Monday, September 17, 2007


I’m a 45 years-old man and I just spent a couple of minutes clutching my Teddy bear. Ridiculous!? The bear is a souvenir of a recent trip to Peru with Kate. I found him in a shop for Peruvian handicrafts. He is extremely soft–it’s amusing to see people pick him up for the first time: They see him on my sofa and kind of laugh. Then, almost invariably, they bend over to pick him up for a better look for they know me and they know that his presence there implies he’s something special. The moment they first touch him they discover that specialness. He is extraordinarily soft! It is almost unbelievable how soft he is. His fur is made from baby alpaca.

I bought him as much because I knew I could never communicate the unbelievable sensuousness of touching him as a desire of finding an especially worthy small child on whom to bestow him. However, he has grown on me, gamely and genially sitting as he does in the middle of one of my sofas. And he’s become a conversation piece and a happy reminder of a remarkable trip. So he may remain in my company for quite some time to come.

I named him ‘Peru Bear’, both to acknowledge his provenance and as an homage to my dad, who from my earliest memories, called me “Pooh Bear” after the character in the A.A. Milne books, which I adored as a child and of which I demanded incessant repeated readings from both my parents. (My childhood Teddy bear was named ‘Pooh Bear’, too, for that very reason.)

I am listening to the voice of my father. Tears are running down my face. It is playing back on the little digital voice recorder I purchased to record his stories when he was first diagnosed. Alas, circumstances being as they were, I have just a couple of hours. What I have is extremely precious. The portion that I am listening to was recorded December 3rd, 2006, just over three months before he died. He is chatting with Kate’s parents in my parents’s bedroom. He is his typical self: Charming, warm, entertaining and fascinating. People are chuckling and laughing. His topics range broadly, from his early years with my mother to working with Louis Leakey. Stories that I always just kind of took in stride but now realize in part define just how remarkable a man he really was.

At worst, I cried inconsolably. I felt like the ground was falling away from under me.

Grieving alone, when there is nobody to hold or console you, is doubly miserable. I ran and grabbed my bear. I needed to hold on to something warm and comforting. I clutched the bear for a few minutes as I cried deeply and the tears surged.

I miss my dad terribly.

The worst part of watching my dad die was the feeling of absolute powerlessness, of wanting to do something–anything to help him, to prolong his time with me just a bit, fundamentally selfish though that was. Listening to him now brought back those feelings. There is nothing more horrifying that watching the life being inexorably and irrevocably drained from someone you love.

I have searched on the Web for the phrase “I miss my dad”. I found thousands of blog posts, essays, poems and other messages from people of all ages who deeply miss their own dads. And I have been told that my blog induced some of its readers to hours of tears as it evoked them to relive the losses of their own parents. I am somewhat comforted knowing that I am far from alone in the strength of my feelings. But I realize, too, that I am afflicted with a gaping rent in my psyche that can never be mended. The loss is simply too great.

I think about my dad every day. I want to talk to him. To see him. To see his face light up and hear him say with his distinctive, cheery intonation, “Hi Brian! How are you?” when I walk in to his home. Pressing ‘play’ doesn’t begin to come close.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Three Months

I know I said this blog was finished. I lied. It may never be finished. I don’t know or care whether anybody even reads it anymore.

Today it is three months since my dad died. Well, technically, he died three months ago yesterday, March 10th, but it was so close to midnight that it seems like it happened on March 11th. That’s when all the people came and his body was taken away.

The cards and letters did finally stop. Oh, one appears every week or so as word is still spreading, though pretty much everybody knows by now. Nature and Science each published obituaries, as have several other scientific publications. Friends still ask how I’m doing or how my mother is holding up.

My mother, sister and I share dull and chronic aches from deep wounds that will never completely heal. We still each cry from time to time; the intervals between are increasing. And we wonder if he was really real. My mom and I talked about it today as we walked together. It’s almost as if he never existed, that he was simply a character in a story we both know. Neither of us can explain why we feel this way. Perhaps we’re still isolating ourselves from the magnitude of our loss. After all, we’re used to his being gone months at a time—three months was typical. But he’s not coming home from this absence.

If he was indeed a fiction, at least he was in a hell of a hell of a good story.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Today was the memorial service for my dad at the U.C. Berkeley Faculty Club. Guests and speakers came from literally all over the globe: Ethiopia; China; France; and many other places. Well more than 200 in total. All for just a two hour service. The celebration was warm, thoughtful and reverential, as I hoped it would be. Sixteen speakers spoke. My family was flattered by the breadth of attendees who included many friends of mine and my parents, my girlfriend’s parents and aunt; my sister’s ex-boyfriend and his father, and numerous colleagues and long–time friends of my father. My mother, sister and I were each very touched.

My family is grateful to Alan Almquist and Meg Starr, and to Tim White, Henry Gilbert and all of the other HERC staff for their efforts in arranging the memorial. We are also grateful to Don Dana for hosting and to each of the speakers for their efforts.

I want to interject here a belated but very heartfelt ‘thanks’ to Paul Johnson, who arranged for my and my mother’s recent trip to Hawai’i. It was everything my mother and I wanted and hoped for: quiet; relaxing; and, above all else, reflective. While there, there were no cards, letters or gifts to be received. The phone wasn’t constantly ringing with condolences. My mother and I spent much of our time there simply walking along the coast, talking about my dad, and reclaiming our proprietary interest in my dad’s memory; sharing him with noone else.

So there it is. My dad has died, and been cremated , celebrated, remembered and mourned [today]. And so this blog will now end. I send my heartfelt thanks to each of you reading my blog. Thank you for staying with me throughout this extraordinary journey. I am sorry that we had to take it but I am glad that we were able to take it together.

I leave you with the text of the speech I gave today in memory of my father at the U.C. Faculty Club...

On behalf of my mother, Betty, and my sister, Jennifer, I want to thank Cal’s Human Evolution Resource Center (HERC) for organizing and staging this memorial, and for setting up and running the very nice Web site with the photos and testimonials. My thanks particularly to Henry Gilbert for his work on the Web site. I also want to thank all of the the HERC staff and interns. And special thanks go to Tim White, Alan Almquist, Meg Starr and Leslea Hlusko for their yeoman efforts for this memorial, which I know they began almost immediately upon my father’s passing, now nearly two months ago. We are indebted and grateful to all of you.

I also want to thank Don Dana for agreeing to host today and each of our speakers for taking time to be here—especially those who have come considerable distances. I know my dad would have felt very honored that each of you are here today on his behalf.

When I was ten years old, my father gave me magazine subscriptions to ‘Popular Science’ and ‘Scientific American’. For years thereafter, they were both annually renewed on my birthday. When I was twelve, he gave me a copy of a high school science textbook, Introduction to Physical Science. And when I was in 7th grade, he purchased for me a copy of Asimov’s Guide to Science, a general compendium of basic scientific knowledge. These were in addition to the numerous encyclopedia, atlases and other reference and science books that my dad brought home. They were perquisites of his participation on various editorial boards and sufficient in count to well stock any library. My dad once told me he brought them home, as opposed to shelving them in his office, specifically for my pleasure and benefit.

When I was eleven, my father began working on an exhibit for the California Academy of Sciences. He would go there each Wednesday afternoon for meetings. After his second trip there, he suggested at dinner that evening that I should go with him on his next one. My dad countered my mom’s objections of my being out of school by arguing that I would learn as much or more than I would in a classroom. At length my mother acquiesced and my dad picked me up just before lunch the next day and off we went.

I had a great time! My enthusiasm encouraged my dad to argue in favor of repeating the excursion the following week and then again the week after that, after which it simply became a happy routine. My dad and I would discuss what I’d learned on each drive home.

Finally, when I was sixteen, my dad, my mother and I were passed through Montana. As we did, he gave me a running commentary on the geomorphology of the landscape, including describing the structure and depositional history of an alluvial fan which we drove up. This was followed by a lively and interesting discussion about flood plains and river terraces. I have similar recollections of discussing vulcanism when we visited Kilauea volcano on the big island of Hawai‘i and the seafaring and astronavigational skills of the polynesians while vacationing in New Zealand.

I can’t share any heart–warming anecdotes of playing ball with my dad. Nor do I have humorous stories of going on fishing trips with him, or recounting how he and I were almost eaten by a bear on a father–son camping trip into the mountains. There simply weren’t any such adventures. Although we did love to watch Jeopardy! together. With us it was a blood sport! But, in the end, I find great joy and tremendous value in the memories I do have. I realize how much my dad has influenced and continues to influence me, how much I learned from him and because of him, and, for all that, how very much I am his son, and how extremely fortunate I am to be able to claim that relationship.

Life with my dad was a continuously rich and fascinating lesson. I know that everybody here shares those feelings. For though these memories are mine, I know that nearly all of you have been touched by my dad’s extraordinarily giving spirit and his remarkable ability for recognizing our talents and skills, and for helping us—deeply wanting us—to make the most of them. And often that help came completely unbidden and by surprise. Last night, a colleague of my dad told me that early in her career, just after her receiving Ph.D., she would receive small blue hand-written notes of encouragement from my dad after he’d read her monographs. She hadn’t been his student. She didn’t know him that well. But still the notes came.

Since my dad’s passing, I have heard so many stories from people who were overwhelmed and gratified by how my dad gave his valuable time to explain something to a self–described lowly freshman or inconsequential layperson. Or by how my dad went out of his way to create or facilitate an opportunity for someone. I know that many here were able to make their first trips to the field because of my dad’s efforts. Still others had papers published because my dad gave his estimable imprimatur. That was how my dad was: Always generous in sharing his copious intellect and, ready and beyond willing to provide whatever assistance and encouragement he could to all whom he thought deserved it. Now he is gone and each of us is impoverished by this loss. But our sadness is mollified by our many wonderful memories and our loss is more than offset by how he enriched each of our lives.

Thank you

Monday, April 30, 2007

Getting to the Memorial

The collapse of a portion of the San Francisco Bay Bridge interchange (‘the MacArthur Maze’) may significantly impact your ability to get to Berkeley for the Memorial. Regardless, parking is limited around the campus and, where available, metered spaces are often for only an hour. So using public transporation is a very good idea.

The Faculty Club is in the interior of the campus of the Univeristy of California. It is at found at location C5 on this map. An index to the map and other resources can be found here.

If you do drive, do not expect to be able to park at the Faculty Club or at any nearby campus lot! No daytime parking is allowed! The best place to try and park is at a public lot on the south side of the campus. There are three lots and are indicated by markers D, F and H on this Google map.

Public Transportation
The nearest BART station is Berkeley. It’s relatively easy to walk from there to the Faculty Club. Exit the station at its central exit at Center and Shattuck. It’s about a 7–10 minute walk up Center into the campus to the Faculty Club.

Alternatively, people can take UC’s Bear Transit bus service, lines ‘R’ or ‘C’. They run in opposite directions around the campus, but both end up at Hearst Mining Circle at the top of the campus, the stop closest to the Faculty Club From there It’ss about 1/10th of a mile walk to the Faculty Club. Each line leaves from a stop across Shattuck from the BART station and runs every 20 minutes. The fare is $1.00.

There are maps all over campus to help people find their way.


Thursday, April 26, 2007


Last Thursday, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, an organization in which my dad invested a huge portion of his life, had a dinner in my dad’s honor. It was very nice, very thoughtful. Many of the Foundation’s trustees attended, as did much of its staff. My mother and I were the guests of honor.

The evening began with a reception and dinner. Afterwards, they had a program with several speakers, a quartet playing classical music such as my dad appreciated, and several speakers—I among them.

Being that I am not deeply familiar with my dad’s work, as my life focuses on technology, I could not speak to my dad’s scientific and academic accomplishments. Instead I thought the audience might find it interesting to hear about some of the experiences that helped shape his personality.

Here is the text of my speech, like they say in the radio and television industries, ‘as done’:


Personally and on behalf of my mother, Betty Howell, and my sister, Jennifer, who is at home in Oregon tonight, I want to thank the Leakey Foundation for this wonderful dinner honoring my father’s memory and legacy. Particularly I want to thank Sharal Camisa and the other self-described Leakey Ladies for their extraordinary efforts in arranging the dinner. Sharal worked closely with my mother and me to ensure our wishes were met. But we appreciate the efforts of each of you.

I want to also thank all of you. By your attendance and your efforts to be here, you, too, honor my father. Thank you.

My dad loved and was very proud of this organization. It was an extremely important part of his life since its very inception. My dad was there when Robert Beck gave the Foundation its first million dollar check.

There is a story about how Bob ceremoniously handed the check to Louis, who held it almost in awe for several minutes, till my dad took it gently from Louis’ hands, kindly reminding Louis that the check wasn’t in fact, actually his.

My dad would have been overwhelmed by all of this tonight and certainly would have deemed himself unworthy. He always did in such circumstances. He never let his extraordinary success go to his head...

Sam Yamasaki, my parents’ gardener of thirty–seven years, last week told my mother that “Professor Howell was my favorite customer.” When my mother asked why, he went on to say that most professors, they “see themselves as high, above everybody else. But Professor Howell wasn’t like that. He would always stop and and talk.”

My dad saw himself as being no different, no better, no more deserving of praise than anyone else. He frequently described himself as being “just plain folks.” That was a remarkable attitude in light of his many accomplishments...

Now I am far from qualified to speak of them but even the few details I know are daunting:

  • Bachelor of Arts degree in anatomy with minors in German and French from the University of Chicago. My dad graduated Phi Beta Kappa and then went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. from the same institution, accomplishing it all in just six years. And he still found time to frequent the many jazz joints Chicago’s south side.

  • Leader of the famed Omo expeditions. During which he pioneered the now standard multi-disciplinary approach for paleonanthropological research.

  • Need I add, professor at Berkeley, one of the world’s preeminent universities.

  • Member of the National Academy of Sciences. At the time of his election he was one of the organization’s few life scientists. While a member, he lead one of the first scientific delegations into a then just opening China.

  • Fellow of the British Royal Society, member of the national academies of science of France and several other countries.

  • Trustee and past president of the California Academy of Sciences. John McCosker, chair of the Academy’s department of Aquatic Biology recently told my mother and me that my dad was one of the two best presidents the Academy had ever had, the other being famed naturalist Starker Leopold.

  • Contributing editor to and author for Time/Life, Encyclopaedia Britanica, World Book/Childcraft, National Geographic, and many other prestigious publishers. (In my high school social studies, we had a unit on human evolution—the text was from Early Man. My teacher, Mr. Evans, must have noticed my expression because he asked quite loudly: “Is this your father, Mr. Howell?” My meek “yes” made me instantly hated as my classmates realized I had an inside advantage on the material which none of them could match.

  • And, of course, many key roles in the Leakey Foundation.

I could go on, probably for days. Last I heard, my dad’s curriculum vitae ran well more than thirty single-spaced typewritten pages.

My father was born in Kansas City, Missouri in November, 1925. Much of his childhood was spent on farms in Kansas and Nebraska. During those years, like any farm boy, my dad had to get up, often before dawn, to take care of chickens, cows and other animals, and perform many other chores. More chores awaited him when he came home from school. And though it is a specious claim used by many parents to quiet their complaining children, my dad really did have to walk two miles to school. Even through snow during winter. I don't know, though, if it was uphill both ways.

My paternal grandfather was a traveling salesman who sold newfangled electric ranges. His frequent long absences forced my father to grow up early to take care of his mother and two younger sisters. My dad also grew up quite a bit when, during the Great Depression, his family was forced into bankruptcy and the bank foreclosed on their farm. They were evicted by court order. A little later, my dad witnessed the farm and many of his family's other belongings being sold at a "sheriff's sale." That's a court–authorized auction whose proceeds are used to repay creditors. Throughout much of my dad's childhood, the hard times outnumbered the easy ones.

Happily, things did get a bit better when my dad was a teenager. His father was more successful in his career and his family was able to move to the city. There was then enough money to send him to a private preparatory high school, his parents having taken notice of my dad’s academic achievements. With no more farm chores to do, my dad at last found himself with time to indulge his own interests. He filled it, in part, puttering in the wood shop at the school, and as the pitcher for his school's baseball team. And he excelled at his prep school, graduating with honors in 1943.

After graduation, my dad foresaw a future for himself as a history teacher. He loved the Civil War and American history in general. But real war was still raging and my dad joined the Navy. This was partly out of a desire to see more of the world and also to guarantee his choice of service as he had become eligible for the draft. He shipped out of a still recovering Pearl Harbor and spent his tour of duty in the Pacific theater, serving as a signal man. He did see a bit more of the world.

Mustering out of the Navy in Portland Oregon after more than a year at sea, he briefly returned to his family in Nebraska. He spent several months working on the farm and for the Malibo Range Company that made the electric ranges his father sold, to accumulate money for college. College back then wasn't like it is now. Back then, higher education was pretty much an avocation of the well to do. There was no Sallie Mae, no college loan programs. Few scholarships existed. The best schools, such as my dad yearned to attend, were unattainable to all but the very wealthy. My dad knew he wouldn't be able to accumulate enough money to attend a really good school as he deeply desired, let alone continue on to graduate school and this frustrated him.

But then Congress passed the GI Bill. My father often spoke of the Bill with near veneration for it enabled him to realize his goal to attend a top school, the University of Chicago, and freed him of the need to do any work other than simply study. It was there that he discovered his love of anthropology. The rest, of course, is history.

In his later life, my father never forgot the farm, the chores before dawn, the long, cold snowy walks to school, his own father's necessary hard work and long absences. The image of the sheriff’s sale was burned into his memory. Conversely, he appreciated the privilege of having been able to attend his private high school, as it prepared him for the intense academic climate of Chicago. And he always knew how lucky he was that the GI Bill had come along. That without it, he might have wound up attending a third-rate college, if any at all, and teaching high school history. He simply saw himself as someone from ordinary circumstances who had been fortunate enough to have had some good opportunities. And that his taking advantage of such opportunities didn’t make him deserving of praise or honors when those opportunities could have just as easily fallen to somebody else.

And so our brief archeological excavation and a little analysis have unearthed the bases of my dad’s two most noted traits: His vaunted generosity, which was simply a desire to provide others with good opportunities; and his unfailing humility.

I would like to end by taking special notice of what I regard as the single most important of my father’s many remarkable achievements: Keeping all of his others in perspective.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


It is 09:30PM HST on Saturday. The clock on my laptop says its 00:34 (using 24-hour PDT) on Sunday. I am tired. It has been a very long day. A day that began in San Francisco, side–tripped to Berkeley, passed back through San Francisco and then transited approximately 2,140 miles across the Pacific. I am on Hawai‘i. The Big Island. The Orchid Island.

The sunset was a bright orange sun setting against a partially–clouded sky shot with horizontal bands of near crimson and purple reaching seemingly to infinity to the west, with a deepening–to–indigo sky spangled with diamond-like stars and lit by narrow crescent moon to the east of the zenith.

My mother and I are in an extraordinarily beautiful condo, on the Kona coast, about 20 minutes north of the airport. Our presence here is the utterly undeserved gift of a very generous friend of my father’s. But we are deeply grateful.

The temperature outside right now is 71F. If I listen, I can hear ocean waves hissing onto the beach about 100 feet from my bedroom. In the hotel nextdoor, at what I assume to be a regular weekend luau, a Don Ho wannabe croons innocuous songs to slack key guitar.

Neither of us is happy to be here. To the contrary, the trip so far has seemed to be a chore. Each of us quietly cried a bit on the flight. We were probably two of the most solemn people to ever deplane in the Islands. But at last we will have a week of peace. Of quiet. With no memorials. No dinners.

Here we are isolated from the seemingly ceaseless stream of cards, letters, e-mails, phone calls and gifts. More than six weeks on, word of my dad’s death seems to be still spreading around the world. Each call or missive, each package reminds, saddens and burdens us with the thought of yet another friend/colleague/ex-student whom we then know shares a little of our pain. At least the flow is gradually subsiding; it is only a stream now, not the torrent it was immediately after he died.

Please understand: This is not to make any of you who are reading this feel guilty. That is not my intent at all. My mother and I appreciate everything that we have received, heard or experienced in my dad’s memory. But here, for the next few days, we can be just mother and son. I can set aside being Clark Howell’s son. My mother can set aside being Clark Howell’s wife. For the next few days I am simply Brian and my dad is...was just my dad. For the next few days my mom is just Betty and my dad was just her husband. For the next few days that is enough.

For the next few days we can reclaim ownership of my dad’s memory, his relationships with us and his importance to us, sharing him with nobody else.

We just need some time for us.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Boulders and Grains

The process of grieving the loss of a loved one is particular to the individual. Even before he died, I cried in anticipation of losing my dad (psychologists call such grieving anticipatory grief). And I cried in the arms of my cousin as the mortuary people carried away his cold emaciated corpse. Those were the boulders, tumbling out in an avalanche of overarching pain and obvious loss.

Yesterday I was looking through my collection of DVDs for a movie to watch. I chanced upon Ray, the biography of Ray Charles, the 20th Century musical giant. It’s a wonderful movie.

After several weeks of cajoling, I managed to get my skeptical dad to a theater to see Ray. He was sure it wouldn’t do justice to one of his musical heroes. My efforts paid off: He loved it! He watched it again on TV a few months later when it ran on HBO and even rented the movie from a video store at least twice more after that. He told me he would never get tired of seeing it.

A few weeks before he died, I chanced upon a copy of the Ray DVD on sale for $10. I grabbed it specifically to show it to my dad. I had recently purchased a large flat screen television with a very nice sound system and looked forward to having my parents over for dinner and playing the DVD for him. Alas, he died before I ever had the chance. For now the movie remains on the shelf.

I will watch Ray eventually. But when I saw the movie yesterday during my search, a twinge of pain ran through my whole body. I didn’t cry though I grew a little bit sadder. That’s how it is now. Every day, sometimes several times in a day, I see, hear or think about something I want to share with my dad. But I can’t any longer. Each is a little grain of loss that accumulates in my soul, weighing me down a bit. And I realize a bit more just how deeply and richly my and my father’s lives intertwined.

None of the grains is significant enough to merit grief on its own, but their impact is in the aggregate. Eventually, their increasing combined weight crushes me and I am overwhelmed, releasing the load and recommencing the process. I expect their accumulations to continue for a very long time.

I miss you Dad!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Memorial Service Update

It will be a good memorial service. We are assembling an impressive array of excellent speakers. I hope to see or meet you there.

Closing on 100 people have already RSPV’d. Many more will probably just show up. Speakers and guests are coming from all over the globe: Asia; Africa; Europe; and from all over North America. No greater honor could be bestowed upon my dad.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Nearly Four Weeks

I think today was the first without a condolence card. The phone calls and e-mails have all ceased as well. It’s funny: For a long time my mom wanted them all to stop, so she could have some peace and quiet. Now I don’t think she is so sure.

They Just Keep Popping Up

Today it is an obit in the San Diego Union Tribune. Actually, it was run a couple of days ago. I don’t know why the paper waited the better part of a month to run it. Must have been a very slow news day. I would have never dreamt of my dad as ‘filler’ material. Ah, well.

I also belatedly found a blog post at Science News.

They’ve been added to the cumulative round–up.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Memorial RSVP

Please RSVP if you are attending my dad’s memorial service at Cal on May 7th. This will help ensure sufficient seating and refreshments.

Please pass the RSVP link ( along to others whom you think will be attending.

Thank you.

It’s Turkish

Apparently people are still reading this blog. The day after I posted a reference to a foreign obituary in an unknown language, I received an e-mail informing me that the language was, as I suspected, Turkish.


Monday, April 2, 2007

And Another and Another...

This time, it’s the Contra Costa Times.

Appended to the round–up.

And They Just Keep Coming...

More obits....

Post Chronicle (UK?)

Daily Californian (U.C. at Berkeley)

San Jose Mercury News

Neanderthalis Blog (en Español)

Tgier07 Blog

Zalambdalestids (scroll down to ‘obit’)

As usual, added to the round–up.

Foreign Obit

Can anybody identify the language? Turkish? Greek? I haven’ the faintest idea...

This has been added to the cumulative round–up of media coverage. To contact me (concerning the language), please obtain my e-mail address from the ‘View my complete profile’ link at below left, beneath the Blog Archive and under About me.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Another Obit

This time it’s the central Utah Daily Herald.

It’s been appended to the round–up.

Please Read

This blog is now being indexed by Google. References to it are already appearing elsewhere on the Web:
I am flattered.

Heretofore, this blog has been public but unindexed by search engines, meaning that the only way to learn about it was by word–of–mouth (or e-mail). That kept its audience to limited to those with a genuine interest in my father’s health. But now the world can find it, simply by typing in ‘F. Clark Howell’ into Google or Yahoo!, for example. And the world includes spambots and nefarious entities that might use the personal contact information for my parents and me that I originally included in various posts for other than my intended purposes. Consequently, I have stricken all personal contact information from those posts.

My impetuses for indexing the blog were twofold:

  • Realizing that there are many other people who might be interested in learning about what happened to my father. This came about through postings I discovered in other blogs following his death.

  • A number of people have commented that they think other people facing the loss of a loved one may find value in reading about my dad’s disease and death, and my experiences of it. One person even recommeded I formally publish the text. Again, I am flattered. If other people find useful information or solace herein, then this effort will have served a far greater purpose than I ever intended.

If you wish to contact me, please obtain my e-mail address from the ‘View my complete profile’ link at below left, beneath the Blog Archive and under About me.



The Independent

The Independent, a British newspaper, has run a very nice obituary. It was written by the husband of a former student of my dad. I’ve added it to my round–up of media coverage.

Please let me know if you find any others.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Gloria in Extremis

Neither of these two fine people have long to live.

I wrote those words a few months ago, concerning my father and my aunt—my mother’s sister Gloria, to whom my mother is very close.

Prior to my dad, Gloria had been diagnosed with stage IV (metastatic) smoking–induced lung cancer. As we passed the anniversary of her diagnosis, chemotherapy, a pneumonectomy and other life–saving measures seemed to be sucessfully holding the disease at bay. But time and statistics have caught up with Gloria: Apparently, the cancer has returned and spread to her bone, like with my dad. Her prognosis is most likely the same as was my dad’s.

I am so sorry for my aunt, uncle and cousins and everybody else who loves her.

I am worried for my mom.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Memorial Service Accomodations

Are you traveling to Berkeley for the memorial service for my dad in May? If so, click here for a list of hotels.

Hotels close to the memorial location include:
*Restrictions apply. Please review room requirements carefully.

The World

Le Monde picked up and ran my dad’s obituary (en Français). I’ve added it to yesterday’s comprehensive round-up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


This post last updated 05 April 2007 at 17:53 PDT.


The New York Times
Boston Globe
Washington Post
Los Angeles Times
London Herald
International Herald Tribune
Portland Oregonian
Sacramento Bee
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
Long Beach Press Telegram
Wilmington Morning Star
Contra Costa Times
Berkeleyan (U.C. at Berkeley)
Daily Californian (U.C. at Berkeley)
San Jose Mercury News
Monterey Herald (California)
Daily Herald (central Utah)
San Diego Union Tribune
Fresno Bee (link no longer available)

Imedinews (Georgia, The Republic of, in English)
Le Monde (en Français)
The Independent (UK)
Post Chronicle (UK?)

United Press International (UPI)

Web Reporting

Anthropology Daily
Science Daily

Scientific Organizations

L.S.B. Leakey Foundation
National Center for Science Education
Stone Age Institute
Human Evolution Research Center (‘HERC’, at Berkeley)

Blogs and Discussion Groups

Science News
Science Blogs (re: Afarensis)
Greg Laden (evolution proponent)
Bill Maher message boards
Monsters and Critics
Michael Balter
The Book of THoTH
Steentild (Belgium, in English)
Memencio (en Español)
Neanderthalis Blog (en Español)
Tgier07 Blog
Zalambdalestids (scroll down to ‘obit’)

(undecipherable) (rememberance site)
Life in Legacy (news aggregator)
Surfwax (aggregator)

Archived Articles
These are not necessarily current. I found them while trolling through search engine results. Most are for general audiences.

Time Magazine
American Scientist

Monday, March 26, 2007

C’est la vie

Today was a day that I can describe only as ‘surreal’; a word also independently chosen by my mother. Today I took receipt of a small, dark red, brick–like box. It weighs about nine lbs. It is the ashes of my dad, who was cremated a few days ago. It is inconceivable that all he was has been reduced to a little box that I can hold easily on the palm of one hand.

I have placed him on a shelf in his study—the room in which he spent so many hours on weekends and evenings, writing and reading, when not traveling overseas.

At last he is home for good.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Time Passes

He has been dead the better part of two weeks. The news is now old but the pain is still new.

The Wilmington Morning Star (North Carolina) published an obituary for him on Monday. (Must have been a slow news day.)

On my bedside table lies my dad’s 50 year old [antique] Omega Seamaster mechanical calendar wristwatch (view his model and a current model), a gift from my mom. He wore it for much of that time. It was purchased the first year that my dad and mom went to Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania) and has been to more than 100 countries and numerous sites, including Ambrona, Isimila and the Omo. For all of its adventures, it is in remarkably good shape--and it keeps excellent time! But I won’t be wearing it regularly. It is much too precious for that. You may see it if you attend the memorial in May.

Nature and Science magazines are going to publish articles on my dad. The Nature article will be written by my dad’s best friend and lab mate Tim White. His longtime and very dear friend Philip Tobias will write the other.

Damn, this hurts.

Monday, March 19, 2007


L.S.B. Leakey Foundation (scroll down)

The Stone Age Institute (great picture)
— Repeats—

National Center for Science Education (scroll down; great photo)

U.C. Berkeley HERC (new photos and tributes)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Another Times

The LA Times ran an obit for my dad in its Sunday edition.

It’s most a reprint from the AP wire story, but it’s still nice to see.

Anybody down there in La-la land, could you send the page up to my mom? Muchos gracias.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Times, Herald and Times

The New York Times ran its obituary for my dad today. It doesn’t really add much to the Chronicle or Cal pieces but it is well written. There was also an obituary in the The International Herald Tribune and Associated Press extracts in several others.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The S.F. Chronicle’s obituary for my father is due to run tomorrow. Cal’s Public Information Office sent out a press release late this afternoon. They share a photo I provided. I proofread Cal’s release and was very pleased, both by the release in general and by the very nice quotes of his colleagues and associates. I want to thank Bob Sanders at Cal and Dave Perlman at the Chronicle for their efforts on my dad’s behalf. I was told that Dave, a longtime friend of my dad, spent two days working on the obituary for the Chronicle.

I think the release and the Chronicle’s obit hit too late for the New York Times and any other eastern papers, so don’t expect anything there before Friday.

Memorial Service

My father’s memorial service will be:

Monday, May 7th at 4PM
The Faculty Club
The University of California at Berkeley



My father was justifiably proud of the National Center for Science Education. Before its creation, my family met its founder Eugenie Scott at Christmas breakfast at my sister’s boyfriend’s home. My dad was extremely impressed by Euginie. And we all know of my father’s high standards. I believe later he signed on as founding NCSE Secretary. I know he made some contacts.

Since then, NCSE has become a leader in the war on creationism and you can find Eugenie’s name in the press regularly. That always made my dad very happy.

They have thoughtfully posted an obituary for my dad at

Monday, March 12, 2007

Elsewhere on the Web

Cal’s Human Evolution Research Center (HERC) has set up a memorial Web site for my dad at Please distribute the link.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


My dad’s briefcase sits at the bottom of the front hall stairs, as it has for so many thousands of nights and days over the years. His keys lie next to it, as was typical. I can see them from where I sit in the living room. The omnipresent sound of the oxygen concentrator is missing. The house seems preternaturally peaceful. People are chatting and laughing in the dining room.

It is easy to imagine that he has simply gone to the store, that at any moment he will walk in and start calling for my mom. Or maybe he is overseas, in France, England, China, Georgia, Spain, Turkey, Kenya, Saudi Arabia or any of dozens of other countries to which he has traveled. But he is not coming home. I saw to that this afternoon as I helped the mortuary workers carry away his shriveled cold body.

I hope that the briefcase will remain where it is for a very long time to come. I find it comforting.

In Memoriam...

If you would like to do something in memory of my dad, please consider a donation to the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation. It is an organization to which he has been inextricably linked since its inception, of which he was justifiably very proud, and which embodies and promotes the science and highest scientific principles that defined my father’s life.

Thank you.

Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Requiescat in Pace

My dad is dead. It is 124 days since the diagnosis (4 months, 3 days). He died peacefully, in no pain. I was with him, talking to him and holding his hand when he did. I will never be able to come close to expressing how much I will miss him.

There will be no funeral. However, a memorial service is in the works for a few weeks hence. We want it to be sufficiently in the future so that everybody who wants to will be able to attend. Information on the service will be posted here in a few days. You could also call me at 510-###-#### in a week or two. The service will be arranged by the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation in conjunction with Cal. I do not know anything else at this time. My family thanks both institutions in advance for their efforts on my father’s behalf.

My mother is going to need lots of emotional support for quite awhile. However, if you want to come by the house to visit, anytime soon, please call me first at 510-###-####. Not that we don’t want you to visit, we do! But I don’t want my mother to feel overrun at this emotionally intense time. So please call me.

Press and academic inquiries about my dad should be directed to Bob Sanders of the University of California at Berkeley’s Public Information Office: 510-###-####.

This is not the end of this blog. Not immediately, anyway. As I wrote above, I will be posting memorial service information. I will also be adding links to media and academic coverage about my dad, as I become aware of it.

Thank you for all the heartfelt phone calls and messages to me, my mother, my father and my family as a whole. Thank you for the gifts, food and assistance. Finally, thank you very much for reading my blog.



Only a Matter of Time

His vital processes are slowing, ebbing.


He has been unconscious for most of the past 48 hours. There were a few moments of wakefulness in the middle of the night. His attendants were on duty and, per her request, woke up my sister who was sleeping downstairs. She had a brief and precious exchange with him, and hopefully more closure than I had expected. There have also been a couple of periods when he has opened his eyes. He could not speak but through subtle indications it was apparent that he can hear and appreciate what is being said. I know he is glad Jennifer was able to come to Berkeley.

He wants to go. That is absolutely clear from separate discussions he had with my mom and me on Wednesday and Thursday. He told us he is unable to read, bored and, when we are not around, very lonely. Given that he will die soon, anyway, he suggested he would utilize any available physical means to hasten it. Alas he has none. So he lies in twilight.

I have read that people in such twilight are often cognizant of what is going on around them. They may be able to understand what is being said. So, both for his sake and mine, I am spending much of my time talking to him, recounting many of the adventures we have shared and how grateful I am for those experiences.

With reference to my Summary Assessment post, what I meant to communicate was my incredible shock at my dad’s rapid decline, especially in light of his unexpected improvement just a few weeks back.

My mother is surprised he survived last night. She doesn’t believe he will survive this day.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Summary Assessment

So God Damn Fast!

Jennifer Again

My sister is here. I picked her up at Oakland International this afternoon after she flew down from Portland, Oregon. I am glad she is having an opportunity to say ‘good–bye’ to him. Unfortunately, I do not believe the reciprocal will come to pass, though I know he wanted it.

Four Months and Two Days

He has been sleeping since yesterday. The issue now is whether he will ever again just open his eyes, let alone regain lucid consciousness? My mother and I share this question. The hospice nurse’s assessment is that his condition is simply “very grave.”

Thursday, March 8, 2007


My sister flies in from Portland tomorrow. She lands in Oakland at 12:40PM. I will pick her up and whisk her to my parents’s home, trying my best to prepare her enroute. My father is awaiting her arrival. He has asked about her numerous times. I know her presence will be a great relief to him. I get the sense that he is holding on for her.

He is Close

A while back, a friend’s aunt graciously joined me for lunch and recounted her experiences with her terminal father, who was also felled by lung cancer. At the time I was unnerved, even almost horrified by her descriptions. My dad was still able to get up and walk around a bit. He was lucid and engaging. I felt relieved that I would have some time—months, I thought—to prepare and steel myself. And to say ‘good bye’. Our lunch was three weeks ago from today.

The hospice organization since has given my family a booklet detailing ‘end–of–life’ symptoms. It corroborates my discussion and lists additional symptoms. And it’s all happening. Now. Just the way my friend’s aunt said it would. All of it. Including the symptoms in the book.

I won’t enumerate them but you can read about the symptoms here and/or here. Everything is shutting down. Everything is failing. By my comprehension, death is just days or perhaps even hours away.

If You Want to Contact Either of my Parents....

Please e-mail or call me at [removed] or [removed].

Please do not contact my mom. I am coordinating all visits, phone calls and messages. My mom has enough to deal with as it is.

Many thanks,



He asked for me early this morning and one of the two Fijian women called me on my cell phone. I was up at my folks’ house in minutes. He asks for me a lot these days. Through broken statements I’ve come to appreciate that he wants a family member with him all the time. He doesn’t want to die alone. But, at the same time, he is trying to shield my mother from the worst and most ugly aspects of his illness. Love is expressed in many different ways.


I know there are quite a number of people reading this blog. I invite and encourage you to share some of your favorite memories of my dad. They could be work or personal. Please drop me an e-mail at [removed] and I will post them as I receive them. Also, please spread the word on my father. People need to know. It was just yesterday that I was finally able to get in touch with one of my dad’s best friends, longtime colleague and former graduate student.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Hell of a Day

My dad is sleeping and snoring now. Doped on a strong dose of morphine. My mother is in bed, in my sister’s room. I am sitting by my dad’s hospital bed. I am exhausted.

Today was, without question, one of the longest and toughest of my life—and, I am sure, my mother’s as well. But it was far from the worst for either of us. That one is impending.

It was a day where I began discussing arrangments for managing the inevitable academic media circus that will occur in the wake of my father’s death. I was relieved to find out that the University of California has a protocol for fielding such professional inquiries. All I will have to do is refer any such calls that come to my parents’ home.

It was a day where I broached the subject of a memorial service. Here, too, I was told that third parties will intervene. Cal, in collaboration with the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, will organize a memorial.

It was a day where I had a close friend of my father sob in my arms, saw several more of his friends on the verge of tears, and heard from my mom of yet another friend crying—a gentleman whom I have always felt to be very strong. I am very glad that my father is so loved by so many.


All chemotherapuetic treatments have been stopped, as have been many other medications. Weeping sores have opened on his forearms; I am not sure of the genetive factors. The constant purr of the oxygen concentrator can be heard throughout much of the house. He is on morphine.

He spends his day in his hospital bed, exhausted, frequently dozing. He cannot get up, or even turn over by himself. Thankfullly, he has assistance. He is almost bald, a side effect of the chemotherapy, and vastly shrunken from his former girth, having eaten so little for so long. His atrophied legs, as he described them recently to a friend, resemble those of a concentration camp inmate. The change over the past few days, as described this morning by a visiting former student, has been “exponentially” for the worse.

His breathing is labored. A side effect, I believe, of the mass in his superior vena cava. After learning about it, it struck me that the mass is not only forcing fluid (plasma) from within the vessel through the vascular walls, to pool in his forearms. The mass is also greatly impeding overall circulation and, especially, pulmonary function: less blood through the lungs means less oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange. Hence his chronic shortness of breath and need for the concentrator.

It is four months to the day that I first learned of his illness. I am suffering from a kind of cognitive dissonance: It seems both much longer and much shorter than that.

It is, simply, the end. My mother, a former Registered Nurse with experience in an oncology ward, does not expect him to survive through to Monday. None of us, I, my mother and sister and other relatives, nor his many friends are ready for this. But it is out of our control. We feel so helpless and fragile ourselves.

He will not finish his audio history. There was never the opportunity for me to record any of the remarkable stories of his youth that I remember him telling me at bedtime in my own childhood. I blame myself: Too much focus on work and not enough attention on what really mattered. I presumed I would have longer. I have cried for the lost opportunities. It is a lesson most painfully learned.

My mother and I, and his attendants and visiting friends, are all doing what we can to keep him comfortable. I gently rub his head and arms, which he likes, lubricate the interior of his desiccated mouth using a small moistened sponge on a long stick, fluff up his pillows and adjust his covers. The tasks are small but the disease is large and renders moot any attempts at greater efforts.*

I sit across from his bed, watching him. He is sleeping, snorning softly. Ocassionally over the past few days he will seem to stop breathing for a moment and his body will slump. Each time I tense: Is it his last? Up until now, that has always been followed by a wriggle or a shift, as he unconsciously tries to get comfortable in his bed. But it won’t be long. Tears are pooling behind a dam of temporary self–control.

It is a vigil.

*Such as surgery or radiation.

Monday, March 5, 2007

“On Borrowed Time”

I was almost certainly correct in my ‘chemical’ assessment last Friday. Well, more broadly, malnutrition (usually less than 200 calories a day, by my estimate; most people eat well over 1,000), insufficient hydration (sometimes less than eight ounces of fluid in a day) and certainly insufficient electrolytes significantly impaired my dad’s health. A three–day course of Pedialyte, which provides sodium and potassium, the two most essential bodily electrolytes, and glucose, the simple sugar on which cellular respiration depends (‘respiration ’ in this context refers to the intracellular oxidation of pyruvic acid, which is formed from splitting glucose molecules), has resulted in a noticable improvement in his alertness and coherency. No longer is he spending his days in a near stupor, eyes heavily lidded. But his overall health continues to markedly decline.

He has grown so weak that he can barely raise an arm. He is being tended to ’round–the–clock by the two Fijian women, now joined in shift rotation by the husband of one. They are taking great care of him and he appreciates them all. They are aided by a motorized hospital bed. By simply pressing buttons, he can be raised from a prone position or his legs and feet comfortably elevated. The bed has replaced the one in which my parents slept for decades, first in Illinois and then in Berkeley. My mother is sleeping down the hall in my sister’s room. My parents will never again sleep together. But at least my dad is much more comfortable and can be easily elevated rather than having to be physically [wo]man-handled and propped up with a bunch of pillows.

His activity has been harshly limited. He is unable to hold a book, unable to read, for which I feel very sorrowful. Reading has always been his greatest passion. The jammed bookshelves in his home and office are evidence of this love. He is relegated to simply watching television, looking out his bedroom window (granted, it has a broad, lovely view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, in which beautiful sunsets are often visible) and chatting with whomever is available. It is a constrained and frequently tedious existence for someone who has lived such a life of the mind.

Last week, abruptly and with no warning, nor discussion of reasons and consequences with either of my parents, Dr. Canin, my dad’s oncologist at Walnut Creek Kaiser abruptly ceded responsibility for my dad’s care and turned it over to hospice care. That wasn’t by any means a bad thing. The nurse now supervising my dad’s care is a wonderful, pragmatic, forthright but very caring woman my parents and I all like and respect very much. Also, hospice supplied the aforementioned hospital bed and other equipment. But hospice is the last step, the point of no return. This was underscored as I sat by my dad’s bedside and listened to discussions of DNR directives (click on the link). All three of us were unprepared to learn that my father was beyond further treatment.

Further discussions with the hospice nurse have revealed that my father has far more serious problems than any of us knew. Such as a mass in his superior vena cava that, the nurse suggested, was forcing fluid out of the vessel which was then leaking into my dad’s arm causing the long—we thought—undiagnosable swelling. Okay, it’s not a definitive diagnosis but it is a reasonable one, which begs the question as to why Dr. Canin never even hypothesized it, let alone told us about the mass?

Now I know. Even though he is more alert, more coherent, more conversant, he is not going to leave that bed again. As my mother said this morning, as she and I walked together, he is living “on borrowed time.”

Friday, March 2, 2007


The last few days have seen a flurry of changes—none of them for the better. First was the long languishing oxygen finally being put to its intended use. It was rapidly replaced with an oxygen concetrator to guarantee my dad a constant flow of oxygen. Two nights ago, I saw him use his his walker for the first time. Yesterday was a watershed: A wheelchair arrived along with a motorized hospital bed to replace the flat queen bed that has been in his bedroom for 37 years. He will sleep alone; my mother moved into my sister’s old bedroom down the hall three weeks ago when co-sleeping became too difficult. The bed is motorized, eliminating the physical efforts of two or more people that have been recently required to ift my father from a prone to a semi-sitting position such that he can watch television or talk to visitors.

He continues to slide downhill, growing skinnier and weaker each day. Much of this decline I attribute not to the cancer but to his a simple lack of adequate nutrition, hydration and salt. Remember that just a few weeks ago there was unexpected and significant regression of his primary tumor.

He complains that he feels nauseous and cannot keep down food or liquids. I think he is starving and thirsting to death as much as or more than the cancer is killing him. My mother and I were in Dr. Canin’s office when he admonished my dad that it was very important that he eat—and that was at the very beginning of this whole experience.

Where does the salt come in? Well, high sodium levels (sodium being one of the two consituent elements in table salt; the other being chlorine; hence its chemical formula of NaCl) are contributory to hypertension and many other problems. But low sodium levels, such as occurs when someone ingests too little salt can be equally or even more problematic. Sodium is an electrolyte: a chemical that helps conduct or hold an electric charge. Electrolytes are commonly found in batteries. And in you. They are essential for proper operation of your nervous system; the propagation of electric impulses along your nerves and within your brain. You are an electrochmemical machine.

Hyponatremia, polyglot Greek and Latin for ‘low sodium’ is a condition where there is insufficient sodium in your blood stream, and consequently throughout your body. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache and malaise [weakness and lethargy]. (At its worst, hyponatremia will kill you.) Sound familiar? Those are my dad’s principal symptoms. In fact, I think my dad is hypo-electrolytic: probably not the exact diagnosis but close enough. He is lacking adequate electrolytic salts (including other than sodium chloride) and essential metals, and indeed other essential minerals for his body to function well.

Why can’t he keep down liquids? Because they will further dilute the increasingly miniscule amounts of sodium necessary to keep his nervous system operating so his body rejects it. I’m off to the store to buy Pedialite, (yes, it’s for children, but a physician prescribed it for me a couple of years back when I had a several gastrointestinal bug) Gatorade or a similar beverage!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Great Gift

A family friend has given a great my family a great gift: Two sweet, strong, incredibly capable Fijian ladies have taken up residence in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ home. They are there to assist my father with whatever he needs, such as being lifted to sit up in bed (he cannot do that for himself any longer), and ancillary tasks including changing sheets and even emptying garbage, thereby relieving my mother of many mundane household duties.

The gift to me is alleviation of stress knowing my dad is being well cared for ’round–the–clock (not that my mom did anything less than a stellar job) while my mom is free of a myriad demands, small and large, and the risk of further injuring her back. My mother also will have precious and essential time to herself—which she needs at the very least to come to terms with the life–changing events we are experiencing.

My heartfelt and sincerest “Thank You!” to our benefactor!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Betty! (Mom)

February 27th, is my mother’s birthday. Contrary to my general policy, I think it would be nice for my mom to hear from you today. Call her at [removed] or, preferrably, e-mail her at [removed] (click the preceding link to launch your mail program and create a mail addressed to my mom). I hope she can enjoy it for at least a few minutes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

O2 Little*

My dad requested oxygen in late November, when just climbing the stairs to his bedroom became a major exertion. For nearly three months, three green cylinders, a trolley, regulator, hoses and nose tubes languished in the corner of his bedroom. Partly because he had a temporary overall improvement after beginning chemotherapy, but also, I know, out of pride and desire not to concede to his disease. By my observations, the latter reasons sustained his abstainance for much too long.

The tanks languish no longer. In fact, within days of his first use of them, his need has grown such that, rather than periodically refilling the empties, the tanks will be summarily replaced with an oxygen concentrator machine, which will ensure a steady, unending supply.

*For the non-scientists among you, ‘O2’ is standard chemical notation for the oxygen we breathe.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


The onomatopoeic title of this post refers to the sound of the oxygen that finally started flowing from the several green tanks of oxygen that were delivered at the end of November. Just in the past three days, my dad completely exhausted his first cylinder and began his second. A replacement cylinder will be ordered Monday morning. Practically any activity leaves him laboring for breath.

He is mostly staying in his bed. He is still unable to eat but at least he is drinking a bit. The one possible improvement is that the swelling of his hand has visibly diminished. Though my dad said that the amount of swelling goes up and down. The cause of the swelling is still indeterminate.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Deja Vu


I’ve posted similarly to this before but I find it good to repeat the essential information every now and then: If you want to reach me, please e-mail at [removed]. You may also call me on my cell at (1+) [removed]. Please remember I am in the United States Pacific Time (PT) zone. That’s eight to nine hours behind western Europe and a similar interval ahead of much of Asia.

I can convey messages to my parents and also advise you when it is appropriate to visit or call my parents. I would prefer that you do not call my mother as she is swamped.




Well, maybe not even that. Whatever ground he gained during the week post the addition of an anti-nausea drug to the increasingly ponderous collection he ingests daily seemingly has been lost. He is in bed, weak and unable to eat. His hand is swollen as much as it ever was. He is afraid to be left alone, leading to my mother to try to ensure that someone is there whenever she is not. (Upon arriving at his house today, I found his babysitter to be Elizabeth Agrilla, his longtime assistant. She was taking good care of him.)

Really, there isn’t anything else to say.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pluses and Minuses

Spirit-wise, my dad is improving. I think he’s benefiting from a new anti-nausea medication prescribed on Tuesday by Dr. Canin. He actually ate something today. For several weeks he has been eating little. My mother and I think that that is the cause of much of his chronic weakness of the past several weeks: a simple lack of adequate nutrition. Hopefully now that he is feeling better, for the first time in about a month, his appetite will return and he can begin eating his way back to relatively better health.

As it is, he is so weak that merely going upstairs to his bedroom is completely exhausting. It’s even more strenuous for him than it was in November. Moreover, he is left utterly winded. It took probably five minutes or more for him to recover after I helped him up to his bedroom this evening. In his frustration he invoked the prospective use of the oxygen that has sat in the corner of his bedroom for over two months. He also admitted to me, albeit after my coaxing, that perhaps it is at last time for him to begin sleeping downstairs, in the guest bedroom. I know he will miss his beautiful bedroom with the spectacular view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, in which he’s slept for over thirty-five years.

Finally, his left hand continues to be swollen. Upon the recommendation of Dr. Canin, my mother has wrapped it in an Ace bandage. I guess to try to restrict further swelling and to force some of the genetive fluid out of the tissue. My father blames an infiltration of Taxol for the edema–like symptom. However, being that his last infusive chemotherapy was now more than four weeks ago, my mother, his doctor and I all are dubious of this belief. But none of us can think of any other cause. I thought it might be another bloodclot but an ultrasound proved me wrong. My mom has a follow-up call with Dr. Canin tomorrow.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Side Effects

My dad has been on oral chemotherapy for the better part of a week. It was hoped that the change—from traditional infused treatments—would alleviate his chronic weakness. But we are not seeing any improvement. In fact, he seems worse. Chronic nausea; he’s eating and drinking little. My mother and I are obviously concerned.

Speaking of my mother, she is showing several signs of chronic stress. She needs assistance—more than I can give her. She has had a woman coming in occasionally but not enough, despite my encouragements. Moreover, the woman is about to give birth to her first child after which I am sure she willl not be available. So I am asking you to help me to encourage my mother to obtain more regular and extensive assistance. Referrals of candidates also would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

And So [He] Goes

Today was my dad’s second day on his new oral chemotherapy. And he is suffering for it, principally with nausea. Dr. Canin, his oncologist, said the side effects will pass in a few days. In the meantime, he’s not eating and barely drinking. At least he is a bit more ambulatory than even a few days ago. So I guess this amounts to an improvement.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Perspective (addendum)

I just spoke to my mom. She says my dad is definitely doing better. Notably, his color has improved from its disconcerting pallor of a few days ago.

My dad began his new oral chemotherapy regimen today. Hopefully it will be as successful at staving off tumor growth as was the traditional intravenous treatment, while allowing him to simultaneously feel better. However, given Dr. Canin’s preference for the intravenous, I’m guarded in my hopes.


I spoke to my dad earlier today. He sounded more cheerful than he’s been of late, but still very weak. His speech was quiet and labored. I had to listen carefully when he spoke into the telephone. At least he is again regularly making the effort to leave his bedroom and go downstairs to the television room on the main floor of my parents’ home. The sad irony of celebrating this small achievement by a man who formerly adventured around the globe is not lost on me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


The chemo was aborted today. Dr. Canin, my dad’s oncologist, and my mom agreed that my dad is just too weak. My mother said to me that “the quality of life is just not there” [with the current intraveneous regimen]. For the next month my dad will receive daily oral chemotherapy, which isn’t nearly as potent as the every–few–weeks infused kind, but will be considerably less harsh on his system.

[This post has been renamed, from “Quality,” and slightly amended. Both changes were for clarity.]

Just Another Tuesday

As I write this, it is about 10:15 on a Tuesday morning. As I write this, my father is sitting in a large, fairly comfortable reclining chair. He has been lightly dozing for over an hour, the result of several milligrams of Benadryl having been dripped into his veins through an intravenous line. That drug in turn has been followed by his standard chemotherapeutic cocktail of Taxol and Carboplatin. This is, if I am correct, his fifth such infusion.

The entire treatment will last at least five hours, after which my father will go home, sleep, and probably awaken tomorrow to feel—to use his own words—“like shit.” Such is a typical post–chemotherapy state, for my dad and most other chemo recipients. This isn’t surprising when you appreciate that chemotherapuetic drugs are powerful toxins whoses goal is to poison malignant cells—hopefully without poisoning the healthy host cells (the patient) too much.

Through all this my mother simply waits. Perhaps she will wander over to nearby Broadway Plaza and shop a bit or grab a meal. But, on the whole, she will just wait. Alone. Then she will drive them the thirty minutes or so back to their home.

So, how is your day going?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back at it...

I was sick for a week. Lost five lbs. Great new diet treatment! (Can’t be any worse than the zillions of others being hawked on television these days. My millions await.) My mother told me that when she stopped by my apartment, she hadn’t seen me “look so sick in many years.” And yet, even as I lay abed, coughing incessantly, sinuses running, head throbbing, I feared that my father generally feels far worse than I did. This was sobering and forced me to abstain from any self–pity.

Speaking of him, my dad is still trending better. Slowly. Two steps forward, 1.9 steps back. Yesterday definitely was a step or two back. He looked ashen. Pallid. No color to his skin. He was tired. But today... Well, I haven’t yet seen him but when I spoke to him by phone earlier, he said he was feeling better and he sounded more upbeat.

Forward backwar forward backwar forward backwar...

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Just in the last two days, he is finally feeling better. This, after having felt pretty damn awful for well over two weeks. We’ll just hope that this upswing continues for a while. Which it probably will—maybe till his next chemo treatment next week.

It’s all so routine now. The jargon, heretofore experienced primarily on television medical dramas has become part of our every day dialog: (representational)
Hi Mom.
Hi Brian.
How’s Dad today?
Oh, he’s doing a bit better. We’re just about to leave for Kaiser.
What’s going to happen today?
Well, he’s going to have another Aredia drip. He has chemo tomorrow and another scan next week.
Oh, okay. Well, tell Dad I love him and that I’ll talk to him this evening.
I will honey. Bye bye.
Bye Mom.
Amazing. How did treatment of a terminal illness become such a blasé topic?

Monday, February 5, 2007

Siege and Sick

The siege of long hours and crushing deadlines has ended at last. But, right on the heels of that alleviation, I have contracted a pesky virus. I’ll start posting again when I feel comfortable sitting upright for more than two minutes!

For now know that we are all still here and that my dad has been very weak for two weeks. A period of such duration that I don’t believe the symptoms to be consequential of his most recent chemotherapy, albeit it is worth reflecting on their commencement being within a day of that treatment. At least his spirits are improving and he seems to be more comfortable.

I’ll be back soon. My apologies.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pain and Suffering

My mother cautioned me to other choices when I mentioned the prospective, now actual, title of this post. But everybody knows that metastatic lung cancer is no cakewalk. It causes the victim pain and suffering—and eventually death. And, if it happens to someone you love, it causes you pain and suffering, if only empathetically.

Notwithstanding the recent, surprising tumor regression, my father has been sickly for a week. Nausea. Lack of appetite. Dizziness. Difficulty climbing stairs. I followed him up to his bedroom this evening, noticing the syncopated rhythm of his footsteps and the cane: step, step, thump. [Pause] Step, step, thump. He had to stop at the first landing where, with his head resting on the banister, he said softly but with a noticeable hint of anger, “Weak as a kitten.” His frustration at his own enfeeblment was wrenching.

It has become hard to attribute his current symptoms to his most recent chemo treatment. My mother and I each wish we could learn the cause, because maybe then we could find a way to mitigate his discomfort. Knowing also would help alleviate our nagging back–of–the–mind apprehensions—the kind which never really leave you when someone you love is terminally ill.

At least he is improving.

In Brief


I’m sorry I haven’t been posting regularly. I’ve been fighting a deadline at work. I’ve also been told that—even in the wake of record profits—Wells Fargo is cutting budgets and I and the other consultants on my team are soon to be terminated. So I’ve also been freshening up my resume and pounding the pavement at the same time. But enough about me.

My dad has had a lot of nausea in the wake of his recent (4th) chemotherapy treatment, last Tuesday. He has eaten very little and slept poorly. Having seen this before, in the wake of chemo infusions, we were initially gladdened by recent news that further treatments would be less–affecting oral. Unfortunately, Dr. Canin has since decided that, owing to the unexpected amount of regression of the pulmonary tumor, the primary cancer site, future chemo treatments will not be oral after all, but will continue to be intraveneous. I trust that the suffering my father is experiencing therefrom is worth the hopefully consequent continued prolongation of his life. I’d say so, but that would be my selfishness. In the end, it is solely my dad’s decision.

I have also learned that the bone–hardening infusions my father has been receiving (the most recent being last week, too) are not as I thought iridium, which is an element, but Aredia, which is a trade name drug. It’s basically Fosamax times ten.

More soon.