• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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I’m not sure where to start…

so I’ll just jump in here with both feet.  I’ve blogged a few times since early October but didn’t mention anything about our family circumstances. Here goes.

In late September, we were starting school, finishing harvest, and getting ready for our October trip to NYC to visit my parents, and then our trip to DC with my father.  Then my mother phoned from their house in the West Indies to say my father was behaving oddly, and even before the GP down there said anything (because of experience with my father- and brother-in-law), it sounded rather like a mini-stroke.

If only.

My parents headed for NYC and doctors and tests, I emailed my sister in Kenya to tell her the news and she jumped on a plane.  We jumped on our regularly scheduled plane in early October, but instead of the usual grandparents’ visit, we arrived in time for my father’s exploratory brain surgery.  We decided to continue on to Washington with the kids so at least we’d be on East Coast near my parents and to provide some distraction for the kids, and it was in a hotel room there that we got news of the prognosis, brain cancer (glioblastomoa multiforme, grade 4, which is pretty much the worst case scenario).  The best the doctors could offer was 12-18 months with radiation and oral chemotherapy following the operation to remove what they could of the tumor.

Tom and the kids and I returned home in late October, the kids went trick or treating, and I ran around running errands and wriggling out of commitments and appointments so that I could return to NYC for six weeks, taking over for my sister as my father started daily radiation treatments and a pill regimen he loathed.  Realizing that if my parents and I were left on our own in the apartment for Christmas and New Year’s, the holidays would be a pretty grim affair for them, I had an easy time convincing Tom to come to NYC with the kids on a cheer-up mission.

In early December, based on some of our observations, the radiation oncologist scheduled an MRI to assess the results so far, only to learn that the tumor was growing “as if it were dosed with Miracle Gro”.  The radiation and chemo weren’t having much of an effect, and my father’s personality was already so changed from early October, before the operation.  Brain cancer seems to me to have more in common with Alzheimer’s and even autism than any of the other cancers I’ve encountered.  The truly bad news was a revised prognosis of six months or less, so needless to say our holidays were bittersweet.

After our determined effort to have a New Year’s celebration and the arrival of my sister and her daughter from Kenya, we headed back home, thinking that my father would have at least a few more months and we’d make another trip to New York.  But the day we left and the day after, my father had two bad falls, was unable to get up, and ended up in the hospital for some physical therapy.  He was doing well, well, as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and after about a week was expected to come home, when he died suddenly.  I think we’ve all been stunned more or less ever since, a second helping of stunned since the initial diagnosis in October.  I had just been unpacking and doing laundry in more or less of a daze after being away from home for six weeks when I started repacking for a three-week trip, from which I returned earlier this month, helping my mother and sister to tidy the apartment and sort through boxes and stacks of papers and such at the office.  The dizzying pace of events since late September and months away from home have been discombobulating.  I’m still meeting people at the grocery store who remember seeing me last in November, just before leaving to see to the radiation, who kindly ask how my father is doing.  It’s heartbreaking to tell them the latest.

To boot we’re dealing with a couple of extra difficulties in the extended family, including the unexpected death of my father’s close friend (who was also my brother-in-law’s father) and yet more cancer, which makes me hope that for all of us the rest of the year will be decidedly boring and undramatic.

In the meantime, there are lots of distractions at home to keep us busy: the Olympics, especially the curling and hockey; 4H public speaking (the kids all did very well, with Laura and Daniel getting first place at the intermediate and junior levels of their club, and Davy getting second place in junior; the older two go to Districts tomorrow); the music festival, with the kids’ entries and me as promotions co-ordinator; the annual organic certification application which has to be in by the end of March; seeds to start; and making sure all the tax paperwork is in before I take off in early April. Oh, and maybe some blogging, too.

16 Responses

  1. Oh, Becky, I am so sorry to hear about your father. My sympathies to your entire family. What a loss for all of you.

    Your friend,

  2. An extra hug for you Becky. Take care!

  3. Becky,

    I’m sorry to hear your news. My husband’s father passed away about 5 years ago now, and it was a very difficult time for us. Nothing like a death to bring certain other ‘family issues’ out in the open too! Wishing you and your family all the best.

    P.S. I have missed your blog. It’s one of my favourites.

  4. Becky,
    Having just been through this last May, I know that there are simply no words, despite the best efforts to find them. Please know that you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Oh Becky. I’ve got no words. I lost my mother a year and a half ago to a brain aneurysm. She never got to see the baby.

    I will be sending good thoughts your way, and to your mother.

  6. My heart aches with you, having been there. Know that for the rest of this year you get a free pass from guilt. Do whatever your heart tells you to do, be as involved as you can be (busy is sometimes very helpful). But also know that if grief/pressure suddenly sneaks up on you, you have that pass to just step away and the world will not crumble! Hugs to your entire family, and rmember to hug that wonderful hubby of yours, for mine would have never managed a harvest, house, and homeschooling without me!

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. May his memory be a blessing.

    Take care of yourself and your family.

  8. Words never seem to come to me when I need them but please know that I am sorry to hear of your loss and that my thoughts will be with you and yours.

  9. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this very difficult time.

    I too lost my father to cancer with the initial diagnoses being 12-18 months to live. That turned out to be 17 weeks.

    Time does heal and it sounds like you have a close family.


  10. I don’t comment often, but would like to tell you how sorry I am to hear of your loss. It hits close to home, as my cousin died of brain cancer five years ago. I’m glad you have family to support you…take care of yourself. Grief is the worst sort of pain. I wish you beautiful memories and strength.

  11. To everyone who wrote, I’d just like to say a heartfelt thank you.

  12. Becky, I just read your post and I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.

    I gleaned from your previous posts that your father seemed like a wonderful man. I’m sure his death leaves some rather large spaces in all of your lives.

    Sending a big virtual hug to you,


  13. My sympathies to you and your family. I lost both my parents to cancer, and it is awful. How great you and the kids could spend that last bit of time with your father. I hope spring brings some healing, but it takes lots of time, so be gentle with yourself.

  14. Oh Becky
    I’m so glad to see you blogging again and again, so so sorry about your father.

  15. Oh Becky, I’m so sorry to hear of your father’s passing. To be taken so quickly makes the grieving process so much harder. My thoughts to you and your family.

  16. I’m so sorry to read this. You had mentioned that you were staying with your father during treatment, but I didn’t realize it was this serious. My sincere sympathies.

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