Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Blessing And Curse

On Friday, my wife I decided the recent decline in Athena's, our standard poodle's, health was life threatening and injected her with an extra dose of the steroids she needs to stave off her chronic Addison's Disease.

Yesterday, we put our 15-year-old daughter on a plane with a friend bound for Vienna, where she will be until August.

In between I spent almost an entire day standing in the middle of the street as a literal parade of humanity danced and frolicked and hugged and played around me.

Athena was diagnosed with her illness three years ago and has since survived only due to a regular regimen of steroids, both oral and injected. It's typical for there to be regular adjustments in the medication schedule and dosages, but the only way you find out about the need for them is that the patient must first sort of "crash." Eventually, we know one of those crashes will take her life, but in the meantime we scramble. This one took us off guard as I suppose all of them do. She's starting to get older, slowing down a little, getting stiff. It's hard to know what's just normal aging and what's threatening to kill her today. The last time she'd "crashed" it turned out to be a dental problem, which needed to be treated, but sometimes the beginning of a crash can look like a basic dog illness like a cold or an upset stomach. This time there had been some shaking that looked to us like pain; the vet told us she thought it might be a symptom of a totally unrelated brain cancer.

My wife and I took our action before even consulting the vet. It looked like an Addisons crash to us. We'd upped her daily steroid dosage earlier in the week, then resorted to the syringe. When she didn't seem to get any better we called in the vet, who told us we'd done all the right things, took some blood then sent us home. Yesterday, Athena was markedly improved. She stood up on her own, took walks, ate, drank. She's not all the way back, and she might not come all the way back, but the life is back in her eyes, she's clearly not in pain, although perhaps a bit stiffer in the joints now than before, a little older, hopefully a little wiser. 

You always know you're raising your child for the express purpose of setting her free, and if you don't you're in for a rude awakening. We've been planning our daughter Josephine's trip to Vienna since last summer when my wife's best friend from childhood and her son came to visit Seattle, and the idea came up for a return visit. It's a strange, strange trip for a father to put his baby on a plane that's going to carry her halfway around the world. 

All day I tried to keep it light, joyful, and it wasn't terribly hard. She was, of course, excited and nervous by turns and my job, I felt, was to not let my own anxieties leak out. She's a well-educated girl. She has a level head.  She has travelled before and she would be traveling with her best friend, a boy who is also an experienced traveller. At the other end will be my wife's dearest friend to pick up where I've left off.  I soothed myself by staying as busy as I could helping prepare for a trip that was already all planned out.

Josephine piddled around with her packing all day, saying goodbye to her friends -- those vital teenaged peers -- both electronically and in person. I kept finding excuses to pop into her room: passing on tips, suggesting things she might want to pack, updating her on the improvement of Athena. We walked to the light rail in a misty rain, father and daughter with a large pink suitcase, one that can't possibly get lost on a luggage carousel. My wife Jennifer met us at the Pioneer Square station and we all rode together from there. The train was crowded enough that the two of them sat together, while I stood. Josephine had been braver with me, falling into her mom, taking comfort in an arm around her shoulder. I could see tension in her face, but she was smiling too. I'm glad she had a mama to take care of her.

When Marco's family met us in the line at the ticketing counter, we fell into departure mode. That's when, it seemed, we all knew this was really happening and it was going to be good. We stayed in line with them until we got to security, where we gave our final hugs. We all cringed as we watched the kids give up control of their passports to pass them through the x-ray scanners, and watched to make sure they got them back. Even after they were out of sight, we kept contact with text messages until the kids finally told us to "shut up" by sending a picture of the two of them safely in their seats. As I write this, they are still in transit. All I know is my baby is halfway around the world.

On Saturday, we held the 24th annual Fremont Summer Solstice Parade. For the past several years, I've participated as Captain Superhugger (as depicted in the picture at the top of this blog) as a member of an ensemble that, quite simply, dresses as super heros and hugs people. After four years, I needed a break and wanted to "give back" by performing one of the logistical parade jobs, which in this case was serving as a "monitor." I was responsible for the intersection of 36th and Dayton, was issued an orange vest, a radio, and a whistle. My job was essentially to keep both the crowd and the parade participants safe as they passed my way. 

Several of our Woodland Park students found me there in the street and came out to say "hi," and to get a hug, which was to become a theme for the day. I've been involved with this parade for the past 7 years, but this is the first time I was in a position to actually watch it. What an amazing spectacle of talents, emotions, creativity, and simple joy. And it seemed like I knew someone from each of the ensembles, someone who would break character, find me, and throw their arms around me, one of whom was Josephine who was following in my footsteps as a Superhugger.

My dog is back, my child is on an adventure, and the parade is now over until next year. It's the curse and blessing of interesting times.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ahh, I was hoping to give you a hug at the parade, that's why you weren't in it. May be I hugged your daughter. My 5 yr. old and I hugged almost all of the huggers!