Having read “Moments of Joy

I just read my brother’s memoir of his wife’s saga with brain cancer. Pat is extremely pleased with his self-publishing effort and was down this weekend with Tina to bring some copies to those of us in the Valley. I was wary about what I’d find when I read it. There were three story lines: Colby the dog, building the cabin, and Vicki’s ups and down with her disease which eventually claimed her on Dec. 27, 2011.

Pat details excruciating detail of Vicki’s treatment with therapists, doctors, medication and a dizzying array of symptoms. I am amazed that he has such a memory of all the details of all that occurred. He interjects acknowledgement of prayer and a belief that God is doing miracles in his life. It’s a book that moves fast through the various stages of Vicki’s disease and Patrick’s coping with the care of her and it deeps below the surface to reveal a sense of anger and fear but then quickly resurfaces to resume the narrative in a detached analytical manner.

I can see how he is righteously angry with the St. Joseph’s Medical team and the insurance field. I understand now why he is estranged from his sister-in-law Jackie. Like him, I am awe struck by the herculean generosity of Mary and Dan who built the cabin while he tended to Vicki. I’m still trying to wrap my head around their devotion to their siblings in doing monumental tasks so cheerfully, That Mary, she is a driven woman!

Despite everyone’s best efforts, and Vicki’s heroic attempts to overcome the ways in which her brain cancer was laying waste to her body, in the end she died. The cabin is completed and Pat now lives there with Tina and Colby. What comes next?

We Conditts seem to be a fiercely independent people. We take care of each other  — well, most of us do — and we’ll do it without outside help. Hence, the “self-publishing” option Pat chose. The book would have benefited from the services of an outside  trusted editor. Having Mary and neighbors proof read isn’t enough. There were some grammatical errors that made me wince. There was way too much space given to the minutiae of constructing the cabin. No mention was made of Vicki’s father Jack.

Pat wants my feedback. Well, the book is printed so there’s not much to say about that. I feel awkward in giving honest feedback: it was a book to be endured out of family loyalty. I’m too jaded and cynical to be as sentimental as the characters in the book struggle with this episode in their lives which leaves them  sad, numb, and empty. It’s a little too Pollyannish for me.

Since Vicki’s death in 2011, Pat has taken up with at least three different women — all of whom he appears to have had strong emotional ties. He was a huge help to me when I had a stroke in Long Beach and was getting ready to move back to Phoenix with, as yet, undiagnosed ailments. Again, my siblings jumped to my rescue when Anne Hoff telephoned my sister and said “You’d better come and get him.” So, again, all of this generosity from my siblings is a wonder to behold from someone who left home at the age of 14 and has never felt part of the family since.

The analogy of Pat as athlete (which he cites in his “about the author” section strikes me as an app way to describe how Pat tackled the wrestling match with the disease, doctors, treatments. In the end, he was pinned, but not after giving a terrific effort in winning. Big C won, Pat lives anew.

 

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