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.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1535641776467528&set=pb.100000651605784.-2207520000.1514323247.&type=3&theater

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Gender Should Not Be The Deciding Factor Of A Friendship

It is possible for a boy and a girl to be JUST FRIENDS!

In today's society, we refuse to comprehend that a heterosexual relationship can be completely platonic. There is no friendship without the sexual tension, no two people can spend their time together unless they are attracted to one another. If one has a significant other but is also hanging out with someone else, they are cheating, not just hanging out with a friend.

Unfortunately, I have fallen victim in the past to believe the myth that two people of opposite attractions cannot have any type of relationship unless it is sexual.

But I am here to kill this myth and shed some light on why it is simply incorrect.

There are about a billion ways people can meet today. Past, classes, randomly on the street, at the gym, church, work, out, etc. The nice thing about meeting people, especially in a specific social situation or activity is that you most likely have something in common with them.

Believe it or not, you can have something in common with someone and enjoy that person enough to do that activity with them without it meaning anything else besides enjoying that person's company.

Another thing that needs to be made clear besides the sharing of a common hobby or view is the idea that while someone is in a relationship, they are allowed to have friends of the opposite gender and no, that does not mean they are cheating.

Gender has no effect on someone's personality and personality is what brings friend together.

Saying you are not allowed to have friends if they are the opposite gender or sex as you is just cruel.

Assuming that two people are together just because of what they look like is just one of society's huge problems. We make so many assumptions just from a single look and make judgments from those assumptions when many times, there is no basis to go off of. This causes so many problems in relationships and friendships alike that are simply unnecessary. Problems including the start of rumors and lies which are all too common these days and have a tendency to ruin relationships.

There is no truth without cold hard fact but many times if someone has doubt in themselves or has any doubt at all in their mind, the slightest tip-off can get them going and commonly, people take this doubt the wrong way which tears people apart.

Maybe we want someone to blame.

Maybe you’ve had the same best friend for years and all of a sudden someone else comes along and takes some of their attention, perhaps you are in a committed relationship with someone and they make a new friend who you see as a threat.

In either of these cases, would the situation always be worse if that new person was of the opposite gender/sex/attraction? More likely than not the answer is yes. Why? Because we are challenged.

We are shoved in between a rock and a hard place trying to figure out why we are so threatened all of a sudden and the answer is very simple really.

Everyone that is not us, is able to bring something else to the table that we may not and vice versa. When this new person comes along it is almost always a million times worse if they are a hinder to you. You suddenly become angry, jealous and petty over the smallest things you would never care about had this new friend been the same gender as your significant other or best friend etc. We feel so threatened, so unconfident that someone else is able to step in and take what we have that we often end up making things worse for ourselves.

So, my dear audience, take it from someone that learned the hard way, people can have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex/gender without it being sexual.

We can have friends in this world that aren't exactly like us and there is nothing wrong with that, we should not be punished and you should not punish others for who they enjoy the company of. Calm down and see what's really going on if there is truly a worry about infidelity or the loss of friendship. Think about the trust that you have in whatever relations you have currently and remember that being jealous and saying things you don’t mean is never worth losing someone you care about.

Cover Image Credit: Shayna Rosenberg

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An Open Letter To My Grandpa On The Six Month Anniversary Of His Death

"Never lose that smile. That smile is worth a million bucks, and when you smile, the whole world smiles with you"

Hey gramps, it's been a while. I’ve missed you like crazy...well, really, we all have. You really were loved by so many people, even if you were a pain in the ass a lot of the time. A lot of us are still pretty torn up about it. To be honest, I don’t think things will ever be the same without you around. It’s odd having birthdays go by without you hovering over us as we place the candles in the cake, insisting “don’t forget one for good luck!” or “you have to have the first piece!” to whoever’s birthday it is. I know that it seemed annoying at the time, but it would be amazing to still see you showing up outside the house ten times a day, or calling me up at school to make sure mom is alright and expecting me to know where she is because she hadn’t answered the home phone.

Other than birthdays, there are a lot of things you’ve missed since you’ve been gone. Your first great-grandchild was born. I can hear you now, amending your prideful speech to anyone that would listen— “I’ve got 11 beautiful grandchildren, 7 boys and four girls”— to include your beautiful great-grandson as well. You also have another great-grandchild on the way, and two of your granddaughters are newly engaged. You must have had some inkling that one of them was going to get engaged soon, because you welcomed my soon to be brother-in-law to the family in what became your last few hours.

A lot has been going on with me too, grandpa. You might already know some of this though. I wonder if you heard me every single night I spent at school the few months after your death. I sat out on a little ledge for a while in the inner quad, staring up at the stars and picking the first one I saw that particular night to talk to as if it were you. It was a rough patch in life for sure, but even in death, your common phrases helped get me through it. It was almost like that star was saying back to me “just brush the bad things off your shoulder, and never lose that smile. That smile is worth a million bucks, and when you smile, the whole world smiles with you.” In case you weren’t listening, here’s what’s been going on with me and what’s happened since my midnight star chats with you have stopped.

I finally learned all the lyrics to “My Way” since it was your favorite song. Really anything by Sinatra was your favorite, but I know you liked that one in particular. You sang it any chance you got, and from time to time I sing it to myself now, too.

I started wearing that horseshoe ring you gave me for confirmation from time to time, the one with the scorpion on it. I wear it any time I need good luck or just particularly miss you, always with the horseshoe opening facing toward me like you insisted to “keep the good luck in.” I’m wearing it right now as I’m writing this even.

I started writing here on The Odyssey too. I’d probably have to print everything out for you if I wanted you to be able to read it, but even if you couldn’t you’d still be proud. You’d probably go into the story again about how your mother wrote poetry and songs all the time. I guess I have your genes to thank for my love of writing.

I’ve also started staying clean-shaven again, just like you always liked. I can hear you in the back of my head now: “other people, they need all that. But your face is too handsome to cover up, grandson.” While I don’t necessarily agree with you there, I stayed clean-shaven for a while after you passed, then grew out my facial hair and left it that way for a few months. I think you’d like the way I look now; I’ve been trying to stay completely clean-shaven lately. I’m not sure why I’ve made the switch, but I think it has something to do with you.

I think that’s about it for now, grandpa. I’ll try and come visit you at the cemetery as soon as I can. I hope you’re doing alright up there, and just know that we all really miss you down here. Say hello to grandma for me. I love you, grandpa.

Cover Image Credit: Cole Stolte

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