Nearly 7 years ago, just weeks after moving to our island, we discovered that 43-year-old Mark had cancer. We looked at the options and surgery seemed the most prudent overall. It was prostate cancer and it was fairly aggressive. He was young for this diagnosis, for this decision. I was even younger. Catching it early meant his chances were excellent. It also meant the family we had was the family we would have.
Mark would later go on to have another, completely unrelated cancer, not treatable by surgery but rather the familiar combination of chemotherapy and radiation. I cannot speak for him, but from my perspective, it's tough to call which treatment and recovery - which cancer - was harder. They were both hard. Both scary. The 2nd experience, coming just 3 years after the first had a surreal quality - Mark was still, then, only 45.
But, debatable though the ranking might be, there's no questioning that the recovery from prostrate surgery is no picnic. And did I mention they boot you out of the hospital in about 36 hours? So, the vast majority of that recovery takes place in your own home, with only the phone for nursing support.
We lived in a beautiful house with a beautiful view and the approach to the front door took you through a gated courtyard. On a girl's weekend with my homies weeks before, I had fallen in love with a hand-made gate at a little gallery on Camano Island and contacted the artist. He agreed to make me one and when it was finished we each drove an hour on the freeway to meet in a McDonald's parking lot and complete our transaction.
The day I brought Mark home from the hospital, my dear friend Robert ferried out to the island, located the gate and the tools and put the gate up for me so that Mark could walk through it to the rest of his life.
And a lot of life happened between then and now. I quit my job, we bought some land, we built 2 houses and moved my mom up from New Mexico. We bought a flock of chickens, then a flock of sheep, we got pretty good at landscaping, we failed at gardening several times. We raised our little boy into the beginnings of a fine young man.
Months went by, then years, and Mark's garden gate quietly gathered dust in the attic. Early on, we had thrown up a "temporary" fence around what would become the biggest point of contention in our relationship and a swath of floppy deer netting was all the gate it would support. We barely had a garden, much less a gate.
But, after weeks of labor, hours of constructing a structural, concreted, solid, beautiful fence around what has finally morphed into a productive food garden, we were ready. Mark carried the gate down from the attic, we dusted it off, and smiled at each other. He drilled the holes while I held the gate steady. And then it was done.
I'm not sure why it was so so hard and took so long, but this spring our garden grows, our fence is here to stay, and Mark's copper sunburst provides the gateway. Welcome to our garden of life.