“Hey dad, what are you guys doing?” It was just before Thanksgiving 2013 and Nathan was on the phone making small talk. Now, anyone who knows Nathan, knows two things about him; first he doesn’t like to talk on the phone and secondly, he doesn’t make small talk, so when he phoned me and didn’t state the purpose of his call within the first thirty seconds, I knew something was up.
Libby and I had gone out to eat with Helen and Kelly Hawkins at Chili’s downtown and the waitress had just arrived at our table to take our food order when my cell phone rang and Nathan asked, “Hey dad what are you doing?”
Libby had already given me a stern look because I had answered my cell phone in the first place but her face softened when I turned the screen toward her and she saw the image of our youngest son. After a brief conversation I put away my phone and explained to everyone at the table that he wanted talk later when we were alone, that’s when Libby (and Helen) both gave me quizzical looks.
Libby was never good about hiding her curiosity whether it was gift that she had yet to open or a story that someone promised to tell and she did not suffer quietly. When we finally left the restaurant Libby’s curiosity was at a fever pitch as she hurried us toward the truck grabbing my phone as soon as we sat down and dialing Nathan’s number. The curiosity ramped up a little more when Nathan answered and said, “Hey Mom, Hey Dad, let me put you on speaker so Bethany can be in on the conversation……”
When Libby’s cancer resurfaced after years of no symptoms, Dr. Schlabach insisted that we take time away from treatment for a family ski trip and stay in his Big Sky, Montana cabin. He explained to us the importance of long-term goals for the mental health of cancer patients. Little did he know that we would soon be getting a phone call that would give Libby the ultimate long-term goal which would put a Rocky Mountain ski trip to shame.
I posted the following on the Caring Bridge site just after Nathan and Bethany’s call to us:
Great news! Sometime this June, Miss Libby will be a grandmother. Yes, Bethany and Nathan called the other night to tell us the news and we are beyond excited. We had been out to eat with friends when Nathan called and so we returned his call on our way home. I think everyone in downtown Chattanooga probably heard Libby’s squeals when she found out she was going to be a grandmother!
As we hung up the phone after hearing the best news we had gotten in years, our emotions were all over the board. Libby was beaming, she wanted to go to the mall immediately and start looking for baby clothes, then she wanted to fix up a nursery at our house (for the baby when they visited us) and of course she wanted to travel to Augusta as soon as possible to “make sure they are alright”.
Then I watched that excitement fade as Libby began trying to remember the exact words that Dr. Schlabach used when he talked to us about about her medical prognosis. Libby asked, “What month was my stage 4 diagnosis?” I knew exactly what she was doing as she compared a typical nine month gestation period to her particular cancer’s life expectancy averages. But even as I was saying, “Libby, you can’t think like that, everyone is different” the tears had already started as she did the math in her head.
Then, in typical ‘Miss Libby’ fashion, she glanced up at the makeup mirror, wiped her eyes, blew her nose, straightened her wig as she synched it down on her head and said, “Well, it looks like I have a new goal! All I have to do now is stay healthy until June”.