Today was the day for the monthly lunch get-together that some of the "girls" I graduated high school with met and enjoyed a nice leisurely visit. Normally, we meet at a little local restaurant (Key Largo) on the last Thursday of the month but since that date would be Thanksgiving Day this month, we sort of figured we'd best change the meeting time. Same thing applies to our meeting next month too.
There were four of us today -Kate, Rose, Linda and myself. Kate is my neighbor, two doors down and across the street from me but she is also the first friend I made as a pre-schooler. Actually, we probably go back to about age two or three but any way you cut it, we've been best of friends for over 60 years now. Rose grew up in the house next door to me (Kate's family home was the house next to Rose's) and we've been friends for almost 60 years -only about 58 years since her family didn't move in there until 1951. And Linda -well, Linda lived in a village about 4 miles from Kate, Rose and I and we all met in 7th grade when the kids from our village got bussed to the school in the village where Linda lived. Anyway, that would have been the fall of 1956, so we've been friends, the four of us, for over 50 years. There is another friend -from yet another little village and who we met in 7th grade -who often joins us but she lives over on the other side of the mountain now -as in State College, which is about 37 miles from here so she doesn't always make it here every month for out lunch meetings.
We had a little extra surprise today though. After we finished eating, were just sitting and talking about a little bit of everything, Rose happened to look up when someone entered into the restaurant and remarked that it was one of the guys we had gone to school with -Art. Turning to look, and seeing that he was seating himself with a couple in the middle of the restaurant, I realized that was another girl from our class -Bridget - and her husband, Ron! No one in our group had noticed when Bridget and Ron came in but when it became known then that the four of us were sitting back in the corner, Bridget and Art -who is her brother-in-law -came back and chatted with us a good bit then.
One of the things we discussed was about our meeting for next month and initially we talked about going to a little restaurant in Philipsburg -about 12 miles from here -for our meeting but then Rose extended an invitation that we come to her house next month for "lunch, brunch, coffee, cookies and maybe even a little Christmas cheer" -as she put it. So that's what we decided we will do then.
But there was something else we discussed today -a topic that really doesn't sit all that well with me. Rose's youngest brother - Michael -who has lived and worked down in Virginia for a goodly number of years now, was diagnosed a few months back with cancer. Pnacreatic cancer, to be more precise. Actually, for some reason I'm thinking I was originally told the disease involved pancreatic as well as lung -or maybe it was liver -cancer too. Anyway, not a good scene at all.
Michael is the baby of Rose's family - 10 years younger than us. For me, growing up, he was kind of the baby brother I never had. A good kid, a great guy as an adult. And funny -very, very funny! Mike -or as my kids call him, "Uncle Mike" has a really wacky sense of humor. He loves to keep in touch with all his sisters and their other brother and considering there were 13 children in that family, that's a lot of people to keep in touch with, ya know. One time, he called each and every one of us siblings -collect -just to see if all of them would accept the collect phone call. Crazy, zany little things like that -all part of what makes "Uncle Mike" such a hoot to be around.
The last couple of times we "girls" got together, Mike was always asked about. What treatments he was receiving, etc., how well his system was responding too -that kind of thing.
Today, I asked Rose what the latest is on Uncle Mike and she said the chemo he had been getting was really laying him very low so they decided to stop that for about three months. He's very tired, she said -and having been down that road myself with chemo, radiation, surgery, more chemo -I can relate there. Then she said that Mike was a bit down in the dumps now too because at his last doctor visit, he had asked the doctor when he could return to work and she told him, "Never." She had also explained to him that unfortunately, his situation is "terminal." All they are doing now is trying to keep him going, with the best quality of life they can provide -along with some more quantity of life too.
Now, when I first heard "Uncle Mike" was sick, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my first thoughts were that pancreatic cancer is one that I had never heard anything about with respect to any type of "cure." But each time our group got together, Rose told us the latest reports and for the most part, they were all very positive. Gee, maybe I had misread something somewhere along the line and you can imagine, I was sure hoping - and praying too -that this would be the case. But with what she told us today, it doesn't look like my original thoughts were off-base at all.
Not that I don't hope -and pray -for others who are sick regardless of the illness, or how well I may or may not know that person -and in that respect, it's always very unsettling, very worrisome and yes, saddens me -a lot. But Uncle Mike -hey, he's still -always gonna be -my baby brother, ya know!
So many things I remember about him -about being over at their family home for so much of my growing-up years. He was such a cutie and my Mom too always thought the world and all of him from the time he first started walking and venturing outside the house to play in the yard on through till he was about 12 or 13 years old when Mom moved to Maryland to live with me there.
One thing I will never forget about Uncle Mike was how one year he went out trick-or-treating and when he returned home, his mother had him dump his bag of treats on the kitchen table and he had to tell her then who gave him what in his travels.
He pulled up a homemade popcorn ball, wrapped in cellophane or saran wrap and announced to his Mom that "Hazel gave me this." Now that doesn't sound like anything bad there does it. Except for the fact that on our street there were two women named Hazel. One was a lady of not the highest moral caliber, who also was notorious for liking her beer a lot more than she should. The other Hazel was my Mom.
Well, when he told his Mom that he got that popcorn ball from Hazel, she hauled off and smacked him upside the head, giving him "high Holy" and reminding him that she had told him never to go near that house!
He looked at her a bit confused and said, "But Mom, I meant Hazel next door." At that, his mother (who had originally told this story) said she felt all kinds of guilty for having smacked the kid and for even thinking that he would have gone trick or treating up at the other Hazel's house!
I have Uncle Mike's phone number here now and have been meaning to call him sometime -just to chat, remember silly things about growing up here, along this street. Maybe even convery to him a bit or a lot of the sentimentality things too that crop up in a situation like this. I don't want it to be a call that is down, sad, depressing as it would leave both of us feeling worse than things already may have us all feeling as it is now.
But someday soon, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and call him. I figure I have to remind him that not only does he have his entire family -9 sisters left, 1 brother, his own children and grandchildren, wife and niece and nephews out the yazoo who are all pulling for him but he has another older almost sister who is doing the same and who, like all his family, still loves the "little brother" very, very much.
If you will, put "Uncle Mike" on your prayer list, please. I'm sure he'd appreciate all the good thoughts possible being sent on his behalf.