Archive for October, 2010

Just before Heather turned one year old two very important events happened in our lives. The first was we found out baby number two was on the way. The other was that my father’s cancer had come back.

Three weeks before I got married my father was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He was in a lot of pain and his prognosis was very uncertain. It was a very turbulent time for our family all the more chaotic because of the upcoming wedding. My younger sister, known for her somewhat erratic behavior, was missing in action which didn’t lessen my parent’s stress. Although I was hoping she’d be around for the wedding we rarely knew where she was or heard from her and since her habits were quite unpredictable I really didn’t know if she’d show up or not.

As luck would have it, my father had to go into the hospital in preparation for his upcoming surgery on the day of my wedding. My father’s poor health wrapped the normal nuptials in a cloak of sadness. Long before the reception festivities should have ended all the rejoicing came to sudden stop when my uncle left with my parents to take my father to the hospital in neighboring Toledo. He was lucky and we were blessed his surgery was a success. But just a few short years after his first bout with cancer the news of my pregnancy was tempered by the news that the cancer had returned. But, we would soon learn that the miracle of a new life wasn’t the only miracle to take place in our family.

As a tenet of my parent’s religious belief they embraced healing by anointing. My mother was adamant that before any invasive procedures were performed on our father he would be anointed by the elders of the church. He was scheduled to undergo a colonoscopy at 11 AM to determine the density of his tumor. Ten minutes before that he was scheduled to be anointed. The doctors told mom it would be a very quick procedure and they would be able to give her a more detailed overview of the seriousness of his condition.

Several hours later—with still no word from the doctor—mom was approached by a nurse anesthetist who asked if she was Mrs. Van Belle. Mom listened intently as the nurse shared with mom her almost unbelievable explanation of a bizarre experience in the operating room earlier that day when daddy was wheeled into the theater. The nurse told mom she had no idea who they were but that she had this overpowering impulse to share with mom about a calm and sense of a healing presence that entered the room with daddy that morning Mom told her about the anointing service with daddy just before he went in for the procedure. “l am a devout Catholic” she told mom “and I firmly believe in healing by anointing. I have no doubt your husband was touched by the hand of God.”

Within minutes daddy’s doctor came and apologized to mom that it had taken so long to give her an update on daddy’s condition. “I’m sorry Mrs. Van Belle,” he began, “but it would appear there’s been a mistake. Something happened to the test results—it seems your husband’s test results have gotten mixed up with someone else since these are free of any tumors. We know there’s a growth in his colon so we need to redo the test.

Mom recalled the nurses parting words “…there are many doctors who work in this hospital who don’t believe in miracles. But I do and I believe a miracle took place in the operating room this morning. I believe your husband was healed. And don’t let anyone talk you out of your beliefs.

My parents stood firm on their decision that daddy not undergo any surgeries and their faith was rewarded. His pain and all other symptoms disappeared along with the cancer. Although this was the first time we had a firsthand experience with God’s healing power—it would not be the last time that our father would have his cancer return just to disappear again.

Several days later we celebrated Heather’s first birthday. There was much to rejoice over: our beautiful little girl was one year old; a baby brother was on the way (although we didn’t know at that time it was a boy); and our wonderful father and their beloved grandpa was fine. Can’t ask for a better birthday celebration than that!


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It’s a GIRL!!

I must confess I failed horribly as a mother in documenting the lives of my children.  I didn’t take photos very often nor did I keep meticulous track of all the momentous occasions in their lives—like when they got their first tooth or took their first steps.  It’s not that I didn’t rejoice in those things.  I just didn’t…document.

But in an effort to recapture some of those special moments I’ve decided to write a series of memoirs of their lives.

Bob and I were living in New Foundland when Heather was on her way.  We lived in a little out-of-the-way poor rural community on Goose Bay on the end of the larger Bona Vista Bay.  Life was tough in that community. The locals barely scratched out a living fishing and lumbering and subsidized the meager incomes they earned with government subsidies that kept them going through the lean times.  Around the bay was a slightly larger community Musgravetown.  The nearest doctor lived there.  He operated his clinic out of an office on the side of his house reminiscent of the old time medical offices of doctors in the 30s and 40s. Although I don’t remember his name any more he was a young man—not much older than me—and even on the first visit he underscored that unlike the locals who lived in this isolated post we had options.  As I neared my due date he recommended I go to the capital St. Johns and wait out the pregnancy there.  Newfoundland ‘s winter could be brutal and since my due date was in the winter it seemed like an unpleasant but smart move although I wondered where we’d find the money for me to stay in a hotel for any length of time.

But as my pregnancy progressed it was clear that staying in St. Johns wasn’t such a good move and the decision was made to fly to Ontario and wait out the rest of my pregnancy with my in-laws.  In those days it really was pretty uncommon to find out the sex of the baby before they were born.  We had our finger’s crossed the baby would make its happy arrival over the Christmas break so daddy could be there.  But as luck would have it—there was no Christmas baby in our future.  When she finally came fashionably late her daddy did his best to get there for the birth but a winter blizzard was hitting the island hard and planes and the future daddy were all grounded for the duration of the storm.

Heather was slightly over two weeks old when she was finally approved to take her first plane trip. I was scheduled to fly into the Gander airport.  I was SO excited to reunite with her father and show him all 9 lbs. 7 ½ ounces of his beautiful new daughter.  The other passengers on the plane commented on how young their fellow passenger was and when they heard she was going to be meeting the proud new papa for the first time you could feel the excitement literally spread through the plane.

Traveling alone with a new baby meant I was one of the last passengers to deplane.  All the other passengers were clustered near the gangway of the plane waiting expectantly as I walked off.  Bob walked up and took his new daughter in his arms.  I could see the emotion working the muscles around his mouth—and when he turned to me and said, “Ugly little thing isn’t she?” well, I knew what he was really saying was…”WOW, she is incredible!”

Daddy and baby soon bonded and to this day she is her father’s daughter. There would be many more separations over the years during our lives together but the one constant thing was the love her parents shared for their firstborn.  As she grew our pride grew too and eventually when grandma gently cuddled her daughter’s first child in her arms the precious memory of holding my grandchild’s mother so many years ago still took my breath away.

Next installment?  The family grows, Heather checks out an electrical outlet and Daddy teachers her French.

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What’s His Future?

At the airport yesterday there was a little boy about 3 years old who was completely out of control. He was running around the lounge screaming at the top of his lungs and his parents seemed powerless to monitor his behavior.  For much of the time the father sat ignoring him and the mother who was clearly frustrated by the child’s misbehavior chased after him calling out his name and trying to catch him in one of his runs round the seats..  As the mother would chase after him the father sat and read a newspaper or looked disinterestedly out the window.  Only when the mother offered the child sweets was he willing to sit down on the chair quietly for a few moments.

Later on the plane the child had a 20 minute temper tantrum. Were it not for his actions in the airport lounge I think most folks on the plane would have been quite forgiving and figure his ears were bothering him and he was screaming from that. But even though that might have been a contributing factor I doubt very few people on the plane were giving him or his parents that benefit of the doubt.  I was about 8 rows behind where they were sitting–and I noticed many folks shaking their heads in frustration as we all were forced to witness the tug of war taking place between the boy and his parents.

Later as we waited for our suitcases an almost scenario to the one in the waiting area of the airport in Hurgada was repeated.  The child ran screaming at the top of his lungs round and round the conveyor belt as the mother chased after him. As people tugged at their heavy bags trying to retrieve them from the belt–they’d almost fall over as they stumbled into the boy running wildly about the room.  And once again the father sat disinterested as the mother chased after him consternation and anger visibly growing in the lines of her face.

I feel sorry for the boy.  He doesn’t stand a chance. Already the patterns of behavior taking place on what I assume is a daily basis in the lives of him and his parents have doomed him to a lot of disappointment.  Maybe some strong intervention between them can save them all from a lot of grief but I have the feeling that 15 years down the road they’re still going to be chasing after a young man completely out of control.  Very very sad.

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