Thursday, September 20, 2012


We bought this hat for Steve in 2008, when his cancer-fighting cocktail included Accutane and other drugs that made too much sun dangerous. He needed full protection from the rays.

He wore the hat all over Frisco. To soccer games. To Disneyland.

Disneyland, June 2008
To our final vacation together -- a soul-restoring three days in West Palm Beach.

The Breakers, West Palm Beach, March 2009

I wore the hat on my 2011 getaway to Belize.

Xunantunich, near San Ignacio, Belize, February 2011

Cooper has taken the easy-to-pack hat camping with Boy Scouts.

And today, Katie wore the hat to complete her ensemble for career day.

Her current professional aspiration is zoologist. (Actually artist and zoologist.) She borrowed one of Cooper's outdoorsy shirts to wear over her Brownie T-shirt (today was also the first meeting of the school year for her Girl Scout troop).

After a great deal of consideration and perusal of our massive stuffed animal collection, she chose a duck to tuck into the front pocket. (She actually wanted about six animals attached to her body, but we couldn't figure out an elegant way to do so. Pinning them to her shirt just looked creepy.)

I made a name badge: Dr. Kathryn Damm. Zoologist.

And she topped it all off with Steve's hat.

Kathryn Damm, future zoologist, Frisco, September 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A dear friend who is going through chemotherapy asked me tonight how Steve kept such a positive attitude during all of this treatments.

I told her that it wasn't always easy, and that his spirits sometimes flagged.

I told her that he was on anti-anxiety and anti-depressant meds. He spoke to a therapist early in the diagnosis.

Sometimes, when he was really feeling down, we would solicit a whole bunch of jokes from friends and family members. Or we'd watch goofy movies.

We would pray.

Steve was also blessed to live in a home with two little children. How can you not be cheerful when there's a 2-year-old dancing through the house or a 6-year-old always on the verge of a big discovery?

Sometimes I think of how unfair it is that our children don't know Steve like I do or many of you do. They had so little time with him.

But tonight I was reminded that Cooper and Katie's youth is part of what sustained Steve. He soaked up every moment with them -- with gusto! -- not just after he was diagnosed but before, too.

Steve wasn't cheerful 100 percent of the time, but he came pretty darn close. Cooper and Katie were a huge reason why. And I trust that they both will appreciate how much that means as they grow older and continue to discover what made their Dad so special.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just right

This morning I emailed Katie's second-grade teacher and school guidance counselor with a small reminder that tomorrow is the third anniversary of Steve's death.

I'm not making a big deal about it at home, but Katie is definitely aware. (Cooper, too. That requires a separate blog post.) I'm not sure how Katie will be affected during school tomorrow, but I wanted Wendy and Angie to be aware, just in case.

(And actually, it was probably not necessary to email at all. Angie is always on top of these moments in our family's life. She's the best guidance counselor ever.)

Wendy received my email and called not long after. She wanted to share a Katie conversation from yesterday.

It was time for writing in class. Katie approached her teacher and told her that was feeling a little sad. Wendy asked what she was sad about. Katie said she was thinking of her daddy.

Wendy said that she understood. She asked Katie to look at her charm bracelet. On the bracelet is a gray ribbon.

Katie's eyes got wide. She knew that it represented brain cancer.

Wendy then shared that her own mother has brain cancer. Katie's eyes got even wider. They had a little chat, then Katie was happy to return to her desk and get to work.

Katie now understands that her own teacher lives with the cruel effects of brain cancer. She knows that her teacher "gets it."

This little conversation and Wendy's phone call is yet another reminder that we are placed in just the right community, with just the right friends, at just the right school, with just the right caregivers and teachers.

Once again, my heart is full even as it aches.