Compensating

Grady thinks his PaPa is a barrel of fun!  March 2014

Grady and his PaPa always have a barrel of fun! March 2014

“Grandchildren are God’s way of compensating us for growing old.”Mary H. Waldrip

It seemed rather cruel to me that we learned we would be grandparents at about the same time we learned of Jeff’s devastating diagnosis.  We prayed for this moment, hoped for it, dreamed of it.  We are so thankful that it did arrive.  Thanks for being with us on the journey from then until now.

I hope you have memories of such moments, as a grandparent, as a grandchild, or both!  If so, enjoy some thoughts of them today.

One year ago today:

To become a grandparent

49 Comments

  1. singleseatfighterpilot

    “Devastating” was the first word I used to describe Jeff’s situation, about 22 months ago. Your blog has helped me to see things differently. But recently you have used the word “cruel” twice. (The first was in reply to a commenter, regarding one spouce dying before his mate.) Please briefly discuss “cruel” from the standpoint of “defeating despair”.

    • Notwithstanding the determined optimism of this blog, “devastating” remains a very appropriate word to use regarding Jeff’s diagnosis, which you recall came to us in stages, with each bit of news seeming harsher than what came before. Jeff is so strong and uncomplaining — and still so active in his role as caretaker for his wife and sons — that it’s easy to forget how much his life has been forever changed by his war with cancer, regardless of how many years he lives. His massive scars and the changes in the most everyday aspects of life (including his inability to eat many of the foods he once enjoyed so much) are things about which you will never hear him complain, but sometimes when I stop and think about all he goes through (for example, I cannot imagine giving myself shots in the stomach every day, and that’s one of the smaller things he puts up with) I feel a fresh stab of grief. I guess it would not be a bad analogy to liken us to survivors of a tornado that blew much of what we had away; the fact that we are surviving does not lessen the grief over what happened, nor the consequences. Despite this, we do have much for which we are continually thankful, and my goal here is not to forget that.

      Re: the word “cruel” – we generally think of it as being the willful inflicting of preventable suffering, when we use it to describe people’s misbehavior, but there is the more abstract use of the word as I have used it here; we speak of “a cruel twist of fate” or “cruel weather” or whatever. In my opinion, much if not all despair springs from either type of cruelty. I feel sadness when I think of the death of someone I love, who has lived a good long life. I feel despair when I read of the countless acts of violence and meanness one sees in the news nowadays, along with the seemingly endless presence of war, hatred, poverty, disease and so forth. I feel despair when I think of how mean people can be to each other and to animals, or how senselessly we sometimes misuse and waste what we have been given here.

      If we are to defeat despair, it starts with acknowledging its reality and its power. Denial or retreat only leads to more harm, in the long run. I really believe that.

  2. HarryS

    One of the greatest blessings in my life started about a decade and a half ago during a four-year course of study in our church called EFM. It concerned writing what are called theological reflections and started with a simple exercise of writing two or three lines and sharing these with our small group. As many of you know by being with me on this spiritual journey this has grown and expanded and I would hope is commensurate with progress in my spiritual life.
    One of the sages in my life commented, “I have to write it down in order to see what I am thinking”. For the life of me I can’t tell you exactly who this was but oft-times that is the nature of wisdom.

    So here we are this morning and the enclosed quotation and reference reinforces this discipline which for me brings extraordinary results.

    “While awaiting execution, he asked for writing materials so he could compose his reflections.” By Dennis Fisher http://odb.org/2014/07/16/feeling-chained/

    “I have to write it down in order to see what I’m thinking”

    • Harry, thanks so much for sharing that inspiring devotional with us! I used to read Our Daily Bread many years ago when I was a bank teller. A sweet lady would bring each of us a copy each time it came out. Some laughed at her but I admired her generosity and courage in sharing what was very helpful to those who would read it. I think many of us in the blogging world share the feeling of exploring our thoughts through writing. It can give a clarity (and for me, a calmness) that is not available from talking. As much as I love spoken conversation, it tends to stimulate and distract me. Writing centers me. I am so happy you have discovered this avenue that has helped so many of us break whatever chains may bind us! Thanks for being here.

  3. Congratulations! I’m so happy for you! It does look fun, and I’m sure there’s no relationship that can compare.

    • Thank you Susan! I say all the time that Grady is better for Jeff than any medicine, and all good side effects too! 😀

  4. raynard

    Julia my grandkids are by marriage. They now live in states like, N.C, S.C., Georgia.. I have I belive 2 great grands, and 2 neices have” several kids so I guess they would be great neices and nephews.. The downer, I dont see them in person or the computer for various reasons. That is one prayer I know God can answer in the ares of peace in our hearts and lives. be blessed

    • Raynard, I agree that prayer is a good way to approach these situations. I hope that you will one day enjoy being able to see them and/or keep in touch with them. But meanwhile you can enjoy those kids who are close by, even if you are not related to them. Our next door neighbors have a baby who reminds me so much of Grady. They are almost the same age and look very alike, with their reddish-blond hair and don’t-miss-anything facial expressions! Hope you are having a good week. Did the so-called polar weather front give you some cool breezes? We have enjoyed a cooler day here today.

  5. Ann

    Julia, thank you for including us on your journey! Grady came at a time when you needed to see and feel joy. From your posts, it’s evident that he brings Jeff and you a respite from your worries.

    Grady and his PaPa look like they are enjoying each other. 😄

    Ann

    • Thank you Ann! yes, Grady is a real blessing. When we first learned he was on the way, we were so numb with shock and grief over the very grim prognosis they had just given Jeff, that we almost didn’t even realize the news. Then all I could think of was the fear that we would be in the hospital when he arrived, or otherwise unable to see and enjoy him as much as we would have except for Jeff’s cancer. My friend Peggy (the one I wrote about here) totally understood how we felt, but wrote us a letter in which she said “Somehow, some way, this baby will be a blessing to you.” When I read her words I felt that I was reading something true and real, and it really helped. This may be the type of thing that only makes sense when one lives through it, but suffice it to say, Peggy was right!

  6. Jack

    Julia, maybe the beautiful news of your impending grandparentness was some small mercy of God’s to soften the blow of the tough news of your husband’s illness? While that’s just a thought, I’ve been in fact encouraged in some of my far smaller struggles by watching you guys faithfully wrestle with bigger ones. Here’s to a God whose mercies are new every morning! And to you and your family for grace for hard and easy days ahead!

    And you should see my tomatoes…didn’t want to comment yesterday because it seemed like bragging 🙂

    • Jack, that sort of bragging is ENCOURAGED around here! Tomatoes are one of the best things about summer. Yes, God’s mercies really are new every morning. That’s one of my favorite Bible passages. I do believe that Grady came at just the right time, though it may not have seemed so to us at first. I appreciate your kind words and presence here.

  7. Children are so adorable at this age. If they could only stay this innocent.

    • Isn’t that the truth? We can hope and pray that some of that sweetness stays with him. I may be biased, but still see a lot of the cute baby boys they once were in both my sons, at odd moments from time to time.

  8. In the presence of my grandchildren, my space is filled with joy, love and happiness. In June, I was gifted with the opportunity to share one full week of quality time them. Thank you for this post as a reminder of how much our grandchildren bring into our lives.

    • Yvonne, I am so happy you were able to enjoy that wonderful week – and what a gift it is! Worth far more than money. I’m happy the post brought some happy thoughts of your “grand-blessings” this morning!

  9. Carolyn

    What a great picture.. Jeff looks good,that is what I can see. Grady is just precious!!! I will be going to have my eyes checked this afternoon and I will let you know how things are going. Thanks for your blogs and pictures.I’m happy that we can keep in touch .Hugs and love to all

    • Thank you Carolyn! I think Jeff looks good too, considering all that he’s been through. I hope you get a good report from your eye doctor today. I’m so glad to be in touch with you too! We will keep you in our prayers. BTW Jeff just got back his latest CEA, which was 2.2 – we are quite happy with that! Love to you and Terry.

  10. Lynn Hayner

    Love this!

    >

    • Thank you Lynn!

  11. Carlyle

    Julia,
    Your mother and I believe we have been richly “compensated”. We never expected to live to see 7 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren, but here we are!

    • Thank You Daddy! Having you and Mama here with us is our compensation for living with the knowledge that we made you old 😀 😀 😀 — no, just kidding! But I wanted to stress that all 14 of us are so lucky you are still here. As you taught Ryan when he was an energetic toddler exploring with you outdoors, I remind you to “stick around!” Love you.

      • singleseatfighterpilot

        And I am grateful, more than you know, for your candor. Your answer was quite thourough only leaving out the aspect of cruelty associated with the timing of that wonderful life (Grady) coming into the world. I am still a little confused about that, even when I try to think of an abstract meaning of the word.
        To Carlyle and Julia: “What mean stick around?”

        • Eric, as I mentioned in another comment, when we got the news, we had just taken one diagnostic blow after another for two months, and we were on the ropes with shock and grief. We were numb and exhausted; we couldn’t even get our minds around the idea of a grandson. I kept telling myself that I should be happy and excited, and in fact felt guilty that I wasn’t, but at the risk of sounding melodramatic, the idea of having to live without Jeff made everything else pretty meaningless at that point. It’s hard to remember now how grim the outlook seemed at the time. A 5% survival rate is pretty dismal,and the “average two-year survival” prognosis even WITH the aggressive chemo regimen was especially shocking for a 54-year-old man who seemed in perfect health and had been eating well, exercising, etc. for so many years (not to mention having had a cancer-free colonoscopy less than four years prior to the Stage IV diagnosis). The oncologists were advising me to “adjust my expectations” and not to expect surgery (which Jeff later was blessed to have after his tremendous response to chemo). They seemed to doubt that his case would improve to the point that surgery would even be an option, (and now he’s had TWO; Thank You Lord!). While we hoped the surgery might eventually be possible, we were warned it probably wouldn’t. Neither of us could imagine how Matt would survive losing his Daddy, to whom he has always been close, but who has grown to be his near-constant companion in the past several years. Grief is an isolating experience, and despite the sympathy of our family and friends, we felt very alone.

          In the darkness of being blindsided by that Stage IV diagnosis, (which came AFTER I started this blog) nothing was clearly visible. I suppose it’s one of those things one cannot imagine until it happens, but there are some times you live through almost robotically, in a sort of shock at a time that should be full of unalloyed joy (hearing of the first grandchild on the way). That’s what felt cruel, that such a wonderful (though still abstract) joy should come at a time when it felt meaningless in the face of our sorrow.

          And, it must be added, GRADY, like all babies, is more delightful than any of us could have imagined, anyway. (I always love it how totally unique each child is!) If we could have been beamed to the future to spend even 5 minutes with him as he is now, he would have bounced us out of that shock quickly, I have no doubt. Babies are astoundingly powerful, to be such helpless creatures.

          I’m glad you remember the sweet story about Ryan and his grandfather.

          • singleseatfighterpilot

            Some hospitals employ pets for therapeutic help. Sherry has always called grandchildren “therapy babies”.

            • Yes, the therapy dogs were one of the first rays of sunshine for me at the Walter Reed oncology clinic. Somehow, when those dogs showed up, it was easier to believe everything was going to be OK and we were going to survive. Babies are even better at bringing that sort of cheer. Even when they are upset, it’s a very immediate kind of unhappiness, not a chronic generalized malaise that becomes so difficult to bear. But there is nothing more endearing than a laughing baby!

          • MaryAnn

            Julia, this exchange with your brother is very insightful & encouraging to me. Thank you for sharing your journey, your heart, your thoughts. I love you even more, if that’s possible. You are doing God’s Will for your life on so MANY levels!

            • MaryAnn

              Oops! I forgot to say: what a GORGEOUS pair in your photo! (Alas! Me, being sidetracked???) 🙂

              • Thank you – I don’t think you are sidetracked; some things just tend to go without saying 😀 — as one grandmother to another, I’m sure you understand!

            • Mary Ann, thanks as always for your generosity. I love you too!

  12. Amy

    Beautiful photo. Has it been that many years since we were changing our own children’s diapers that now we could change THEIR CHILDREN’s diapers. My oh my how the time flys. God bless you all.

    • Thank you Amy. Yes, the time flies! Faster and faster! I shall refrain from telling my much-repeated favorite diaper story about Katie. 😀 Isn’t it amazing how old we are becoming, when we still feel so young and chipper? Okay, middle-aged and fairly active? Sometimes? Hee-hee, pass the ice cream! I’m happy someone as young as you will still hang around with me. It makes me feel younger.

  13. Sheila

    Julia, such love shared and expressed in that moment you captured. I know that I prayed that your precious little one would share many days with his loving grandparents and the joy would be cherished. Since those first days of “Grady’s Page” I have enjoyed watching his first year and the pleasure that he has brought to all, including me. He truly is a reflection of such a special family! 🙂 Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, thank you for your kind words about Grady! Your presence with us has made this road so much easier. I so appreciate your sharing our joys and sorrows – how much of it we went through together! It’s amazing how much life is packed into a year or two, isn’t it? BTW, how are Jack and Walter doing? (And of course you and Bill too) ❤

  14. Life can deal some cruel blows. I’m glad Jeff made it through his treatments, and can enjoy his beautiful grandson. I’m happy, too, that you can both share that experience together.

    I’ve often wished my dad could have met our boys.

    • Alys, I wish he could have, too. I never knew my father’s father, but I wish I did. I’m glad there are many family stories about him. I’m sure your sons will come to know your father through the stories you share with them.

  15. Michael

    Grandchildren are pretty amazing -and it pains me to think at some point I will have to say goodbye and I don’t get to spend forever with them. I probably won’t be ready and I won’t want to go. I was pretty close to my maternal grandfather Carter who lived into his late 80’S. My other grandfather had a devastating stroke while I was in high school- and that was painful to see, witness. He lost all speech capability. Strokes can also be very cruel- to use a familiar word.

    My dear friend at church H- I mentioned earlier- just got the terrible diagnosis- while being worked up for diabetes- of Stage four lung cancer. He has decided not to do dialysis and is now on home hospice. He is at home now and I visited him yesterday. He said to me, “At some point God wants you to throw in the towel.” I am not sure what to make of that and I think my response was inadequate.
    This is one of the sweetest kindest persons I have ever known with not a mean bone in his body. If I was to choose a person to outline the Spiritual values of Galatians 9 it would be H.

    It is surprising the number of people I meet who believe Cancer is a conspiracy and that a cure exists-and the medical machine is milking the disease for every dollar–I digress.

    • Michael, I’m happy you were able to know your grandfathers, even though one of them suffered in a way that was hard to see. I think we grow from these terrible experiences even when we find them hard to endure. Your friend H sounds a lot like our wonderful friend Ben. He did what he could to fight his brain tumor, but fairly early he came to the decision to go home on hospice and live his remaining months (six, almost to the day, from the initial diagnosis) as well as he could. It was a gift to many of us who loved him, that he and his wife spent time with us during those last weeks, always keeping their sweet spirits. It’s a lasting gift and legacy that has given Jeff and me a lot of strength in the past 18 months. I hope you will feel the same about H when you must say that final goodbye.

      Re: cancer; those who see it as an intentional conspiracy are (in my opinion) grossly oversimplifying a many-layered and complex situation, but it’s not hard to understand where that idea comes from. Cellular biology is unbelievably intricate and even the most brilliant minds are a long way from understanding how replication works in its literally countless variances. Having said that, there is absolutely no question in my mind that the pharmaceutical industry exerts far too much control over our entire medical establishment, and many diseases could be entirely prevented if what we know about wellness and healing was not such a threat to so many big-money players (including other industries besides Big Pharma, including some of our food industries). That’s not to say that there is not shared blame. Look at how much we know about the hazards of smoking, obesity, promiscuity, addiction, and other destructive behaviors — and yet we demand the “freedom” to destroy ourselves in these ways. The blame game is all too easy to play. If cancer is a conspiracy, those of us who do the easy thing in terms of behaviors that affect diet, use of chemicals, sun exposure, you name it — which includes pretty much all of us — are all conspirators.

      • Rene

        I tend to think conspiracy theories are silly, but after reading THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, I understand why people feel that way. It’s a really thought-provoking book.

        • That book is on my “to read” list. I think conspiracy theories get started because there is usually a grain of truth in their suppositions, and sometimes it might be more than just a grain. As the old saying goes, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” Sometimes legitimate fears are dismissed by people who have a stake in proving them false. One way they do this is by lumping all such ideas under one label, as if they were equally ridiculous. I will look forward to reading that book. I have read positive reviews, but had not talked to anyone who had actually read it.

          • Rene

            I like non-fiction, but tend to read it in chunks. This was one of those I couldn’t put down once I got to a certain point. Lhighly recommend it, and hope you’ll let me know what you think when you get around to it (having 10 books on my nightstand & one still at the library I forgot to pickup today).

            • Rene, I too have the “ten books on the nightstand” syndrome, but I love it because I get to read whatever I’m in the mood for! I have just started Girl Sleuth and I agree with you that it’s hard to put down. Much more engaging than many a nonfiction book I’ve read. I’m glad you told me about it.

  16. Michael

    I.e. Comments on the news. This is downside of the Internet world;. we hear daily -or hourly -horrors that in a simpler time would have taken months to reach us. Probably best to turn off the news and go offline.

    • Yes, absolutely! I sometimes feel like a head-in-the-sand ostrich, but one way I’ve survived these past 18 months is dropping activism (including the need to “stay informed” about various issues on which I have strong opinions). At some point, emotional survival takes precedence over “being informed.”

  17. Michael

    Great comments about the medical-industrial complex and Big Pharma. And your friend Ben does sound a lot like my friend H. Jesuit priest – Rollheiser says some in their dying can leave a gift of spirit , and that one of our tasks in dying is to leave a positive spirit with our loved ones. . And he draws a parallel to the life of Christ who said he had to leave so that a Spirit presence might come. My father in law- who lived with us during his last 6 months- also left with us a loving spirit of kindness- that unfortunately I did not always appreciate at the time. In fact I have to confess that at times I resented his constant presence. That is something I have to live with. Looking back there is much he taught us in those last few months.

    • Michael, I think it’s easy for us to get impatient, even with people who enrich our lives. I have not appreciated Matt’s sweet spirit nearly as much as I should have all these years. But in reality, we who are caregivers are hit with lots of distractions all the time, necessary and seemingly urgent tasks bombard us, and we can’t always be aware of what is right there under our noses, especially when we are tasked with being responsible for a considerable part of their care. It’s easy to resent the constant presence of someone else, particularly those whose needs usually must come before ours (which may leave very little room for ours at all). I am glad you can look back and appreciate him now. I am sure he was grateful for the care you gave him, and for your opening your home to him.

  18. Michael

    I was much closer to my father in law than my own father. But that is another story. I visited my friend H who is actually doing a little better-but getting a little impatient with the process. He asked me”When will this junk be over?”

    • Michael, I think that’s one of the hardest things about cancer, the feeling that it likely will never really be over. Even for the fortunate ones who are “cured” they still have to keep checking for it. One of the things they told Jeff and me in the beginning is not to think of cancer as a death sentence, but as a chronic condition. I never thought the words “chronic condition” would sound good, but everything is relative.

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