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Timeline: 2000 or so
I’m mostly telling the story of Jane’s final year here, but you have to know the context in order to fully understand it. A lot of folks never really knew how long Jane was fighting this. And there are other details that muddle around in the story as it works in my head.

Something to keep in mind is that the very idea of Jane getting *sick* was kind of shocking to us. She’d always been the healthy one: aside from a bout of pneumonia many years ago, she’d almost never been ill for our first 10+ years of marriage. Her family was very long-lived, and her constitution was strong; I was the one who tended to come down with miscellaneous minor illnesses. So it weirded us out a fair bit when she stopped being quite so invincible.

We weren't on LJ yet at this point, so this is just a couple of anecdotes from memory.

Dec 31 1999 -- Millennium Eve. Jane and I spent the evening out at First Night in Boston, watching as the Y2K Bug utterly failed to destroy the world.

It was a generally good evening, but quite notable for me as a milestone. I was 35, and that night was struck by the age. I’ve always been a deep fan of Dante, and remembered the commentary in one of the translations that the Divine Comedy takes place “midway through life’s journey” -- which is a shorthand way of saying when he was 35, since the canonical lifespan was considered to be 70.

It didn’t change anything significantly, but I remember it as the first time I remember feeling not entirely young -- reminiscent of Tom Lehrer’s “When Beethoven Mozart was my age, he had been dead for three years”. And while it has little to do with Jane’s story per se, it fits there in my head, thematically joined whether I like it or not.

~2000 -- I suspect most people had no idea how far back this went, and I confess I don’t remember exactly when it started. But it was somewhere around 2000 that Jane had her first lumpectomy.

Of course, at the time, we weren’t using the word “cancer”. This was a “cyst”, and we had reasonable hopes that it was a benign one. So she treated it in a very matter-of-fact way: a simple outpatient procedure with little fuss. She and I were always a bit conscious of it, but I don’t believe she told many people about it.

Somewhere in there -- I think a year or two later -- came the fibroids. Again, most people didn’t even know about this, but she went through a while of gradually growing pain. Finally came the day where it became unbearable: I believe she put it as, “Just give me a knife and I’ll cut them out myself”. It was the first time I’d ever seen her cry from pain, and it was scary as hell. Suffice it to say, an emergency hysterectomy followed, the beginning of us getting to know the ER at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

We never really talked about that much. Neither of us was deeply troubled by it: neither had been desperate to have children, and we’d been tacitly making a decision by not making a decision up until then. Still, there was something just a tad unsettling about having the decision taken away from us like that. I can’t say I regret it: I’ve never been comfortable with children, and I believe Jane’s death would have utterly destroyed me if I’d had to be taking care of kids through it. But it does occasion some wistfulness, thinking about the might-have-beens...

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I still clearly remember visiting Jane in the hospital when she had the hysterectomy. There was the love and happiness I felt when her roommate said "Jane told me about you - she said you were just like a sister." Then there were the tears and the hugs when she said "Deciding not to have kids is very different from having the choice taken away from you permanently." I told her she'd always be an auntie to any kids I'd have. Of course it's not the same as having her own, but perhaps eased a tiny bit of pain and gave her something to look forward to.

A few years later she sat vigil by my bedside while I was in labor.

And one of the next times I visited her in the hospital after she had surgery, I had baby Z with me.

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Sympathies. Yes, recent years have included a lot of hard reminders of mortality for all of us...

I never thought I would be grateful when that choice was taken from me, when that option of having a child or children was no longer available. I was not, but we accept what we have no choice but to accept.

I met Brian when I was 44 and already in the throes of "the change." Very early on he said he was reluctant to go out with me because he already had three children, wanted no more, but did not want to deprive me of the opportunity. What a sweet man. I told him that ship was sailing even as we spoke, though I would have loved to see a child with his eyes. His reaction to my words echoed my reaction to his. We were falling in love with each other there and then.

You had many years together, more than we had, anyway. I hope those memories will continue to carry you through this time. The second anniversary for me is tomorrow. This fellow traveler salutes you.

Re: 35. Know the feeling, which I've now had twice. My first one was at 25, which, since he died just after his 50th birthday, was middle age for my father, although he didn't know it. Second was a bit over a year ago, when I reached the point where I'd outlived him.

Small nit; pretty sure it was Mozart, not Beethoven, particularly since Beethoven lived to be 56 as opposed to Mozart's 35, just shy of 36.

Argh -- yes, you're absolutely correct. Must listen to my Tom Lehrer discs again; clearly, I've been neglecting them...

About feeling old at 35 ...

My father died at age 33; his father died (in his 40s, I think) back in 1914! When Harriet and I got married, she always kind of expected she'd be a young widow at some point in her 30s. When I didn't die in my 30s (or 40s or 50s), it took quite a readjustment of outlook on her part, she once told me. The biggest irony is that she predeceased me; it's been nearly 7 years now.

In its way, not having kids can be a blessing, yes, and it's necessary to realize that. We have enough trouble with ourselves and the cats, and you can't leave kids with a sack of kibble over Pennsic. But I understand the wistfulness: we have no kids, no nieces, no nephews. No next generation, at least beyond our friends. We don't think about that all that much, but as it happens we had a meeting with our financial planner today, so it came up. With us it was also "tacitly making a decision by not making a decision" about our entire relationship, for 17 years. But things worked out the way they were supposed to in our case, I'm sure.

No kids, no nieces, no nephews . . . So adopt!

We have nearly a dozen adopted nieces and nephews. We have my stepsister's kids, which are sort-of blood relatives. Then we've adopted the son and daughter of my lord's best friend who lives in NH, the daughters of some good friends in a nearby town, the son of one of the families in our regiment, and a couple more daughters of another family in our regiment.

The kids come over for a sleepover now and then, and we take them out to a nice dinner someplace. We take them interesting places, like to see the Chinese exhibit that was at the PEM. We occasionally dress them up in funny clothes and take them to events. We go to movies.

And - the best part - after we've had all our fun, we give them back to their parents and go home (to a quiet house) and lie down with cold compresses on our foreheads. Our cats keep us company.

(Children take a LOT of energy.)

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