Monday, September 29, 2008

A rainy weekend on the Cape

"The weather was not favorable for wayside views, but we made the most of such glimpses of land and water as we could get through the rain." -Henry David Thoreau from Cape Cod

And such was the nature of 
our return to Cape Cod, planned before the weather was known and the first without Laura.  But between and among the mists, showers, and downpours of a weekend with back to back separate wet weather systems, we made the most of it and found our own bright spots.  Like visiting with Ellen Hanson and family (Sean, Kathleen and Heather; triplets, and older brother Scott) at the Alex's Lemonade Stand held as part of their school's fall festival.  (Please click here for a  very nice article about Sean, Ellen and family and Alex's Lemonade Stand.)  Laura and all of us visited together on the Cape in June 2006.  The hydrangea that do so well on Cape Cod were coming into full bloom then.  Now in September, they have dried and reached their purplish autumnal tints. 

We stayed in the very old town of East Dennis close to Sesuit Harbor.  Outside our house were two very old Kwanzan cherry trees,  of course not in bloom, but could not help thinking Laura would have approved.  The home owners were undoubtedly fond of eating lobster with many items of decoration on the lobster theme along with prominently posted cooking instructions.  Suse was not amused having recently removed fish and seafood from her diet (out of conservation concerns.)

Our ramblings were within the scope of a few towns along 6A on the northern, bayside of Cape Cod.  We returned to places like Haine's Creek Beach where a winding stream enters the flats and where we once stood, Laura too, marvelling at nature, in strong wind and cold rain on a spring day.  Saw new places too like this view of the Brewster flats from the end of Sears Point Road.

Back at East Dennis, we took a beach walk before dinner and started walking out on the breakwater.  Soon a rain squall came up and someone thought they heard thunder.  Our raincoats seemed no match so we headed back.  We're obviously not as tough as the locals for we soon met a trio of friendly fisherman, heads tucked down against the rain, just heading out to fish from the breakwater.  Asked what they were fishing for, they shouted 'stripers!' and I thought they were just the sort of folk that Thoreau would have been delighted to meet.

Sorry the photos are out of order with the text.  They seem to appear in reverse of what is intended.  Shown above:  Tony going out the breakwater; looking east from Harborview Beach across the harbor inlet to Sea St Beach; me on the stairs to the flats from Sears Point; a sloop anchored in Haine's Creek near outlet to the bay;  Ellen, Sean, Kathleen, Heather, Scott and Mrs. Keenan at the fall festival;  Laura and Sean, Kathleen and Heather in 2006; our rental house with shell driveway and overarching Kwanzan cherry trees;  Laura with hydrangeas; hydrangeas in autumn tint; an example of the lobster motif.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Life imitates art (or tries to!)

On a fall day, Laura once sat for a few photos on the deck, giving limited indulgence to my attempt to get a few portrait like pictures.  I think I was trying to re-inact a hazy image in mind of Renoir's A girl with a watering can.  Didn't get the props right but like the photos anyway.  

It's a beautiful September day today.  The goldenrod on Kingsland Road near Griffiths Pond are a lovely sight to behold.  Scent of pine fills the air on a sunny stretch of Pepperidge Road.  A bicycle ride, some errands, and then like most Saturdays's going way back, dinner will be worked around Garrison Keillor,  A Prairie Home Companion, playing on various radios around the house, so as not to miss any, or in the car when out to pick up a takeout dinner, if that is our plan.  Not everyone in our family though, Laura included, had or has my perennial patience to hang in there for the outstanding musical numbers and memorable humor that reward the patient listener. And I seem to stay with the radio medium for Garrison Keillor, not having picked up his books, for fear the dark thoughts he throws in to his comedy mix might be harder to avoid.  At 8 PM, I might watch for the umpteenth time reruns of the British sitcom, Keeping Up Appearances, as I haven't tired yet of the caricatured characters, and having a few laughs is not a bad thing. 

News from the Hanson family on Cape Cod.  Next weekend there will be an Alex's Lemonade Stand at their elementary school's fall fair.
Please click here for a very nice article about Sean and all the family and the upcoming event.  
Sad news,  almost incomprehensible news, one year after Madison Swift of Massachusetts passed away from neuroblastoma, her 38 year old father has died suddenly, leaving Madison's mother and 5 year old sister, Laci.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Remembering Christi Thomas

Our thoughts are with the Thomas family as they pass the two year mark since Christi passed away.  I put together a little photo remembrance of Christi which we posted last year this time also. If this time of year wasn't hard enough, Christi's mom Angela is recovering from surgery and just two days ago one of her former students was killed in a car accident.  You can visit Angela's blog at the link under the NB families around the country section of this blog.

Christi at home in Ohio giving her cat Buttercup a ride in the pet trailer.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Innocent of the future

It brings an eerie feeling to come across this photo of young Laura and Suse visiting our cemetery when Laura was around 3  and Suse 6. They had gone there with Tony as he took pictures of the beautiful autumn scene around the church and cemetery as the sugar maples changed color. To think that Laura had actually visited the place that would become her final resting place after untimely death at the age of 12...  
These days I visit often.  It is so peaceful there.  The other day, the flowers at her grave did not need watering and I was in a bit of a hurry, but stopped anyway for a quick visit...and found two smooth rounded pebbles had been carefully added to the arrangement at her grave.  It turned out that just hours before Laura's dear friends brought these two stones to her, as mementoes from Cape Cod, a place Laura especially loved. 

Laura (in pink) and Suse contemplate a gravestone (photo from late 1990s.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bears around

For many years now, while their population has been growing in northwest New Jersey, black bears have been frequently sited around the Township environs.  Laura's earliest bear sightings went back to her preschool days, when a bear decided to crash their outdoor ice cream party at Mustard Seed School, sending all the children and teachers hurrying into the school. (yes, the bear got the ice cream.) During her RVS years, there were periodic bear sightings, and the "walkers" as opposed to the schoolbused children, had to stay back until the all clear.  Around our house they would pass by from time to time, crisscrossing the woods and wetlands on tracks and missions known only to them, and periodically open our garbage can and take a sack into the woods to glean a feast.  I can remember how Laura and all of us rushed to the window one morning in 2006 to watch one take a bag of garbage to his liking and make off with it.  I'm so glad Laura had that close, safe look.  Earlier this year, when lone bears looking for new territories would be expected, there didn't seem to be too many around, but lately numerous appearances of sows and cubs in our vicinity have made up for it.

A mother bear and cubs visited our neighbor two houses away about a week ago.  Photos by Scott Hendricks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

September scenes Boonton Township

Pumpkins growing in a neighbor's front yard and the delicate spires of the Blue Mist shrub.

Laura lived her entire life in the same house in Boonton Township.  A home loving person, Boonton Township and her school, Rockaway Valley School, were the centers of her world.  The scenes on Pepperidge Road continues to unfold in step with the seasons, and it is easy to imagine she would have been pleased with what she might see here right now.

Our thoughts are with all those whose lives have been greatly disrupted by Hurricane Ike in Texas, especially pediatric cancer patients. At Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, I read that last night the patients were going to be moved into the hallways during the storm to protect them from possible flying glass from windows suddenly breaking from high wind.  And, if the power stays out for long, the weeks ahead will no doubt be even tougher for children needing chemo, and blood and platelet transfusions.

What could it have been like to be right in the storm?  This is a blog entry from a journalist that gave a particular sense of what it could have been like.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Septembers past

September 2005
In the days leading up to surgery, a dinner out with Andrew and Emily at "Petaluma," steps away from the NYC Ronald McDonald House.  Laura liked the flaming desserts best of all!

September 2006
In the outpatient treatment area at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Laura was fashioning figurines.

September 2006
Enjoying a visit to the Red Panda at the Phildelphia Zoo.  This creature was the inspiration for one of her figurines

September 2007
We have been without Laura for nearly nine months.  The Friends of Laura Stiles team participates in the Parkway Run for childhood cancer research at CHOP along with thousands of walkers and runners.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembering September 11th

Above our Boonton Township September 11th memorial.  

It's been seven years gone now as we pause this coming day to remember September 11th.  It will be remembered in public memorials large and small and in the quiet thoughts of everyone who remembers where they were that day and shudders to recall it.  Our region is dotted with September 11 memorials, whether formal ones by counties or towns, or simple ones on hilltops which once held the towers in their vistas.  

There's a simple memorial at the top of The Tourne, noted hilltop of our area in the Tourne County Park.  Before September 11th, a visit to The Tourne used to mean walking to the top and seeing if the towers were visible in the distant NYC skyline.  

At the time of September 11th,  Laura was a first grader.  Had she lived she know doubt would have remembered all her life the times of September 11th.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A new endeavor

We love our caringbridge site for Laura but thought it would be great to have a blog where text and photos could be interspersed and commenters could include a photo of their own.  So we'll give it a whirl.  We just ask your patience while we get going.  New readers, please do check our caringbridge site at the above link for Laura's story and our journal, chronicling the struggle with neuroblastoma and ultimately the passing of a bright and gentle spirit, Laura Stiles, on December 22, 2006.

It was just 3 years ago when Laura age 12 was about to have surgery to remove her primary tumor at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York.   Just came across this photo taken in the days leading up to the surgery, which we spent in NYC, while Laura had pre-surgical testing and stem cell harvest.  We're in Toys R Us in Times Square.  Laura has just completed five cycles of very strong chemo and has lost all her hair, including if I remember correctly a lot of her eyelashes and eyebrows.  Laura got her Nintendo DS that day, affectionately to be known as simply the "DS," a device which was to be a steady source of pleasant distraction for her, during many hours in the months to come.    

Neuroblastoma happens sporadically without known cause in about one in 100,000 children.  Researchers, including two of Laura's doctors, Drs Maris and Mosse at CHOP, are just starting with new research published in 2008 to get a handle on the first ever few pieces of what is the complicated "perfect storm" of genetic events, as Dr. Maris called it, that is neuroblastoma.

  Readers should not assume our case represents the typical.  Neuroblastoma is usually diagnosed in much younger children.  Since Laura was an older child for neuroblastoma, diagnosed at age 10, there was the initial hope that the neuroblastoma would not behave as aggressively as it often does.But, as Dr. Kushner, her pediatric oncologist at MSK would say to me this year, looking back, her case, so resistant to treatments, never going into remission, was a case he saw as an outlier among all, I'm guessing the many hundreds of cases, he has seen.

We're thinking of our friend Erin Buenger in Texas who is in patient for chemo.  Please drop by and say hello!