March 12

Dad and I are sitting in the kitchen, each of us plugging away on our respective to-do’s. Despite the disappointment, we’re moving onwards. The last few days have been pretty peaceful, though dad has been strikingly exhausted. Monday, he slept virtually all day and night. He ambled around for his usual coffee fix and some food, but otherwise kept to his sun room perch. 

Despite his exhaustion, dad has finished a 1,600 page History of Ukraine this week. He started the tomb about two weeks ago, and finished the dense history Monday. In our conversation of it, I asked him how it was. “Wouldn’t recommend it” was all he had to say about it. It takes unbelievable willpower (or maybe an affinity for suffering) to get through this history. He’s moved on to Max Weber today, reading one of three volumes of Economy and Society. Book club possibility? Dad plans to finish this next week, so start reading. 

Dad’s interest in dense-at-it’s-best works of art stretches far beyond reading. Lately he’s had a new interest in watching films – and not just Citizen Kane sorts of films (and by that I mean well-regarded and standing the test of time). Dad’s been seeking out the obscure films from the 1960s that even his most patient friends cannot bear to sit through. Clark Brannin, one of dad’s best friends from his time at Tulane, was invited to watch a movie with dad one afternoon while he was in town visiting. According to Clark, the movie was good for putting you to sleep, but little else. 

History of Ukraine, Dust and Ashes (a black and white film from 1950 of Poland on the final day of WW2), and the five-CD set of that microtonal fellow are a few examples of dad’s ever-great, ever-weirder joie de vivre. 

Mom and dad went to Half Moon Bay today for a peaceful visit to the beach and a doze along the coast. Activities have changed from impulsive shopping to more subdued and relaxed ways of passing the time. This is likely due to the lowered dose of steroid. Mom mentioned that dad remained pretty alert today, and didn’t feel sleepy until the early afternoon. 

Dad stayed up for most of the morning and early afternoon today, and he and I spent some time together in the kitchen for his afternoon meal. Despite my efforts to plan events for the day, dad will often decide he wants to lay low and stay quiet during the times we had reserved to be together. This was frustrating at first, but lately I’ve welcomed the time spent alongside him. I’ve found that he doesn’t always want to talk about what’s going on, but would rather just sit with you in your company. If he wants to bring something up, you’re there, but there’s no expectation of conversation for either of us. It’s hard to describe the pleasure in these low key interactions – a slow stream of insights and ideas, weird questions about readings, a vocabulary word here or there… it all flows, and often leads to more substantive exchanges. 

Dad has his post-radiation MRI tomorrow afternoon. The MRI will give some idea of dad’s tumors. However, the results are preliminary as there’s a lot of inflammation and cell death that, as viewed from the MRI has identical characteristics to the tumor growths. In other words, the effects of radiation and chemo look basically the same as a tumor at this stage in dad’s treatment, and it’s hard to determine from the MRI how the tumor is responding. According to Dr. Schiffner, the MRI’s can tell you one thing, while the living and breathing patient can give you a totally different impression. So, we take this MRI with a grain of salt. 

Mom and I are grappling with alternative treatment options, and will meet with Dr. Schiffner on Friday to discuss the next steps. Meanwhile, the both of us are savoring the sweet, low-energy interactions from dad. I feel grateful for the peace following the disappointment and the sadness. 

With love and thanks,

Mikaela

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