June, 2012 Archives

Road To Nowhere

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June 22nd, 2012

Along about the time we saw the same country inn for the third time, we knew our route through the Canadian hinterlands needed a radical adjustment. I’m not saying the place wasn’t nice; the first time by we actually made a potty stop there and picked up a present for our 80-year-old uncle’s surprise party. […]

Along about the time we saw the same country inn for the third time, we knew our route through the Canadian hinterlands needed a radical adjustment. I’m not saying the place wasn’t nice; the first time by we actually made a potty stop there and picked up a present for our 80-year-old uncle’s surprise party. The second and third pass, however, began to get monotonous. It felt like we were stuck on a roundabout with Chevy Chase in that old European Vacation movie. “Look kids … Big Ben,” he said over and over and over again.

Do we dare risk the exorbitant roaming fees and switch on my phone, or should we just call it a night and stay at the by now all-too-familiar inn by the river? My uncle’s party won out and we made some calls and texts to our much wiser cousins. Although our final resting place, this motel with the secret underground entrance for mosquitoes, is a far cry from the gourmet B&B over in … well, somewhere.

But here’s the thing, that five hour excursion that swelled to eight plus hours (simply because we were warned about some supposed “construction”), was one of the best road trips I’ve had in a long time. My mother, my brother and my aunt-who’s-really-more-like-a-cousin made the trek fun, soulfully enriching and dare I say, exciting?

I think it’s partially because I just let go and went with the flow. The only agenda we had was to get to Tobermory, Ontario before sundown. And seeing as how we just passed the Summer Solstice, daylight was on our team. I drove the whole way with my three navigators offering various interpretations of what “turn right” means. We got here though, and that’s what matters.

Oh, and it was a blast. A random suggestion from my brother that we hadn’t been to a certain spot since we were kids led us to a beautiful lunch overlooking a Lake Huron sporting three or four different shades of blue just for the occasion. My bro paid for all of us so that made it even better. Meanwhile, the practical cousins got carryout Tim Hortons. They make sandwiches, eh?

My cousin/aunt filled us in on her conquering another round of cancer while my brother and I, survivors both, nodded knowingly. Lest you think the entire car was filled with bad-ass cancer killers, my mom had no war stories to share. That is until she reminded us she’s pre-leukemic and will soon be on medicine for the rest of her life. Boy, did we feel lousy for not letting her join our club originally. Well-played Mom, well-played.

I feel very close and intimate with some amazing people and good fortune has let me be related to them. Up here in faraway Canada, when the mosquitoes are thin enough to allow a wireless signal to sneak in, I notice my daughter back home has tweeted a mysterious, yet heartfelt family > everything. I don’t know what led her to tell the Twitterverse that family is greater than everything, but I agree without even knowing why.

Tomorrow is my uncle’s surprise party, then I hop in a car with the more responsible cousins and head back home. I’ll do my best to point out possible detours and maybe a long lunch somewhere along the road less traveled.

I’ll be home in either five hours, eight hours, or if I’m lucky, sometime by the Winter Solstice.

As our buddy Robert Frost said:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Don’t Touch That Dial

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June 13th, 2012

It’s a sad state of affairs when a fine, upstanding citizen like myself becomes known, more and more, for potty humor. I don’t know whether it’s appropriate or not to call my work “scatological humor” and I don’t feel like looking it up either. I’m pooped. Ugh, sorry. I tried explaining to the brilliant Meg […]

It’s a sad state of affairs when a fine, upstanding citizen like myself becomes known, more and more, for potty humor. I don’t know whether it’s appropriate or not to call my work “scatological humor” and I don’t feel like looking it up either. I’m pooped. Ugh, sorry.

I tried explaining to the brilliant Meg Cramer at Michigan Radio that until now, my biggest accomplishment as a man of letters was the story I wrote about my dog passing waste in the backyard. (If you clicked on that link, you’re part of the problem.)

We had just recorded a delightful five-minute piece about, ahem, urine and I was attempting to tell her that my writing abilities really do extend beyond bodily functions. She smiled and edged almost imperceptibly toward the door.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRadio.jpgClearly, she knew what she was getting herself into. To wrap up Michigan Radio’s Cancer In The Environment series, she wanted to look at the ways some people cope with their illnesses. Humor was my coping mechanism and in my defense, she was the one who chose the urine story, saying something like it would make her year to get a “golden shower” joke on the radio.

It seems this needs a quick disclaimer like they do on Car Talk: “Even though Diane Rehm will hang her head in shame if she hears my essay, this is Public Radio.”

The segment will air sometime in July and, believe me, I will send out every type of notification imaginable before it runs. I’ll even use Twitter, which I don’t always fully understand. But the latest follower of my tweets will already know about it. She made my voice sound like honey lavender on a warm scone, which is great unless you have a gluten allergy. Here’s what she unbelievably tweeted moments ago: “Just spent 30 hilarious minutes in the @MichiganRadio studio with @rcurtis #ILoveRadio”

I Love Radio too, Meg. Thank you so much for letting me “go public” with my story.

(Okay, I couldn’t stand it. Looking up “scatological,”
I find it’s only in reference to doodoo. Oh crap.)

Graduation Day

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June 9th, 2012

An anonymous banner went up on our porch while we were out, but Skye thinks she knows who done it.There’s a buzz in the house this morning, an energy. Maybe it’s the early morning caffeine my sweet wife and I snuck out for. Along the way, we picked up some plants from the megastore and […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcGraduation1.jpgAn anonymous banner went up on our porch while we were out, but Skye thinks she knows who done it.There’s a buzz in the house this morning, an energy. Maybe it’s the early morning caffeine my sweet wife and I snuck out for. Along the way, we picked up some plants from the megastore and came home to whispers and barking and in-laws and scurrying. I’ll take Graduation Day a thousand times over two years ago.

Two calendar years have flipped, exactly 731 days (counting Leap Day) have roared by since the moment the doctor told me 40% of my body was infested. That was a crappy day. Today is preparation, plans, planting, pictures … perfect. You’ll allow me the silly alliteration. I’m a bit giddy.

This month has sucked, in recent history. Three Junes ago I was forced out of my profession due to shrinking revenues, yet later on, my company’s CEO was paid 37 million to walk away. Then came leukemia, then last year my heart swelled to enormous proportions, thanks to a liter or two of extra fluid, heart juice.

Today my heart swells with pride. No trip to the ICU needed for that. Hugs heal.

I love all the whirl around me now. Girls have a way of preparing that boys have never known. Shower, shave, maybe deodorant and we’re good. It’s a different world for girls on a normal day. Big, special, grand days like this are something altogether different. I don’t even know how it’s relevant, but last night at midnight, my youngest was trying on my wife’s wedding dress.

We can all feel it. Change and new adventure have sent us engraved invitations. Something has clicked for the entire family and it’s palpable. Even though my daughter is walking across the dais, in some ways we’re all graduating.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcGraduation2.jpgLook out, this family just might have finally conquered June.

Relay

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June 3rd, 2012

Late in the evening, Relay For Life walkers blur past lit luminaria bags honoring those who have battled cancer. (photos by Rodney Curtis) The new pedometer app on my phone said I walked well over 50 miles at Relay For Life. Even though I’m committed to the cause, that had to be just plain wrong. […]

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRelayLuminaria.jpgLate in the evening, Relay For Life walkers blur past lit luminaria bags honoring those who have battled cancer. (photos by Rodney Curtis)

The new pedometer app on my phone said I walked well over 50 miles at Relay For Life. Even though I’m committed to the cause, that had to be just plain wrong. I think it took into account my evening break, when I drove to Clarkston and back for my cousin’s graduation party. I never knew there were aerobic benefits to driving a Prius.

My daughter Taylor is our new hero. She organized her Relay team, Rodney’s Runners, for the second year in a row and made a bunch of money for the American Cancer Society. An emotional speech she gave before the silent luminaria walk last night made all our eyes gush. Just being there, physically being there, was a great way to kick cancer in the rear (view mirror).

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRelayTaylorTalks.jpgTaylor explains how the struggle with my cancer affected her.Last year, a freak swelling of my heart-lining landed me in the hospital right when Relay was going on, throwing the girls back into thoughts of my mortality. This year, nothing was going to stop me from hanging out with Taylor’s team, walking laps, kicking around a soccer ball and cracking stupid jokes with them.

It’s tough explaining the mess of feelings I have about all this. I met Survivors yesterday who talked about food tasting better and animals looking cuter (seriously), but all I care about is my family. Returning them to a sense of normal, everyday stuff matters more than anything else. Yes, this dumb disease has battered and deep fried us. I have to accept that. But I hate the focus being on me and want my girls to think about regular teen girl stuff (Justin Bieber notwithstanding).

Although, there is a direct contrast to me wanting the focus to shift anywhere besides me. My family needs to go through this at their own pace. I’d be a total jerk if I forced them to do otherwise.

And hey, if you’ve ever had candles placed in a bag or two with your name on it, honoring your struggle, maybe you know the confusing emotions I feel. If you have, please tell me how I should feel. It’s at points like these in my life when I lift up my lens and use the camera as a shield or an artist’s palette. Words escape me.

It’s my job now to keep the yapping dogs quiet until tomorrow. After the 24-hour event, my exhausted ladies are just beginning to sleep, even though it’s after noon on Sunday. My daughter Skye even had a 24-hour band marathon the night before. Charity can be brutal.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcRelayRodneyBag.jpg_______________________________________________________________________________________

Would you like to use Rodney’s Relay photo?

Rodney Curtis’s long career includes many years as a professional photographer, photo editor and teacher of photojournalism. Since surviving cancer, Rodney has volunteered extensively with nonprofits helping individuals and families. Today, he is welcoming re-use of the top photo with this story.
Click here to download a high-resolution copy of that photograph.
Feel free to use it in your newsletter, blog, website promoting awareness of Relay events this year.
All we ask is that you credit any use of the photograph this way:
Photo by Rodney Curtis for www.SpiritualWanderer.com