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Monday, March 5, 2018

A tale of two sisters,

in which it has now crushingly come to pass that I have outlived both of my daughters. Updated.

April 29th update: Danielle slipped away peacefully Friday night at home.

Sissy and Danielle, high school years in Knoxville.

I have a lot of shortcomings. Failing to be a consistently devoted father is not among them.

The initial backstory on my salt & pepper girls (from an essay on another of my blogs):
"The year is 1969, the place, suburban Seattle. A young couple chafes within the throes of an ill-advised (and ultimately doomed) marriage. They have an infant girl, on whom the young father joyfully dotes. The one unequivocally bright spot. Parenthood, at least, suits him, so it seems.

The young wife announces one day that she is again pregnant. But, while the husband is thrilled at the news, she exudes an inexplicable anxious and distant air. In the subsequent weeks, her smoldering anxiety morphs into a controlled state of cornered panic, and the devastating truth must finally be aired one night; she had had a recent transient sexual dalliance, and this unwanted pregnancy is almost certainly the upshot. To make matters even more complex, the cuckolding paramour is a black man (this couple is white).

Thermonuclear agonies ensue, regarding which, words utterly fail.

The young woman is beyond frantic to obtain an abortion (circumstances being exacerbated by the fact that her own father is an overt racist), but, this being an era prior to Rove vs Wade, abortions are proscribed by law in Washington state. Her subsequent attempts to procure one illegally fail, and she realizes she will have to carry this fetus to term.

She is then advised by state social services agencies that she may indeed relinquish the newborn sight-unseen for adoption, and wishes to opt for that alternative to end this nightmare, however imperfectly. This, though, requires the husband's written assent, which, for reasons not entirely clear to him, he declines to provide. In part, one can safely assume, hoping against hope that this is all a cruel, horrific dream, and the child will in fact prove to be biologically his.

An uneventful delivery obtains in the hospital in Renton in July of 1970, a 7 lb. 6 oz. healthy baby girl. The young man hesitantly approaches the glass partition of the nursery unit. The moment of truth in a glance: 'Nope, well, this is definitely not your child.' A fleeting, wracked feeling of being summarily dropped down an open elevator shaft gives way within seconds to a subsequent flustered internal flurry: 'Now what? Whatever will become of this child? None of this shit is her fault...'

He turns and heads down the hall to the office, whereupon he signs the requisite parental paperwork. He will be her "father." Not even legally her "adoptive father," simply her father, DNA be damned. His bigoted father-in-law be damned. Subsequent hushed gossip and furtive glances within his social cohort be damned.

Fast forward four years to a Clark County, Washington courtroom. The young man is granted an uncontested divorce, along with sole custody of his two girls. The henceforth ex-wife does not attend the hearing.

Fast forward yet again. Knoxville, Tennessee a decade later, a dining room discussion ensues during which the younger daughter learns for the first time the full story. "Thanks, Dad, you saved my life."

They laugh. It is good."


The foregoing is no mere illustrative fictional anecdote conjured up for emotional impact. I am that father.
Seattle, 1974
Knoxville, 1980

 More on our Knoxville years.

Twenty years ago this July 1st, we lost Danielle's elder sister to cancer at the end of an excruciating 26-month ordeal. I wrote extensively about that. Still seems like last week in many ways. The original title was "One in Three," which no longer works, given that this household is now "batting a thousand" in the cancer department. I spent most of 2015 dealing with non-life threatening albeit serious enough prostate cancer, recounted here.

Then, on March 29th, 2017, Danielle was unceremoniously apprised of her staggering diagnosis of Stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer. It's "Three in Three" now at our house.

This is gonna take a while. Stay tuned. I have to also try to keep up with KHIT topical stuff ongoing as time permits.


We've had a disconcerting week. Hospice time is here. No more chemo. Wednesday night CT scan and labs during a 10-hour ER stint were dismal.

I did this "selfie" Friday night on the couch in the family room. What a year.

The home page of the website I'd established for her.

Such a loss of talent and humanity.

Time may be very short. We're a bit overwhelmed today.


Hospice (in-home) is now fully in place. Danielle's cognitive function has improved (waning of "chemo brain"), and her pain management regimen seems adequate at this point.

Day by day now.


Not much change. Danielle is alert, but sleeps a lot. We've had to increase her pain meds a bit.

We've had a houseful this week, which has been good but a bit chaotic.

Ancillary caregiver duty:

Our son Nick found this dog running loose out in the rain one night on Route 84 in the delta west of Sacramento in early January while he was here for work (he's based in Baltimore, and was overseeing the startup of their new facility in Sacto).

No chip, no tags, piece of dirty knotted rope for a "collar." We alerted all of the shelters of possible jurisdiction with the particulars and a photo. No response.

Chocolate lab mix, 80+ lbs. of exuberant "puppy" (and amazingly strong). The most amiable dog I've ever seen. Took him to my vet to be checked out, got him a rabies shot and tag. Estimated to be about 2 yrs old, 3, tops. We named him "Ranger." He has chronically infected ears. I am now in four vet trips and about $1,250, and have to give him antibiotic drops in his ears twice a day and an earwash solution 1x/day between the antibiotic doses.

Whatever. Sweet dog.

Nick will be here tomorrow for more work at the new site. I'm gonna have to bust his chops over "his dog."

Below, L to R, Keenan (our grandson), Danielle, and Nick. The boys shaved their heads in chemo solidarity last time Nick was here.


Updated my iPhone wallpaper.

No change in her condition, really, other than more weight loss and increasingly unsteady when standing. She's been up all day in the family room on the leather love seat. Wanted to watch the news. We watched together for a couple of hours. She particularly digs Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC (as do I).
We had a great (if painful) Father-Daughter iPhone video interview today wherein I queried Danielle as to to some loose hanging "final wishes" details. It was good. I will not be sharing that at this point.
I have to give major thanks to all who have generously contributed to Danielle's YouCaring fund -- especially her close friend Mina, who set it all up.


We're now four weeks into home hospice care. I'm not sure there will be four more. The hospice team (Kindred, a Kaiser contractor) is fine. We are now pretty much 24/7 "on call" here at the house. We have a wireless "baby monitor" installed, from Danielle's downstairs bedroom to our upstairs bedroom. We've had to respond to it multiple times at odd hours during the nights of early morning.

The circle of life.

More to come...


  1. I just wanted to say, not enough words can express for this sad news about Danielle. I went to high school with her. She is a sweet lady and I know she has been battling this the best she can. I am a proud supporter for Danielle. I'm a survivor of cancer, non-hodgkins lymphoma cancer stage 2 in which was curable after undergoing 6 chemo treatments. But I know with what she has is far more worst than anything and I know she has fought and fought. You all are in my heartfelt prayers. It saddens me to see her like this. Cancer can be so evil. :(

  2. I'm so sorry to hear of Danielle's illness. I remember her fondly. She was in my art class at South-Young High School and was a very talented young lady. She edited an entry for a video contest for a new soft drink that featured Johnny Knoxville (then classmate P.J.) and won 1st place in the State. I think everyone on the team got a Sony Walkman. Although that was a long time ago, I remember her talents and drive to do her best at everything she attempted. I will continue to pray.

  3. I will keep you and your family in my prayers for healing. Thank you for your courage. Love and peace, Christopher

  4. You're all in my thoughts and heart Bobby. Such beautiful kids and OF COURSE you're totally her father. Love trumps biology any time

  5. Sometimes it's all too painful.
    You remind me of the character in Kurosawa's film "Dodes Kaden," the one with the group of mismatched children at home who he all treats the same. I empathize because my wife is living with stage three melanoma, and is trying hospice as practiced Down South. Thanks for the encouragement through action.