A Modern Love Story: Part Two

A Modern Love Story: Part Two

The second part of a story of love, loss, and redemption.

It has been said before that when we fall in love, we come alive in bodies not our own. That, however, is a sad, sad mistruth, as Dave Jones would have been able to tell you, as his body spitefully attacked itself while he fell in love with Cathy Fagan for the second time.

After his baptism and confirmation, Dave flew back to Minneapolis to prepare for the move to Missouri Valley; he was going to live with Cathy and her children. He met with his Minneapolis-based oncologist to move his treatment to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. There, doctors found that his cancer had spread from his lungs and migrated; a new tumor had developed on his spine. Previously, in Minneapolis he had undergone chemotherapy with somewhat encouraging results; in the third week of October, in an attempt to nip cancer in the bud, he began radiation treatment. He ensured that his newly developed treatment regimen and records would transfer without a hitch.

On November 4th, Cathy’s son’s birthday, Dave moved down to Missouri Valley. There, he found his place in the world; he found a family. Cathy has two children, her 16-year-old son, Danny, named after her beloved older brother, and a 10-year-old daughter named Piper.

“I was worried,” said Cathy, “because I knew that I was bringing a dying man into our lives knowing full well what the results would be. I really struggled with what that might do to my kids. But I thought that if I could show him what family meant if I could show my kids what family meant, that might make all the difference.”

The first radiation treatment came in a series of eight, one per week for eight weeks. While the cancer responded positively to the new form of treatment, his body was fighting a losing battle. The treatment caused him to be chilled, fatigued, and his strength markedly weakened. Dave was often bedridden and had to muster up the strength to choke down even a few bites of any substantial food. His skeletal frame thinned even more.

Though he was often weakened, he still made the most of his new-found paternal role. The family went zip lining and to the zoo; they went canoeing and ate out at his favorite restaurants. Still a lover of fast cars, they would attend car shows and, Nebraska weather permitting, drive with the top down on sunny days in Cathy’s ruby red convertible, the cool wind blowing through Dave’s now thinning hair.

“Now I won’t let just anyone around my kids,” said Cathy. “He just had such a gentle soul, and, even though it seems like the world gave up on him, he never gave up on God. That’s sort of always been a cornerstone of my relationships and I told him, if ya have that, you can enter our little bubble.”

Dave would often sit in the recliner in his Cathy’s living room that he claimed as his own, Piper would come and curl up in his lap while he read her stories. Danny was protective of his mother but saw how well Dave treated his mom and how much they loved one another. The treatment caused Dave to experience perpetual chills, so he would often be bundled up under piles of blankets on the recliner. On a few occasions, he even snagged Cathy’s robe; Danny once remarked that Dave looked like a little old lady in a woman’s robe hiding under a mountain of blankets. Thus began a running joke between Danny and Dave. They settled on Dave’s old lady name, Denise; for Christmas, Danny gave Dave a children’s license plate with the name Denise on it. Dave loved every moment of it.

"But I thought that if I could show him what family meant if I could show my kids what family meant, that might make all the difference."

“Oh my gosh, that man had a smile,” said Cathy. “He was to the core happy and I know that we gave him some semblance of peace that he got here that he didn’t get anywhere else. He just loved being a part of our little family, that feeling was something he’d always dreamt about.”

The holidays passed, but Dave was not getting any better. In mid-January, an appointment with his oncologist revealed that the cancer had spread even further. He decided that it was time to head back to Minneapolis, that the regimen of treatment he was receiving with his original doctor up at the Mayo Clinic was now a better option; it was the only option he had left, really.

“I remember he looked to me,” said Cathy, “and said ‘You know I’m fighting, right? You’re the reason I’m fighting.’ He didn’t want to die, but he knew the cancer was winning. He used to say, ‘I really do wish things had turned out differently, Cathy Gore. I would’ve married you in a heartbeat.’ But I know he didn’t want me to incur all of his medical bills. He was trying to protect me. He left on January 29th. I knew he was going to die up there, without the love and support of his family.”

And just like that, Dave Jones returned home, a sense of defeat in his back pocket. He was on about every painkiller imaginable; his oncologist did what she could for him, to make him comfortable; it was getting be the stage of comfort over further treatment. To his dismay, she informed him that, of the clinical trials available, he was not a suitable candidate for a single one. But, still, Dave did not quit fighting.

We are at the point now where Dave’s roommates, Carol and Bob, enter our little narrative. Imagine Cinderella’s stepsisters. They would drive Dave to and from treatments, he being too weak or inebriated by the painkillers to do so. Yet they were demanding and commanding. They planted seeds of ill-will in Dave’s mind, compelling him to run errands or do laborious tasks around the house despite his condition. Unbeknownst to Cathy, they forced him to sign over his medical power of attorney. Two years prior, they had compelled him to name them as beneficiaries in his will. They told him not to return to Missouri Valley, that his family wouldn’t want him there.

Every six weeks, Cathy would visit Dave for a long weekend. She would FaceTime him daily and could see him deteriorating before her eyes.

“I would go up there to see him every six weeks or every month or so, because I loved the guy. He was the last person I thought of when I closed my eyes to sleep and the first one I thought of when I woke up,” said Cathy. “I’d never felt a love like that before. So we tried to make each interaction so meaningful. But it was obvious that he wasn’t going to hold on much longer.”

The last time that Cathy saw a fully conscious and cognisant Dave Jones was Memorial Day weekend 2017. They attended mass together one last time. He held her close for one final time.

“I asked him what it was that drew him back to me, after all this time,” said Cathy. “He said that it was my kindness, he said he’d never been treated with such kindness in his life than when he was with me. I was silent for a few moments. Then I told him that I didn’t really know what God’s plan was for me to re-enter his life, but I hoped he felt it was worth it and that it brought him closer to God.”

“Cathy Gore,” said Dave, “you’re one hell of a woman.”

That was the last thing he said to her.

A week later, Dave’s roommates took him to the hospital after he had fallen and hit his head. He was too weak to support himself or to eat. The end was nearing. His roommates called Cathy to let her know.

When Cathy arrived at the hospital, she was greeted with a startling image. The man she first saw gripping the back of a moving car now lay in a hospital bed, frail, fragile, a shell lingering between this life and the next.

Carol had been waiting for Cathy, trying to tell her which times she could to be there with him. Cathy told her that she would not be leaving Dave’s side. So, for three days, Cathy stayed under the harsh fluorescent lights, not leaving the man she loved. She had a backpack with her and a change of clothes in the car. One of Dave’s greatest fears was dying alone, so she assured his fear would never be realized; even when she needed to use the restroom, she made sure a nurse was there to keep him company. Cathy brought with her a prayer book and prayed over Dave constantly. She sang him his favorite songs, their favorite being Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know.”

Through tearful sobs and whispered prayers, Cathy would sing over the man who was swiftly deteriorating before her eyes:

In case you didn't know
Baby I'm crazy 'bout ya
And I would be lyin' if I said
That I could live this life without ya
Even though I don't tell you all the time
You had my heart a long long time ago
In case you didn't know

But, as in life, the end did not come easily for Dave Jones. His first night in the hospital was especially hellish. Nurses had elevated his bed as to where he wouldn’t choke on his own spit. However, the saliva would rest in his esophagus, not asphyxiating him but horrifically uncomfortable nonetheless. Every so often, the dribble would overflow and bubble out of his mouth. The nurses were at a loss as to what to do; so, Cathy took it upon herself to take a towel and clear any excess saliva from his mouth, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

"I really do wish things had turned out differently, Cathy Gore. I would’ve married you in a heartbeat."

The following morning, during a nurse’s shift change, Carol came back for a few moments. Cathy, furious as to the nurses’ maltreatment of Dave, headed towards the new head nurse. There’s got to be something that can be done to stop what happened last night from happening again, she told her. The head nurse meandered into Dave’s room and was appalled when she saw the condition he was in. She grabbed a vacuum-like device and, for twenty minutes straight, suctioned out the spit collecting in Dave’s throat. She apologized profusely, promised Cathy this would not happen again, and even showed Cathy how to do the suctioning process herself.

“Who did he matter to?” asked Cathy. “He mattered to me, but not even to some of those nurses. The whole time I was in the hospital, he had maybe three visitors. It just broke my heart for him all over again.”

For two more days, Cathy watched over Dave. None of Dave’s children came to visit, though they knew of his ailing condition; nor did his adoptive family. Cathy sang and prayed and talked to him, reminiscing of all the great memories and stories they shared, with Cathy’s brother, with her children. All of Dave’s family was there in that room as he lay dying and had his last rites read.

“In the end, you know, I prayed for mercy,” said Cathy. “Those final few days in the hospital were so horrible, not just for me, but I know for him, as well. I knew that he was suffering. I just prayed to God to relieve him of all that pain so he could be at peace. I knew that losing him would meant him going someplace better and, once you approach things from that perspective, I think it brings you a little more peace.”

However, the constant trips to see Dave had exhausted much of her vacation time, and she knew she had to get back to see her children. The car ride was a six hour trek, but she wanted to squeeze in every last moment with Dave that she could. She knew this would be her last time seeing him. She left late on Sunday afternoon, June 4th and kissed Dave goodbye.

The drive home was a rather melancholy one for Cathy. She laughed and cried thinking of their times together. When she arrived home, she gave Carol a call.

“Doctors always say to keep talking to your loved ones, that hearing is the last sense to go. So, his roommate put the phone up to his ear and I talked to him for a good ten minutes,” said Cathy. “I told him that it was okay to go and be with my brother, to let go of all the pain. That it was okay not to suffer anymore and to just let it all go. And I told him that I loved him, of course, one last time. And then I hung up the phone.”

Within an hour, Dave Jones passed away, both peacefully and at peace.

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My Puppy Is One Of The Best Friends I'll Ever Have

Despite my puppy’s strange preferences and habits, she is one of the best friends I could ever have.

Dogs really are a human bean’s (pun intended) best friend. I know, it’s a bit cliche, but my puppy, (whom is really not a puppy because she’s four-years-old (~28 in dog years) is relentlessly and irrevocably obsessed with all things, especially, me.

In fact, as I am drafting this article, she is literally sitting half on top of me (not that there’s much room there as I’m quite a little human bean, nope, not done with that pun yet). She is also on my laptop and is continuously snuggling her face into areas where she should not be snuggling her face because now I have to lean over the furball-extravaganza that is my fluffy white friend over here just to type. Annoying.

But, as satirical as this constant occurrence can render itself to be, she (Snow, her name is Snow, probably because she’s a shedding white mess and a native of Minnesota) does this because she loves me.

I can’t imagine why she does, when all I really do is feed her, play occasionally, and sit around doing people things while she marvels at whatever it is I’m doing. She is constantly probably thinking something along the lines of “Kenzie, you’re a weirdo” or “Seriously, what on Earth are you doing and why do humans do such odd things all the time?"

Really, she would likely be contented if we just stayed in bed having cuddle parties and eating popcorn (the infamous favorite dog treat) or playing with the rope. Be warned however, that my dog is bizarre in more ways than one, especially when it comes to expressing her “luff” (yes, that is how I imagine a dog would say “love”, ignore my crappy attempt at satire), allow me to elaborate.

For one, Snow is a member of what I’ve deemed “lickers anonymous." Okay really, while I’m typing, is that entirely necessary? Yes, I get it dog, you love me, don’t need to repeatedly lick the same surface on my wrist for twenty minutes straight to prove that to me. Also, it tickles, get a new hobby, seriously. You might proclaim, “Hey, why don’t you just move your arm?” Woah, genius alert! The problem with Snow is if I do that, she will simply place her paw on top of my arm and hold it down so she can continue her slobbery assault of my wrist. She is a licking machine, and when she’s happy or on bored, she initiates auto-licking and goes wild until you inevitably get exhausted by it and a little grossed out and yell at her to stop licking. This sudden expressive outburst will naturally make her freeze, contemplate her choices for a solid 10 seconds, and then resume her audition tape for My Strange Addiction. And if you are finally pushed past the breaking point and threaten to send her to licker’s anonymous, if you’re lucky, she’ll take five.

Second thing is that Snow really is a big fan of her peng-wang (as Benedict Cumberbatch would pronounce “Penguin”. Look it up on YouTube, thank me later). Most dogs would love to chew up a squirrel toy or a chipmunk, or I don’t know a bird maybe, but a penguin is not often the immediate selection. This is because a dog is like a small child and a vending machine. Will they choose the granola bar or trail mix, or will they want that giant KitKat bar or a bag of artificially-colored rainbow goodness? Gee, I wonder.

Snow however, is that one child who wants the trail mix. She literally will not chew up, play with, or even touch an animal toy, unless it is a penguin. Picky much? She is worse than my Dad, who only eats pizza, a plain burger (yeah, that means meat and bun, sans everything else completely), meat (un-marinated), corn, and potatoes). No offense Dad, just making a point here, don’t mind me.

Of course, moral of the story here is that despite my puppy’s strange preferences and habits, she is one of the best friends I could ever have. All because of the unconditional love and some other mushy sappy whatever.

Cover Image Credit: Jennifer Berg

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I Want To Raise My Children In A Big City

The suburbs are great, but the independence learned from growing up in a big city is even better.

OK, hear me out. I loved growing up in the suburbs of the Bay Area. There was nothing I loved more than getting to know my neighbors and being able to run around my neighborhood carefree at a young age.

I loved feeling like I knew basically everyone in my city. I didn’t, of course. But running into people you know everywhere you go sure does give you that feeling.

With all that there is to love about growing up in the suburbs, I have come to realize that there are many things that I wish I could have experienced by growing up in a big city.

For starters, I realized that because I grew up in such a small and safe city, I often find myself anxious or nervous for my safety in big cities. It is, of course, important to be cautious no matter what city you are in. However, with that being said, I think that I can sometimes be irrationally fearful when I truly have no reason to be.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION! But I mean, who really knows how to use it? Just kidding! A lot of people do! Now, don’t get me wrong. I took the train and muni (bus) to and from work every day this summer. However, I quickly learned that while I was in New York and Chicago this summer for vacation, I often found myself staring at the transit maps in complete confusion. It shouldn’t be that hard, right? Right.

I feel as though people who grew up in big cities have a sort of “thick skin” to them, so to speak. I can’t really tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it fascinates me. They have this sense of independence that starts at a young age, and it is something that I truly admire. Maybe this is me completely misinterpreting the situation, but I think a certain personality comes with growing up in a big city.

Ok, maybe all of these problems are character flaws that I have within myself. Nonetheless, I do believe that where I grew up (not the specific city, just the suburbs) attributed to that a fair amount.

I want my kids to grow up knowing how to use public transportation. I want my kids to grow up and be very aware of their surroundings and understand how to take care of themselves in a big city on their own.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to throw my 7-year-old child out the front door alone and be like “OK sweetie, have fun on your commute!”

But, as they grow older, I want them to have a sort of independence that took me too long to find on my own in my small city.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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