Dancing in the Rain

Sometimes in life things happen that bring cause for introspection and reflection.  I’m in one of those seasons right now.  Cancer has touched my family close and personal.  These things happen to others, but until now, my family seemed exempt from such evil.

I’ve been thinking about just how blessed I am to have the parents and sisters that I can call my own.  Growing up I took for granted than my home life looked pretty close to ideal by any standards; no divorce, no abuse, no drug or alcohol issues, no lack financially (that I ever felt), and no glaring dysfunction.   What there was were two hard working parents who loved their three daughters and gave them a beautiful setting and home environment in which to grow up.  It felt very normal to me.  But in today’s world, I know that my normal was many children’s dream.

As a little girl I remember long family road trips and passing the miles with song.  As we got a little older we moved to the country where I remember learning the value of a dollar working at our u-pick berry farm with my two sisters.  We’d wake up and head to the berry patch for breakfast.  After school we could be found riding our horses.  Sometimes we would just jump on their backs and lay down as they grazed the pasture.  Family waterskiing excursions were regular summer occurrences.   We had chores too.  Dinner dishes were one of them.  We were told to work together until they were complete.  I remember many dish duty times turned into laughing wrestling matches on the kitchen linoleum.  The winner was usually not the strongest, but the one who didn’t loose all their strength from laughing too hard.   Sometimes I my mom would say, “stop that or you’ll just end up fighting!”  She was right, sometimes we did, but we’d do it over and over again because the laughs were worth it.   The dishes eventually got done.

Another chore we had was that of pruning the raspberry plants; all 16 long rows of them!  The canes had thorns like mini roses and we would leave the field with our arms and legs scratched as if we’d been in the middle of a cat fight.  We hated the endless chore of pruning the old canes and weaving in the new.  I can still remember the songs we used to make up and sing across the field to one another in indignant protest; “We poor girls we work like slave……”  I vowed I would live in a city and never have a garden.  However,  Spring fever has hit me and I made my husband promise that he would till my garden spot by next weekend.  I can’t be held responsible though, I was scarred as a child out in the fresh air working among those berry canes.  Today, I just need to see things grow.  It’s in my blood.

When something in our young lives would go amiss, whether it was a class in school or a relationship dilemma, my father’s favorite words were, “everything is going to be alright.”  You always knew those words were coming; sometimes I didn’t want to hear them.  By the time we were teenagers we knew better than to seek pity because in the back of our minds we knew exactly what dad would say, “everything is going to be alright.”   Even if our attitude didn’t want to, we believed him.

On sunny summer days mom (who at 70 only recently stopped water skiing slalom style) could be caught pulling one of us girls aside and saying, “Go tell your dad you want to go water skiing.”   She knew it would be an easy sell coming from one of dad’s daughters.   The plan was set into motion.  Dad would say “OK” and by the time he had the boat hooked up mom would have the cooler packed, we’d be in our suits and soon be out on the lake jumping the wake.  It was just a normal Saturday.

I used to love that Sunday meant eating out as a family after church.  We would often get complimenting remarks from strangers on our “lovely” family with three lanky brown-eyed girls.

As a teenager we had a group of friends that always loved to hang out at our house.  In fact, they would just show up unannounced, usually a carload full of them.  They were always welcome by mom and dad.  After working a full day mom would always cook an amazing home made meal.  I have no idea where her energy came from.  Our friends often enjoyed my mom’s cooking.  It was about this time that the comments about how cool my parents were began.  I didn’t really get it then.  They were just normal parents to me.

The guys loved my dad.  I think they came over to hang out with him more than my sisters and I.  In fact, as my sisters married before me, some of my guy friends joked about who would be the last lucky guy to marry into the Wlasiuk family… so he could hang out with my dad of course.

College was about to begin and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to “be.”   My dad was a territory salesman.  I remember telling him that I didn’t think I could do just one thing like that year after year.  I told him I thought it would be boring.  I was looking for fun and adventure.  When he answered me that day, it was the first time I realized just how special my parents are.  He told me that when you have a family, it really isn’t about the job.  He said it was about what the job provides for the ones you love.  I realized then that his job was simply a means to an end.  His life purpose was about blessing his family.   That, he did.

In my early-married life when money was scarce, mom and dad would come and visit.  I would always try and fill my fridge so that it looked like we were doing fine.  Somehow they always “needed” to go to the local grocery store. By the time they left my house was full of groceries and my car had a full tank of gas.  It was just a normal visit.

By the time my sisters and I started having kids, a beautifully mowed park with rolling hills replaced the rows of raspberries on the family berry farm.  Every Easter that park became the grandchildren’s own private Easter egg hunting ground.  All the cousins would hunt for their sugary treasure spread out among two acres.  The day would end with a carb overload from mom’s great cooking.  It was just a normal Easter.

As time progressed, college, marriage and jobs separated our families by many miles.  Get togethers, less frequent began to have greater significance.  All the things that were “normal” about my life, became a treasure that I wanted to recreate for my children.

Last spring, my “normal” family was faced with tragic news when my parents were in town for a visit.  Dad had this little cough that just wouldn’t go away.  A quick trip to the walk in clinic revealed our worst nightmare.  Dad had lung cancer.  As my parents broke the news to me, even through their tear stained eyes, dad said, “It’s all going to be ok.”    Unfortunately I’m not six any more, and I know this one is bigger than even MY dad can fix on his own.  In moments like these, a predisposition that says, “there is a God, and He is good,” goes a long way.  Heaven began getting extra prayer requests.

In the midst of the cloud of heaviness that first week, my husband was witness to a beautiful sight.  Mom and dad were standing in my large kitchen when the auto play started the next song from my iTunes.  I don’t know what the song was, but my parents caught one another’s eyes and the next moment without a word were arm in arm dancing about my kitchen with tears in their eyes.  I guess when you’ve been loving one person for nearly half a century, things like that are normal.

That was ten months ago.  The last ten months have held many chemo treatments and a couple of hospital stays.  It has held pills, shots, pain, fatigue, an operation, and the ups and downs of Dr. reports.   The last ten months have also held many more phone calls “just because,” numerous “I love you’s,” more frequent travel to see one another, hope, tears, many faith filled prayers, and an ever growing gratitude for my wonderful “normal” life.

When I call to check on things, there is no room in the conversation for pity.  Dad finds the silver lining, even in cancer.   There is the ugly reality of cancer, there is not denying that.  But faith looks beyond the natural laws of nature.   Some people think that faith is the inability or unwillingness to deal with reality.  Quite the contrary.  Faith is what breathes strength to the fight, and rest in the turmoil.  Faith takes our eyes off of our predicament and places them on eternity.  By faith, thousands were fed with only five loaves and two fishes.  By faith, an old woman beyond childbearing gave birth to a promise.  By faith Hezekiah who was at the end of his life, asked God for 15 more years and lived to see those years.

By Faith.

My parents are making summer plans; attend two grandchildren graduations (albeit 3000 miles apart), fish with another grandson, sit in the bleachers of yet a couple others grandson’s baseball games, watch a couple other talented granddaughters play beach volley ball.  Dad wants to watch my mom ice skate with her youngest granddaughter. They intend to listen to their oldest granddaughter, preach.   Word has gotten out that she has quite a gift.  There is a summer cabin on a lake in Canada that will be expecting their motor home to drive up once again as soon as spring has managed to chase the cold northern winter away.

In spite of statistics, mom has reminded dad, that there is no expiration stamped on the bottom of his foot.  So in between chemo and radiation, they carry on doing what they do so well, living their “normal” lives.

Some people give up in the storms, others hunker down and weather them.  My folks, they dance in the rain.

If you’re a person of faith, could you share some of that faith and pray for my dad.  Pray for strength.  Pray that heaven will give him the same gift that Hezekiah that got, more time.  Dad reads my blog.  I’d love for him to see promises of prayer in the comment section.  His name is Joe.

12 Responses to “Dancing in the Rain”
  1. Joe Shelley says:

    Reading your blog it is very evident that your father has passed his legacy of a his approval to his daughters. He sounds like an amazing man who has positively impacted numerous people and future generations. He has taught his children and grandchildren to follow in his footsteps. I’m am totally honored that you have shared about him and I commit to pray fervantly for his healing.

  2. Deeapaulitan says:

    I know what you are going through, and I will gladly add all my faith and prayers to the others that are already going up to the throne.

  3. Jackie Thurlow says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog and can identify with it too. My childhood was a lot like yours. We had an orchard of pear trees that we took care of as a family of 4 girls. Pruning in early spring, picking and selling and canning endless boxes of pears. Such good memories though. I had to laugh when you said you would lay on your horses back even while grazing. I used to do that too, one of my fondest memories. I also shared in the fight of faith against cancer for my own Dad. He is a survivor and today is 86 years old. It was a long hard fight for him with the treatments and all that goes with it but God brought him through it. I will be glad to be praying for your dad too. Blessings to you and your family, Jackie

  4. jojo says:

    Your words are mine, Sis. Our prayers, the same passion.

    Thank you for taking time to share.

    Lv jo

  5. Lianne says:

    What an amazing story! A story that brought tears to my eyes and laughter to my soul. I too can remember you girls wrestling and giggling, the strawberry patch, the horses and of course your dad’s great wisdom. My children have also witnessed some of thoses amazing memories with your parents at the lake and even at their young age …..cherish every moment ……..as do I! We are praying daily and will continue to do so each day. I patiently await for that motorhome to arrive so that we may continue to make more of those amazing memories. Love you all!! oxoxoxoxox

  6. Nora says:

    Hi Joe,

    Remember in 1994, when you and Gloria sent me the big brown envelope of suggestions on how to overcome my uterine cancer? I still have the letter that came with that envelope! We haven’t gotten to see each other much these days, although I hope to see you when you come to Spokane to see Hunter and Cole play some baseball.

    I realize how fortunate I am to have had all these years after hearing the words “Stage 4 cancer”…the radiation treatments and all the prayers did the trick and I’m still enjoying each day. I pray that you are doing well….I know that you are loving life, because you always seemed to enjoy each day as it came. One thing that seemed to help me is to visualize in my mind, my cells fighting the cancer cells and winning the battle…..usually I did this exercise right as I was getting ready to go to sleep…as I slept, the battle was fought….with God’s help, my cells won that battle.

    Lori is an amazing person, as I’m sure you know. I have always enjoyed visiting with her whenever she and Van come to the Coulee. Muriel and I just visited with them a few weekends ago, when we were attending the “Home Show” (I’m doing some remodeling).

    You and Gloria enjoy that Florida weather & I hope to get a chance to visit with you when the weather warms up a bit more.

    Hugs & Prayers,


  7. Jannena carothers says:

    Amazing friend!! I could completely see your parents dancing in your kitchen instantaneously!It would be like them not to want to waist one moment of life…Its obvious they never have!Our Family is with you praying for that miracle…And believing that GOD the maker of heaven and earth is ABLE. I like the Hezekiah word, 15 years..Its a good start!! Then we can contend again for 15 more!! If anyone will use every last one of them to their fullest it will be your Dad!!He is truly an amazing man!!!Plus remember he wanted to go horseback riding with Monte last year and they never got around to it..Or has it been two years since that conversation? Time seems to be moving at warp speed!Glad to hear about the garden its impossible to imagine you without one…Stay in touch Dear One, I’m missing you these days!!!We all are…Hug the family for us! See you in June..Love You!
    The Carothers Family

  8. dawn rowe says:

    Well my friend, you are a gifted communicator, and I look forward to hearing you preach.
    Your Dad will see Canada; no doubt in my mind, and I will most certainly pray for more years like Hezekiah. I hope I always choose to dance in the rain. Love you and your family,

  9. sue wiebold says:

    thank you for sharing your beautiful life story. the dancing in the kitchen’ part brought tears of joy 🙂 praying the prayer of Hezekiah for your father. “remember, O Lord, how Joe has walked before you faithfully & with wholehearted devotion & has done what is good in Your eyes.”

  10. Casey Conners says:

    I remember growing up how much Sean & I loved to hang out with you and your family… which we thought was OUR family, too (and still do!). As a matter of fact, until just a few years ago I believe my parents Will still listed your parents as our legal gaurdians. Remeber how your Mom would let us get ice cream at the YMCA after swimming and then tease me for getting “tell-tale” black licorice flavor? Lynn making fondue for all of us? And let’s not forget the old black van…. I still cannot believe your Dad parted with it. Other than your parents and mine, I don’t know anyone else’s parents who are still married. They are special indeed and I consider it an honor to know them and to be a part of their lives.

    I am really enjoying your blog. 🙂

    Love & miss you!

  11. Gina Graham says:

    “Dancing In the Rain” is a beautiful story; my prayers are with your dad and your family.

  12. Edie Conners says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a fantastic man whom I was honored to know for some 47 years. Even as Joe is looking down on all of us now, I can see that smile and devilish crinkle around his eyes. I can only imagine the mischief he is causing in heaven. His best contribution to this world is his 3 beautiful daughters and precious grandchildren. He taught you and my children some excellent life lessons. He is truly missed by many.
    Keep up the super writing.
    Love, Auntie Edie

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