Tuesday, November 16, 2010

20 years ago...

On November 16, 1990 my father, Ludlow Fox Martin died after a short bout with cancer. It was two days before his 45th birthday. I've been thinking a lot about him this past week, especially in light of the fact that, as my Aunt Lisa (my dad's sister) pointed out to me via e-mail recently, in two days he would have been 65.

The year 1990 was not a pleasant time for me and my family. My grandmother (on my mom's side), with whom we lived, died in April of 1990, then in June my dad was diagnosed with sinus cancer. He went to the doctor complaining of sinus pressure and after a couple of exams and biopsies we found out he had cancer. After trying surgery and radiation, he tried alternative forms of treatment, including a special clinic in Mexico and a place in Wisconsin that specialized in ozone treatments to attack fast-growing cancer like his. Ultimately, however, he succumbed to the disease, dying at home (in the same house where he was married to my mom) on November 16.

It's amazing that it's now 20 years later. I think about my dad often and have many good memories: watching football on Sunday afternoons (including hot pastrami sandwiches), playing tennis, his love of games, including chess, checkers and backgammon, and his great sense of humor. We spent a lot of time laughing as a family, a tradition that I carry on to this day. I also remember numerous family vacations, including trips all around New England and Northeast Canada, as well as at least one trip to Florida where I got to ride "Space Mountain" at Disney World with him. I believe my younger sister was too short to ride it and my older sister had a broken leg and was in a wheel chair (a fact she doesn't let me forget to this day!), so it was just me and my dad for the mostly pitch-black ride. 

Part of what is strange about talking about someone who died in 1990 is that there are very few pictures of him. Now a days, everyone has pictures of themselves readily available. I haven't taken the time to scan in any of the few print photos I have. There are a few framed ones in our apartment, but sadly nothing to post for the blog. Also, many of my current friends never met my dad, and many might not even be aware that he died (it doesn't always come up right away). 

And since ostensibly this is a travel blog (although I acknowledge it's morphing into something slightly different since we've gotten back from our trip), I'll also mention that in late November of 1990 after we'd finished the funeral and burial, my sisters, mom and I took a short "vacation" to the Bahamas. We went to Harbor Island, a small secluded island recommended by one of our travel agent friends (remember travel agents?) We stayed at a resort that came with golf carts to travel around in, and my 13-year-old sister loved driving us all around. And I loved playing backgammon with the bartender while sipping my daiquiris and other yummy rum drinks (we joked that the drinking age was based on height; if you were tall enough to stand at the bar, they'd serve you a drink.) It was also during that trip that I read The Catcher in the Rye. Given my circumstances I could definitely relate to the protagonist Holden Caulfield, and I've often thought about re-reading it to see if my impressions would change. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like the memory of that trip is just perfect (given the circumstances) so I'm not sure if I want altered memories of it.

As readers of this blog know, visiting Vietnam was very special for me, because when my dad served in Vietnam he was exposed to Agent Orange, which more than likely contributed to his developing sinus cancer all those years later. It was closure on some level for me to visit the places he stayed while in Vietnam. Again, I wonder how different my life would be if he'd never served in Vietnam (or if he'd received a state-side assignment instead). Also, I mentioned my grandmother at the top of the post, and I explicitly remember being in Invercargill with our lovely WWOOFing hosts Colin and Ellen on January 17, on the day when my grandmother would have turned 100. I will never forget either my dad or my grandmother.

[Update: I received a correction from my mom that apparently my dad started having sinus issues in the Fall of 1989 and knew by early 1990 that he had cancer. In June he had his final surgery and learned the news that they weren't able to remove it all. Because of the form of cancer (schwanomma) he would have needed a craniotomy, which although the doctors were prepared to do they didn't follow through on for various reasons, partly because the tumors were too big and too close to his eye. I do remember discussions of whether they should remove one of his eyes in another surgery or if he should explore other options. Can you imagine facing this choice? Ultimately he looked at other treatments. My mom also reminded me of the generosity and kindness that many people showed us during that time. My mom, who has a memory even better than mine, knew exactly who did what when during that time. The list of people is too long to list here, but I thank everyone who helped our family during that difficult time. That immense outpouring of kindness will not be forgotten either.]


  1. Very nice Asa,
    I'll try to remember to make hot pastrami sandwiches for halftime this sunday in his honor.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Asa. I didn't realize it until I was reading it, but I guess I never heard you talk about your dad. This is a wonderful memoir.


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