For two and a half months now, my partner Susan and I have been arguing about how often to pull the chains on her grandmother’s clock. Although she’s had this clock for decades and we have taken care of it together for almost all of that time, she recently decided that I was winding it too often.
It was a long time coming, her leaving. It took almost 3 years for the stage IV ovarian cancer to do her in. Almost 3 years, that is, after she was diagnosed. Who knows how long IT was there, festering, until she got that terrible, loud, hacking cough that wouldn’t go away, and they found liters of fluid in the pleural lining around her lungs and a rotten ovary.
So much time: me worrying, her focused on beating it. So much time: us living with cancer, around it, in spite of it. It didn’t stop our son from growing 3 years older, 12 inches higher, and into a deep voice. It didn’t stop us from our fights over nothing and agreements about what was important. It didn’t stop her from working, until there were only weeks left. By then, time had begun to move like roiling thunderclouds across the sky. So dark, yet we could still see. We thought we could still see. We couldn’t really see. When it came, when she had to go, it was a complete surprise. To both of us.
One day last summer I decided to take a hike by myself. We were vacationing in Samedan, Switzerland where my partner’s parents used to live. Samedan is a small village in the Engadin, the upper valley of the Inn river. In every direction there are stunning alpine trails. I love hiking there with my family more than anything in the world. But that day I needed to be by myself to exercise my body and clear my head.
I started up the steep cobblestone road to my partner’s parent’s former house, still emblazoned in scraffito with the Romansch phrase her father had chosen: “Man proposes and God disposes.” [Wish you could see larger photos? Click on the images.]
As I passed by the house, my mind wandered through the apartment, holding the iron rail as I followed the curling stairway onto the stone floor, then padded into the Stüva (sitting room) and sat on the bench behind the slate table. By the time my mind was reacquainting itself with the mahogany music stand near Stuva’s the wood stove, I’d gone up the gravel road behind the house and almost reached San Peter, where dear Gaudi’s urn is buried. Continue reading My hike to Alp Muntatsch→
After the first chemotherapy treatment my partner had for ovarian cancer, the rest of the sessions were oddly comforting, rather than scary. We knew what to expect. The nurses, particularly ours, were very good at what they do and very kind while they were doing it, from poking holes to explaining exactly what was happening and would happen. The drugs were actively fighting the cancer. We were fighting the cancer.