We spoke with Boyfriend's 95-year-old Grandma in Chicago the other day. She came over to the U.S. from Poland when she was just sixteen. By herself. She didn't know a word of English when she got off the boat in America. So, she taught herself English by reading the dictionary.
Boyfriend: "Do you still read the dictionary, Grandma?"
Grandma: "You bet! It's my bible!"
You go, Grandma.
(Grandma Chowanski in the center at the baby shower in March. My mom and I on her left. Kurt and Isabel on her right. Eric's parents, Wanda and Walter, on the far left and far right.)
Today is my little brother's 31st birthday. By the time I get this posted, he will have already have celebrated with a pint (or two) and some friends in London. By the time he reads this, he will have another day on his 31 years.
Happy birthday, Little Brother! I hope you had an amazing day filled with all of your favorite things - music, running and Chipotle burritos! I love you for being my mirror, my ass-kicker, my finger on the pulse of current music, my teacher, my inspiration and my friend. I love that we get each other better than anybody else on the planet. Congratulations on another year well-lived. There's a Hostess Cupcake waiting for you at my house.
I miss him terribly, especially on birthdays. One of my favorite things about him is our ability to laugh at anything. Ourselves. Each other. He's one of the funniest people I know.
...to put a picture of Johnny Depp on my website.
Mad Hatter: "Have I gone mad?"
Alice: "I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."
Mad Hatter, to Alice: "You used to be much more 'muchier'. You've lost your 'muchness'."
Alice: "How's this for 'muchness'?"
Alice: "This is impossible!"
Mad Hatter: "Only if you believe it is. "
My March round of chemo came just after my return from traveling, so the down time was almost a welcome relief, even if I didn't feel so hot for a week or so. When it was over, I started to exercise again, even rode a horse a few times. (Woot!) I was even thinking about teaching some riding lessons. Getting into a routine felt normal, and I've been craving some normalcy for so long. It's spring, after all, the perfect time to start making some plans!
Then it was time for my April (this week's) round of chemo. The day before I was to start, I told my brother, "I'm not even nervous this time! This one will be easy, I just know it."
Easy. I said it. And I believed it. But easy it was not. It's been a rough week. Chemo was as bad as I remembered it, if not even just a smidge yuckier this time.
I spent most of the week that I was not in bed in a puddle on the couch. Just pouring myself from one horizontal surface to the next. Catching my breath on the toilet every time I had walk to the bathroom. Spending a lot - too much - time reflecting on the absence of normal in my life. The absence of normal in Boyfriend's life, too.
Then I went to my Cancer Support group last night, and the evening's focus was the caregivers and significant others of the cancer patients and survivors. "Cancer Couples Night", if you will.
Boyfriend and I shared our two cents about how hard we've worked over the last year to find our way in the maze that is brain cancer, unemployment, and Medi-Cal. And despite all of our hard work and effort, sometimes it seems like it will never end. And we listened every other couples' story, and realized, They're doing it. We're doing it. And suddenly the only feeling I had left was amazed, awestruck gratitude for the man sitting to my left, squeezing my hand as we talked. My teammate. Squeezing my hand as we listened. My biggest fan. Squeezing my hand and wiping my tears when I cried. My superhero.
Thank you, Eric, for showing me how to love and be loved. You are the squeeze of my life.
When I was back in Illinois last month, the timing of my visit allowed me to attend a baby shower for Boyfriend's brother (Kurt) and sister-in-law (Isabel) - a.k.a. Kurtabel. (What? It's waaaay better than Isaburt!) My first real, live, Polish baby shower was quite the experience, and I was thrilled to get to spend some time with Boyfriend's family. My Mom got to come, too, giving her an opportunity to meet the whole Chowanski clan for the first time. Grandma Chowanski, too. It was great.
So baby Kurtabel has recently set the tone for what we already know about the rest of the Chowanskis - they do things their own way, in their own time.
James Willoughby Chowanski was due May 18, but entered the world nearly a month and a half early, on April 7, 2010. And this little guy is running his own show, with Kurt proudly declaring (with a typical Chowanski chuckle), "He's screaming, all on his own! All four and a half pounds of him!"
Welcome, sweet baby James. Congratulations, Kurtabel. Thank you, Chowanskis, for letting me be a part of your family.
More pictures from the shower here.