A Long December and Early January in Austin

In my previous blog entry about departing TABC, I mentioned spending the month of November focusing on my blog. Unfortunately, December 1st started off like the impulsive road trip nobody wants to take, but instead of taking a road trip somewhere, we spent it taking trips back and forth to St. David’s Hospital visiting Victoria’s mother Cindy.

To give a little background to the situation Cindy is one of the strongest fighters I have come to know. She was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2001 and again 2007. To put this in context, this is the same cancer that John McCain has and the 5 year survival rate is 10%. Not only did she survive it twice, but she survived it for 16 years. In essence, she was a walking, talking miracle!

While Cindy told the cancer she was having none of it and continued on, the affects of the radiation limited her mobility and ultimately left her wheelchair bound. Fortunately, this did not stop us from being able to take her to Victoria’s brother Michael’s wedding in Florida. Unfortunately, as time went on she continued to decline and falls became more frequent.

On December 1st, Victoria and I had just sat down when we received a phone call about Cindy having another bad fall. Cindy was going to be taken to the emergency room to be checked out. Over the course of the next month Cindy would be moved from a hospital room to the ICU and then eventually to hospice.

Victoria and I would spent almost every single chance we got at the hospital. It was comforting seeing the phenomenal care she received at St. David’s where they seemed to throw everything they could in hopes of Cindy’s recovery. Although Cindy was receiving the best care she could, it was not comforting playing the waiting game for answers and this made for a very long month.

While making the hospital a bit of our second home, it ended up being the backdrop of the long month of December. That’s really not going to be the focus of this blog. I got to spend a lot more time with Victoria’s grandparents and also her aunt, uncle, and cousin. When we knew things were getting bad, Victoria’s brother and his wife flew out and crashed at our place. In essence, if there was a positive element to this otherwise grim situation, it was that the family grew closer.

Every once and a while, we got a chance to get away. We were able to go to a wedding in Fort Worth and also Victoria’s company Christmas party. It was there I was able to propose at the Alamo. She said yes and then we were able to forget about everything for a few moments and celebrate Texas-style.

We also were able to go to Dos Batos and get tacos. When we picked up Michael and Kayleigh (Victoria’s brother and his wife), we repeated going to this place again as their food is excellent!

For Christmas Eve, we partook in the Texas tradition of having tamales. Michael also whipped up some chili and we were able to add one of the many hot sauces we had in our cupboard.

For Christmas, I cooked up a bunch of food we got from Costco: ham, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes.

For Christmas, Victoria got me 2 full service car washes for each of my Focuses and a Mr. Beer kit so I could start home brewing.

During the whole time, it was colder than normal. I am happy that it wasn’t as cold as Marshfield.

The day after Christmas, Kayleigh had to go back. We dropped her off at the airport. Michael helped her with the self-ticketing system, so I waited in the cell phone lot. The cell phone lot is actually a good idea to allow people to wait for people they are picking up and not clog up right by the terminals (actually waiting there is not allowed).

Later during the day we dropped Kayleigh off, Cindy was moved to hospice, where she passed away later that night. She was going to be buried that Saturday in Bryan, TX, where she grew up. There would be a memorial service the following Saturday in Austin at the church she attended. We took a trip to Bryan to plan the funeral and then went to Casa Rodriguez to eat. We then headed back to Austin.

The plans were for a Saturday graveside burial service, so on Friday, we first swung by Freytag’s Florist to make flower arrangements for the memorial service that following Saturday. We then headed to Bryan to stay at Victoria’s grandparent’s house for the night.

As we sat around and had a drink, we got a call that Victoria’s cousin Chris’s car had broken down. Victoria’s uncle Craig jumped up and so did her grandpa to go and get him. Michael and I also jumped up and rode along. It ended up being the alternator, but we were able to charge it enough to limp it to Caldwell and then do a battery swap with a fresh battery to get it back to Bryan.

After we came back, we had a nice BBQ meal.

Charlie Ray, the preacher, put on an awesome graveside service. His preaching style had a very Texas feel to it and he did a wonderful job putting everything together and creating a great memorial to Cindy. Afterwards, we all went to Chuy’s and had some Mexican food. Cindy loved this kind of food.

That following week was New Year’s. Victoria, Michael, and I decided to celebrate with pizzas, Old Fashioneds, and staying inside because the weather was cold. Luckily it was warmer than Marshfield, but still cold enough to get some snow and freeze up the roads.

At the stroke of midnight we welcomed 2018 with some champaign.

By this time, Michael had been camping out in our living room for a while. The benefit of this is I got to cook omelettes and other foods in bigger quantities. We definitely did not go hungry the whole time!

Later in the week, my parents came down for the memorial service. They were surprised that not only was there no snow, but they had the sprinklers on.

I drove them around and we went to the Graffiti Park. After that we drove to Johnson City and went to Wittington’s.

We then went to downtown Johnson City and hit up Vintage 205, Rustik By Choice, and Science Mill.

Later that night we met Victoria’s dad and we all went to PoK-e-Jo’s.

The next day we toured the Texas State Capitol and the Bullock Texas State History Museum. That night we had the Wisconsin tradition of a Friday night fish fry, but with a Texas twist at Catfish Parlour.

The next day was the memorial service at Oak Hill United Methodist Church. Just like the awesome graveside service put on by Charlie Ray, Pastor Jim also put on an amazing service at the church. To top off the amazing service, Chet a close family friend and second dad to Victoria, put on one of the best eulogies I have ever heard.

With the two services, everything fell into place perfectly and gave Cindy a fitting memorial to the great person she was. To celebrate her memory we ate more Mexican food at the Texican Cafe in South Austin. The Texican Cafe on Lakeline was the last place we had taken Cindy out to eat. She loved the food there and the fact they accommodated her so well when she ate there. It was a no brainer to come back to the one closer to the area of town she lived for many years.

That brings us to now, early January. The memorial services are now done and everyone has gone home. We are still tying up the loose ends with everything, but much of the uncertainty we had to endure through the long month of December is now gone.

Cindy may have physically left us, but her spirit is always with us. Her fighting spirit and stubbornness to tell cancer, “No Thanks,” gives us an example of how to live our lives in the face of adversity. Despite the horrible circumstances we were all brought together and became much closer as a family. In many ways, this was an extremely hard month to think about and relive, but moving forward it made us much stronger as individual and closer together as a family.

R.I.P Lucinda “Cindy” Burgess.

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