Well, we hope you all had a great Halloween!
I don’t know how Mormon Mommy Bloggers do it. They churn out fluffy content day after day after day, even when they have nothing to say. They can do 10,000 words on a conversation with a stranger in the Costco parking lot. I stand in awe. I can only imagine the guzzling of Mt Dew Black Label that must happen to fuel the fingers.
Me? It’s like, uh, writer’s block? Five weeks without an update on the blog? I’m sure the lives of so many have been empty without these decidedly non-pithy updates on a bald seven year old’s life.
But sometimes, it’s like, what else is there to say? If you’ve read this exceptionally wordy blog over the past months, you’ve kind of got the gist of the story. Payson has Leukemia. It totally sucks. He’s doing great. We’ve learned a zillion things. We are still doing our best to live. He’s in the final phase (Interim Maintenance) of this active treatment part of the journey. He has four more hospital visits, including today, November 30. As of January 4th, Lord willing, he’ll move on to the Maintenance phase of his treatment – less frequent visits, less shockingly low numbers of good stuff in his blood, back to school full time, back to being told “no” on a more regular basis, less nachos from Maverik. Payson is rad, his people are rad, the world is good even amidst the worst stuff.
However, it also feels like updating this blog is a necessary part of the journey, like sharing some details of the experience matters because so many people have shared the burden of the experience with us. So, confoundit, we are gonna keep updating this thing as long as this little person has to go to Primary Children’s Medical Center and get shot up with stuff to keep him living. And, since it’s been five weeks since the last update, this one’s probably gonna be a doozy. If you read all the way to the end, I salute you. You’re a more patient being than I.
So, I read A Christmas Carol every year. It’s the best. It’s probably less total words than this blog post, although some of them are pretty weird. I love it. I’ve got a couple quotes from it that I think are applicable to Payson and his crew right now:
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
I cannot look back on the last seven months with anything but gratitude. I know that’s so weird. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and I wouldn’t ever want to live any moment of it ever again, but it’s been an amazing time of refinement and growth and perspective. And among the weight and darkness, there have been so many moments and days of joy and all the best things. It’s the opposition that really teaches us, and the crappy stuff makes us more able to experience the good stuff fully.
And Payson has become this incredible little man, this mixture of perspective and experience and childhood and annoying and scared and remarkably wise. He’s the epitome of laughter and good humour in the face of adversity. He shames me with his toughness and his faith, his hard-won seven-year-old understanding that disease and sorrow do not define us. Keep your chin up. Work hard and do your best. Face your hard stuff, it’s ok to be scared and sorrowful, but don’t wallow in it. Life goes in one direction, and there is absolutely joy in the journey.
I look back through pictures to include in these posts, and I’m always overcome with the laughter and good humour I see in them. Makes me think that things, even hard things, aren’t as hard as we think when we are stuck in the middle of them.
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
We continue, seven months after diagnosis, to be overwhelmed by the charity of others. It’s the greatest blessing of this whole thing. It’s so easy to get caught up in business and all the stuff we worry and fret and wear ourselves out with – our business. And so little of it matters. Mankind is our business, which has been shown to us by so many.
Like, for example, lunches delivered on looooooong treatment days:
And pig kicking pictures designed by rad neighbors:
And audiences willing to watch Payson get labs taken to give him support:
And chocolate caramel pies:
And trick or treat deliveries:
And “Let’s Kick This Pig” signs hung in front windows:
And visits from new baby members of the clan:
And pigs, so many pigs:
“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave…”
On November 6th, our friend and brother Scott Montgomery passed away. He was part of our family in a lot of ways. He died suddenly and peacefully, and we were wholly unprepared. His loss will be felt by all of us for a very long time.
Scott’s brother told me that Payson was one of Scott’s heroes, that Payson’s example was a source of hope and pride for him.
The whole experience of losing Scott is another hard lesson in a year full of them. We can’t quite make sense of it, we can’t quite believe he’s gone. And yet, even in the face of that great loss, there’s this fragile but unbreakable thread of hope, and this impossible to describe peace. Scott lived his life. He was an example of so many good things. There’s nothing that will fill in the hole that his passing left in the world.
The big lesson is that Leukemia, while scary and sucky and gross, isn’t the only thing in the world that’s scary and sucky and gross. There’s no guarantees for anything. And scary and sucky and gross is temporary, while mercy and love and joy are forever. But love your people today, like right now, because today, like right now, really is the only time you have.
We love you, Scott Montgomery. We will never forget.
And now, meaningless holiday stuff!
Halloween – Payson carved a pumpkin. His pumpkin carving skills are not what one would describe as “award winning.” However, the company was stellar, and the pumpkin seeds, while a total PITA to prepare, were super tasty.
We didn’t think he’d be up to trick or treating, but he ended up being jazzed about it, so we went out. He got seven full sizers in an hour of work. He chose a Snickers every time, which is totally ludicrous because everybody knows that a Snickers is the super healthiest of all of the candy bars and therefore partially gross. It’s basically a meal replacement bar. But he got seven, and, with his remaining energy, he came home and bartered with Bella’s friends like and Egyptian camel farmer. He ended up with eight full sizers. That’s a week of lunches.
The costume was Fester, because, you know, he’s bald. Most people thought he was a ghost or Voldemort, and to them we say, “get some culture, you mouth breathers.”
Thanksgiving – Pie breakfast with 20 pies and like a million of the best people who all dutifully washed their hands at the aggressive request of the Lady of the House and her loyal Farmboy.
Pace also went down’t the grand opening of the new Hale Center Theatre in Sandy, called the Taj Ma Hale.
Also, we spatchcocked a turkey on the smoker, which sounds and looks completely inappropriate, but I swear to you it’s worth the judgement of others and self shaming.
We also went and saw Wonder, which, whooooooooboy… That show totally wrecked the Lady of the House and her loyal Farmboy. I swear I never used to cry until this year, but I almost needed an IV of fluids after gushing like Iguacu falls for 90 minutes watching that show. Payson was unaffected, and had enough hydration left for a shot in front of a Christmas tree after the gig.
Christmas – We continued our Cyber Monday tradition of buying a Christmas tree and eating super healthy cancer fighting foods at Pace’s Dairy Ann. Yes, we still buy a live Christmas tree every year. We do this because we are not robots who have lost their humanity and are satisfied with the false affection offered by emotionally shallow metal and plastic fabrications of trees.
Payson created a lovely sunset (Chalk on Canvas, 2017) for his cousin Lydia. He also helped tie a bunch of blankets for Primary Children’s, which I think he did just because he thinks he might end up with one of them, but whatever.
Also, it’s almost time to go sing Christmas songs to members of the greatest generation. This was a Sunday morning rehearsal. These kids better not screw it up! We’ve got Christmas cheer to spread, Dammit!!! (sorry Wendy)
So, this rad guy Collin Kartchner, he has like a zillion Instagram followers, and he does kind things for other people just because he can, and he’s one of those people who you’re not sure you want to meet because you don’t want to be reminded how uncool you are in comparison. Anyway, Collin is doing this rad fundraiser for Payson and a couple other cancer kids on December 11, and he’s doing it because he’s kind and he can. It’s an incredible thing for a total stranger to do. You can see more details on Collin’s Instagram, if you so desire. And this is Payson doing his best Collin Kartchner.
And finally, do you see this fuzzy stuff right here? This is hair. Growing back in. On his head. Up yours, Leukemia!