Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “July 23, 2018”

Ian Large, Not Just His Name

I met Ian a long time ago.  So long ago, way before Facebook.  So we were not picture crazy back then, so I have to use one of his current pictures.  We met on an older communication system, a listserve, arranged for patients dealing with or in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He lived across the pond in England, but that was how great the internet was, allowing those of us, struggling with our cancer, to find support and encouragement, no matter where we lived.

Early in the 2000’s, I decided to hold a gathering, a reunion of people who had battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  I would hold it at my home, though everyone would stay nearby in a hotel.  We had about a dozen or so guests who brought their loved ones and had a great time.  I arranged for some guest speakers to talk about post care and such.  And then we had some fun, food, and more fun.

Ian’s last name suited him, “Large”, because that is how he lived his life.  He was the hit of the gathering.  His humor and enjoyment were infectious.  Everybody seemed to enjoy their time so much more.  Even my dog go into the act.

Ian was also physically bigger than me, standing only at 5’7″.  The joke that stayed literally forever, even up to this day, having too much fun, using the ladder to climb out of the pool, Ian had stepped on one of the rungs, and it broke in half.  Though I would never see Ian again in person, we kept in touch, and almost symbolically, the ladder never got repaired even to this day as if to have repaired it would have been like a closure of some sort.

Besides the fact that I no longer live in the house now, the ladder will be repaired.  The ladder is producing a closure.  At the same time, Ian passed away in the last couple of days.  Out of respect for his wife and family, I will not discuss the circumstances, but, like me, Ian had his own long term issues from treatments for his Hodgkin’s.  When we knew each other back then, neither of us were affected yet.

Over the years, we kept in touch, and through Facebook, we were able stay in touch.  Affected by my late effects more than 10 years ago, the way I lived my life had to change.  I was no longer able to do certain activities.  The hard part was balancing what I could do.  The hard part was getting everyone around me to understand, my life was never going to be the same.

I admired Ian, because like I said, he loved to do things “large”.  I envied all the things that he was still able to do, before he had to deal with his issues, and perhaps even after learning of them.  He is not the only long term survivor able to overcome the limitations we have.  But sometimes our decisions to ignore, or “move on” and pretend they never exist, can also lead to our downfalls.  Again, Ian was known to do what he wanted, and he had a great time doing it.

Ian was married to a wonderful woman.  And if anyone knows how large fun was with Ian, it is her.

My deepest sympathies to all of his friends and family.

Married Or Divorced – The Title And Responsibilities Of Dad Do Not Change

Since they came into my life, I have tried to raise my daughters with three different directions in life:  education, humility, and of course, fun.  During the years of separation and divorce, those directions have never changed.  My daughters know that they can count on my consistency through the years.  I have not changed.

My custody time with my daughters vary, and that often determines the kinds of things we do.  If it is a short period, it is more likely to be of the fun variety such as a movie or park, or perhaps visiting a friend.  But during the extended periods of time, that is when more time can be spent, while money is not, learning about life, what is ahead of them, and what I hope for them.

No matter what, my daughters have been able to count on having to do homework with me.  Whether during the school year, of summer break, this has never changed.  What has changed are the methods.  With schools now requiring summer reading, I no longer supply the “transitional” workbooks to prepare them for the next grades.  And what is even more special, watching them help each other.  Which actually becomes critical once Algebra and Calculus comes into play.

But this summer, something was new.  My oldest had informed me that she wanted to get a job.  Another step up the ladder of life (I assume driver’s license will be next), I helped her fill out a few applications, and even took her for her first interview.  Now while she did not get the job, what she got was a huge lesson in her first interview – questions that are asked, get over the nervousness, etc. .

But there are so many activities and opportunities to learn, and you can check your communities, because I am certain that you have them too, and they are usually free.  My daughters love to cook.  A teen class was provided at our library and they learned to prepare and cook a chicken, bake a cake, and make pancakes.  Needless to say, they were anxious to put their skills to the test, and who was I to stop them?

And there are plenty of other things that I try to teach them, opportunities that are not often available, some times about history so that they learn the importance of not repeating certain events, and of course, humility.  That one day, they may not have everything that they once did, or that there are those that have never had.

Years ago, I took my daughters to our Holocaust Museum.  It was a modest sized building, but filled with such tragic history.  They had already been learning about Nazi Germany, so they were able to grasp the severity and horrific events that took place.  The above picture shows a restored boxcar used to transport families to the gas chambers.  While at the cooking class, the boxcar was currently positioned at the library.  There is information inside telling of the history of the Holocaust though clearly not in such detail as the museum, but to actually be able to stand inside, imagine the doors closed, only being able to look through a foot-high window of the box car, not knowing your fate, it was quite chilling.  Later this week, my daughters will actually meet a Holocaust survivor, who was a child back then.  He is giving a lecture on his experience during the Holocaust.

But another thing that we have always enjoyed doing with each other… outreach, helping others.  Whether walking the streets of Philadelphia and seeing a homeless person, or perhaps rescuing a stray pet, my daughters appreciate that there are always going to be others who do not “have” and that it is just a degree of how much or how little.  My daughters and I participated in the second stage of an event here that raises money for food who have difficulty affording food.  The first stage, bowls are molded.  The second stage, the bowls are painted, the stage we participated in.  After they are “fired” the bowls are filled with soup, made by local chefs, and at an event in January, open to the public in one of our parks, people may buy the bowl, filled with soup, and the proceeds go to help the hungry.  The only sad thing is, our bowls look nothing like the finished produce until the are fired, and we really will have no way of finding our bowls.

Around all this, we are having fun doing all of these things, learning, helping, caring.  Watching movies, walks on the beach, playing games, my daughters know one thing, the dad that they had when they were four, is the same dad they have now, only so much more.  And so are they.

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