Sizzling hot mid-June in southern Arizona marks the transition to the rainy season. The monsoon rains have not arrived quite yet, but lightning over the mountains and a tease of a few fat drops splattered the windows late last night. Throughout the Sonoran desert, giant saguaro that began blooming in spring will begin to produce fruit in late June. The flowers start as tiny, alien bumps that sprout from the saguaro tops and arms. Birds, bats, and bees do their pollination work, mostly at night as the saguaro’s flowers usually last less than one full day.
Last year our neighbors Buzz and Pat planted a magnificent giant saguaro in their front yard. Transplanting a ten foot tall saguaro is no small undertaking and is best left to experts. On my morning walk I noticed its blossoms have finally opened. A sure sign this sentinel of the desert, as native people once called them, is happy in its home here on Easter Lily Lane.
In mid-July it will be two years since Jim and I moved to Quail Creek. When I reflect on all that has occurred in those two years, it makes my head spin. First, Jim’s thirty-one year career at Mitsubishi came to an abrupt end when the mother ship in Japan closed his division. A month later our sister-in-law Susie’s life nearly ended with a ruptured brain aneurysm. She remains profoundly disabled. Last July my sister Katherine died of ovarian cancer after a brutal seven year fight. She was only sixty. And then three months ago, Jim’s Stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis landed at our door.
For those of you who think we have weathered all these storms without difficulty, or assume that we have some special brand of wisdom, faith or philosophical outlook that keeps us from going bonkers, I assure we have no magic bullets. Heck, we don’t even have good wine to soothe our souls right now. Our fourth week of Prohibition has begun. Jim is off to the oncologist office right now for a weekly blood draw, preparing for Round 3 of chemo tomorrow. Right about the time we mark that two-year point next month, he will have a CT scan and tumor marker tests to see how well chemo is actually working on all those bad boys in his lungs and liver.
For all of you who take the time to read this blog, send messages of support, prayers, cards, gifts, edible goodies and love, we thank you heartily. They really do help keep us strong.
In addition to all the other things going on in our lives in July, we will also pause to remember someone we never met. His name is Alex Newport-Berra. Last year, on a gorgeous July day in the Colorado Rockies, Alex lost his life in a fall. A gifted athlete and teacher, Alex was just thirty-three years old. For our neighbors Pat and Buzz and their family, on that day we will put aside our own troubles and remember Alex. We are grateful Pat and Buzz have shared Alex’s story with us. Sharing their grief helps us with our own burdens.
When I look at photos of Alex with his strong body and handsome youthful face, I see something that reminds me of Jim Asbell that has nothing to do with age or physical abilities. Jim and Alex could not be more different in that regard. What I see is a twinkle in Alex’s eye. A playful sense of humor, a competitive spirit, a resilient nature. An ability to find joy in unlikely places and to live in the present. I think Jim and Alex would have liked each other quite well, despite their totally different lives.
Wherever Alex is at this moment, I am sure he’d be glad to know that giant saguaro in his Mom and Dad’s yard has put down roots and blossomed in its new home. So have we.