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Someone once said the first night is always the hardest and, god save me, i feel like i have been through hell and back and i have been here for less then 24 hours. If it wasn't for the fact that the airlines messed up my ticket, double booked my seat, lost my luggage, and had me run from one side of DIA to the other in less than ten minutes to make my connection... i would start to think that the gods above didn't want me to take the trip. Then, I show up and get stuck in rush hour orlando traffic and it takes two hours for me to get to my brother's house... only to have him have an "episode" within the first couple hours of being here. (FYI -"Episode," is code for anything from a temper tantrum to a seizure in this household... and this time i am using it to describe a seizure.) I swear, I have never been so terrified, and yet feel so useless, all at the same.

God, when i saw how frail my big brother is and had him laughingly show me the 21 staples in his skull, I thought to my self... "how in the hell did you think that you could show up and handle this?" Then the night fell and things went from bad to worst. Apparently when one has a blood sugar level over 400 and has chemo wafer releasing chemicals in the brain, it creates one to wake up in a state of unholy rage. Imagine two rabid pit bulls going after each other in alley and that would begin to describe what it is like to have your aggressively drunk sister-in-law and chemically induced brother attacking each other in the middle of the night. And my mama wonders why I hid all the guns in the house. I can see why my nephews try the damnest to runaway from the house and my sister-in-law's mother sits out back and smokes up all the time. The worst part, oddly enough, for me is not the bitter anger and violence... growing up in my household you learn how to handle that... it was the sobbing and brokenness of my brother afterwards that ripped my heart into tiny little pieces. I just held onto him while he sobbed into my shoulder and i just didn't know what to do or say. I don't care who you are... nothing in life prepares you for sll this crap. And then people say to me, well be strong leo. things will be ok, i want to give them the one finger salute... but of course i don't because god knows i don't mean it.

And the best part is that they want to deliver my luggage at 4am... 4am? whatever i did to piss off the airplane gods, i am sorry. I am pretty sure it wasn't intentional. Can't you cut me some slack just this one time... Well, I am going to go check on the bull dogs and then pop one of my sister-in-law's anti-anxiety pills that she refuses to take and knock myself unconscience for a few hours.

God, this family needs a miracle right now... and you know i am not talking about my brother's cancer. Please don't let us rip each other and the family apart. I can't handle this alone...

Chapter Two: "Hang in there, kiddo"

From: DeWinter, Leo
Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 10:44 PM
To: Solo, Hans
Subject: "Hang in there, kiddo"

Dear Solo,

Since I can’t seem to be able to form basic sentences without crying or yelling at someone, I thought I would write you instead of call. :) Just to state for the record, I don’t want/need a response to what is written below that is more than a “hang in there, kiddo.” (Which is why you are the perfect candidate for the task. :) ) I just need to know that I am not shouting at a blank wall all the time, you know?

Its 10pm and yet here I am still staring at a blank computer screen trying to will myself into concentrating long enough to the tasks at hand to get my work done so that I don’t feel guilty for leaving piles of unfinished business at the office. I keep telling myself all I need is 30 minutes of straight uninterrupted work time, but I can’t seem to concentrate long enough to even finish writing my “to-do” list. I suppose I shouldn’t have gone to the American Cancer Society webpage and looked up questions to ask my brother’s doctors… but I really did have all these good intentions of putting a little binder of “resources” together to bring with me to Florida so I am prepared. Yet, all my “research” accomplished was to make me want to go home, tuck myself under my comforter, and cry. I couldn’t even talk myself into going to the hospice webpage. I don’t think I am strong enough yet to want to actually read up on preparing for my brother’s death.

Wow. Ok. There goes the “d” word. At least that is what my family calls it these days. As they are the masters of denial, you can imagine how much they want to discuss the “d” word. I feel like I am always the one forced to rain on everyone’s optimistic parade when I tell them that John needs to prepare for the worse… and get his financial affairs and preparations in order… and then I get yelled at for “being morbid.” But then they go and say stupid things to each other because they don’t know how else to deal with what is going. The new rumor is that my sister-in-law is trying to cancel all my brother’s doctor’s appointments because she has decided that it isn’t cancer, but an ulcer. Granted that is bad enough, I wanted to reach through the phone and smack my father today during our daily “family council” when he accused my sister-in-law of trying to kill my brother for his life insurance policy. (sigh…) You can imagine how well that went over… [I guess this would be a good time to insert a joke about levelheaded dewinters, but I don’t have the energy.] … it almost was as bad as the 6am drunk phone call I received yesterday morning from my sister-in-law. I don’t know what made me more pissed, the fact that I went to bed at 4am and was too exhausted to hang up the phone like I should have or that she was drunk at 9 in the morning.

At least today the weather seems to match my mood – violent rainstorms. When I left the house this morning it was a beautiful sunny morning, and of course I left my umbrella sitting at home. By the time I walked home this afternoon, I was soaked through my jacket and my clothes. But after hearing about my cousin’s diagnosis, I didn’t seem to mind as much. In fact, I took the long way home. I swear the slower I walked, the harder it rained. At some point, realizing I was soaked through, I looked up at the sky and mumbled, “Is that all you got? Can’t you rain any harder?” What a mistake that was… I swear at that moment the floodgates of the heavens opened and dumped right over me. That’s the last time I decide to play devil’s advocate with the weather.

Leo

More sad news...

I was just told that earlier this week my cousin, Toni, was diagnosed with advanced terminal lung cancer... it has spread to both her lungs. The doctors have given her 4-6 weeks maximum to live. To be perfectly honest, with everything going on with my brother, I don't think my system can even take this in right now. I spoke to her on the phone last week to tell her what was going on with my brother and she told me she thought she had pneumonia and should go see a doctor about it. I wish I had something witty or insightful to add... but I am too overwhelmed to say anything more.

Chapter One: An Odd Request

From: DeWinter, Leo
Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2006 6:28 PM
To: Solo, Hans
Subject: an odd request

Dear Solo,

Today, after a lot of thought, I withdrew from some of my classes and filed the paperwork required to take a leave of absence from work. It hit me this morning that I am leaving next week to say good bye to my big brother. (wow, I can’t even type that sentence without wanting to put my head down and cry.) I know that it will not be an easy journey for me to travel… particularly because my sister-in-law has decided to hide herself behind a constant consumption of whiskey and has lost her mind, part of my job will be to physically restrain her and take her into a clinic for detox, as my brother and my nephews seem unable to handle her by themselves. My family has called on me specifically to be a pillar of support, strength, compassion, and tough love… and I know it is going to be one of the hardest roads in life I have ever been asked to travel. And I am bloody scared... and because of that alone I need all the support I can rally.

In all that happened last weekend, I suppose there have been a lot of things left unspoken between you and me for various reasons. And, unfortunately, I don’t think I have the emotional capacity right now to contemplate those issues. However, I do want to thank you for handling the whole awkward mess called last weekend with more grace and understanding than I would have previously anticipated. To be perfectly honest, I don’t understand why you don’t run for the hills and not want to deal with me and my crazy crew of “bodyguards” that I call my best friends again… so thank you. You are a greater man than I think you give yourself credit for.

On the other hand, I am kind of jealous that I am not the one who was able to act out and get rid of some of these emotions stirring inside… but I am sure that when this is all over I will have plenty of time and space to let lose of some the tight reign of control that is holding me together at the moment... and I will get my due of screaming, kissing, and vomiting in good time. :)

But seriously, considering the current events in my life, one may argue that the drama of last weekend is of little importance on the larger scale and isn’t worth the time and energy to worry about it. But perhaps it is for those same reasons that I need the strength, honesty, and guidance your friendship provides in the next couple of weeks. So perhaps you may think this is an odd request, but I hope you won’t mind me using you as a lifeline of sanity for the next little while… as my family is too stricken with grief and overwhelmed by everything to be anything logical or sane at the moment. I know that you are busy preparing for your brother and cousins to visit, and the last thing I want to do is take time away from that as I know how important spending time with your family really means. So I will apologize in advance for any burden I have been or will be in the near future. I don’t even myself know what this request means… but the idea that you are only a phone call or email away is enough to make me think that I can handle whatever is thrown at me in the near future. So please let me know if this is too much, as a friend, of me to ask of you. I have always been grateful for your honesty and openness in these things.

As Always,
Leo

DAMN IT ALL!!!

Earlier this evening my brother was diagnosed with Level 4 Cancer of the Esophogus. The doctors believe that the cacner originated in his esophgous and spread into the Lymph glands, causing the tumor in his brain and, quite posibly, other areas. The survival rate for cancer of the esophogus in stage 4 is 3%. However, the doctors want to pursue more testing before they recommend any treatments or give an official prognosis.

As you can imagine, this is quite overwhelming news. I need to look into seeing if I can get time off work and school to fly out to see him.

updates...

Update: The doctor's postponed the surgery until Friday morning due to some complications. I guess in these things all one can do in these situations is be patient. My brother made it through the surgery with "flying colors." The surgeons were able to remove all of the tumor and clean up the bleeding. As this was a very risky procedure, there is a reason to celebrate.

Unfortunately, the doctors are 95% sure that the tumor is cancerous and did not originate in the brain. Due to this, my brother will be undergoing a bunch of tests to find out where the cancer originated and if there are any cancerous cells in his spine.

I can't believe it is the c word we have all been dreading.

Happy Birthday to me...

"There is no use trying, said Alice; one can't believe impossible things. I dare say you haven't had much practice, said the Queen. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast..."
~ Lewis Carroll

birthday wishes...

I found out this morning that they found a tumor in the right frontal lobe of my eldest brother. They think that it is causing bleeding, which has led to the stroke and seizures. The doctors immediately scheduled him for surgery to stop the bleeding and remove the tumor. He postponed the surgery long enough for my parents to fly in and will be going under the knife tomorrow. Because of the location of the tumor, it is a risky procedure.

To be honest, I am scared. But as I went through a similar situation with my father in 2002, I know the only thing you can do in these situations is patiently wait and see… which with my family, I have decided, is probably better done with me here in Berkeley. (So my birthday dinner tomorrow night is still on… :) )

My birthday wish this year, however, is that the tumor isn’t cancerous, that they will be able to easily remove it, and that my brother will have a speedy recovery. In the mean time, I appreciate all the love and support you have all given me the past few weeks. It’s meant more than I could ever put into words to say…

Leo

A Night at the Roxbury Party...

A Night at the Roxbury

 Host: Motley Crue at 1740 Arch - Shikha, Leo, Vivien, Rima, Dave, Hendrik, Bala, Hillary, Lydia
Location 1740 Arch Street
When Saturday, March 18, 9:00pm
Remember the 80's? Even if you don't remember (or don't wish to), join the crew of 1740 Arch for a blast to the past with a Night at the Roxbury. Relive the decade when Nerds and Kool-Aid were considered a healthy snack, leg warmers and side-ponytails were totally sexy, Michael Jackson was still human (and talented), and the Brat Pack and John Hughes reigned the silver screen. Come dressed in your favorite 80's garb, there'll be door prizes for those authentically attired throughout the night. See you all there!

- Shikha, Leo, Vivien, Rima, Dave, Hendrik, Bala, Hillary, and Lydia

GUEST LIST   Who's Coming?
    98  24  19  122 
                          
"Noone puts Baby in the corner..." (Attending) 98
                           "Never say never whatever you do..." (Undecided) 24/122
                          "Be excellent and party on dudes..." (Declining) 19

PHOTOS: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12634158@N00/sets/72057594085805908/
    

More than not a girlfriend...

As it is st. patty's day, I thought I should follow the heritage of the tale-spinning Irish and tell you a little story... Several people have told me that one cannot tell a story without bringing in the past. However, I feel that this story doesn't need a past... as much as it currently doesn't feel like it has a future. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Once upon a time there was a girl. She is a normal American girl in many ways... she is witty, smart, enjoys a good steak and dark beer, and slightly overweight. Or at least she is conscience about the fact that she seems to have gained back her "baby fat" and feels larger then she probably should as every time she goes shopping she has difficulty finding things in her size as she is surrounded by petite Asian girls.

As most single girls in their mid to late 20s, she tries not to blame herself for the fact that she doesn't have any prospectives for the future, but often finds herself saying things like she "doesn't want to settle," or she "doesn't have time right now for a relationship," or best of all, she "isn't living in the right continent for the type of guy she is looking for." Despite all this, however, she often finds that she has several gray level friendships with those of the male gender. Which leads us to the boy... as we all know that a boy must be involved.

This girl, when at parties, would be forced to introduce this boy as "a good dear friend," for lack of any other term. But amongst her closer friends she often called the boy her "not-boyfriend," for although the fact that he called her often, took her out to dinner and office parties on a regular basis, and often would be found pouting when the girl was caught flirting with other guys... made it very clear at every opportunity to tell people he was not her boyfriend. And although his actions said otherwise, the girl gave up hope ever being more than "not his girlfriend," and left things in a comfortable gray for she truly did care quite deeply for the fellow, even thought she would never admit it.

Unfortunately, when things are left in shades of gray there was always bound to be crossing of the invisible lines by both parties... which in the end would produce the same results... the boy would have the need to make it clear he wasn't interested in a serious relationship and would cause the girl to tell him to stop trying to break up with her when they are clearly not dating. As you can imagine, after several years of conversations like this, the boy started to become presumptuous and the girl felt quite redundant.

This leads us up to a recent rainy night in San Francisco. The girl, a little down about a run of bad luck inside her family, decided to cheer herself up with some old fashioned retail therapy. As it was a Saturday night, it didn't come as much of a surprise when the boy called and asked if she wanted to join him and his colleagues for dinner. One who truly appreciated an occasional nice dinner out on the town and needed a distraction from worrying about her family, took the boy up on his offer and soon found herself seated at a nice rooftop restaurant, surrounded by consultants, with the whole skyline of SF to distract her. After several glasses of sangria, and many consultant jokes later, she let the boy talk her into paying for her meal and further more, taking her out dancing to their favorite club.

Unfortunately, time at the club went too quickly and she realized that her chariot home... the good old BART service, stopped running at 12:30 and so she had to run or be forced into the awkwardness of spending a night with the boy. (Which, in an old fashioned bout of polite behaviour, the boy and the girl made a silent pack at the beginning to never cross the lines of physical contact except while dancing. Which, much like the times of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, cast a romantic glow to the nature of their friendship, but made things ever so awkward when forced to spend the night with each other.) Ever being the gentlemen, the boy and his colleague decided to escort the girl to the BART, after their many protests and offers for the girl to spend the night in one of their guest rooms. However, in the midst of walking to the girls chariot, the boy’s colleague mysteriously found an excuse to leave and left the couple happily drunk, dancing through the rain and taxi cabs towards their destination, smearing all the gray. At some point, for which neither of them could later explain, the boy grabbed the girl’s hand and refused to let it go.

Looking up at the boy, with rain dripping off his nose, she couldn’t help but laugh and fall in love with him all over again… much to her own chagrin. But what happened next surprised her most of all… the boy turned and said, “you know that there are two types of guys in this world. The type of guy who knows what he wants and immediately goes and takes it. And then there is the type of guy who waits, and waits, and waits, and thinks about it, and then waits some more until it is too late to do something about it…”

At which point the girl finds herself standing at the door to the chariot and the boy has tightened his hold on her hand… and so she responds, “Perhaps he may be too late… but he will never know until he takes the chance…” To which the boy starts to say something, but is interrupted by a loud announcement over the speaker that said, “Last call for the BART to the east bay. This is the last train out this evening; the train is leaving in less than one minute. Last call…”

For which the girl looked at the boy and the boy looked at the girl… and then he dropped her hand, kissed her on the cheek, and pushed her towards the train saying, “You got to go… “

And the girl in a weak confused protest started to say, “but…” and then changed her mind and said, “good night and sweet dreams…” kissing him back on the cheek, and then stepped on the train while the doors closed behind her. That night, the girl fell asleep to sweet dreams of the boy and regrets for taking the train for she knew in the new dawn that everything would go back to the same gray as before. But, she tells herself, that she will survive whatever is in store for no other reason but that one small moment of glimmering hope that perhaps she could be more than not his girlfriend…