Chronicles of the Wayward Moot

WELCOME TO THE MOOT, oh world-wanderers and word-whisperers. After two years of Peace Corps. After 2,200 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. What. Comes. Next?


Lympho Mania

The evening of March 21st I went into New Orleans with my parents to attend the seventh annual "Lympho Mania 70s Dance Party" begun by a great guy from our extended family diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma years ago but who made a full recovery and wanted to organize something to raise money for cancer research.  This year's event was the biggest yet with more than 1,000 tickets sold and the celebrity involvement of Donald Trump, Jr. as judge of the dance contest.  A number of well-regarded restaurants catered the event held on two moody floors of renovated space at Republic New Orleans in the warehouse district.  While eating, drinking, dancing and admiring outrageous costumes, this year's participants raised $30,000 for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.  Now of course you know that New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras carnival festivities where revelers dress in ways not normally acceptable in everyday life, but the Lympho Maniac party proves that Fat Tuesday is not the only chance to let flamboyance reign supreme.  Among those Donald Trump Jr. evaluated were "The Purple Pimp," a voluptuous disco Wonder Woman, a gentleman conspicuously resembling Ron Jeremy, and a middle-aged couple in skin tight metallic leotards leaving frustratingly little to the imagination.  My dad was more subdued in a military jacket, cargo pants, and a faux-leather cap with shoulder-length artificial hair attached.  Tossing on some slim sunglasses he looked like a cross between Sergeant Pepper and Ozzy Osbourne.  Mom cleans up a little more attractively and could even be seen dancing in the background of the local news spot that aired wearing her aqua minidress with matching headband and white go-go boots.  I scrounged up some hideous plaid pants and a brown patent leather jacket with wide lapels to go with an old Austin Powers shirt.  Adding a gold beaded necklace finished the look.  Not the most polished, but at least original and not simply a bought costume like many were dressed in.  The night out was punctuated for the palate by rum and Cokes, delectable turtle soup, crawfish and pasta dishes, and a breathtaking bread pudding.  Eardrums resonated to ABBA, Cool and the Gang, Gloria Gaynor, and even some anachronistic Guns n' Roses helping to keep the platform shoes stomping and the towering afros rocking.  We'd gotten our fill of food, dance, glitz, and tacky glamour after the featured dance contest and so headed for the night breezes out on the street, but no doubt the Lympho Maniacs kept rocking the dance floor a good while longer.  After all, it was for a good cause.

I began this post with a description of the events of last Friday night so as to share a bit of what I'm up to, but what I'd really like to write about is something related but much more personal and near to the heart.  The Lympho Maniac party exists to raise awareness and funds for cancer research and this topic unfortunately is quite prevalent in our family lately.  As many of you know, my younger brother was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in 2003 when he was 20.  That very rare bone cancer attacked his jaw and after surgery and a tough regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments the disease was forced into remission.  Until last October.

Since his first diagnosis and treatment my brother had gone back to college and graduated, worked on and grown a small business, and eventually decided to move in with some friends in Texas and get on with his life.  The cancer had been gone for enough years that the sentiment became one of cautious optimism.  Unfortunately, not long after moving to Texas he learned that pains he was experiencing were more serious than the kidney stones he suspected.  After meeting with doctors and undergoing more tests it was determined that the sarcoma had returned.  My brother, now 25, returned home to Louisiana to be near our parents and weigh options for further treatment.  Around that same time I was nearing the end of my 2008 hike of the Pacific Crest Trail and weighing options for what was to come next.  After another couple of months out west traveling, house-sitting, and soul-searching I too returned to my hometown north of Lake Pontchartrain and it is there that I'm still living.

Why bring this up?  Because these are tough times for everyone in this family and especially for my brother (Side note:  He and my mom just returned from a chemotherapy treatment at the hospital), and I want to dedicate this update to expressing how much I care for him and admire his inspiring courage in facing this illness again.

There are countless things I could mention about my brother.  He was one of the cutest little kids the world has borne witness to, especially when wearing a bucket or dog's food dish on his head.  When he said "lemon" it sounded like "women," so the big laugh was to ask him if he liked lemons and listen for the hilarious answer.  When he was really small he had some very plump legs that people used to compare to our great grandmother's.  When the baby fat eventually diminished my brother was not only cute, he had become one of the funniest and quickest-witted people I've ever known.  Amazingly observant and with a completely encyclopedic knowledge of all kinds of automobiles, he was THE go-to guy for any information about anything with four wheels and an engine.  Pretty much like Marisa Tomei's character on My Cousin Vinny.  Driving at night he can tell you what make and model is coming the other direction just from the headlights long before you can see the shape of the vehicle, amazing.  He has the uncanny ability to nap through anything anywhere, period.  He makes friends wherever he goes, as evidenced by the support he received from his fraternity brothers and the boxes and envelopes which arrive in the mail all the time, not to mention how he's the nurses' favorite in the hospital infusion suite.  Must be the mischievous twinkle always in his eyes, which he uses to charm animals as well as people - just ask the rats, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, flying squirrel, dogs, and pig that he's had as pets.  That's not even the full list...  He works on his own cars, started to build his own guitar, and can find and buy anything on Ebay.  He's inquisitive and adventurous, having traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Alaska, and Ecuador as well as having completed an epic drive from Louisiana to New York to Los Angeles and back to New Orleans. 

So very many great things make my brother who he is and yet there are many other aspects of him I don't yet know regarding his dreams, aspirations, sensitivities, cares and concerns. For years I've felt that we'd grown apart but unable to pinpoint exactly when or why.  He was living his life and I was off living mine and we may have clashed a bit when together but it seems like there's always some tension when people come home after being away.  I think about that tension now and see what a useless waste of energy it is.  In addition, I recognize what an incredible opportunity it is just to be home again for a while in terms of reconnecting with the family and especially my brother.  There is of course a good deal of anxiety to navigate here relating to the illness and its implications, and I'm dealing with a strong uncertainty over how long I'll be in Louisiana and what I'll do here or wherever I head to next.  That said, just getting to spend this much time working on things with my dad, talking and hanging out with my mom, and witnessing my brother's recovery is a positive consequence to the less than ideal circumstances and I'm thankful for all of these chances to grow closer to each of them.

To my one and only brother I simply want to say:  We haven't always had the greatest of relationships and I own my part in that being the reality.  What's important is that we can recognize past problems for what they were and face today as a new day.  I admire your strength so much and am very glad to be able to spend this time with you even though it's difficult.  You'll get through this.  I love you.


Blogger Catra said...

Beautiful post. I will keep your brother in my prayers.

12:55 am  

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