Heading to Western Massachusetts

The cab will soon be arriving to take Aidan and me to O’Hare, where we will board a United Airlines plan for Hartford.

Dunreith will greet us there.

I can’t wait.

It’s been three long weeks since she returned to Western Massachusetts with her mother Helen, who is undergoing radiation and chemotherapy to treat her inoperable brain tumor.

This is after the two of them had come here to Evanston for the week in which Aidan attended the prom and graduated.  Helen made the brave and beautiful decision to fly out to Chicago to see her oldest grandchild reach these milestones rather than instantly begin her treatment.

She arrived at that choice after a two-week stint in the hospital, during which she was alternately told she had an advanced tumor, she had an infection that could be treated with antibiotics, she had no diagnosis, and then, finally, she had a tumor.

Dunreith has been with her for all of it, including the very instant right after she showed in mid-May to see her mother and go with her for a restful vacation at my dad’s place in Rockport.

Helen had a seizure instead.

In short, it’s been a tough period for all in our family, and Dunreith has been on the front lines a majority of the time while simultaneously trying to keep her work going (No easy task at any point, let alone one so drenched in stress as this one.).

It’s been doubly difficult for Dunreith because being there for her mother means unfortunately that she’s not around for Aidan’s final summer at home.

Understandably, it’s small consolation to her that I am around for Aidan and don’t see him a whole lot due to his being 18 and ready to roll each night with his boys.

Despite all this, and despite the toll that tending to an ailing parent hour after hour and day after day can take, Dunreith has held up magnificently.

It’s a hard fact that if we are fortunate enough to make it to a certain point in life, and to have our parents survive, too, that they will start to decline and eventually die.

Being there for them, as they were there for us at the beginning of our lives, is part of the natural flow and cycle of life.

That knowledge by itself does not make the caregiving any more draining or being away from one’s only son any easier.

But it is something to put yourself fully into something you know you will want to have done.

Thanks to her fortitude and character, as well as the impressive flexibility and support shown by Facing History, Dunreith is doing just that.

When I got married, thinking about taking care of aging parents in their twilight years was not high on my list of anticipated activities.

But it is a powerful one to go through together, and seeing and listening to how Dunreith is handling herself only makes me that much more glad that I asked her to marry me, and that she said, and has continued to say, “Yes.”

I’m looking forward to hugging and kissing my wife when Aidan and I descend from the plane in about four short hours.

My embrace will be fueled by the joy of our reunion after one of the longest times apart we’ve had since we eloped on Labor Day 2000.

But it will also be powered by the even deeper appreciation, gratitude and respect I have for the woman with whom I have chosen to spend my life.



4 responses to “Heading to Western Massachusetts

  1. Congratulations on such a loving marriage, Jeff. May it last at least as long as ours. Frank and I are gleefully celebrating our 49th anniversary today!

  2. Declarations of love, gratitude, and loyalty are right in tune with the patriotic ones we’ll all be hearing tomorrow, July 4th. This one finds truth in life lessons still being learned.

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