April 1980


When it rains, it pours. First, Pop went in the hospital for gall bladder surgery.  When he was opened up, they found that his gut was full of cancer that had spread everywhere.  So they just closed him back up because there is nothing that can be done for him at his age with advanced cancer. My grandmother doesn’t want him to know what is wrong with him, and that he is going to die from this.  She thinks that he won’t have any will to fight if he knows the truth.  I would want to know, and I think he would too, but I’m not going to go against her wishes.  Instead, I have to go there and lie to him, which just feels wrong.  Lou is supportive, and talks to Pop a lot about going fishing in the future.  He’ll be lucky if he gets to go home, but if it is possible, we will take him fishing somehow.

Then, my dad wasn’t feeling well, and was really tired all the time.  He found some blood in his stool, which turned out to be due to colon cancer.  He was scheduled for surgery to have a long length of his intestines removed. At the same time, my sister was having abdominal pain and ended up in the hospital in Connecticut to also have gall bladder surgery.  Her daughter is just a toddler, and my brother in law has to work, so I was scheduled to go right after my dad’s surgery to her house to help take care of my both her and my niece.

My grandfather, my father, and my sister were all in the hospital; on the day before my dad’s surgery, I was at home with my mom, and found we had no heat in the morning.  I went into the basement and saw that the natural gas furnace was out.  I tried to light the pilot, but it wouldn’t ignite on the first try.  On the second try, I lit the match and put it toward the pilot hole, and BOOM! I felt an instant rush of heat and air like a hot blast of wind on my face. I made my way through the dense smoke back upstairs, and my mom ran down from the second floor in a panic asking what happened.  Seeing the smoke filling the house, she called the fire department, and I went into the bathroom shower to put cold water on my face, hand, and arm. I had no idea what kind of damage I had done to myself. While I doused myself in the cold running water, I heard the blast of the emergency horns signaling the location of our street and then the sirens of the arriving fire trucks. They inspected the house and made sure the gas was off and that there was no fire in the ducts; they put big fans in the house to suck out the smoke. I was obviously burned, so they insisted that I go by ambulance to the hospital.

My poor mother had her stepfather, husband, and daughter all in one hospital, and another daughter in a hospital hours away. I had first-degree burns all over my face, neck, and right hand and arm.  I had second-degree burns on parts of my face, and third-degree burns on my hand near my index finger and thumb area, which is where I held the lit match that caused the blow back of the gas. My hair was melted all around the front and the ends. My eyebrows are completely gone, and my eyelashes are tiny little nubs. I am so lucky all around that is all that happened.  The cleaned me up, and put Silvadine on my burns to help them heal. I looked like a clown or a mime, since my face was entirely covered in white.

We didn’t want my father or grandfather to know what happened, and I wanted to see my dad before his surgery, so I had to take all the burn cream off my face, which was pure torture.  I put on a floppy hat and eyeglasses; my hand was bandaged up, so I carried a coat over my arm.  My dad was pretty dopey because of the pain and other meds he was on, so he didn’t really ask any questions.  Pop was a lot more alert and wanted to know, “Why the hell are you wearing that silly hat?”  My dad’s surgery went well, and they think they got all the cancer.

Lou has been a really big help to my family though all of this. He drove me to and from Connecticut to be with my sister, and while I was gone, he  brought my dad a get well stuffed rabbit, appropriate for a magician, and he helped my Mom set up a recovery area for my dad in our dining room.  I don’t know what I would have done without him; I am really grateful.

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