Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Freis Farm, Take Five

I'm just back from five days in Chicago with three generations of Schaubs—the direct descendants of my parents, Bob & Val. For the fifth time in 29 years—1989, 1991, 1994, 2010, and 2018—we gathered from all over the US for a family reunion at a farm near Wilmington IL.  

While my Dad died in 1989 (just months after the first iteration of our Freis Farm reunions) and my Mom followed 14 years later, the tradition continues. There were 41 of us this time. Participants hailed from Fairhope AL, Seattle WA, Clearwater FL, Duluth MN, Las Vegas NV, Provo UT, San Antonio TX, Galveston TX, Shreveport LA, La Grange IL, Iowa City IA, Los Angeles CA, and St Louis MO. Interestingly we sorted about equally into three age groups: 12 silverbacks; 16 in the middle (from late 20s to early 40s); and 13 kiddos—Bob & Val's great grandchildren. 

It was quite the extravaganza. Fortunately, we dodged the global warming bullet. Though local temperatures were in the 90s and steamy the week before, a rain front stormed through Monday and the mercury fell 30 degrees (now where did I put that hoodie?) and stayed temperate all weekend. Whew. (In fact, when Susan checked the weather at home on Friday we were amused and amazed to discover that Duluth was 10 degrees warmer than Kankakee, an occurrence that may be rarer than reunions.

Because it had been eight years since the last gathering of the clan, the youngsters (aged 10 years to 8 months) hardly knew each other, but they got over that in about 10 minutes, bonding into a pack a free-ranging imps. Fortunately, they never learned to hotwire the ATV.

Every adult took a turn with food prep and clean-up, so that it never fell too heavily on anyone's shoulders, and the late-night carousers (especially after the late-night poker game broke up) more or less kept pace with the leftovers, so we never ran out of refrigerator capacity.

While conversations were all over the place (there was a lot to catch up on), we studiously avoided the third rail of national politics. While most Schauber Jobbers (yes, that's how we refer to ourselves) are appalled by the boorish, divisive behavior of our President, who knows who might have been seduced by buoyant economic numbers—never mind that the piper will have to be paid for our runaway national deficit, and there's something about tax breaks for the rich that make me want to throw up.

Our reunions have now straddled a generation. Thinking back to the first one in 1989 (when the Berlin Wall came down—incidentally, the Schaubs have now been holding reunions longer than the Berlin Wall was up), my siblings and I were the middle generation then and today's parents were yesterday's rugrats. The wheel turns.

Freis Farm is owned by my brother-in-law, Dan Cooke, and his two sisters. Though no one has lived there since his grandparents passed away decades ago, it's a working farm and the house and yard are maintained as a retreat facility and rural getaway conveniently located about an hour south of Chicago. One of Dan's nieces got married there the week before the reunion—and suffered through the brutal heat that we were lucky enough to miss.

One of the beauties of Freis Farm is the myriad configuration of social spaces into which a large group can sort itself. The living room was big enough for a monster game of Schaub-themed Jeopardy Friday night, and doubled as an assembly pad for Lego fantasies by junior engineers during Thursday's inclement weather. There is a small television room that accommodated World Cup soccer viewing, and a porch that allowed for side conversations that were protected from both weather and pass-through foot traffic.

Outdoors there is a screened-in gazebo (wired for sound), an open-air viewing deck that overlooked the rain-swollen creek (and doubled as an impromptu cigar lounge), a grilling scene in front of the garage, plus plenty of grass space for whiffle ball, croquet, horseshoes, bean bag toss, and tiki torch beer bottle frisbee (for those who needed encouragement to consume malted beverages). Some even found time to pick ripe Montmorency cherries and make a couple of pies.

It was a good time for all.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Gnostic Imaging

I was at St Luke's Hospital yesterday for my monthly check-up with my oncologist. When I stepped up to registration (so I could get outfitted with one of those nifty plastic wrist bands that help staff make sure I'm the right "Laird Schaub"), I was surprised to see a display of full-color tri-folds on the counter that advertised "Gnostic Imaging." 

Say what? They've got CT scans for detecting esoteric, spiritual knowledge? What will they think of next! It's one thing, I thought, for a hospital to be on the cutting edge of medical research; it's all together something else to be dancing with the Wu Li masters. And I was very curious how that intersected with treating cancer.

For a minute or two, my mind started flowing in all manner of creative directions, trying to make sense of what I'd seen. Then I adjusted my stance and discovered that a box a facial tissues had been obscuring the left-hand margin of the flyer, which actually read, "Diagnostic Imaging." Oh. My bad.

• • •
But then again, what if I had read it right the first time? Wouldn't that be an interesting East-meets-West kind of Hippocractic amalgamation? And why not on the cancer ward—where the veil between this life and whatever is next tends to thin out precipitously. Who's to say what kind of knowledge is most needed when one is close to transition?

Further, why not offer one-stop shopping for all your medical inquiries? For the most part modalities come in their own boxes (or edifices, in the case of hospitals) and don't tend to play well with others. Western medicine here; Chinese medicine there; Ayurvedic in this corner; Ayahuasca in that corner; over the counter on this side; over the rainbow on the other side; snake handlers in the sub-basement; and bats in the belfry.

It's not just what science or your spirit guide tells you should have the inside track on our attention: it's what you have faith in. And that's a highly personal decision. 

What I know—having lived through being close to death 28 months ago when my cancer was first diagnosed (and imaged at St Luke's, thank you)—is that a positive attitude and a strong support network make a difference. While those intangible factors are not definitive (optimists die, too, after all), my oncologist in Duluth and my hematologist at Mayo Clinic (who are both all in on Western medicine), freely acknowledge that attitude impacts outcomes for reasons that defy quantification. 

Hmm. Maybe there are no accidents. Maybe St Luke's should be offering gnostic counseling, offering a menu of medical approaches, rather than one-size-fits-all. They could think of it as hedging their bets, catering to the patient's proclivities, rather than trying to direct them. Just a thought.

Isn't it amusing what kind of insights can be triggered by standing in just the wrong place at the right time? Life tends to be a lot more interesting if you're paying attention.