Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | January 22, 2005

Anniversaries, a time to take stock

“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” ~ Author Paul Sweeney

A flurry of anniversaries has me looking back, taking stock and looking forward.

In less than a month, my husband and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. That number stuns me. I don’t feel old enough to have been married for nearly two decades, but when I do the math, there’s no getting around it: 2005 minus 1988 equals 17 years.

My happy marriage to a good man is one of the greatest blessings of my life; it saddens me that some of my friends and family members do not have the same.

As I write this column, I can’t escape the fact that today is the eighth anniversary of a frightening event: the day our 19-month-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.

Although Katie went through a harrowing two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, we’re incredibly blessed that eight years after her diagnosis and five-and-a-half years after the end of her treatment, she remains in remission, and is a happy, healthy fourth-grader.

To look at her today, in radiant good health, with her long hair, positive outlook and ready laugh, you would never know that she was so gravely ill and endured what amounts to more than 30 months of poisoning to fight leukemia.

In the eight years since I heard the words, “Your daughter has leukemia,” we’ve learned how to live with cancer’s unanswerable questions: Will the leukemia come back? Will cancer reappear in another form? What long-term effects will her illness and treatment have?

It’s hard to take for granted that an aching leg is just a growing pain or a lingering cold is not an omen of something worse, but we force ourselves to assume the best, not the worst.

The fifth anniversary of Katie’s diagnosis was the topic of my first column for the newspaper. At the time I wrote that column, I was city editor at The Dispatch. We were suddenly without a columnist for page A2 and I had no idea how to fill the hole.

Three years ago this week, I went home and wrote a column to fill those 17 inches or so of newsprint, and three years later, I’m still finding 700 words or so each week to share with my South Valley neighbors.

My column topics have ranged from motherhood to molesters; from bangs to bullet trains; from the importance of buckling seat belts to the unimportance of a perfect figure; from euchre to elections; from fundamentalism to felines, and beyond.

If you had asked me three years ago if I could find enough topics to fill roughly 150 columns, I probably would have shaken my head, rolled my eyes and said “puh-lease.”

If you ask me tomorrow what I’m going to write about next week, I won’t be able to tell you.

But I can tell you how much I’ve appreciated the opportunity to write a weekly column, even if it is unbelievably hard work.

“You can never plan the future by the past.” ~ Irish Philosopher Edmund Burke

As I reflect upon these milestones, I realize how little any of us really knows. We cannot predict with any certainty what we’ll be doing in the next several weeks, let alone in the next several years.

Who could have guessed that a shy fundamentalist girl born in South Carolina and raised in the Midwest would become an outspoken liberal columnist for a small California newspaper? Not my parents, I’m guessing. Certainly not me.

I won’t even try to predict the paths my own children will take in the years to come.

I’m also reminded that most of us do very little to deserve the blessings that are heaped upon us: good health, American citizenship, loving families, steady jobs. Although it’s trite, I’m prompted to work harder to not take my blessings for granted, and to suffer my burdens more graciously.

After all, who can predict which of those blessings or burdens will be gone in the space of three, eight or 17 years?

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.” ~ Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

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