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“Come and hear, all you who fear God, while I recount what has been done for me.” Ps 66:16

Dear Family and Friends,

I know I haven’t written anything in a while, and it’s been touching to have many people reach out recently with personal check ins to see what’s been going on.  Thank you.  It’s really been a case of no news is good news.  I’ve been feeling great, and Kendra has done a pretty good job of keeping the blogospere/Insta-sphere(?)/other spheres apprised of our Father’s Day, family vacation, kid antics, anniversary, etc.

We started Father’s Day with a hike in the San Gabriel Mountains
right up the road from us, and we ended by watching Pinocchio,
because the moral is, “If you don’t listen to your dad, you might
end up half a jackass and apparently drowned in a tidepool.”

So I’ve skipped the blog updates and worked on work, The Dad Project, and everyday life.  But this week I had my post-radiation brain MRI and got good news, so I figure I’ll tell you about that at some point.

How about now?  When I went in for my first day of radiation back in April, they could see 8 brain tumors.  Today seven of them no longer show up in the MRI.  The remaining one, which appears in the image in this post, has shrunk from 17x17mm to 7x6mm.  The radiation oncologist, whom you might remember because Kendra thought she and her colleague were “cute together”, said that she was “quite pleased” with the results and that the tumors “responded well.”  She conveyed her impression through one of her residents, who went on to explain that the 7x6mm remnant could still be a live tumor but it could also be a shriveling up dead tumor.  We just have to keep an eye on it over the next several months in order to know.  The resident thinks that the radiation oncology department is likely to convene their “Talking About People’s Brain Tumors Committee” (TAPBTC – I think that’s what he said the official name of it is) next week to weigh in on whether they want to zap the tumor with radiation again now or wait to see if it grows or shrinks.  He suspects they’ll wait and see, but the TAPBTC doesn’t always do what lowly residents guess they might do, so we’ll have to wait and see.

But any way you look at it, this is a very positive outcome, and I give thanks to God and to all of you for your prayers.  Sure seems like they’re working.

I’ll bring you into the loop on something that has been coming up in my prayer a lot: detachment.  Detachment is a theme that runs through the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, but even setting aside the Judeo-Christian spiritual angle on detachment, I think it’s a pretty good thing to work on for life.  Not having our heart set on things just helps us be less materialistic, and I dare say more human because of it.  Any parent who chides an agitated child to share a toy is working on detachment at the most basic level.  And I believe it’s immensely more important for adults if we’re going to be generous with those around us.
Alright, so back to prayer and detachment.  I had mentioned in that Radiation Day post that I’ve been praying out loud in empty churches.  That prayer has been a process of getting to an entrepreneur’s “elevator pitch” to God that goes something like this: “Lord, you put me here in this vocation and I’m not done with the job you gave me.  You ask for detachment, Lord, with the shocking challenge, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’  You ask for detachment and yet you make your creatures beautiful.  Irresistible.  Why is that?  Why ask detachment from me and give me a vocation that requires that I attach myself – give my earthly love and fidelity to a beautiful woman with whom I – as you say – become one?  Why keep sending us all these children?  Why demand my detachment and put a three year-old daughter on my lap who, in all earnestness, politely asks, 
‘Daddy, may you please gonna read my a story?” (sic)
(P.S. there’s a cousin in there that wants stories, too.)
Okay, I know – marriage and family life is a glimpse of heavenly joy.  And if it truly is merely a shadow, “viewed through a glass darkly,” how wonderful heaven must be.  Because this life is too wonderful to comprehend sometimes.  So I do want to be with you in heaven, Lord.  But do I dare to say, ‘Not yet?’  St. Augustine got away with the ‘not yet’ prayer.  So please understand me.  I don’t want to put you off, Lord.  But, you put me here in this vocation.”
And then I say, “Lord, if it be for my good and your glory…
…if it be for my family’s good and your glory, may I be cured of melanoma.
And if not cured, Lord, then at least let me finish the job of raising these kids to adulthood.  Lord, I know you can take better care of this family than I can.  But I think some of them really need me around, inadequate instrument that I am.  I know I fail miserably at all this sometimes, ‘but I can do all things in you who strengthen me.’  With your help, I could be much better.  Please leave me here for now, and help me to be good enough.  Transform me into the man you want me to be and that they need me to be.  Then it will be okay for you to leave me here for now.”
And then, like the newlyweds at Cana would have asked if they only had known what Mary was willing to do for them, I say, “Mary, would you please tell your son to let me stay?”
All this thinking about detachment and attachment has been difficult for me to sort out.  How do I balance these things that are at once true and seem contradictory?  I recently had the opportunity to meet a priest named Monsignor Fernando Ocariz.  He is the current head of an organization of Catholics called Opus Dei, of which I am a member.  Don Fernando, as we call him, is very fatherly and wise, and I asked him how I balance it all out – not being unduly tied down to this world and yet being immersed in it and living my vocation as husband and father to the full and praying to be allowed to stay right here.  
I spoke with Don Fernando when
he visited L.A. from Rome in July
I was hoping for a simple and direct answer that I hadn’t yet thought of.  I should know better.  So often the things of God don’t fit neatly into our understanding or what we want.  His answer WAS simple and profound, but it directed me away from this struggle to sort out intellectually the question of balance between detachment and attachment.  He said, “Pray for a miracle … fight to live, and trust God.”  So often in my life I believe the answer I’ve gotten hasn’t been the one I was looking for, but it was the one I needed.
Well, I don’t think I’m going to stop reminding God that he’s the one who put me here, but I’ve quickly grown less worried about getting to the correct insight on attachment vs. detachment.  Just in time, too.  Baby #10 is less than 3 weeks away.  We can hardly wait.
With fortitude and prayers for you,