Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Catching Up of Sorts

It’s been several months since I last logged on to my blog. And so much life has happened. I look back and am staggered by what has happened since January.

I started my job with Amtrak. I travel between Seattle and Eugene, OR (a small university town about 1 ½ hours South of Portland, OR) and Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle and Chicago (sometimes Havre, MT, Minot, ND, Minneapolis, MN, or Spokane, WA depending on rock slides, derailments, flooding, storms, etc.). It’s an interesting life on the rails; I often wonder how people have made a career out of it. You rock back and forth, sometimes violently; you pitch and wheel like a drunken idiot; and you get little to no sleep. You grow tired of seeing the same faces for 48 hours in a row. There’s no escape from the train. And oh, god, the smell. Despite the failings of the job, it does pay well and I do have fun doing it – so I really have no right to complain much about it.

Here in Seattle there’s something referred to as The Seattle Freeze. Now we’re not talking about winter because for the most part winter is gray, rainy and hovers around 48 degrees (that’s 9 Celsius for my non-U.S. friends and family). No, no; a winter freeze is somewhat acceptable here, if not unexpected. New people, however, are not. The Seattle Freeze is when you try to make new friends, but you can’t because, just like in high school, everyone is already well established in their own cliques. So you end up eating lunch by yourself at the end of a table talking to nobody, feeling sorry for yourself, hoping, please, God, please, that somebody will come up to you and say hello. But no one ever does, so you sip on your coffee moping in the corner, until- Wait! Was that a smile? Did that person just smile at me and say hi? Hi! Oh, god, hello! Will you be my friend? Please? Please?? Pllllllllllleeeeeeeassssseeee be my friend!!!!

Now I never had the displeasure of living through that scenario; well, I sort of did, but I had a couple of friends here who helped me pass my time when I needed it. And then I met Danny – one of the best men I have ever known. He introduced me to his friends and now I have a great circle of friends. And I like to think we don’t commit the social sin of freezing people out. We often include strangers in our conversations while out. Maybe I’m hoping too much here? I don’t think I am.

A year and a half ago my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He received radiation therapy and his PSA levels dropped to normal levels (for him). The PSA levels stayed low for almost a year, but they started rising again about two months ago. There was talk (hope?) that it was only an infection, so they tried antibiotics, but the PSA levels kept rising. So they sent my dad in for an MRI and bone scan. They found dark spots on his clavicle, scapula, sternum, and vertebrae (I don’t remember which number at the moment). The doctors pretty much squashed the hope that it was arthritis and a biopsy was ordered.

When I was a kid I questioned whether my father loved me. He worked a lot, and he had four small children I’m sure he felt obligated to spend time with. And it wasn’t exactly like he and I had all that much in common. I was more interested in baking and dolls than cars, or sports; as I grew through my teenage years that rift seemed to grow larger. I felt like my dad knew nothing about me or what I liked – I played violin, I acted on stage; things I thought he didn’t know much about. Then, 5 years ago, when everything went from bad to worse, my dad was there for me like no one else was. And suddenly I understood the love my dad has for me: an encompassing love that isn’t changed by disappointment, things I can or can’t do, or who I am. It’s truly an unequivocal love that I don’t have to earn; it’s been there my entire life, I just didn’t recognize it.

So as the cancer tries to rage in my father’s body I’m left with this: does my father know I love him just as much as he loves me? Does he know I would take the cancer from his bones and put it into my own so he can live if I could? Does he know a world without my father in it is like the winter here in Seattle: dark, chilly, and gray? Does he know I hope against hope that he will gather his strength and fight for his life with every last fiber of his being? And win? Does he know I love him - with my whole heart - without expectation?

Summer in Seattle is a strange thing. The sun comes out, as do the squinting people trying to figure out what that bright, glowing ball is in that azure expanse above their heads. Some people even shake their fists in the air hurling insults at the thing that leaves their skin burned. Others come alive and soak up the sun as much as possible hopping from one activity to another warming with the rays and exertion. I like to walk and look at the mountains, trees, and flowers, soaking the sunshine as much as possible and taking delight in the wonders of creation. After a long winter of 45 degrees and gray skies, 65 degrees and sunshine is a welcomed relief.

And, the sun breaks through my cloudy skies and warms my soul.

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