One of the things that I have become aware of recently is just how important it is to have friends of all ages. When you are younger, the experience of older friends can help you navigate the bumps along the way. When you are older, your experiences can help your younger friends, and their experiences can bring the excitement of new ideas and challenges into your life.
Eleven years ago when I was 65 and my then partner was 56 we started a Permaculture center near Durango, Colorado. As we were beginning to build the 2200 sq.ft. greenhouse, we started down the traditional path of doing it ourselves with some help from knowledgeable friends and some paid help. That did get things started, but we soon realized that there was no way we would be able to get the greenhouse closed in before the snow came. A friend and board member of our Permaculture center suggested that we contact the environmental center at Fort Lewis College (FLC). We spoke with the director of the center, and he was excited about being involved in something so interesting. Ten days later some 30 FLC students appeared on a sunny October Saturday along with an instructor from Habitat for Humanity to organize them. That day we made significant progress. But more importantly we connected with each of the students, and for the next ten weekends, we had 4-6 or more students show up ever Saturday and Sunday, and by the first weekend in December, the greenhouse was all closed up for the winter. The next spring, two of those students volunteered to complete the masonry for the pond in the middle of the greenhouse.
Over the years since then, we have had a number of unexpected visits from students who worked on the greenhouse who were just passing through and wanted to see how it was going. It was exciting for us to catch up with them on where their lives were going, and they were just as interested in seeing how things in our mostly solar heated greenhouse were growing and going.
So our ‘Perfect Storm’ involves a collision of Christmas, New Year’s, Tom’s Birthday and a possible cancer diagnosis…….just about enough to take the ho-ho out of the season. We’ve been riding this turbulent wave since about Thanksgiving. We had enjoyed a fall full of travel, connection with family and friends, Tom’s deepening study of Shamanism, Mindy’s deepening with friends ranging in age from early 20’s to later 90’s, enjoying places of their past; for Mindy – Atlanta, then journeying up to North Carolina and time with her high school buddy at the coast and then, for us both, a journey back in time visiting the one and only Manhattan and enjoying a week of delightful exploration, visiting places of both our pasts, walking everywhere for miles and miles, partaking of theatre and dance, museums and cathedrals and farmer’s markets and ethnic delights only possible in a place as rich as New York City.
We returned to Colorado for several weeks before waiting out a winter storm and waiting for a clearing to head west to family and Thanksgiving in the land of sunshine and palm trees of southern California. It was on this trip that Tom, from the first day out, was a little puny expressing a little ill at ease in his belly. I even noticed how, several days later, at the lovely gathering of his niece and nephew, family and friends at a Thanksgiving spread that was sensational, that my Tom picked at his food and barely drank of some of the sensational wines available.
It was on the Friday after the holiday, talking w Tom in the kitchen in bright sunlight that I noticed his eyes were discernibly yellow, he was listless, feverish at times and basically sick. When his blood labs were taken, his readings on critical areas were off the charts. They wanted to hospitalize him right away and we declined, feeling strongly that hospitals are not safe places to hang out in. We agreed to monitor him and repeated blood tests in several days and then it became clear, confirmed by an ultrasound that we had a significant problem that needed further help and evaluation and that was needed it immediately. After a very pessimistic diagnosis from a skilled but less than tactful doctor, a procedure was performed that was highly successful in restoring Tom to better health and allowing his body to heal. Happily he is a healthy tone again, with a good appetite, energy level and even a hunger for amorous connection that we so love to enjoy and nuture ourselves with.
The lingering issue that has had me on a roller coaster of emotion is the lack of firm knowing what has caused such illness, what has led to a blockage and whether it is abnormal cells of a benign nature or carcagenic. When you first hear the word involved in a conversation about the one you love, it knocks the breathe right out of you, actually right out of me. Feeling the panic and finding a way to stay present and control the rash of fears and emotions that surge is quite a tight-rope act as it is so very easy to teeter and fall and then spiral down into a dark cavern of unknowns and past and future fears and pains. Now, two weeks after the hospitalization and procedure, and in between Christmas and New Year’s and right after Tom’s birthday, we drive 7 hours up to Denver to the University of Colorado Cancer Center to have more definitive tests and procedures conducted. We were able to find out by researching (with the help of loving friends) a website on-line that this center had the greatest experience with this form of cancer and we would be in good hands. So, the Perfect Storm knocks you around, moves you forward and back and all you can do is hold on, pray and wait it out –
“The purpose of life, after all, is to love it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt