|Treasuring memories of love|
|By Susan Bazar|
|Thursday, 17 January 2013 15:22|
| Members of extended family put their own lives on hold to help |
EAST GREENWICH – I am a lucky girl. My mother always told me so. Aside from occasional bouts of sinusitis and tonsillitis, I was a reasonably healthy child. Though a worker in school, good grades came fairly easily. So did friends, dates and college acceptances.
So, it was no surprise that as the summer of my 18th year unfolded, I fell in love. A beach romance with someone three years my senior, he made it clear his future would include me, if I so chose.
“Can you wait for me?” I asked.
“Yes, as long as you are committed to us,” he said.
So, though college friends encouraged me to date and temptation beckoned, I refused. With our schools only 15 minutes apart, our continuous dating during my freshman year was easy. He graduated that following spring, accepted a position with a large accounting firm and started to study for the CPA exam.
David Sondler and I were engaged my sophomore year and married six weeks after graduation. I had enough credits by my senior year to assume a part-time position at a health insurance company in Rhode Island. As the semester ended, I was offered a full-time position. Perfect. We played house, at first in an apartment and then in our starter home, a sweet three-bedroom cape, perfect for raising a child or two. Mom helped us decorate, and she and my husband – sharing a passion for antiquing – added a few goodies along the way. He passed the CPA exam and began conducting out-of-town audits.
Two years later, a wonderful job opportunity for my husband emerged. It meant commuting to Connecticut, a challenge he readily accepted. We learned we were pregnant shortly thereafter and as waves of morning sickness became routine for me and Connecticut overnights routine for him, it was clear a move was imminent. I gave notice and we put our house on the market.
That spring was interesting. Riding with realtors as I battled nausea gave new definition to customer satisfaction. Affordable homes were scarce but we settled on a split-level that needed cosmetics only. As stinky, oil-based paint created a neutral palette, I sat outside submerged in a “Dukes of Hazzard” pool to escape toxic fumes. I also consumed ice cream, often twice a day.
Meredith, supremely pink and healthy, was born on a late summer’s eve at Hartford Hospital. Both sets of Rhode Island-based grandparents ran to greet her. She was the second grandchild on my side of the family and the first girl born in my in-laws’ family in more than 35 years. After raising three boys, they were elated. Luckily, since both my parents were born in West Hartford, I had many relatives to visit. Days were spent pushing Meredith in the carriage, acclimating to the rhythm of suburbia as a new mother.
As Meredith turned 3-months-old, my husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Compared to the proposed alternative diagnoses, Hodgkin’s disease was optimal.
“Ninety-five percent curable,” said the doctors.
Conventional chemotherapy ensued and remission thankfully followed. In between work, doctor visits, tests and treatments, we played with Meredith who, at this point, had a touch of colic and days and nights reversed. We were all exhausted. Meme (my mother) and Nana (my mother-in-law) took turns visiting, as did aunts and uncles, putting their worlds on hold to provide childcare, love, support and respite from the horror show that had unfolded.
Because of the late-stage diagnosis, remission was short-lived. An immediate consult at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston defined the next treatment phase: an autologous bone marrow transplant, then isolation for four weeks with Boston-based recovery. In an instant, we closed our home in Connecticut, moved into an apartment on hospital row in Brookline and resumed treatment. Teams of family members ensured this happened swiftly and seamlessly. Some watched Meredith while others packed and directed movers. Some sat in the hospital during pretesting while others cooked meals.
With the transplant came mandatory isolation. In two-week intervals, my mother and mother-in-law moved in with Meredith and me. It afforded me the luxury of being with him by day and interrogating teams of rotating physicians. With precision, my sister relieved me from hospital duty at the end of her workday so I could run home to have dinner with my daughter. With precision, my sister tucked in her beloved brother-in-law for the night and descended upon the apartment for comfort and play with her niece.
I remember the call announcing his remission. Could it be this time? How would we all deal with the testing in three-month increments, the uncertainty hovering? When would it be safe to move back home to West Hartford, away from the team? The luxury of even asking these questions was fleeting. Days later, health deteriorating and one last clinical trial posed, saying no to treatment was not an option.
He passed the day after Thanksgiving, one day after dear family friends rang the doorbell with a complete homemade Thanksgiving dinner in hand, intuiting that, as others were giving thanks, he and we were struggling with despair. Doctors were shocked that he deteriorated so quickly. They, too, were banking on a newly turned 29-year-old, loving son, brother, husband and father finding a window of health, desperately wanting to honor his sole birthday wish to see 30 years of age.
Twenty-seven years have passed. And, while the tragedy of a life shortened will always resonate, I still consider myself lucky. To have a daughter as his legacy reigns supreme. To have been enveloped by family in the darkest of days is a gift I treasure to this day.
My sister has a saying that people do what they can. As most of us know, just because someone can do something, doesn’t mean they will. In my case, and in my family, it is a given. I am so lucky.