Tech Death and A Visit Home

A few weeks ago, my precious portal to all forms of entertainment and my main connection to friends and family laptop would not start. It defiantly flashed a folder symbol with a question mark inside. If you are an Apple user, you know that this is a terrible sign, akin to Harry Potter seeing The Grim everywhere in book 3!

When I took it to the doctor Genius Bar here in Paris (next to the Palais Garnier!), I was told the harddrive, battery, and motherboard were toast. Both luckily and unluckily, I was headed back to the USA the week following this emergency event, so I decided to wait until I could buy a new computer with dollars instead of euros. It was lucky because I only had to wait a week to get back online, and it was unlucky because I had a week of vacation with only 2 hours of au pair work in the afternoon, no teaching, and NOTHING TO DO! Very little money either, so no all-night clubbing which would then allow me to sleep the days away and not need as much internet time.

It’s sad that people of my generation “can’t live” without the internet, so I set out to make us look better by trying (and failing) not to complain, reading lots of books and newspapers, exercising every day, and deep-cleaning my apartment. The week passed and I survived! Plus, when I got home and had my computer checked out again, it turned out only the harddrive was dead, so I only had to buy a new harddrive and not a whole new computer. Phew!

Long story short, that’s why I have not updated here since early February.

I haven’t written about the following topic here yet, but I’ve decided to share now: My dad has throat cancer. He gave me the news right before Christmas. I’ll be honest, it was a tough experience to go through so far from home. I was so scared and all I wanted to do was be with my family. All I could think was, WHY had I decided to stay in Paris over the holidays?

There was nothing to do but wait for him to start treatment, so I took a deep breath and kept living. One piece of advice given to me that I immediately embraced was that you are not a doctor (well, YOU may be, but I am not!), and since you can do nothing in terms of actually treating the cancer, you might as well do the only thing you can that will help: stay positive. I tried not to dwell on the fear of what was to come, and simply let my dad and family know that I would do what I could to help, even if it just meant providing distraction through emails and Skype conversations.

My dad started chemotherapy and radiation in early January. Soon after, it became clear that he and my mom would have to cancel their trip to come visit me. Instead, I went home for a week of my February vacation. I had seen my dad on Skype, so I knew that he would look different than I was used to, but it was still a bit of a shock to see him in person. Weight loss, hair loss, a feeding tube, bruises from the IV, burns from the radiation. Cancer treatment is brutal, but at least it works.

I had plenty of opportunities while I was at home to go out and do some shopping, see friends, eat, run and enjoy the California sunshine. But, I also spent time at home with my dad and took him to his appointments. Not surprisingly, he slept a lot, so I used the time to play on my mom’s iPad (addictive, people!) and bake! Even though he couldn’t eat, I thought maybe the smell of a baking cake might cheer him up. I made a recipe for Fresh Ginger Cake from David Lebovitz’s book, purely based on the fact that in the notes he mentions that it is one of his most-praised recipes. [And indeed, it was a winner! I am not posting the recipe here because I did not modify it at all, so you will have to look in the book if you want to make it.] When I finished and the cake was cooling on the counter, I don’t recall my dad saying anything about it. This was fine; I just wanted him to do what he needed to do to feel at least ok, which I think much of the time meant not talking and sleeping.

My dad had his last radiation treatment the day before I left. My mom and I went with him to his doctor’s appointment. His doctor spent much of the appointment lecturing him that he needs to eat and drink more so he can get nutrients. He looked sheepish, almost like a little boy being scolded, while she was talking. He spoke up to protest, “but I’ve been craving fruit, fresh fruit! I even tried to eat peaches but I just couldn’t.” Suddenly, his face lit up. “And my daughter made a ginger cake, my wife made a cherry pie, and I just wanted to eat them so bad.”

The doctor proceeded to spout a bunch of ridiculous ideas (something about blending up solid food, blegh) to help him get food down, but I was only half-listening. Seeing and hearing my dad speak longingly of baked goods and other food gave me hope that he will one day, soon, again be able to enjoy the pleasures of a healthy human life!

We think the tumor is gone, and in a few weeks his throat should be recovered enough to see for sure. Here’s to hoping!

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