ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg
In our early days together, Dan shared a nugget of young dude wisdom with me: “When the sex starts to go, you know the relationship is over.” He had developed this philosophical litmus test over the course of two marriages and firmly believed in its accuracy. Now, here we were, more in love than ever, even after seven months of celibacy.
In the first days after the diagnosis, we were too freaked out to make love. After reading that testosterone fuels sexual desire and prostate cancer, we were afraid to do anything that might encourage more cancer growth. Then, once Dan started getting the Lupron shots, sex wasn’t an option. (One of the possible side effects of hormone therapy is a temporary loss of libido.) Dan still found me desirable, he just didn’t desire me. It was like being shown the dessert menu after a huge meal; everything looked good, he just wasn’t hungry.
Trying to convince him that I wasn’t hungry either proved difficult. One morning, lying in our new bed in Maine, we were spooning. In the past, this position would have triggered a physical response. Now we were just cuddling and talking, and I was enjoying this sweet calm before the builders arrived with their hammers and saws.
Out of the blue, Dan said that if I wanted to take a lover he would understand. I quickly rolled over to face him. “You are my lover!” I said, scolding him. “I don’t want anyone else. And, I don’t need sex; I need you.” He looked relieved, but unconvinced. For most of his life, he’d equated sex with love, since they always came to the party together, and left within minutes of each other. We’d talked about this before, but it hadn’t seemed important then. Now I had to get through to him, to separate the two, since he obviously feared that I would feel unloved while my sexual needs weren’t being met. I was a woman careening down a hormonal waterslide into menopause, while the man I adored was fighting to stay afloat in the deep end. Wondering if the lifeguard liked my push-up bikini top was the last thing on my mind. And yet, that’s exactly what was on my man’s mind, even as he was trying not to drown.
Dan needed to feel strong and manly for this fight, even while coping with a treatment that challenged his very concept of manhood. This was not going to be solved before breakfast, but I made a start. “Out of all the songs you wrote, that made women fall madly in love with you, how many mention intercourse?” He was quiet for a moment, and I didn’t know if he was pondering my words or considering rhymes for intercourse. I asked, “Did The Beatles say, 'All you need is sex?'” Dan smiled and I could see I was getting through. “Women want love.” I said, “And no one has ever made me feel more loved than you do. I really don’t care how long we have to wait to have sex again.”
While we were talking, the sounds of crew trucks arriving and nail guns firing had been filtering in to us. It was time to get up, but before letting him go I put my hand on the side of his face. “I love you - the you inside this head of yours. Do you understand?” I asked. He nodded, and I stared deep into his eyes.
“Yes,” he said, smiling sheepishly, “I do.”
Relieved, I kissed him and held him tight, and he murmured into my hair, “But, if you change your mind, and want a lover, I’ll understand.”
Now he wrote to me from Colorado:
Jan 8, 2005
Good morning, my love,
Thanks so much for the pics. The spread and pillows look lovely and the kitchen nook as well. 'Ril laid in my lap for several hours last night while I watched some Sex in The City's (strange thing for someone in the middle of nowhere with no sex drive to be watching but they are very funny.) She had a BIG brushing.
Laying on the couch by the fire with Dan Brown's book. I miss you girls too.
I considered it a good sign that he was joking about his lack of libido. He brought up the lover issue a few more times over the next year, but each time it felt less like an overture and more like a request for reassurance.
Our nightly phone calls revolved around health stuff, daily activities and the progress made on various projects. The house was coming along great, as was the CD Dan was working on. His PSA had risen to 47, so he was taking the Casodex again. We didn't dwell on this, but privately we were both scared.
In February we lamented that this would be our second Valentine’s day apart. We reminisced about that first Valentine’s Day and the necklace I lost, then found, just as its replacement was waiting for me at Cafe Romana. It felt like we were talking about a couple of sweet kids we’d known, once upon a lifetime ago.
Back then, our "Be My Valentine" cards were always a bit saucy.
This year would be different. On February 14th, the local florist delivered a bouquet of red roses. FedEx arrived later, with an envelope containing a Valentine’s Day card and a CD.
In the card was a note that said:
Happy Valentine's Day, my love -
Since I couldn't be there with you, I thought I'd do something special and send you a musical Valentine. Flashed on the idea in the tub (of course) and several days later, there it was.
Not the most complicated lyric I ever penned, but the sentiment and the melody are lovely, I think. It took about a week to record and mix, and I'm still tweaking the mix, so I hope you'll overlook any sound anomalies and just enjoy this song - my gift to you.
Your loving husband,
I put the CD in my iMac, and plugged in my headphones.
It was the most romantic Valentine I’d ever received, and proof positive that love and romance can survive, and even thrive, during a sexual eclipse.
February 19, 2005
Hello, my darling x 7,
Here's some more stuff . Could you save this to disk with the other writings?
By the end of February, Dan had emailed me all the important files from his computer, including the lyrics, liner notes, and credits for Love in Time. He flew to Boston on March 3rd and took a cab from Logan airport to the Ritz, where I was waiting for him. At the sound of his knock on the door, my heart did the familiar stutter-hop and I ran to open it.
After two months apart, he was himself, but different. I pulled him in, anxious to reconnect. He put his arms around me and, rather than merging into him, I felt separate. It frightened me that the familiarity of our bodies could have faded so quickly.
“No more long trips apart,” I said.
“Yeah,” he replied, “I agree.”
Then we kissed, and I was home again.
That night we decided to celebrate with steaks at Abe & Louie’s. As we walked down Newbury Street holding hands, it felt like we were stepping back into ourselves, and the new east coast life we’d interrupted two months earlier. We turned left on Fairfield, then left again on Boylston. We scored a booth and ordered our usual: Caesar salads, steaks, and sides of spinach, potatoes, and Bernaise sauce. Dan had red wine and I ordered a split of champagne. It was divine, and at the end of the meal we were both too full for dessert.
Dan’s PSA dropped to 3.0 - the Casodex was working. By May the house was finished and flower beds were being planted. We were having a blast arranging furniture and decorating. I had taken up kayaking and Dan was day sailing. In June his PSA fell to 1.3, and held steady through August. We were so happy, we felt it was a good time to update everyone. So, we wrote a letter and posted it on the website on Dan's birthday:
August 13, 2005
A personal letter from D.F.
First, let me send everyone some very good news. In our first 14 months of treatment, we have succeeded in slowing the progression of my prostate cancer down to an almost negligible level. Jean and I are thrilled and incredibly relieved and finally feel like we can at last take a breath. While we understand that what we’re dealing with is a long term condition that will have to be dealt with, monitored and treated for probably the rest of my life, we are terribly encouraged to have come so far, so fast. It has certainly been the most trying experience of our lives and yet has proven to be one of the most illuminating as well.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude to all of the thousands of wonderful people who have sent us such incredibly moving and supportive e-mails via the Living Legacy web site. I am quite certain that the love and prayers that have been directed to us from all over the world have had a tangible and potent healing effect. It is truly overwhelming and humbling to realize how many lives my music has touched so deeply all these years. Each one of you who have taken the time and effort to reach out to Jean and I have helped immeasurably to uplift our spirits and keep us looking strongly forward during some very rough moments. I thank you from the very depths of my heart.
I currently have no plans to return to the concert stage or the recording studio in the foreseeable future, but who knows? At least for now, I prefer to keep my options open.
Again my deepest thanks and love to all,
Now for the sermon.
To each and every man....
I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test and DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) EVERY YEAR.
The medical community suggests this for men over 50, but black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should start getting tested at 40 - 45 years of age.
The PSA test is a simple blood test...it only takes a minute or two. The DRE, okay, every man squirms at the thought of this exam, but hey, it too takes only a minute or two, and IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Prostate cancer can be very slow growing or very aggressive, but detected early while it is still confined to the prostate gland, it can usually be treated and cured successfully.
Once it spreads beyond the prostate it is called Advanced Prostate Cancer (PCa). At this point it becomes imminently more life threatening and harder to treat. Do yourself and your loved ones a huge favor and GET CHECKED REGULARLY. I promise you, you DON’T want to go through what I’m going through if you can avoid it.
Education and awareness are key, I urge you to follow the link below to the Prostate Cancer Foundation web site and read up on how best to protect yourself and reduce your likelihood of contracting this terrible disease.
Elliott and Lynn flew out from Chicago on August 21, so we had a post-birthday/housewarming bash. We invited all of our local friends and made margaritas and Mexican food. As an extra-special treat, we’d ordered Posa’s tamales from Santa Fe - chicken with green chili and pork with red chili.
Everyone carried their plates and drinks out to the back porch, and we watched our friends spread out, down the steps and onto blankets on the new grass. Our first party rang out with the Summer sounds of laughter, music, and the screen door wheezing open and banging shut. I’d baked a birthday cake, and as Dan blew out the candles I'm sure we were all making the same silent wish.
We moved inside after dark and crowded into the living room as Dan brought out a couple of guitars. When he and Elliott began to play, it was like they were right back at the University of Illinois, jamming together at The Red Herring.
Dan started playing something with a bossa nova beat and Elliott joined in, then one of them changed the beat and tempo and the other followed. It was hard to tell who instigated the changes as they dipped and turned as one, like a mini-murmuration of Starlings. As they hit the last notes, they burst into laughter, and the rest of us laughed along with them and applauded. They played Elliott’s song, “Plastered in Paris,” and then a few Beatles songs that we could all sing along to.
The next day we were on the back porch talking about how much fun the party had been. Elliott and Lynn had just gone inside. It was an overcast day with a hint of Autumn in the air. Leaning on the rail, Dan looked so gorgeous I grabbed my camera and snapped a photo of my loving, talented, manly, courageous husband, two days into his 54th year.
Posted March 27th. 2021 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2021