Three years into the cancers that struck us both, we finally managed to get out of town. Away from hospitals, from radiation, from chemotherapy. Away from doctors.
It would be our best, most memorable week in a long while. Our first full-family reunion in 30 years.
We would fly from Clearwater to Milwaukee, then drive to the popular Wisconsin Dells area to meet with our entire family: our four sons, now married and scattered, with families of their own.
The eldest, now a Chief Petty Officer in the Coast Guard, came from Charleston, SC with his new wife that few had yet met. (She was a hit! Although the temptation to tease her about her New York accent overcame us all at times.)
^^ Frank and Carolyn with their four sons. ^^
Two came from Lake Geneva with their kids, and the fourth drove from Milwaukee with his wife and three daughters. Ten adults, nine kids, and a dog in all, the grandkids ranging in age from 18 to four weeks.
It took us a couple of hours to drive from Milwaukee to Adams. When we pulled up to our motel, the kids and their families were already there. There was hugging. Kissing. Pandemonium of the most delightful kind.
And finally, we all met in the middle of nowhere, a seven-acre heavily wooded area our second son and his wife had purchased nearby.
Here there is a special, indescribable feeling. It is at once so ancient, so primitive, but with modern conveniences. Our son and his family have put in roads, built a washhouse with laundry and shower, and set up a camper in the midst of the woods. Deer stroll by. Coyotes howl in the night.
On the bank of a stream that runs through the place, one evergreen stands above all the rest. It must be 200 years old. It will eventually cover our ashes. We knew we'd made the right decision just standing under its boughs.
We really hadn't had the opportunity to get to know the kids terribly well, even the older ones, as we are all so far apart. This weekend helped us all bond.
Our only regret was that we never did have the time to sit and talk with each family.
Each of our sons has visited us this past year to help with our health issues, but here were all the boys together. Of course, their kids are growing like weeds. It was a joy just to listen to all the chatter.
By the way, we now have something we said we'd never have: a Facebook page. The kids feed it text and photos.
Frank with his new granddaughter, Trinity Sue. >>>
It had been two years since we held a new baby, our youngest's first. That little one now has a brand new sister. Holding the tiny precious bundle brought back ancient memories of our four. Seems like forever ago. Were these strapping men ever so small?
You see, you really can go home again, and family is your most precious possession. We will treasure that all-too-short visit, and with a little bit of luck and finagling, will do it all again, next year.
Meanwhile, although we are both still in remission, we still suffer cognitive impairment from heavy doses of radiation. Chemo brain, they call it. Neither of us can write well. It's like we have holes in our brains.
Next week we begin an eight-week course, three days a week, to regain our memory "up to 131 percent" and our brainpower, cutting our brains' ages up to 10 years, six months. At least, that's what the doctors say.
Kaisers relaxing between
Both of us look forward to writing Suddenly Senior columns again. We will write as we're able, no doubt reporting along the way on our new, improved brains.
Thank you for your patience, your prayers, and your kind and cheerful e-mails. Suddenly Seniors must be the kindest people in the world.
© 2010 Frank Kaiser
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“THE KAISER'S JOURNEY
A very personal look at the Kaiser's Health
Frank and Carolyn Kaiser have been to hell and back this last year, healthwise. But you can't keep a good man - or woman - down, as they say. They're very much alive and kicking - just kicking a little more slowly and carefully. [Ed]
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