Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Still Give Thanks With Gumpy

My last Thanksgiving with Gumpy was terrible, yet I would not trade the time with him for anything.  The chemotherapy and radiation treatments left his body in a weakened condition, which caused his hemoglobin levels to drop to dangerously low levels a few times.  The first time this happened, the treatment was so aggressive to bring him back that it induced congestive heart failure, leaving him restricted on the amount of fluid he could take in for the rest of his life.

The pain caused by bodily functions now compromised was excruciating, leaving him in tears on several occasions.  I sat in the one bathroom at the farmhouse with him for several hours that Thanksgiving, trying to help him get through the torment of his failing body.  

Remembering that day is unfortunately easy, but I embrace happier memories of Thanksgiving with the old boy.

As a kid, I loved going to the farm for Thanksgiving.  We lived on the back 40 acres, so we would hop in the car and ride the half mile up to the house.  Sure, we could have walked up there as we did all summer but Thanksgiving was always at the tail end of firearm deer season, so walking on our own property was occasionally dangerous.

We would leave as soon as the Thanksgiving Parade shows on Channel 6 and Channel 10 went off the air.  Mom would have Rebekah and I bundled in sweaters to keep us warm.  I would bounce into the farmhouse because it was always so warm and smelled so tasty.  To keep my appetite at bay, Ema would have orange and grapefruit slices out, which I always used to enhance my smile.  Gumpy would be in the basement, tending to the Florida room so I would wander down to see if I could help stack firewood or tend the fire.

Mom and Aunt Moose would be busy trying to help Ema get the dining room and food in order.  For most of the year, the dining room in the small house was used as an all-purpose room.  Ema used it as more of an office, with her desk in one corner of the room and paperwork stacked on top of the dining room table.  Gumpy used it as a changing room.  You would find his wallet and pocket change on the table with his dirty jeans draped over one of the chairs.  Family meals were usually eaten at the kitchen table, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

By the time everything was ready, at least two members of the King family would have arrived to share the meal with us.  As we gathered around the table, Gumpy would start the family grace,

"For these and all other blessings, the Lord make us truly thankful.  Amen."

Dinner would end and we would leave for Grandma and Grandpa Lingholm's for our second Thanksgiving dinner.  Afterward, we would return to the farm for desert which was always a pumpkin pie with whipped topping and the occasional apple grunt.  In most families, a grunt would be referred to as an apple cobbler.  However, Gumpy called it a grunt because you wanted to grunt when you pushed yourself away from the table after eating so much of it.

There was little remarkable about the day itself, other than the opportunity to spend a day with family, which was why Gumpy always seemed to enjoy the day so much.  As with many traditions, life got in the way.  It started with Ema and Gumpy retiring and spending much of the winter in Florida.  Mom moved us to Traverse City after she divorced her first husband and that tore away a bit of the tradition too.  Now I've remarried and I've spent the past few Thanksgivings in Tampa with Gladys' family.

What remains of our tradition are the memories of enjoyable times with family and the basis for a new tradition of my own, an evening to reflect on how much I love Gumpy.  Happy Thanksgiving old boy!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cancer, I'm Through With You

Cancer, I've had quite enough of your brazen attitude toward my family.  You're going down!

You tried, and failed, to take my little sister and my Aunt.  You robbed me of my best buddy, Gumpy.  You robbed my wife of her father, before I ever had the chance to meet Hilton.  I'm pissed at you for that too because I know Hilton was the type of man I respect and enjoy being around, based on just how much his daughters love him.

I have had enough.  To fight back, I'm growing a mustache.

It's all a part of the Movember movement.  Hundreds of thousands of men around the world are going from cleanly shaved to well mustached this November to raise money to fight you Cancer.  Through research and supporting the families you are trying to take apart, I'm quite sure your days are numbered.

To my friends and family, join me here in supporting this effort.  Donate or grow a mustache.  It does not matter how you get involved, just get involved.  Prostate cancer might not be what took our loved ones, but Cancer is still Cancer and any win against it is a win for us all.  

My mustache is for our community, but it is in honor of Gumpy.  The only time I saw him without a mustache was in pictures.  It ranged from full handlebar, with "goose grease" (his term for mustache wax) to a nice clean upper lip sweater.  Maybe it's time for me to carry on the tradition.