Family Feast

Jeanette and I escaped for most of the weekend. We checked in to a hotel and did absolutely nothing – other than lounge around the pool deck, read magazines and sip cool cocktails.

Jordan got an escape of her own. She spent the night at her grandparents and partied in their hot tub. Grandma did a good job of pampering her. She was smiling wildly by the time I saw her Sunday afternoon. That’s when our family got together for a Sunday dinner before Jordan had to check back in at CHLA. Our feast offered more nourishment than food alone.

I went Martha Stewart. I prepared a full spread for our little family. There was hardly room on the table for all the dishes: onion soup, roast pork, fresh green beans and roasted potatoes – and toffee cake for dessert. There were candles, jazz music and two loads of dishes to do. I spared no labor to make Jordan’s brief family meal at home big and memorable. And it was.

Jordan greeted me at the elevator with a big statement:

–I’m so happy to be home with my family.

Nettie and I connected eyes, each of us thinking about the obvious. Jordan was only going to be home for a few hours. But Jordan knew this. And she didn’t dwell on it. She wanted to savor the experience and she wasn’t shy about sharing her enthusiasm for precious family time.

Gathered round the table, the kids bounced jokes off one another. Each competed for the loudest volume until Nettie or I reminded them that we were all sitting close together–close enough to hear soft voices. Just as the conversation crescendoed, and our spoons aimed for the soup bowls, Jordan reprimanded us. We had to say grace.

Lucas volunteered to do the honors. He offered thanks succinctly but honestly. Then he reached for his spoon. Not before Jordan asked to say a prayer of her own. Her eyes tendered solemnity. She folded her hands and bowed her head.

–God, thank you for my family and thank you for helping me kick cancer’s butt. And … thank you for letting me come home.

Then, just as quickly as she transfixed us with her humility and hope, she switched gears and giggled out loud. “Let’s eat!” A spoonfull of soup disappeared down her throat, followed by enthusiastic praise.

–Good soup, Dad!

For a little over an hour we forgot about hospitals and therapies. We were a family gathered around, doing something we didn’t do all that often when Jordan was at the peak of health. In fact, our family perfected the art of dinner via snacks. But on this Sunday we were a Rockwellian portrait of family dinner. And it felt great.

When it was time for Jordan to leave. The farewell was brief. She has developed a curious and disconcerting habit. You are allowed to say goodbye. She expects a warm hug and sometimes a kiss. But then, she is done. It’s as though you’ve left the room. Once she’s said goodbye, she ceases eye contact. No matter how hard you try to get her attention, she ignores you. On one occasion, when Jeanette insisted on getting Jordan’s attention out of fear something was wrong, Jordan reprimanded her mother.

–Mom, I’m through with you.

So, Sunday night, after a giant embrace I strapped her into the minivan and bid her goodnight. She looked away and told me she would see me tomorrow. I blew her a kiss that she summarily ignored, and watched as my two girls left to return to CHLA. But rather than feel sad and helpless, I lingered in the warm glow of a family healing process.