I have not abandoned this blog, despite all appearances to the contrary. We have been busy busy, but it's the presence of a medical mystery winding its way through all that busy that has kept me from sitting down and writing. The part of me that stays up until three in the morning reading a book to find out how it ends won out for several weeks, and I didn't want to update here until I had it all figured out.
But life doesn't work that way, and definitive answers may not be forthcoming anytime soon. So here I am, back at it, with some serious catching up to do.
We'll pick up with the latter part of my birthday weekend. Shaun and I were watching the movie Argo (see it if you haven't), and towards the end I started seeing double. At one point the screen went "Magic Eye" on me, with some of the images standing out in front of others like a second-rate 3-D movie. But mostly it was double, and it lasted until the end of the movie (maybe five minutes) and continued as we left the theater, and it took a while to completely wear off. It freaked me out.
My vision hadn't seemed quite normal to me since October, so I'd been planning to see a doctor anyways. The opthomologist said my eyes were probably just changing with age, having trouble adjusting to different distances. She said that if I had any other neurological symptoms I should let her know, and she'd order an MRI. And sent me on my way. After that I had a brief episode of double vision while exercising at home. It happened while I was looking from the TV to the trees outside, so her explanation seemed at least plausible.
That was just before Thanksgiving. This year we didn't have an extended family gathering to go to, so we decided to have our own meal at home and then go have an adventure. We took a road trip to Walla Walla and spent a night at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. The boys LOVE to stay in hotels, and we knew they'd be wowed by the fancy lobby.
Wowed, they were. Dignified, they were not.
They climbed right into bed as soon as we walked through the door of our room. Willem's face really says it all.
After much debating about where we should eat dinner, we decided against the restaurant in a railroad car with food of debatable quality and took a chance on dining with our road-weary children at the popular Brasserie Four. Willem wasn't thrilled with the menu, but we let him consume most of the bread in the basket, which is his ideal meal anyways. The wine was French and delicious and the frites were at least double-fried and delicious and I could have spent the rest of my life at that table. But our natives got restless and eventually we moved along, back to the wonder that is TV and snacks in a bed that you don't have to make yourself.
The next day was a strange one. In an email from our friend and family pastor, we found out that our friend Walter from church (sixty years old with a younger wife and two very young children) had passed away in his sleep the previous night, the night after Thanksgiving. We might have waited to tell the boys, but my very loud gasp upon reading the news precluded that option. It was hard to wrap our minds around him being gone just like that, and what it would mean for those he left behind. And I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like for me or Shaun to die unexpectedly. I saw us all with different eyes that day as we walked around downtown, browsing in the toy store and choosing treats at the chocolate shop and drinking hot coffee. It was a very "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" kind of day.
At one point we wandered into a book store. Willem found and pounced on the complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes. The boys have checked out all of the volumes from the library, so he knew it at once. He lugged it around hopefully for a while. Of course he's exaggerating for effect because he's Willem, but it really is quite heavy.
On our way out of town we stopped at the Whitman Mission National Historic Site. It was a stop on the Oregon trail. You can see where the wagon ruts ran, although the ones we see now are replacements. The originals were smoothed over at one point.
The mission is known for the massacre that took place there, and the friendly staff person manning the information desk seemed to take pleasure in apprising us of all the sad details. The mission was in the territory of the Cayuse tribe. Marcus Whitman farmed the land and provided medical care, and Narcissa ran a school for the children. The Whitmans had only one child, a daughter who drowned in the river on the site when she was two. Narcissa took in orphans thereafter, including the seven Sager siblings whose parents had died on the Oregon trail. After an outbreak of measles killed a disproportionate number of Cayuse (who did not have any resistance to the disease), the Indians deemed the Whitmans responsible and killed them, along with twelve other settlers. The surviving Sager children were orphaned for the second time.
The mission was razed in the attack, but the outlines of the buildings remain.
The landscape there tugs at you. It was still and quiet and sad and beautiful. Up on a hill overlooking it all stands a memorial to the Whitmans. We saved walking up the hill for last part of our visit. I was less than halfway up before I started seeing double, and I worried at the top as I rested.
We were altogether weary when we climbed back into the car and headed home. We're not used to thinking about death, and there was so much thinking to be done about it that day. God sometimes puts us face to face with what's real. It's not easy to be reminded of these things, but it's good.