To our family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and assorted well-wishers,
Last year at this time we were looking forward to what we believed was the end of a difficult trial for the Grover family. Mike was on the mend, focused on transitioning back to work. Lea was preparing for surgery that was expected to end many of her medical problems. The children were growing, thriving, expanding their personalities and horizons.
2020 was hard. As COVID-19 swept across the globe we hunkered down to weather another spate of surgeries and treatments for Mike. Our beloved sister, Shana, passed away in April. In half a year Mike experienced enough medical catastrophes to more than fill any person’s punch-card for life. At times the world has felt both crushing and distant. But I don’t want to dwell on these things. It is easy to look back at 2020 and see only disasters, only loneliness and grief, anger and outrage, fear and exhaustion. I don’t intend to Pollyanna 2020, but I would like to take this time to do what annual letters are meant to do: share the joys and accomplishments that made this year great with the people we love.
This year, R (8) has become a vociferous reader. She devours books, often the same ones her sisters read, and has delighted in being able to share this pastime with them. In the spring she was recognized by her teachers for the extraordinary strides she made in focusing her attention, listening, and helping fellow students. She is growing into a truly hilarious, deeply opinionated young lady, and for all the energy it can take to debate the finer details of what “clean” means in the context of her room, or what “eat your dinner” means when you get into the fine print, helping her learn to refine her arguments, engage in good faith, and to express herself always with kindness has been a joy. Hugging R is the highlight of most of our days. She seems to grow and change in sudden leaps, becoming more mature and capable while remaining the deeply loving child she has always been.
At the end of the 2019/2020 school year, D (11) received the highest honor in the district for extended curriculum math students, and second-highest in language arts. She too has turned even more to reading to pass the time this year, and has started dipping into the “grown up” library shelves. She is learning to play the flute, which she enjoys immensely. D is kind and thoughtful, even when it’s clear she is sliding into early teenaged angst. She is always curious about the world, deeply compassionate towards both friends and strangers, always trying to understand more about her world. Even online, I am told she is a delight in class, well-liked by fellow students, and self-motivated to get her work done, on time, to perfection. Despite her modesty for her accomplishments, we delight in telling her daily how proud she makes us. She is a remarkable person, full of insight and curiosity, and we know she will move mountains.
S (11) slipped past D for the top language arts commendation in the fall and has begun writing creatively, much to Lea’s delight and concern. She has begun to play the trombone with one goal- in her words, “So I can make the sad trombone noise when Daddy tells a bad joke.” To say we have enjoyed watching her blossom into a wonderful tween would be a criminal understatement. She is funny and thoughtful, and spent much of her summer as the self-appointed morale officer of the family. She always wants to help. She worries when the people she loves struggle to smile. To say that she’s a delight is a lie, she is so much more. She’s funny, thoughtful, caring, and helpful, and furthermore she’s getting tall enough to reach things on the shelves Lea can’t. Now that she wears Lea’s shoe size, we’re confident there’s nothing she can’t accomplish, and only wish she’d slow down enough to let us relish in her growth.
2020 brought Lea her own set of challenges and triumphs. In February Lea had a surgery to repair pregnancy-related injuries, and despite the challenges posed by recovering as a stowaway in Mike’s hospital room, she’s healthier than ever. Between Mike’s treatments she enrolled in classes to prepare for a “return to work,” and has passed her examinations with flying colors. Over the year she has forged new paths and relationships to prepare for anything 2021 may have in store. Whatever worries she has for the future, Mike and the kids assure her she’s more than equal to any task that may lie ahead.
Mike has demonstrated over and over again what Lea knew on their first date- he’s the strongest-hearted, kindest, bravest man on Earth. In the face of the most heartbreaking news, the most painful complications, the most exhausting treatments, the most devastating setbacks, he remains positive and loving, concerned only for Lea and the kids. Despite near-constant quarantine he’s funny to a fault, determinedly aggressive with treatment while prioritizing the family and their happiness over all else and laughing through all the trials and tribulations glioblastoma has inflicted upon him. He’s the warm, bearded, wise-cracking center of our world, whatever is happening beyond our door. If you ask Mike he’ll tell you it’s Lea who has gotten him through these hard times, but Lea believes it’s through his own inner strength and amazing composure that he has come through so much. Mike gave us many scares this year, but more important is that each time he’s landed in the hospital he came HOME again, bringing joy and relief, and hugs that overpower each moment and ground them to the reality that he’s here and we are all the better for it.
In last year’s letter we tried to thank all the people who helped us, comforted us, and held us up through what was, at that time, our hardest year. We cannot repeat this feat because this year the number of people surrounding us in their love and affection, uplifting us with their wishes and prayers and their tireless (and SUCCESSFUL) efforts to elect leaders to protect Mike’s healthcare access, has grown exponentially. During a year when we have been isolated so often, we have never been alone. You are always there. You are always sending food, cards, cash, gifts, texts, calls, cross-country drives for socially distant visits, weekly and nightly prayers, and more love than any family could ever be entitled to feel.
We love and appreciate you so much, so much more than we can ever hope to express. You are what we are most grateful for as we embark on 2021. We miss you, and eagerly await a better year, in which we can be as physically present for you as you have been, spiritually, emotionally, and affectionately, for us. You made our 2020 beautiful beyond reason. You fill our hearts with happiness, hope, and the feeling of home.
With our gratitude, love, and tears of longing to hug you all,
You can donate to a GoFundMe for Mike's end-of-life care here: Love for the Grover Family
You can read more about the incredible support people have shown our family here: Our Community is Our Miracle
Read my most recent post here: When All You Have Is Time
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