My wife’s family gets together three times a year – Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. At Christmas, my wife and I have all the family over to our house, because it’s big and central, and we’ve always done it there.
But for Easter and Thanksgiving, for the last many years, we have always gone to my Father-in-law’s golf club for brunch. He hasn’t played for a couple of years (he’s 88) but he remains a social member. They put on an excellent brunch, with substantial smoked salmon/shrimp mountains, vats of French toast and maple syrup, and lots of roast beef and ham.
It was at Thanksgiving brunch in October last year that my Father-in-law first revealed he was having trouble eating. He hardly ate a bite, despite the tasty offerings, and when he did eat, he had a hard time getting it down.
After several appointments, he learned he had Esophageal cancer, although very localized. By Christmas, he had lost substantial weight, and couldn’t eat anything except ice cream at dinner. He had learned that his options were extensive surgery, not recommended for a man of his age, which probably would be minimally efficacious; or a stop-gap measure involving a stent in the esophagus and localized radiation. “That should beat it back for a while” as the Oncologist said. Not forever, but for a year or two. Long enough.
My Father-in-law flew bomber missions over Germany in the war, he’s not afraid of death. What he is afraid of is losing control – he hates being driven by someone else, and he always gets his own way. The one thing he knew he didn’t want was to spend his last months strapped to a chemo drip with his ass sticking out of a hospital gown.
The stent went in early January, and the radiation followed in February. It made him feel tired, but he became able to eat almost immediately, and the weight came back on.
Last week, we met at the golf club for Easter brunch, on a beautiful spring morning. My father-in-law arrived in his new Caddy, all spiffed out in a trim grey suit I hadn’t seen before. “I haven’t been able to wear this for years, but now my weight’s down, I fit right in it”. He looked great, slimmer than before, but more energetic and healthier.
My sister-in-law, his other daughter, was widowed several years ago, and she has since found a nice man. They’re getting married in October, just a year from when her father realized he was ill. He’ll be able to give away his daughter a second time, and go to at least one more wedding.
A year or two. Long enough.