Category Archives: cancer

The burgermeister

They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, however that hasn’t been my experience. When you don’t meet your first relative (other than your mother and brother) until you’re 22 years-old, having family is very much a choice. With complete honesty, I can say that finding and getting to know my family has been without exception the most personally gratifying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I think that’s why I’m so devastated by the loss of my uncle, the man I’ll always think of as the burgermeister

From the very first time we met, me an undergraduate student and the daughter of one of his oldest sisters kicking around Europe, he, in his midthirties and a father to two young children, he always made me know I was family. There was never an instant that wasn’t apparent in the subsequent years and the times we shared.
Between that initial introduction and his recent death we probably were together on a dozen different occasions. He and his wife visited Albany, we met in NYC on the very day my own cancer was determined to require additional treatment, we traveled together in Europe. Three of my last four trips to Europe involved spending time with him and those are some memories that I’ll take out and shine until they gleam gold.

We stayed in the town where he lived twice in recent years and it was truly wonderful to witness the affection with which he was greeted everywhere we went. It was so obvious that he was a beloved member of his community – from the bakery to the Italian restaurant where he still occasionally worked when they needed a hand, he was met with humor and warmth and I was honored to claim him as my uncle. I always felt safe with him and I’m convinced there was nothing in this world with which he couldn’t contend. Except cancer.

As I was proud of him, he was proud of the life he had created. He had been a competitive athlete representing his country in the biathlon. Since learning that part of his history, I’ve loved cross country skiing even more, like it’s our family’s sport. During our visit in April he shared the medals he had won and his unabating love for winter sports was apparent. His home actually overlooks a ski jump used in international competitions, (which he helped with, of course) and we toured a local museum dedicated to the history of Nordic skiing.

My uncle, the unofficial burgermeister, was a great man and the loss of him, despite the thousands of miles between us, feels almost unbearable. How incredibly lucky was I to have seen him so recently? How kind of the universe to have cooperated by putting so much of my family in one place to celebrate Easter just two months ago. I know the ache in my heart will dull and the tears will dry but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. As the marker on his final resting place states, he was a gift from Heaven.

Hug your dads, uncles, husbands and sons and know how fortunate you are.

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Filed under aging, cancer, Europe, family, Germany, love, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Are your ducks all in a row?

IMG_2019Have you ever chaperoned a field trip? At this point in my life, I’ve accompanied quite a few bus loads of students to destinations like NYC, Montreal and, as of today, Boston. I take the responsibility pretty seriously and spend an inordinate amount of time counting my charges, hoping to consistently arrive at the same number. Today my magic number was four.

It was a beautiful day for a field trip to Boston. We left before the sun came up knowing we were in for a long day. After contending with typically hideous traffic as we approached the city, we arrived at our first destination, the Museum of Science. I’d never been there before and my small posse was a great group. We had fun exploring the hands on exhibits, checking out the dinosaurs and stumbling upon the lightning storm demonstration as a perfect finale to our visit. On to the next stop – the Duck Tour.

I herded my group, feeling like Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings, to our meeting point and we boarded our amphibious vehicle to learn about Boston’s history and get into the river. I checked my email as we sat at yet another red light and gasped at what I read. There had been a very unexpected death in my family. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. The day changed and memories washed over me in waves larger than any we would see on the Charles.

The uncle I lost was the relative, other than my brother, to whom I felt most connected. He was the first member of my German family that I met, years ago when he arrived at the Hauptbanhof to pick me up and bring me into the mountains where my family lived. He was the youngest of my mother’s brothers, closer in age to me than her, and from that very day he was never less than kind, generous and thoughtful to me and, eventually, my own family. Losing him has shocked me into sadness.

I have memories of him holding my babies, walking with us across the Brooklyn Bridge, sharing meals together in a half dozen countries, hosting us in his home…He and his wife had a marriage that never failed to make me smile. Their love for one another was evident and they enjoyed more adventures in their nearly 20 years as husband and wife than many couples will ever know. That’s the consolation, right? To have loved with passion, lived with spirit, taken advantage of the time given?

Our most recent trip together was less than two months ago. My youngest son and I spent nearly 10 days traveling around Germany with my uncle and aunt. We had what I’m convinced was the best Easter I’ll ever have, eating and drinking with five of my mother’s siblings and nearly a dozen cousins. I never imagined that he’d be gone just weeks later. Our last night together was in Berlin. We had dinner and then reconnected later in the night to have our final drink of vacation together in a little bar popular with the theater crowd. It was quiet and, as always, I felt a little sad to know that our time together was coming to a close, until next time, next year.

A day that began with counting my charges became an evening of gathering memories. I’m really going to miss being able to make more of those with him. Ensuring that all of my ducks are in a row may be something that will always require attention and work, but I’ll take some comfort in knowing that my efforts to know and spend time with my family have been the greatest use of my time, money and energy. Rest In Peace, WM.

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Filed under aging, cancer, family, Germany

Celebrate Life – even in 5 degrees!

IMG_1140Yesterday was a day I was not looking forward to – the forecast for frigid weather, the loss of an hour, the long bus ride… I had a few moments when I even considered bailing on the half marathon I had committed to running, but I dug deep and found the motivation to get my a** out of bed and over to East Greenbush to meet the bus that had been organized to take a couple of dozen runners to Rock Hill, N. Y. for the Celebrate Life Half Marathon. I’m glad I did.

I don’t know when I started to get blasé about running 13.1 miles, but somehow it happened. When my Lunar B*tch Karen asked if I was interested in running this particular race, I don’t think I even looked at the course or hesitated. Bundle in the fact that the race is a fundraiser to support those struggling with cancer and I was all in.

The weather forecast for the race changed at least three times in the week prior to the run – from rain to cloudy and finally, to plain old cold. Like, really cold. Single digits cold. The morning of the run I dressed in a single layer on the bottom and 3 layers on the top, and boarding the bus with an assortment of additional UnderArmor items in a bag. Can I tell you how different activities are when you have the right clothes? There’s a reason I troll Marshall’s for running gear, people!

The bus ride was great – a pleasant ride through beautiful scenery and well worth the $25. As we drove along in our warm bus it was easy to forget how truly cold it was outside those windows. Once we were parked, though, the bitter temperatures slapped me in the face and reminded me what I’d be facing for the next couple of hours. I picked up my race packet and started layering up eventually going with 2 bottom layers, 4 layers on top finished with a vest, 2 pairs of gloves and a fleece hat that velcroed under my chin that I am so glad I tossed in at the last minute. I was as ready as I was ever going to be!

We started at 10:00 a.m. I didn’t know it at the time, but the temperature was 5 degrees. The wind chill brought it down to -4. My ignorance was bliss. The first mile was brutal – the wind was blowing and my nose was running like mad. My face hurt and I was almost overwhelmed by the thought of another 2+ hours in those conditions, but that first hill warmed me up a bit and my playlist was great. I settled into a comfortable pace and started to enjoy the challenge.

The course was beautiful, circling around a couple of small lakes and reminiscent of my hometown. There were some hills for sure and the lakeside pieces were definitely cold, but the sun was shining and I eventually warmed up enough to unfasten my hat’s chinstrap and remove both layers of gloves for a short time. The body is an amazing thing.

Towards the end of my run, as the hills continued unrelentingly, I started to think of people I care for who have struggled with cancer and I ran for them. When my phone died at 12.89 miles, I kept running without music, but with heart, eventually  finishing in 2:25 with a deep sense of satisfaction and sore feet. Like life, it felt like something to celebrate.

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Filed under cancer, Exercise, friends, road trips, running, sunday, upstate New York, winter

Who are you?

Yeah, you. My reader. It’s been more than 7 years, 2 domains and a divorce since DelSo was born. Over the years I’ve shared a lot of my life and self here, in print. You, as a reader, have come to know me on some level from my words. What makes you return here (assuming you’re not new around these parts) and read what I write? Let me remind you of some of what I’ve related to you in the hope that you might feel inclined to share with me – who you are, reader? Why are you here?

There have been so many miles – more plane rides than I could have ever imagined, along with  runs and races and road trips. I’ve  explored cities with my boys and my girlfriends and solo. My feet have run in a half dozen different countries and probably about the same number of states.

My home has evolved from a house with two full-time parents to one of three part-time children. There have been physical improvements, rooms repurposed and painted, new rugs and furniture rearranged. It feels different. After a refinance or two, I know it’s mine.

I’ve written about books I’ve read and movies and concerts I’ve seen. Increasingly, politics and my dismay with our current leadership have been topics I’ve felt compelled to write about.

My children and the challenges of being a parent frequently provide fodder for posts. While the joys outweigh the frustrations, parenthood remains a roller coaster ride that keeps me on the edge of my seat with a scream threatening to escape. It’s a heart racing ride.

Sometimes I cook or bake and post recipes and photos of the fruits of my labors. Food and wine are a big part of my life and I’ve happily shared my experiences with you.  Oh – and there’s that wine bar that I own.

There have been times when I wrote with sadness or anger, but I think I mostly write from a place of understanding and acceptance. Balance and moderation are woven throughout much of what I write.

Health and wellness have been covered and the miracle of menopause has been mentioned.  The heartbreak of addiction and the threat of cancer have been present. I’ve learned to ski and have found bliss in pigeon pose in a room heated to 100+ degrees.

It’s all here – my life.  Not perfect, not necessarily what I ever imagined it to be, but a life that I feel grateful for in a city that I have come to love.

Will you tell me why you visit my life?

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Superman never made any money

Both of our names start with

Both of our names start with “S.”

Let me preface this by saying I do not consider myself to be a superhero in any fashion. Actually, that’s kind of the image I’m trying to dispel here. After receiving a couple of really nice compliments recently, I feel I need to lay a couple of things out because I wouldn’t want anyone to perceive me as any more than simply human. Just like you.

My only similarity to Superman is the fact that I’m not motivated by money. Fear about wasting the life I’ve been given, though, is a strong incentive. The thought of not being able to physically or mentally or emotionally continue to do the things I currently manage keeps me inspired. And, when I start feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life I have created, I remind myself that:

A. I am the person most responsible for how busy I am.
B. Life goes by so quickly that it makes sense to try to experience as much of it as possible.

My life philosophy for more than 30 years has been to try to gather as many moments as possible in the time given to me. With the passing of years and some health issues, my commitment to this has only been strengthened. A number of months ago I responded to the question “How long do you want to live?” with this:

I want to live every day.

When I’m asked how I do it all, how do I manage to have a full-time job, a business, a family, a relationship, friends, activities, etc, I don’t really have an answer. I just do it – sometimes better than others, by the way. More specifically? I am in touch with my calendar and I’m super organized with my time. When it comes to scheduling things, my German side takes charge and I’m probably guilty of trying to do too much. That being said, I occasionally recognize that I’ve overextended myself and I bail on commitments, social ones usually. Sometimes, more than anything, I need to sit on my couch and watch something mindless on television. I do that, you know. Just like Superman.

But (s)he stayed in the city
And kept changing clothes in dirty old phonebooths
Til his work was through
And nothing to do but go home.

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Filed under aging, cancer, musings, Uncategorized

David Bowie and Fame Right

Last Friday, we played a Spotify station to celebrate David Bowie’s 69th birthday. Less than three days later, he was dead. I guess that’s how it goes. We never know how long the journey from birth to death is really going to be, do we?

I can’t claim to have been the biggest Bowie fan in the universe, but I always liked his more pop stuff. Songs like “Let’s Dance,” “Young Americans,” and “China Girl” were definitely a part of my younger years and are still able to transport me to those simpler days of being a teenager. Some of his stuff was a little too avante garde for me, like this song which freaked me out as a kid but completely wowed me years later in Inglorious Basterds. I always appreciated his range and talent, though. He was very clearly a deeply gifted artist.

Bowie managed, over a career that lasted for decades, to find his way from being a flamboyant, hyper sexual rock star to living a private life as a musician, actor, husband and father. Does this sort of transition simply occur with age? Was it satisfaction with his personal life? Had he merely grown beyond his previous narcissistic need to share himself with the world in an over exposed fashion? Were his over-the-top antics merely a role he was playing for public consumption? Don’t we all do the same thing, projecting an image to the world outside, on some level?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but it has me thinking about achieving a new balance between my public and personal personas. When I consider the unsatiated hunger for fame that is present in contemporary American society, I find myself feeling uncomfortable. No longer is the goal to achieve success on a personal level. Instead, for far too many, it must be accompanied by public recognition and notoriety. It’s kind of sad in a vulgar way and I think I may need to wrap myself a little tighter in the future than I have in the past.

That being said, in no way do I consider myself to be famous or a rock star. I’m just feeling the urge to create a new balance between living life out loud and ultimately dying, hopefully many years from now, with grace. You see,

Fame makes a (wo)man take things over
Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, puts you there where things are hollow.

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Filed under aging, cancer, Music, News, Observations

The ultimate CT

Does anyone else remember that abbreviation meaning something else back in the day? I’m not talking about the state of Connecticut either. These days, however, CT is the short form of Computerized tomography aka a Cat Scan or the test I had yesterday afternoon.

If you’re (fortunately) not familiar with CT scans, allow me to share the experience. Following blood work to ascertain the functioning of one’s kidneys, the patient is positioned, injected with saline followed by dye, and then moved into the machine for a few minutes. When the technician has everything they need, one is released to await results from their physician.

The images are essentially immediately viewable and, if you’re lucky, you hear from your doctor quickly. For me, this is the hardest part of the test and the longer I wait, the more convinced I become that there is something seriously wrong. Something so terrible the doctor doesn’t even have words for the sheer awfulness of the results. Yep, that’s what happens, at least in my mind.

After 10 days of worry, 4 visits to medical facilities, and an inconclusive biopsy, I was a bit on the edge. When my surgeon finally called this afternoon to give me the (good!) news, I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say…

She doesn’t feel the need to operate to remove this latest lump. She’s of the opinion that the lump is a “fried” salivary gland which shows no sign of malignancy. I’m to be closely monitored and the prognosis could change, but, for now, no surgery. I know there will be some disappointed folks out there – namely the friends who have sincerely offered to cook, drive and sponge bathe me, but I’m sure we can work something out.

Never has a good CT been so appreciated.

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Filed under cancer, medical