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Category: Mom

My mother, Doris.

New Podcast Episode with the Late Doris Oden Darrow

Doris Oden Darrow -- June 10, 1928--December 10, 2012

This podcast Episode 3, is with my inspiration for art and my most loving critic: My mom, Doris Oden Darrow. Months before she passed away, I sat with her to record old memories of life just getting started as a young married woman of 20. “What was that like?” I learned a lot listening to her. And I think you’ll find it fascinating.

Episode 3 of the “Drawing On Experience” podcast by David R. Darrow

Part of the Adventure

Click to see larger -- Mom reacts to Chris Rice's "Come to Jesus" playing on my laptop.

You might be wondering how I am doing, what with sitting here watching my mother living out her last hours. It’s Sunday, December 9, 2012, and my mom is still fading out in her ready-to-go but still-so-resilient way. Many of my Facebook friends and extended family tell me they are praying for me through this time, and that I am in their thoughts. I am so grateful for loving friends and family.

You haven’t
lived until

I have to tell you, though, this is a wonderful experience. There are tears sometimes, but they are mostly born of happy memories, and gratitude for my mother’s influence in my life. Mom comes from a long line of traditional marriage and family caring. As I care for my dying mother, I recall the years of self-sacrifice and care I received at her hand, and realize I could never match it in 10 more lifetimes.

Something keeps ringing in my memory, told to me by Aunt Thelma Kramar some time after her beloved husband Willard had died:

You haven’t really lived until you’ve experienced death.

I was much younger at the time [my memory says high school or college days] and, having not experienced any close death in my family, I could not relate.

Now I can.

I’ve been at the hospital since Thursday morning, but for a night’s sleep on Thursday at home when I believed they had mom stabilized. My good friend Caroline Spangberg drove in from out of town to be with her dying friend, my mom, and to help her living friend, me. Caroline has a wonderful, generous and giving spirit, and hasn’t thought twice about stepping up and helping with so many of the intimate items of caring for a dying loved one. Caroline’s family and mine go way back to when her dad was my dad’s boss at a company in Costa Mesa, CA in the mid-1960s. Our family and hers became life-long friends. Her dad spoke at my dad’s memorial service, recalling all the years of friendship, bible studies, friend-to-friend counseling, and so on. For Caroline, she says, this is like helping family. I’m so grateful for her help and company, for otherwise I would be doing this alone. (My brother has been out of town with his fiancée Jen for her bridal shower, preparing in a whirlwind for their wedding which is this Tuesday, I think).

I don’t want to sound like this is hard. It’s not. I still laugh and joke, my mom still smiles… there’s lots of love and laughter still. I don’t mind being tired. Perhaps being a little punchy brightens things up.

Bill Harmon and Doris DarrowYesterday was a bit of a spiritual day. With memories of Bill Harmon stopping by her hospital room on Friday, a kind gentleman and a deacon in her church — his ministry lovingly absorbed — a pastor from her church came by yesterday, stopped in just long enough to express his love for my Mom and Dad, and to read her Psalm 31. Brian Morgan is a deeply feeling man, and an excellent teacher of the scriptures — one my mother’s favorite teachers. He’s a lover of art and poetry, an articulate speaker and deep researcher. I was delighted to have him stop in.

Brian Morgan and Doris Darrow -- Click to see LargerLater when the room was quiet, I fired up my laptop and found some soothing music to play for Mom. She smiled instantly at the opening notes of a familiar twist on a Christmas song by Chris Rice: Welcome To Our World. And after that was done, I played for her a song that was performed live at my sister’s memorial service in 2008. Officially, the song is called Untitled Hymn but has become known as Come To Jesus, also written by Chris Rice.

My mom lay smiling with her eyes closed there in her hospital bed. And when he reached the simple chorus with “Come to Jesus…” she spontaneously raised her hand to heaven.

With this kind of faith — always a part of her life, and truly instilled in me — this is most certainly not a time of sorrow, rather a time of joy. Mom is near the finish line, and the crowd waiting to greet her on the other side is much larger than that which she leaves behind — all of us cheering her on.

Waiting for Death

Death is an interesting challenge to what you always believe about faith and the nature of God.

I am sitting with my mom this morning literally watching her wait for death to come. I am no longer asking for a miracle healing, though. I thought that was a good, faith-filled approach, but I realize that I don’t actually believe that kind of miracle is possible now.

I guess I have a limited understanding of the nature of miracles.

I don’t quite believe the ‘amount of’ my faith has anything to do with her passing or healing. That is all in God’s hands. If it depends on my faith, she’s surely gone soon. I am looking at a woman who feels worse than she has ever felt in her life, quietly agreeing with what I hear her utter: please, God, make it soon.

My love of God and trust in Him does not change through this (at least, I don’t think so at the moment). But it sure forces the desire to have answers, this cancer that’s all but killed mom. It’s a bit frustrating, too, to see that she’s not going to pull out of this one, and also frustrating not to see my request for a soon passing being granted — a simple, merciful request.

My brother and his fiancee have been, essentially, up all night with her, and I am spelling them at the moment. A hospice nurse is due at 11:00. It’s a little after 10, now.

I can’t help but think of all the times my kids were so sick, wondering how soon they’d be well. We think of wellness when we’re sick. We tray so hard to get well again. But as my dad quipped while folding to the onslaught of prostate cancer, “Eventually something you get will be terminal.”

“True, Dad,” I nod to myself quietly, “and when Mom gets there, I hope you’re both in your twenties. You guys looked so amazingly full of life in your twenties… and I’d like to know you in your twenties when I get there.”

I also think of what my mom went through with our illnesses and injuries as kids. I know she cried over us, sometimes. I heard her. Now the roles are reversed, and tears come to my eyes as I watch this wonderful woman with a broken body feeling worse than she’s ever felt in her 84 and a half years, waiting for death to relieve her.

We both wait for death to relieve her.

Facing Reality

Mom's last months.
Photo, 10 days ago.

Despite appearances, my dear mother is very weak. In fact, she is dying. She is clearly in her last months, and she knows it, too. She can feel it. I asked her yesterday if she would allow me to tell my friends and her friends about the facts, because there’s always an awkward silence after there’s news of cancer. The silence can go on for months, even years, and sometimes forever. There seems to be, with some folks, a discomfort with discussing the end of another’s life, especially as it concerns illnesses that slowly take life away, such as my mom’s cancer. Mom agreed, and gave me permission to share with my friends and family the nature of her condition.

We’ve seen many positive comments accompanying photos of her recently. Some say that she looks good, or that she looks upbeat. That’s a credit to my mom. She insists on having a good time right up to the moment she simply cannot.

I took the picture above last week during her visit to Kaiser Hospital… we’ve had many visits to this place since January of this year, the first one revealing her cancer. As she was getting her ID out to claim her prescription at the Kaiser pharmacy, a quick glance at her driver’s license reminded me of what she used to look like just 10 months ago. At that time, in January, I considered that I might be looking at her last months on this side of Eternity, but today I am surprised how much of her has already been taken away, so slowly, yet so quickly, indeed.

The cancer that riddles the lining of her abdomen is such that surgery would probably kill her, and chemo has not been doing anything but making her weak and nauseated, [previously] bald and sick. She opted not to go a second round, rather to finish up her life feeling as good as possible. We are all in agreement that this is best, and whatever she wishes is our wish for her.

She looks well, but she’s really not. Cancer is stripping her of vitality, strength, wellness… it’s taking everything. Our trip together to the Haggin Museum in Stockton yesterday was a long, slow trip. When we got there, we walked slowly together, and walked slowly about, and left slowly. I treasured every second of it.
I only found out about this museum and exhibit of JC Leyendecker’s work a few days ago. And I immediately thought of asking Mom if she wanted to go, but thinking she might turn it down. I’m glad she didn’t.

Mom is my first art teacher, and at an early age showed me the marvelous paintings of Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker on the Saturday Evening Post covers. I grew to appreciate their skills from a very early age. In 1988 on a business trip to New York, I took a day off to drive north to Stockbridge, MA to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. It was an other-worldly experience to sense the humanity in each painting as I moved slowly from one to the next.

Until yesterday, I had never seen an original by my other Illustrator Hero, JC Leyendecker. We were there 20 minutes or so before my mother suddenly realized that we were looking at original paintings by JC Leyendecker, not photos. The wonder on her face is something I will never forget, as she realized this and her head spun around to glance at each painting she’d already seen.

This trip was an experience I will never forget. For me, the trip was one of the last I will have with her, and I wanted to build a memory with her connected to art. She and my father were 100% behind my pursuing art as a vocation. Mom’s been my biggest fan for my entire life… and holds the unique position of being the only one who has known me and loved me longer than my days “on the outside.” When mom was in high school, she was one of the strongest artists in her rather large Los Angeles high school, and she wanted to attend the LA Art Center but could not afford it. 4 years later, she married my dad, and went to work to help support him through his last semester of his college years at Caltech in Pasadena, living in a small house several blocks from where I would live 32 years later, when I attended Art Center College of Design — the same school my mom wanted to attend, but with a different name and new location.

The thing is, we believe it’s probably best to let everyone know now. She is, in her own words “not long for this earth.” Her muscles are all atrophied, and her appetite is diminishing. She rallies short moments of strength — but she’s never lost her sense of humor.

I am asking those of you who know her, even a little bit, to send her off with the blessing of a kind note while she is still of sound mind and strength to read it or have it read to her. [email] [Facebook Page] You may get a response, but more than likely not. I hope that’s okay with you.

Would you simply tell her what you like about her, or how she has impacted your life in any way? Maybe you can tell her a memory you have of something that cheered you, touched you or eased your own pain? Don’t worry about making her cry. She probably will, no matter what you say. 🙂

Our thinking is: we’d like to have her be present at her own Memorial… to hear the things people say about her BEFORE she’s gone.

We have praying friends, friends who send positive thoughts, friends of all faiths, and friends with no faith at all. We appreciate the friendship most of all.

From our praying friends, I ask you to pray two things in one: Ask God for a complete miracle healing or quick passing — hopefully, she says, in her sleep. It’s okay with us for you to ask that her passing be quick. She has our permission to leave.

We also request that you PLEASE REFRAIN from typing out your prayers on her Facebook page, or that of John’s, my sister Joanne’s or my own. Thank you. (It’s something we see done by well-meaning folk, and we just don’t want it at this time. Thank you for respecting our wishes over your desire to carry out your faith in that way).

My mother loves her kids the way they are, and would not want us to change. Though the tone of this note is somber, I know that my mom would not want me to alter my daily postings due to her diminished health or demise, so I plan to do my best to share what I love and what makes me laugh right on through her passing and after — I hope that doesn’t appear to be uncaring. I just know my mom would want that. (I am calling a moratorium on my own political rants, though — really, what’s the point?)

We are a family of faith, but beyond that you’d have to really know each of us to know exactly what that means to us each. Our faith is a hope in things not seen, unprovable and non-disprovable. Based on our faith, and trust in the Scriptures, we believe that none of us measures up to what a holy God requires (Romans 3: 23), but in his mercy he provided a solution: salvation by grace — a free gift from God himself, accepted by us through the vehicle of faith and nothing more (Ephesians 2:8–9) — and based on this, we have assurance we will see Mom again outside the realm and constraints of time. We will join her again someday in Eternity.

Therefore we anticipate her departure from us with some measure of sadness, but not loss. For it is only temporary.

I want to thank each of you I have met over the years here and online elsewhere for making my mom part of your lives. For taking her in as you have me. We are grateful.

Thank you for taking the time to read all this, my dear friends.


2 Years Gone

Robert Darrow, Age 5Dad left this earth 2 years ago today. While it is something one can come to accept, even get used to for the most part, it has been a part of life I would have preferred not to experience.

Then again, it has changed me.

My dad was a rare, good soul, and if you’d care to learn about him, his childhood, his marriage and family life, his solid work ethic and spirituality, take a few moments and watch the tribute video I made for him in 2005 while he was still living.

To comply with YouTube’s imposed time limitations, I have split the whole 35 minutes into six parts which can be viewed in sequence, starting with Part 1, here. If you have never seen it, I encourage you to watch this first part and see if you don’t get drawn in.

As for Mom, it was a poignant day for her, today, but she’s doing well. She’s found a way to live life again, and does what a day demands — missing Bob, the whole time.

Tonight I will go to Pizza Port and toast the memory of my father with a beer, as I did the day he died. Why beer? Because one of the fondest memories I have of me and my dad was the day he and I drank beers together for the first time, in Solvang, CA. Growing up in a conservative Christian home, I could never have imagined such an event, but truly good people do grow and change, and as my parents got older, they learned to throw off the shackles of religion and to relax and enjoy their God-given freedoms.

These are big moments to some of us.

78 Years Ago…

To pay homage to my mother on this day, her 78th birthday, seems a bit cyclical. Had it not been for her birth, mine never would have occurred. And I would not be wishing her a Happy Birthday today.

Her day, unfortunately, was taken up by some hosting duties at a get-together and attendance at the memorial service that preceded it. One of her closest friends for the past 29 years, a neighbor down the street, passed away suddenly last month. Just wasn’t feeling well that afternoon, and she died a few hours later.

Life is so unpredictable.

Mom has outlived my dad in birthdays. She’s made it to 78, and is still going strong, give or take a couple of rusty hinges and tired batteries.

Happy birthday, Mom! I love you dearly.

Duck Park

When my children were little, they got to visit Grandma and Grandpa Darrow (Doris and Robert Darrow) on—unfortunately—too few occasions.

One of the things the kids could always count on when going to Gramp’nGramma’s—always pronounced as one word, and usually as one syllable, as my brother John pointed out to the crowd at my father’s memorial service—was a trip with my mom to “Duck Park.”

It was not really named Duck Park. It’s just the park that my mom would drive them to, and it had ducks. And we took bread to feed the ducks, which is always a memorable thing for a kid. Ducks are scary to a kid… they make loud noises, stink a little, have intense eyes, never smile, and sometimes don’t take food from a child’s hand very gently. Still, for all the negatives, feeding ducks is an exciting, memorable adventure.

My daughter Lauren was born 9 years after Drew, her oldest brother—the first of my children to make the pilgrimage to Duck Park, and like her brothers Drew and Greyson, she also got taken there by Grandma. She always remembered it fondly as a fun adventure.

When she and I drove to Mom’s home this past Christmas, I asked her on one of the drizzly, grey days there if she wanted to go to Duck Park with Grandma. I wasn’t sure if Lauren, nearing 14, would be at all interested in seeing ducks in a pond from her childhood.

She nodded excitely before I finished the question.

I should have known… Lauren’s older cousin Stephanie wanted to go there, too, in this same year when she was visiting. She’s 27!

For over a quarter of a century a tradition has reached deep into the next generation. It was nice to see my mom and Lauren still enjoying Duck Park.

Be sure to click the little picture, above right, for the rest of the picture.


I’ve been out of town and not blogging. I’ve been visiting my mom and brother John this past week with my daughter Lauren. Sunday night (a week ago) I got a little tickle in my throat, and since then I have been feverish, coughing sneezing and basically miserable.

As of today, I can say I have had a fever since sometime last year.

Nice welcome to 2006.

I had a choice: stay home and be sick, or travel and be sick. It was not an easy choice. In the end—even at age 48—I would rather be sick in the home my mom is in than anywhere else. So I packed up my flu and headed to Sunnyvale.

Poor Lauren got stuck here with nowhere to go and not a lot to do. I was in bed most of the time I was here, and now it’s late in the evening of the night before we are to head for home at 5am. Oh well.

It’s important to see family. I hope Lauren got that much from the trip. Actually, I hope she got a lot more.

I haven’t seen my mom in six months… since a week or so after my dad died. It’s different here now. Never got to see Dad. That was both expected and strange at the same time.

Mom’s doing pretty well.


Mug Shot

Grandfather MugThe first thing I inherited from my late father (which is kinda funny to say, since it has a double meaning, in his case) was this mug. My mom gave it to me when Teresa and I were up there for his service. Well, not at the service, but before we left a couple of days later.

She has been gingerly clearing things out of the house that are ‘not really hers.’ This was my father’s and I don’t know who gave it to him… but I am the most recent grandfather in the Darrow line, so she thought it would be nice for me to have it.

I have had coffee out of it nearly every day since I got it home. I don’t think I’m that sentimental, but I would have been very disappointed if TSA had broken it inspecting my luggage at the airport.

Mom has begun the long, probably wrenching process of deciding what to keep, what to toss or give away; getting rid of things that were my dad’s of which she has no interest.

She asked a couple of other women that have been where she is, “When did you start getting rid of things that were his?”

One started the next day, another a week later. I told my mom that it’s got to be different for everyone, and that it was fine with me if she started right away.

“Dad’s life is done, Mom,” I told her. “It is now your life to live, and you should make your home the way you want it.”

She thanked me.

R.A. Darrow Celebration July 9, 2005 2PM

The date has been set for the Memorial Celebration for my father Robert A. Darrow, who passed away June 27th, 2005.

The service will begin at 2:00pm (maybe 2:03pm ;-)) on Saturday, July 9th, 2005
at Penninsula Bible Church Cupertino
(Sign at street says PBCC)
10601 N. Blaney Avenue
[click address for map in a new window]
Cupertino, CA 95041
Church phone: 408.366.6690

The service is intended to be a respectful, honoring celebration of the Life and the Homegoing of our beloved father, and the loving husband of my mother Doris. Expect a joyful time, filled with music and stories. If you have a particularly meaningful memory of my dad you would like others to know about, there will be a time of open mic for several to use for sharing. We look forward to your presense, physically or, of you cannot attend, in thought.

At my mother’s request, on behalf of Dad’s delight in fellowship with those he loved, immediately following the service we are going to continue the celebration with “Lots of Cake!” in the Fellowship Hall on the church premises. Other refreshments will also be served. Please plan to join us all for extended fellowship after the service.

See also “In Lieu of Flowers,” below.

Watch this space for updates.

In Lieu of Flowers…

My mother, Doris Darrow, has requested that in lieu of flowers, it would best honor Robert Darrow and his family if you would instead direct a donation to Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center.

An account has been established in the name of my father.

Ron Demolar, director and a long-time family friend whom we have known from the decades our family has vacationed and attended presentations there, expresses his deep gratitude for the graciousness of my mother in directing financial support to this organization from which we have enjoyed many years of quality family time.

Checks may be made out to Mount Hermon Association and mailed to the following address

Book of Remembrance for Robert A. Darrow
Mount Hermon Association, Inc.,
P.O. Box 413,
Mount Hermon, CA 95041

Credit Card donations may be made, also, beginning Monday July 4 you may call Jeannette Lange at Mount Hermon:
and direct your contribution to the
“Book of Remembrance for Robert A. Darrow”

Click here for more info about Mount Hermon

A Day of Celebration

Yesterday goes on record as one of the strangest-feeling days of my life. Over all, it was a very good day. Full of good memories, tears, phone calls to family. My dad’s passing yesterday was only a surprise in the sense that we didn’t know when it would come, but we were praying that it would be soon.

Cancer had occupied too much of various parts of his body, and we knew his spirit would be moving out soon. To our relief, he wasn’t complaining about pain, only “discomfort,” and he was conscious and alert even within the hour of his passing. He seemingly had one foot in Heaven already as he kissed my mother goodbye. I can’t explain it, but all indications are that he knew it was over here on Earth. His shedding a tear as my mother kissed him and told him he could go, is a memory I will always cherish. (Update: I have since learned from my mother that his last hour was not as comfortable as I had believed, and she is doing all she can to not even think about it.)

I spoke with each of my siblings and my mom yesterday. Each of us had things to cry about and even to laugh about. My mom had told me that Dad passed “precisely at 10:00am” which upon reflecting with my sister Joanne I had to comment: “That means Dad was supposed to die at 9:00am. He was late for everything.” We both laughed.

No one tells you what you’re supposed to do after a phone call in which your mom tells you your dad is gone forever. So, after posting my blog entry yesterday, 15 minutes after his passing, Teresa and I walked over to 7-Eleven and I bought two Snickers bars.

When I was in High School 30 years ago, I asked my father one day if he ever bought snacks or candy from the vending machines at work.

“Yes, sometimes,” he answered.

“What do you get?” I asked.

“I always get Snickers. That’s my favorite.”

I never forgot that.

So Teresa and I went down to the ocean (a block from 7-Eleven). We walked along the water’s edge, ankle deep in the warm Pacific wash. Then Teresa hung back—knowing my plans—while I stared at the horizon for a while. I got out both Snickers bars and unwrapped them half-way. I ate most of mine, then pulled my dad’s Snickers from its wrapper and threw it into the waves. It was odd symbolism, I suppose, but it was an acknowledgement that we will not be enjoying such things together again.

Sometime around 1pm, I think, Teresa and I headed over to Pizza Port here in Carlsbad. One of my fondest memories was having a good ale with my father now and then. We were headed there to toast Dad with a glass of cold ale.

Teresa and I drove up to Sunnyvale last week, arriving early in the morning (2am) on Father’s Day. It’s where I wanted to be on my Father’s Day. We crept past my sleeping parents and went to bed in their guest room.

We awoke at around 10am, and went into the family room to greet my parents. Mom had gotten Dad out of his hospital bed, there in the family room, and dressed him up in pants and a Hawaiian shirt, and he was smiling broadly through thin lips and a sunken face as we walked into the room. Amid the joy of being with him again, and on Father’s Day, I was struck by the overwhelming changes in him. My father was dying. I could see it in his face.

To my surprise, my mother was helping him, that morning, sip beer through a bendie-straw from a tiny little glass. He smiled and his eyes twinkled as Mom told us that it’s his favorite liquid now. Water no longer tasted good, but he found beer to be refreshing and it cleaned his mouth and teeth nicely.

Upon arriving at Pizza Port yesterday I got a cell-call from my brother John and I told him that Teresa and I were just arriving to toast Dad with a beer. John excitedly asked me to call him back on my cellphone when we were ready to toast; that he and Mom would join in with their own glasses of beer there in her home.

Five minutes later, I called Mom’s number and John answered with the push of a button on the speaker-phone. I told them that Teresa and I each had a pint of cold beer ready, and that I had poured about 4 ounces into a third glass for Dad.

Mom told me that their pastor had just arrived a moment earlier, and that he was willing to toast along with us.

Teresa and I rose from our seats, and I said something like, “I don’t know how you thank God for a dad like mine and toast him with beer at the same time, but here goes: Thank you, God, for my father, and here’s to the greatest man I have ever known, or ever will know, my dad, Robert Darrow.”

Then we sipped, said a few other cheerful things, and hung up.

After I finished my beer, I noticed Dad hadn’t touched his, so I drank it for him.

Robert Allen Darrow 1928 – 2005

“This is the phone call you didn’t want to get,” my mom began after I said hello.

“Oh…” I sighed.

“Dad passed at 10:00 this morning.” (Fifteen minutes ago)

From what she told me, he knew he was making that transition. His last words were “Amen. Amen. Amen.”

My mom kissed him and told him he could go. She says he shed a tear, and shortly was gone.

At 9:08 this morning, not quite an hour before his passing, Mom wrote an e-mail to my cousins which included this tender comment:

Bob is sleeping again. All he can “eat” is ice chips, so he is fading away faster and faster. This has to be hard for him, too, as he can no longer say what he wants to say. He did purse his lips for me when I kissed him “Good morning,” so that’s a happy thought.

I am only beginning to feel how much I will miss my father.

Please, if you know my mother, don’t call her today. I’m not taking any calls either.

Robert Allen Darrow
April 12, 1928 – June 27, 2005

The Order of the Cosmos

In the grand scheme of things, yesterday was a wonderful birthday for my now 77 year old mother.

The day before her birthday, my brother John sent out a mass e-mail to who-knows-how-many people in the Sunnyvale area—where my parents have lived for 28 years—that read:

Mom is going to be 77! Would you be willing to email her a simple “Happy Birthday!”?

And if you’re nearby where she lives and want to join in a fun little project of mine, I see that Orchard Supply currently has “6 pack annuals” on sale for $1.89 each (through 6/10 evening). Mom loves Cosmos and had really wanted a particular front plot in the yard to be full of Cosmos but the seeds she spread didn’t sprout like she hoped. So, if you pick up a 6-pack of Cosmos and drop it off at her place (any time of day, tho no later than 9 pm), I’ll plant everything that everyone has dropped off and she’ll love it! [Address and link to a map were provided]


When this photo [Click here to see image in a new window] was taken, my mother had received from friends 76 six-packs of Cosmos. Then later at 8:53pm, 7-minutes shy of the 9:00pm cut-off time requested by John on behalf of my mother and ailing father, one more couple arrived at the house, tooting their horn as John was heading into the garage, with the wife shouting that they had “7 minutes to spare” delivering that which they did not know at the moment would be the 77th six-pack of Cosmos on my mother’s 77th birthday.

Seventy-seven more proofs there is an order to the Cosmos.

Camming with Dad

Last night I had the pleasure of web-camming with my Mom and Dad. It wasn’t quite the realtime experience that computers are capable of, but it was a first for us. My brother connected a borrowed webcam to my parents’ computer which rides on a wheeled, over-the-bed cart similar to this one [minus the pool] that they can slide to and from the bed. Though not confined to it, Dad spends most of his days and nights in a hospital bed that has been wheeled into the family room where he had been sleeping in his recliner. For him it is too uncomfortable to sleep lying down unless he’s on his side, and the adjustable hospital bed makes it easy for him to find positions that allow him comfort.

Their internet connection is 56k (which is really maybe 38- 44k on a good day), so the frames were updated about every two seconds, and since it was a two-way video conference, some of the frames were not received until maybe 15 seconds later. Audio was provided via cell-phone and a speakerphone next to my dad, so we could communicate without typing. Transmitting audio would have slowed the whole thing to a Polaroid pace, and the cell-call was weekend-free, so it worked fine.

I called my sister Jan in Oregon and got her to log onto Yahoo Messenger and click on the cam next to my brother’s account name. She got quiet—and a little weepy—when the image of my father and mother came up in the video window.

None of us except John, who lives somewhat nearby, have seen my parents since April, when we all came together to see my Dad perhaps for the last time. We all thank God for the extra days—now months—God has granted him.

And it was nice to see him again, last night.

I ask again to all who read this, as my father has asked, please remember my mother in your prayers.

A Letter from Mom Today

Good morning, everyone:We finally got Bob home from the hospital yesterday evening, too late to give anyone a call. And too tired to make the effort.

Our son John made arrangements to come over and spend the first night or two with us. You can believe that he is a comfort. He’ll have to go in to work this a.m., but some home health care person is coming to help me get Bob ready for the day.

For those of my “writing audience” who have been through all this already, you have been a wonderful comfort to me. Mary, Elaine, Alice, Ruth, and Rachel.

Bob is sleeping well, and here at home, at least it is more quiet. He sits up for his meals, and even watched a bit of Antique Road Show last night. His mind is clear, I think because he is finally off the chemo stuff. I hated it when he couldn’t finish a thought. He’d get disgusted with himself.

We had a fine day on Easter, still at the hospital. John brought bread and grape juice (fruit of the vine) and a friend named Tom was there to visit, and the four of us celebrated the Lord’s supper together. It was so meaningful. Each shared thoughts on the body and blood of Christ, shed for each of us. And here it was EASTER. Alleluia! He is risen indeed.

Love to all,Doris and Bob

New Grandpa, Old Grammar

My blogoshpere friend Rae posted on her blog a link to this grammar and spelling test.

My score was handed to me as follows:

AdvancedYou scored 100% Beginner, 93% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 55% Expert!

You have an extremely good understanding of beginner, intermediate, and advanced level commonly confused English words, getting at least 75% of each of these three levels’ questions correct. This is an exceptional score. Remember, these are commonly confused English words, which means most people don’t use them properly. You got an extremely respectable score.

Wow, thanks, Mom and Dad. Oh, and thanks Carol Skow, my eight grade English Teacher at Orville Wright Jr. High.

Now… is it bloggosphere or blogosphere?

60th Valentine with Phoon

My mom and dad, God bless them both, took a moment to phoon together in commemoration of their 60th Valentine’s Day. Check out that wall behind them!

My mom sent out a note with the following message,

Well, the Valentines are all taken down and put away until next year, now. But the memories and the chocolate linger. Thanks for the sweet memories. Love to all, Mom and Dad

This is our 60th Valentine’s Day since sending each other our first ones in 1945. Every year, we display the cards we’ve exchanged through the years. (Count them!)

Always in good spirits, no matter what. Dad has lost a lot of hair since I saw him last: the Chemo has been unkind in the hair department, and has also fattened his face a little.

Please, pray for them both.


Thanksgiving Day, 2004

This is “truly an American holiday” as my Mom and Dad put it in an e-mail greeting they sent out yesterday. I am grateful for such gracious and loving parents… two of the warmest people you will ever meet. I am grateful for their example of love and grace. I am grateful that my father and mother are both living and full of viltality, “even at 76.” I am grateful that Dad’s cancer hasn’t taken him down, and that he has had no side-effects from the chemothereapy he is undergoing. I am grateful for my mother’s faith, strength and courage through all that her partner of 55 years is going through.

A student from England who is in two of my classes sort of scoffed at the idea of “your Thanksgiving.” He doesn’t really get it.

Dennis Prager wrote a book called Happiness is Serious Problem. In this thorough investigation of the condition of happiness he brilliantly presents an analysis that has never left my mind since the first time I encountered it:

“There is a ‘secret to happiness,’ and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.”

And I agree with all my heart. The people you can just never please are simply ungrateful. They cannot see the good that exists in the presence of the bad on which they focus.

There is risk in being grateful, especially if you’re mad at someone, or disappointed with them. You cannot hold your ground once gratitude enters your heart. I am convinced that if my own sons could focus on what they are grateful for, the beginnings of a bridge would follow, and dialog could once again be established. But it’s just easier to choose to not talk to someone than to feel or express gratitude for what they have been in your life and to learn more about them, their own pain, their struggles—their moccasins—in order to understand why they are who they are, and how that contributes to how they disappoint you from time to time.

My sons haven’t spoken to me in two years. Well, Drew, 21, hasn’t at all. On three or four occasions, Greyson, 17, has come to the door when I am picking Lauren up for the weekend to show me some incredible artwork he has done. He’s proud of it, as he should be—his work is amazing. He’s better than I was at 17, by quite a margin, and it brings me joy on those rare occasions he has shown me his work.

How do I feel on Thanksgiving when two of my three children don’t talk to me? I get over the anguish with my true gratitude for their lives. That God would give me such talented young men for sons is humbling. They are bright and quick-witted, funny and engaging, charming and gentlemanly, attractive and masculine. I am so grateful for all of that.

Drew, Greyson and Lauren all do well in school, they do not do drugs and have few if any vices. They choose to follow God and Christianity as best they can. How can one not be grateful for all that? They are alive and well, whole and happy, creative and enthusiastic, full of life and best of all safe. I am grateful, truly grateful for all that they are.

I accept the obstinance of my young men through the filter of gratitude, which allows me to see that they are independent and willing to stand alone, though young and naive at times. Age and experience can cure this. But there are no guarantees.

I am grateful that they are not in harm’s way, and I am grateful for the young men and women who are in Iraq right now, fighting for a better world—and I do believe that all the effort and sacrifice will one day lead to a better world. War is ugly, but it sometimes changes things for the better. I hope this is one of those times.

There is a soldier, Lt. Col. David G. Bellon, USMC, whose letters home are posted in a blog, and one in particular was a riveting account of what our soldiers went through just days ago, 11.19.2004. Take the time to read the entire letter, it’s worth it. Here is but a small piece excerpted:

The fighting has been incredibly close inside the city. The enemy is willing to die and is literally waiting until they see the whites of the eyes of the Marines before they open up. Just two days ago, as a firefight raged in close quarters, one of the interpreters yelled for the enemy in the house to surrender. The enemy yelled back that it was better to die and go to heaven than to surrender to infidels. This exchange is a graphic window into the world that the Marines and Soldiers have been fighting in these last 10 days.

I could go on and on about how the city was taken but one of the most amazing aspects to the fighting was that we saw virtually no civilians during the battle. Only after the fighting had passed did a few come out of their homes. They were provided food and water and most were evacuated out of the city. At least 90-95% of the people were gone from the city when we attacked.

I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not have heard yet. I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they occurred. No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am confident that the meat is correct.

The first is a Marine from 3/5. His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager’s grandson). As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the top floor and the point man kicked in the door. As he did so, an enemy grenade and a burst of gunfire came out. The explosion and enemy fire took off the point man’s leg. He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay in the doorway. Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to cover. As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came back through the doorway. Without pausing, he reached down and threw the grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety. The grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in. He immediately entered the room following the second explosion. He gunned down three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the wounded Marine. You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5 seconds of having the pin pulled. Marines usually let them “cook off” for a second or two before tossing them in. Therefore, this entire episode took place in less than 30 seconds.

The second example comes from 3/1. Cpl Mitchell is a squad leader. He was wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple grenades down on top of them. As he was getting triaged, the doctor told him that he had been shot through the arm. Cpl Mitchell told the doctor that he had actually been shot “a couple of days ago” and had given himself self aide on the wound. When the doctor got on him about not coming off the line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have time to get treated as his men were still fighting. There are a number of Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their fellow Marines.

It is incredibly humbling to walk among such men.

I am grateful for such men and women in our armed forces. I am grateful for freedom, living in a free society, the freedom to disagree with our government, the freedom from a national religion, the freedom to pursue happiness, engage in business, capitalism, and leisure.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may God bless America.

55 Years Today!

I don’t know how some people can look into the future and just know how long something’s going to last.

When I bought my ’91 Chrysler LeBaron (Teresa calls it the LeBarely), I was hoping it would last forever. What was I thinking? It didn’t even make it to its 13th birthday. (It was probably that lead-foot that burned off the first four years of its life before I bought it)

My mom claims that the day Bob Darrow won the Spelling Bee at school, in a tense head-to-head spelling deathmatch between two 12-year-olds with everything on the line, slamming her into a defeated, miserable second place to his magnificent Grand Champion, he took first place in the Bee—and in her heart. She wrote in her diary that night “I’m going to marry Bob Darrow.”

Revenge? Don’t be so cynical. It was his reward.

She made a choice that day—set a goal, really—and married him when they were of age, March 19, 1949.

Fifty five years later, they are still married, and they are happier and more in love than two humans deserve to be. I visited their home two weeks ago, and spent many tearful hours talking over old times, asking my dad about his working life, old bosses, responsibilities, and his sense of life—all that stuff that was going on while I was too young to care but always old enough to consume.

We talked openly together about his Prostate Cancer and what that’s done to their lives. My mom’s handling it with the same calm approach she’s handled everything I have ever witnessed that’s come across her path. In a way, she’s in the driver’s seat, slamming the brakes to avoid disaster and instinctively putting her rigid, protective arm across the front-seat passenger to keep him from going through the windshield.

If I were my dad, I wouldn’t want anyone else driving.

Like anyone else I have talked to, asking them how the hell they made it, married to the same person for so long, they never talk of having avoided the big disasters that befall so many broken marriages—they endured them. My parents are living examples that love is not something you feel, it’s something you do, and that in the doing, the feeling lives, and it becomes the realest thing you can feel.

They have each other, and have the knowledge that they always have. Until death do they part.

I guess, by all accounts, Prostate Cancer isn’t all that bad. It’s not the death sentence other cancers are. As my dad says, everything eventually has a 100% mortality rate.

They focus on life. And realize, maybe like never before, though they have always acknowledged it—everyday is a gift from God.

And so today, I lift a virtual glass of champagne to my father and my mother

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Darrow

and simply toast: To Life!

Won’t you take a moment to e-mail them a toast?

I haven’t fallen that far from the tree

On the same day [yesterday] I wrote about praying for Michael Jackson, I get an e-mail from my brother John telling me my mom has an old letter from Marina Oswald, wife of the by-then deceased Lee Harvey Oswald.

Actually it’s a printed card that just says “Thank you” with her name.

Without knowing any of the facts, but knowing my mom, I surmise that after hearing that Mrs. Oswald had lost a husband shortly after America lost a President, my mom likely wrote her a letter expressing sympathy, and very likely a reminder that God loves her and that she should accept God’s love in this trying time.

It turns out my mom has another letter from Jackie Kennedy thanking her for her letter a few weeks earlier in which my mother expressed her sympathies for Jackie’s child that died.