Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Well Deserved Personal Indulgance

As an anniversary present to myself ( one year out from last chemo) I did something that I wouldn't have dreamed about doing a few years ago. I left the country without my family for three whole days. Yep, I flew the coop. Just like that, I hopped on a plane and went to visit my parents at their winter refuge in the Dominican Republic. I felt really gutsy. It has been twenty years since I have visited that beautiful untamed island paradise and it seemed ever so much more civilised than it did twenty years ago, which isn't saying a whole lot.
I had so much fun preparing for my getaway. I renewed my passport, ugly photo and all, which had recently expired. I got babysitters lined up to pick the children up after school. I left pages and pages of notes outlining every detail of every one's day, down to the minute, for my husband. Not that I was skeptical or anything.
When I arrived at the airport my seventy year old parents were there to meet me with a dusty beaten up SUV that would take us to their condominium. My dad got behind the wheel and started driving like a maniac with all of the locals. Horns were beeping, chickens were running around by the side of the road and I took a deep clean breath of air and thought about how I would spend the afternoon in this wild island paradise.
We turned off of the main road and immediately the terrain changed. Immediately we were jostled about in the car as it lurched forward and from side to side. We were on the dirt road that leads to the development where my parents spend a couple of months every winter. Ah, it is nice to know that some things are still unchanged. As we bumped and bounced our way to their home, I thought about my parents and this place they were taking me. Should I be worried about them? They are getting older. Then I came back to my senses, they have a little bit of latent hippie in them and this is their way of holding on to it. It is great to get back to your roots.
We went to the beach that afternoon and I lounged and read and drank a pina colada. I did that for two and a half days straight, calling home once a day to check in. The children cried and I felt a little bit bad but, hey, they would survive, or so I hoped. I was so far away from my real life that it felt like it belonged to someone else. This trip was my reward to myself for last winter. As I was lying sick in my bed last year I dreamt of the sun and the sand every day to help me get through the chemo. I vowed then and there that I was going to spend a weekend in the sun this year. Perhaps it is a little bit selfish, but I feel like I earned it.
As I rode home on the plane after three days of natural Vitamin D and rest and relaxation, I started to worry about everyone at home. I hoped that they had done alright. I missed them too and next time I go away we will all go together. When I arrived at the house I quickly tiptoed into their rooms to see their little perfect faces. They were deep in slumber and looked positively cherubic. They were all in one piece.
Yesterday I was informed that daddy is a really great cook, a lot more fun and gets everyone to school on time. Instead of having my feelings hurt, I was relieved. They had all been okay for a couple of days. I am not indispensable. I am already booking my trip for next year.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

This Friday is the anniversary of my last chemotherapy treatment. Hooray! Last year, about ten days after my last treatment, we took the children out to a fancy dinner at a local Chinese/Japanese restaurant. We dressed up in our nicest clothes and felt like we were actually a real family once again.

The previous week at preschool my daughter had taken part in a Chinese New Year's celebration. The children wore masks of pigs, rats and rabbits and walked around to each classroom exclaiming, "Gung Hay Fat Choy!" which translates to "Happy New Year" in Chinese. My red haired, blue eyed daughter had been so enthralled with this entire ritual that she had worn her pig mask and declared "Gung Hay Fat Choy" for the entire week. When we told her that we were going to be dining at a Chinese restaurant she was thrilled. "Mom, I am going to tell the man at the restaurant Gung Hay Fat Choy and I bet he will be so surprised." she said proudly. I supposed that he would. We walked into the restaurant and she boldly walked up to the maitre'd to deliver her message. "Gung Hay Fat Choy!" She beamed. A smile spread quickly across the man's face as he reached into his pocket and produced a dollar bill. "And Happy New Year to you." He replied.

She turned around and held up her dollar proudly as we all laughed. Upstairs while we enjoyed our sushi and dumplings I thought about how appropriate her words were at this time in our lives. The Chinese New Year which is also known as the Spring Festival, it is the oldest and most important of Chinese festivals. It is a celebration of the earth coming back to life. That is in fact what we were celebrating in a way too. I was coming back to life.

We now have a new tradition in our family that will begin our "New Year." My daughter is looking forward to more dollar bills in her pocket and we are all looking forward to a year of good health and renewed life.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Perfect Winter Day

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like we should be in the mountains out west skiing from dawn to dusk. We had eight inches of fresh powdery snow and the sun shone brilliantly throughout the day. We watched the heavy snow laden branches of the pine trees sag and the sunlight peek through the barren branches of the oaks. Instead of being in Colorado, we were here in Pennsylvania enjoying our eight inches of Jack Frost's magic that seemed like a special treat just for us.

Even though the children had to go to school, we made the best of the afternoon by inviting our neighbor down to sled. Fortunately for the kids, we hadn't shoveled our driveway and it proved to be the perfect raceway for the sleds and tubes. They picked up speed as they went down the hill and came flying into my legs(My neighbor Jill and I were designated car watcher and sled stopper respectively). There were loud screams and lots of laughs. There were wipe outs and snow ball fights. It was freezing but no one noticed as the races went on.

I was so pleased to be able to enjoy this moment with my children on this cold snowy day. Keep in mind that I am not a cold weather person and generally whine immensely at the thought of standing outside in frigid temperatures. But given that I can stand outside this year and hear the happy voices of my children, I will take the chill any day.