These Precious Days

When we pull up to the entrance of Franz Cancer treatment center, an annex to Providence Hospital, I take a breath before asking, “So, when we pick you up, how do you want us to be? I mean, how will you feel?” Michele assures us, my husband and me, that she’ll feel just fine, maybe hungry. (It’s two days later that the fatigue and general rottenness will become overwhelming. Later when leaving the sofa will be too much to bear. There have been many treatments, and the trajectory is the same.) “So we can talk and everything?” She just smiles, opens the door, and steps out with resolve.

This is the first time we have had the privilege of helping our good friend in this way. Usually her husband takes her in for the treatment every three weeks. But he’s a fisherman and is waiting for word that the price for commercial crab has been settled. The moment that happens, he and the members of his crew will muster and head out to battle for Dungeness. Like minutemen, they wait…

The entire ride into Portland from the coast, we have chatted—masked but fully engaged— as the rain drove against the car. It has been far too long since we’ve had the opportunity to spend time together—like before, pre-Covid. The occasion may not be joyful, but it is not devoid of joy either.

When she texts us that she is ready for pick-up, almost five hours have passed. Our trip home begins and the talk, too, as she explains how the protocol goes, who does what when. I register names of nurses and technicians and then they vanish. The comfort of a normal car ride eclipses the subject matter; it could almost be a story someone I don’t love is telling…almost.

Yesterday Michele sent a quick email—subject line: These Precious Days, reading, “Trish, Joann Ya gotta read this.” And so I do—of course I do. And when my husband returns home from the grocery, I am in tears, staring at the computer screen. Ann Patchett is always brilliant. This time, however, the subject in its life-winding way, carries me on a river of words to the inevitable. I am swept away in that river.

It is reductive to say that “These Precious Days” is a story about someone living with cancer. It is more the story of anyone loving someone who’s living with cancer. That someone is Ann Patchett, and Michele’s husband, and Michele’s son, and countless others I have never met, and …me.

Writers Welcome

“Dear March—Come in…”

The email lets me know that sign-up for the March #SOL2021 Challenge is coming. Gosh, it’s going to be January 29th, the day to commit, before I know it. That’s one thing teaching does—hastens time. Look, there goes winter…

This will be my third year participating, and I am nervous about posting every day. During March 2018 and 2019 I wasn’t working, not each day anyway, so I had no excuse. Then I realize that when last March ended, I aimed to post every Tuesday. The once-a-week SOL community has its ebbs and flows. I certainly have been part of the ebb since September. Even today, despite knowing that I should be posting something, I almost let it ride. But the specter of March 2021 prodded me to action.

I don’t know why it is, but when I am busiest, I do more, meaning it might be the best thing my writing life ever experienced to take on daily March posts. I guess we will see. (Maybe some of you will see, too.)

If you are thinking of joining this group of writers this March, I can’t recommend the adventure strongly enough. It is a humbling thing to find a topic worth developing and placing in front of the world—each and every day. Here, however, people are kind. It’s a model worth taking into the world, both the doing of something consistently difficult ( hence challenge) and supporting others as they do the same.

Early mornings will bring some tossing and turning, some frustration, some uneven writing, no doubt, but let the March #SOL Challenge enter “in like a lion, out like a lamb.”