If you don’t keep in contact with us through Facebook, something that probably has not been totally clear is that we’ve been in the United States since mid-March. The story is a somewhat complicated one, but one that is very important to us, so deserves a little explanation.
Our brother-in-law (Deb’s sister’s husband) was diagnosed with kidney cancer last September when we were on the Galapagos. The tumor was believed to be limited to the kidney itself, so chances of long-term survival were quite good. It was a bit of a shock to our family, but hopes were high so we kept traveling. In early January the first follow-up indicated that the cancer had not been contained, but rather had spread to several different locations in his body. This was not good news – in fact, it was down right crummy news. Over the next couple months various treatments were tried with some success but by the middle of February, it became clear that his was a very aggressive form of cancer and the road ahead would be a difficult one. We decided that traveling was no longer our priority so came back to the US in to be closer to family. We had planned on coming back for most June, July, and part of August anyway, so it was just changing the dates, not ditching our whole trip. This is a decision that we are very glad we made.
From the middle of March to the middle of May we stayed in California to help out with whatever needed to be done. When a driver was needed for appointments, we were available. When a wheelchair ramp needed to be built, we could help out. These months were difficult with many ups and downs but being with family was wonderful and by mid-May, all indications were that things were stable so we decided to head out on our planned US road-trip. Then, late in June, we were in Florida visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter when we learned that things we no longer stable. Roland’s cancer had once again spread very aggressively so there was little more that could be done. His time was short so Roland went home, had time with his family, and was able to die at home with his kids and his wife close. This is something that I believe we all hope for, and deserve, but don’t often get to do.
Roland was a very special person to all of us. He was more than just a relative, he was a mentor. Roland came in to our life in 2000, when my sister, Marilynn, met him. She first described him as a genuine, down-to-earth, caring guy who liked to laugh a lot. It ended up being a very accurate description. Growing up on a farm in Oregon but being an electrical engineer by profession gave him the ability to fix anything. He knew how things worked and always had every tool necessary for the job. He also knew how people worked, offering gentle guidance through the challenges of relationships and parenting. Normally soft-spoken, when he laughed, the whole neighborhood would come running to see what caused such a commotion. In our family Roland was famous for his plaid flannel shirts, bar-b-cued chicken legs and big bear hugs – better than anyone else. He loved taking kids out on his boat and would drive them tubing for hours on end to shouts of, “more, Uncle Roland, more!” even when they didn’t want to go fast enough to make a wake or couldn’t master getting up on water skis. It was just how he was.
We are all very sad that he is gone from our presence but are also incredibly grateful for having had 14 wonderful years with him. He was a truly wonderful person. We will always carry him close in our hearts and his spirit will never be forgotten. We are confident that this will happen because Colburn, Lucia, and Mac never met Deb’s father for he died long before they were around, yet still know much about who he was through the stories and memories we share. There won’t be one wake boarding or tubing trip that doesn’t recall memories of “doing donuts” with the boat. He will be there with us making “Uncle Roland’s Chicken Legs” during summer bar-b-cues. Every time a fish is landed, there will be whoops and hollers loud enough to be heard across the lake because that is what Uncle Roland did. This is how we keep people who have died in our hearts and in our lives.
We will write more about our US adventures later.