

Lou was so wise, and I am still learning.

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The Great Hook Escape

HDU_HookHospitalpics

Hook’s Get Well cards. There were so many, I had to tape some to the window.

As I sit in the hospital cafeteria and dream of life outside the walls of St. David’s, my POW-stricken husband lies in his 5th floor room being poked, prodded, picked, and occasionally pampered.

With a hollowed, gaunt look of someone who has been starved and beaten, Hook’s recovery continues but his appetite struggles to rise above broth status.  His initial plunge into shrimp marinara proved too aggressive and his stomach beat back any hopes of resuming regular consumption of even the most basic of solid foods.   Like coming across a DETOUR sign on a side street and driving down roads never before taken, Hook’s internal system is learning how to maneuver new passages while trying to heal in the process.  Progress has been made but it is slow and arduous.

“Maybe you could just place the Cherrio on your tongue and let it sit there,” I suggest in a desperate attempt to get him to eat even a little bit more.

When I’ve exhausted that parental tactic, I switch to bribery, “If you eat one more spoonful, you can take a nice long nap.”   Knowing Hook has been deprived of a full night’s rest due to middle-of-the-night vital checks and oral pain medication, the promise of sleep is motivation enough for one more spoonful.

Release Date

Our hoped for Tuesday release came and went and now Friday the 21st will be the earliest we are released.   I say We because the closer a Go Home date approaches, the more nurses and technicians and nutritionists and dieticians and physical therapists and home health care personnel and doctors …have I left anyone out?…visit Hook’s room to prepare us for what to expect once we are on our own.   And slowly but surely his plastic appendages are being removed but one outie tube and one innie IV will remain attached when we finally exit these beige walls and the antiseptic smell of healing in progress.   Once home, we’ll entertain daily visits from a nurse and other home care professionals at least through the first week of January.

Since pampering is actually my job and not the nurses, it’s time for me to return to the room and resume my full duties.   But Hook and I have decided, if the surgeon doesn’t set his discharge for Friday, we’re breaking out and pleading insanity.

Regarding visitation, I’ve reverted back to surgery day status and have put on hold any in person visitation for the remainder of 2012.  Feel free to email and call Hook directly and this way he can respond as he feels able.

Friday or bust.

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Beaming Up Some Dr. Hook

What a treat.  The good profesHDU_Star Treksor has a second message for everyone.  On the doctor thing:  Hook doesn’t mind if little kids call him Dr. Hook and he insists that his students either call him “Professor Hook” or “Dr. Hook” but never just ‘Hook’ — show some respect! — but if adults call him “Dr. Hook,” he’ll always respond:  “I’m not a real doctor.”

Allow me to beam up an entomologist then…

From Allan:

TGIF!!! So I’m now on solid food and I’m still learning what and how much to eat. Last night I ordered pasta with shrimp marinara sauce and boy did that taste good, with large shrimp – heck a meal better than you’d get at many restaurants. Unfortunately I forgot about the acidity in the red sauce and paid for that with a stomach ache. My nurse at the time said he could get me a tums….only to return to say it’s not on THE LIST. I thought there might be some antacid tablets in my toilet kit and the nurse said he’d look the other way if I found one and ate it. Sure enough there was one HEB antacid mint, lying decaying/disintegrating at the bottom of my kit – probably nearly a year old, co-mingling with spilled toothpaste, shaving cream and who knows what else….I gobbled that sucker down and it helped. My day nurse of late, Phyllis, thought that was a bunch of nonsense and will provide me with a pill if needed.

Phyllis has been my day nurse for 3 days now and we get along just fine. Her only problem is she doesn’t like to give shots (let alone get them). Anyway today I was scheduled for 3 shots: flu, pneumonia vaccine and this anticoagulant shot to the stomach. So I had to ‘coach’ her – you can do this Phyllis, relax, you’re doing fine, etc. We had a good laugh over that one.

Oh, another advantage of a hospital stay (besides the gourmet food) – cable TV!!! Yesterday Star Trek ran all afternoon….what more could you ask for?

From Rosemary:

I won’t apologize for my husband’s poor taste in TV — oh, did you hear that? — trekkies around the world just vomited.

The quick and dirty update on Hook is this:   He may get out of the hospital as early as this Sunday.  Hospital administration is gently pushing him to be released because that’s healthcare politics.  In fact, I’ve set up a small team of visitors to go see Hook so administration doesn’t try to secretly dump him into a wheelchair and drop him off under the 6th Street bridge with a cardboard sign that says:  Will work for bandages.

Hook is still connected to some critical tubes (I’ll spare you the fluid details) and he’ll have to remain connected to them for at least another 30 days.  But, he cannot stay in the hospital for another 30 days so hospital administration is not quite sure what to do with him.   One solution is they’ll have a nurse come out to the house 1x/day to empty the fluids and dress the bandages and teach me how to give him blood thinner injections.

Now, you can vomit.

Reporting live from my living room and headed to pick up some nice thank you gifts for all the nurses.

Editor’s Note:  Hook emailed in his blog post.  Yes, he has email access now!

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A Message from Allan

As promised, a message from Allan (that he typed himself).   For those who have never heard me say his given name, Allan is Hook, sometimes called “Al” by colleagues and only called Allan by me when I’m upset with him or when I feel very loving toward him — keeps him on his toes!   And, I don’t call my husband “Hook” at home, but well, other things . . .

HOOKABRATION_beepicture

Hidalgo, Texas: Allan and the largest killer bee. Photo taken by Riley Nelson. Circa ?

From Allan:

After the surgery I was seriously dehydrated and now the trick is to reduce a lot of the fluids they put into me – or by giving me albumen and a couple of amino acids. The body is now used to doing catabolic reaction to get the glucose it needs, so we have to kick-start the liver to get it back to doing its job.

Besides having to deal with this our fridge went out over the weekend and luckily Mary Joy and Dave Guzman discovered that while Rosemary was in the hospital with me. I understand they had to do some serious cleaning – so 15 million cheers for the Guzmans and thanks so much for your help!

I know Rosemary has talked/raved about two of our nurses – Roy Lopez and Justin Sandefur with a daughter named Nora – she’s only 14 months old. Roy trains a lot of the nurses here and with his experience they can gain a lot of knowledge in a short period of time – for example Roy came up with a pump variation to remove all the excess iter/intra?peritoneal fluid (well at least they won’t ask me to teach A&P again!). And Justin is great too – these guys have had to change so much dressing and gowns, sheets and towels – just so you know where your health care costs are going. But these guys are really dedicated.

Hospital visits – believe me I don’t really have time for visits – every hour they have me doing something and they just get in the way and you know I’m not a social wasp. I’ll be home soon so perhaps then a visit.

And for those that pray (I wrote prey…) thanks for your help – it does mean much to me.

cheers hook

————

p.s. from Rosemary:   Justin’s daughter, Nora, is Nora Jane.   Nora means ‘woman of honor’ and Jane means ‘peace’.   How cool is that?

Nurse Justin spent two summers in the Dominican Republic as a health missionary and he is pursuing his NP (nurse practitioner — a higher level than an R.N.) because he said N.P.s get to do all the fun stuff without having to have a schedule of a doctor.  When I asked Justin how working nights affected his family life (there’s a lot of time in a hospital room and when someone is lifting up your husband’s scrotum, you kind of feel like it’s okay to ask them personal questions.  How many of you DIDN’T need to visualize that?), he said something so profound that I felt compelled to write it down so I wouldn’t forget to share it with you.  Justin said, “You don’t get married because it’s easier.  You get married because it’s better.”  I asked him to repeat it louder for Hook’s benefit, or maybe for my own.   Justin said he couldn’t take credit for the quote because he got it from his older brother.   To Nurse Justin:   thanks for the great care, for being so attentive to Hook, but also for the wise marriage advice.

And to Nurse Roy:  you rock and you are great at what you do!

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