4 October 1999
sung Gregorian by the monks at compline
Out the corner
of my eye
the fire tower
which rustled once when this was shore
You are here
September 30, 1999
Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky
I'm much on the road since we are back from Hungary. Last week preaching and speaking in seminaries of Michigan and Indiana. This week in Kentucky. A good friend staying with Jeanie pulls the phone into the other room, drops her voice, and suggests it's time for me to be done with the road work. She may be right, but I'm not fully convinced. I can't hear it yet in Jeanie's voice on the line, so strong, or see it in her face across the table, so completely herself. Perhaps it is another cycle of denial, but if so I'm happy in it.
How's Jeanie? A neurologist declares her this day, "clinically quite good." My very sentiments, more or less. At present she's working on and off at the December issue on "healing from human evil." And she marked up this letter, correcting for typos and improvements.
The Budapest trip went well. We stayed in an apartment just across from the largest synagogue in Europe, entranceway to the ghetto in the thirties and forties. A Rosh Hashanah crowd overflowed into the street. Even went to a Klesmer concert there. Its onion-topped towers across the roofs made our kitchen window view an easy place to pray.
Treatment, especially, went very well - with the doctor coming to our flat daily to build up the injections. (This virus, by the way, functions differently than I last described. It is not an immune system marker and enhancer, but instead works genetically to alter tumor cells, "allowing them to die," as it were).
Through the course of things, Jeanie felt fine enough (with appropriate mild fevers) that we were able to get around the city in vacation-like forays to castles and Danube boatrides. The girls came home with chess sets and secret-keyed jewelry boxes from the tented vendors. Lydia, who was the best street bargainer of our lot, was also unaccountably astonished when everything was in Hungarian instead of English. Lucy kept a daily journal answering questions put by her teacher. We even got my Mom to Salzburg on an Austrian overnight.
I weathered the stress of logistical anxiety, arranging hedges against every possible medical crisis in a foreign system. In the end, as a Vonnegut character says upon returning from a free trip to the Chronsynclastic Infindibulum, "Everything was wonderful and nothing hurt."
What we hadn't foreseen was how complicated and tricky it would be to bring back a non-FDA-approved treatment into this system. We'd gone with the blessing of our oncologist, who signed off on papers of non-objection and post-return monitoring, so we didn't imagine how difficult it would prove to acquire basic services and materials (like syringes and ports and the necessary orders which go with such devices). In the interim we've had to scramble for a fall-back and less efficient way of delivering the vaccine, as we figure a way around the barriers. And lots of this figuring has been managed while I am roadbound or borne by Jeanie and friends.
The other night we had a gathering of folks from around the Worker to think about logistical support in the next several months. What a wondrous circle of friends we are granted (including you, dear readers, at a distance). Food came in the door like a potluck unannounced. It felt more like a party or a prayertime than a planning session. I guess we go forward in a mix of all three, and in gratitude for each.