Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Here are some of my notes. I am a little too tired to get it done tonight, but will write you about everything soon.
I will explain one of the notes right now. The other day at Purim services, Joe's friend Andrew told me he had a sleepover at Allison's house. I told you that Allison is Joe's girlfriend.
In the car I said to Joe that he needs to have a sleepover with Allison. He has said for a long time that he wanted to do this. I explained to him that it was my fault, the I had "dropped the ball."
Joe then asked, "what ball."
I have so much to tell you. I have been leaving myself notes and I need to write everything down. Last week was a huge Henry week because Mom went back to Minneapolis. Jack read a book that made him terribly sad - a lot of siblings died in it. I will get to it all tonight. I want to tell you about Maryland basketball (why the sports page is depressing), a concert we went to this weekend and how I was in Hackensack yesterday. Lots and lots and lots to share.
Thinking of you and loving you.
Reading the sports pages lately has been really depressing, but I didn't think I'd break down and cry this morning while getting ready to take the guys to the bus.
I read a story about this kid from Gaithersburg, Max Bass, who has leukemia. It is a really wonderful story. I couldn't help wondering why no-one has stepped forward to get Max and his Dad tickets to the game, though.
For Guard and His Fan, Strength in a Number
By Steve Yanda
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 26, 2008; E01
OMAHA -- Somewhere among the socks, shirts and toiletries Michael Flowers packed to take with him to the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament is a No. 22 jersey. It is significantly smaller than the No. 22 jersey Flowers wears during games, the one with "Wisconsin" stitched across the front.
This one says "Kidball" and is one of Flowers's most prized possessions. Max Bass gave him that jersey last December, the night Flowers realized his definitions of words such as "courage" and "determination" were underdeveloped.
"I take it everywhere with me," Flowers said. "I have it here right now. It's not leaving my possession. It's something that I value, that I appreciate. It's a reminder to never take life for granted."
Max Bass looks up to Flowers because the Wisconsin guard represents everything that has defined the Gaithersburg child's life -- tribulation, perseverance, diligence, triumph. Michael wears No. 22, just like Max.
Flowers, though, says Max and his family have done more for his personal growth and maturity than he could ever dream of doing for them. When you discover you are the idol of a kindergartner who has battled leukemia since he was 2 1/2 , Flowers says, you grow up in a hurry.
Max's father, Adam, was the one who first put 22 and 22 together, and in the year since Max became enamored of his Badgers role model, several lives have changed. It started with Max and Michael's, sure, but the ripple effect of the pair's bond spread beyond a 5-year-old boy battling a deadly disease and a college basketball player searching for serenity.
Flowers "always checks up on Max, and we check up on him," Adam Bass said by phone late last week. "And obviously we watch every game."
* * *
Today was the first morning [Max] awoke early due to hunger. So at 5 am, Adam made Max his new favorite request: Macaroni & Cheese. Although his appetite has increased, Max is still a picky eater and now craves only starches and salt and nothing sweet.
March 23, 2005, journal post by Max's mother, Jamie, on the family's Web site at CaringBridge.org
Max Bass first saw someone else wearing his jersey number in early 2007, when his father, a Wisconsin alum, was watching a Badgers game on TV.
"Look, Dad, just like me," Max said. "Number 22."
Adam proceeded to tell his son about Michael Flowers, the hard-nosed Badgers guard who never lacked for energy or effort. When Max took interest in Michael, Adam thought about the basketball class in which Max was enrolled, about how proud Max was when he came from class one day with his very own No. 22 jersey.
All the medications Max was taking were robbing him of the strength he needed to shoot the ball. He watched his friends casually make shots and wondered why he couldn't do the same.
So, Adam told Max that if he worked as hard as Flowers, those baskets were sure to fall eventually.
The following week, before his basketball class, Max told Adam he was going to be just like Mike -- Flowers, that is. Soon after, Max was able to make baskets with ease.
Adam told the story on a Wisconsin basketball message board, where Flowers's family and friends first learned of Max. Soon after, Adam and Flowers began exchanging e-mails.
Max's schooling and treatments kept the Basses from attending any Wisconsin games last season, so this season, they were determined to give their son a chance to meet his hero. Max's mother, Jamie, is a Texas alumna, so a December trip to Austin for the Badgers game against the Longhorns was arranged.
After Flowers made a three-pointer to beat Texas, the Basses were crying as they made their way down to the court, where Adam approached a man wearing a No. 22 Wisconsin jersey. Ted Flowers was standing courtside with his sister, Angela Kier, waiting for his nephew -- her son -- to come out of the locker room.
"He thought I was Michael's father," Ted Flowers said. "He introduced himself and asked. I said no, but introduced him to Angie. Adam was crying and stuff, and I'm trying to figure out what's going on. Then he tells me the story."
Adam told Ted about his son, Max, and about the influence Michael had had on Max's life. He told about the leukemia, how difficult the past few years had been, how much better the future looked now. After Adam was done, he took Ted and Kier over to meet Jamie and Max. Ted could not get over how strong the kid looked.
"I had been going through some difficult times myself last year, and the courage and determination I found in Max has helped me," Ted said. "If he can deal with that, then what I'm dealing with is nothing by comparison."
Ted doesn't want to talk about his personal struggles. He says it was a difficult time in his life and wants to leave it at that.
His problems were compounded last August when he spent two weeks in a hospital after suffering a heart attack. Ted said he has a heart condition that made the situation more precarious.
Even after taking six weeks off from his job as a database administrator at a grocery wholesaler in Houston, Ted said he couldn't get over his pain, couldn't let go of his suffering.
"I was really down and depressed," Ted Flowers said. "Then I met the Bass family, and it was like, almost immediately I was lifted up out of it. I was able to take my circumstances, set them aside and not dwell about it as much."
* * *
The other night he woke up shaking, he vomited and spiked a fever so we took him to the hospital. They gave him some antibiotics, and we were able to return home because his blood counts were high enough. But last night, the hospital called back and said his blood culture from the other night was a growing a bacterial infection and that we need to bring him back in until they can identify the specific bacteria.
Oct. 15, 2005, online journal
post by Jamie Bass
Michael Flowers was more nervous the night before that game at Texas than he was before tip-off. He was riding the elevator at the team hotel, moments from meeting the fan he never expected.
The elevator door opened, and Flowers's eyes met Max's. Flowers smiled. Max smiled.
"Wow, Michael's so big, Dad," Max said.
For the next 25 minutes, Max asked Flowers every basketball-related question he could think of. Who's your favorite player? Can you dunk? How much do you really practice? Flowers kept smiling as he answered each query.
"Everything was just, you know, instant chemistry between me and Max," Flowers said. "I think that's something special when you first meet somebody but you feel like you've know them for quite a long time."
Before it was time to go, Max gave Flowers one of his No. 22 jerseys. Angela Kier, Flowers's mother, said her son, who took a two-week leave of absence just before the season for personal reasons, started taking back control of his life the night he met Max.
"I consider Max a guardian angel for Michael," Kier said. "For Max to come into Michael's life has helped him, and because it's helped Michael, it's helped the family. He was going through a lot, and it affected everybody because we're such a close family."
Kier said that six months ago she wouldn't have felt right burdening her son with her problems, but now, she finds herself going to Flowers for guidance and comfort.
During a nationally televised game against Indiana in Madison on Jan. 31, television cameras panned to Flowers just after Coach Bo Ryan had pulled him out of the game.
"There was Michael, beaming, huge smile," said Ted Flowers, who was watching from Houston. "My sister said she hadn't seen Michael smile like that in a long time."
Michael Flowers's coaches have noticed a difference in the senior guard, as well. Assistant coach Greg Gard said Flowers has always been a soft-spoken person whose self-assurance would often wane.
"One of the things that helped his confidence as much as anything on the floor was him realizing the impact he can have on other people and how much people look up to these guys as role models," Gard said. "I think that was huge for Mike, to get a firsthand affirmation the type of impact he can have."
* * *
Max's past 2 treatments have gone smoothly. His next appt. is this Friday (Dec. 21) and he is due for a spinal tap so it will be a long day. We have to go in around 10 am, but the spinal tap itself will not happen until noon, so that means no eating until like 1:30. The past few times, Adam has gotten up with Max in the middle of the night to feed him and that seems to help.
Dec. 17, 2007, online journal
post by Jamie Bass
The morning after his most recent spinal tap, the first thing Max wanted to do was watch the replay of the Badgers' first-round win over Cal State Fullerton. After that, he watched the tape from Wisconsin's win over Penn State that clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title.
The doctors have told the Bass family that Max is doing so well, he might be able to stop his treatments altogether in May. At that point, they'll find out whether Max was being kept healthy by his own body or by the medication.
"That's the real challenge," Adam said.
The Basses have kept in contact with Michael and his family since meeting in December. Adam said he regularly exchanges e-mails with Michael, Ted and Angela.
In February, the Basses traveled to Madison to watch the Badgers take on Minnesota. Wisconsin won, improving to 2-0 with Max in attendance. After the game, Max got to go into the Badgers' locker room. Michael Flowers introduced Max to the players and coaches. Then the team included Max in a huddle that ended with, "One, two, three, Badgers!"
"Max talks about that to this day like it's the greatest thing that's ever happened to him," Adam said.
Friday, the third-seeded Badgers will take on 10th-seeded Davidson in the Midwest Region semifinals in Detroit. Adam said the Basses have every intention of attending that game, provided they can find tickets.
Michael Flowers's eyes light up when he talks about the possibility of seeing Max again. He said he never imagined a basketball player could have such an impact on a 5-year-old boy who lives half a continent away. He said he is now more conscious of how he presents himself in public.
"It came at the right time for Michael and maybe at the right time for Max, too," Kier said. "I don't know how much of an effect Michael has had on Max. You know, he's been that strength for Max in some ways, but Max has been way more of a strength for Michael than I could ever ask for."
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Local boy gets hero's welcome
By Airan Scruby, Staff Writer
A Pico Rivera boy receiving treatment in Minnesota for a rare illness and his brother were honored this week as a "Hero in the Making" by a pro sports team.
Gregory Ramsey and his younger brother, Christopher, received autographed basketballs, personalized jerseys and hearty applause from fans at a Minnesota Timberwolves game at the Target Center in Minneapolis on Monday.
"This is the first time they've been to a professional sporting event," father Darren Ramsey said. "Everything was a blur, it went so fast."
Ramsey said he and his wife, Mary, went with the boys to watch the Timberwolves warm up before the game and to meet with players. The family was then escorted to a special suite to watch the game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Gregory Ramsey, 11, has been in Minnesota for more than three months battling Fanconi anemia, a rare disorder of the blood that causes a weakened immune system, susceptibility to heavy bruising and defective bone marrow. The disease, found mostly in children, can be fatal if left untreated.
Gregory received a life-saving bone marrow transplant in December at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital and has undergone chemotherapy.
Gregory may be cleared to return home with his family this week, if test results show that the new marrow is growing and producing healthy cells, and if his body is free of infection.
It was partially because he is nearing the end of his treatment that he was chosen to attend the game, according to a Ronald McDonald House representative.
Josh Williams, manager of marketing and communications for the Ronald McDonald House where the Ramseys are staying, said the Timberwolves approached him about children who could be honored at the game on Monday night.
"Gregory's been through a lot and he's just completing his 100 days," Williams said. "Especially with them hopefully going back home soon."
Although he is improving, Gregory is still weak and had to wear a mask to protect from infection while he chatted with players and met team President Chris Wright. He also uses a wheelchair because of a hip biopsy that morning. Doctors removed a piece of bone for testing, so Gregory felt too sore to stand.
"He was pretty sore last night," Darren Ramsey said. "But the last couple of days, he's actually been feeling pretty good. And he was really into the game."
According to Timberwolves spokesman Matt Makovec, the team features a hero at every home game. Some are military heroes or volunteers, while others are fighting disease or other challenges.
After the first quarter, the boys were guided to the floor, where they were introduced over the loudspeakers.
For Gregory, being in front of the large crowd at the game was nerve wracking, but he said he liked watching the game from good seats and spending time with his family.
Christopher, 8, said he enjoyed the game and the chance to meet the players.
"I got to go on the field, and I got to shoot some hoops and we got to go to the suite that has lots of popcorn and cookies," Christopher said.
(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029
Friday, March 14, 2008
Today is March 14, or 3/14, or "Pi Day" for math geeks and proud parents. Like last year, Jack competed at school against other students to see who could recite the most digits in Pi.
Jack won. Woo-hoo!
He recited, rapped, said the numbers of Pi out to 101 places, 3.14...
Your kid brother continues to blow me away. In addition to winning the Pi Day competition, he got a letter earlier in the week telling him that he is going to represent JPDS at the state finals of the National Geography Bee. He had to take a test to qualify. And if he wins that, and it is on April 4 - Mom's birthday, then he goes to the National competition at National Geographic.
Not only is Jack kicking butt with his smarts but he is also competing with the JPDS track team. They didn't have any of that when you were in school, but now there are basketball, kickball, baseball and track teams at school. Jack's event is the long jump.
I am incredibly proud of Jack. He is an amazing kid. You'd be impressed by what kind of person he is becoming.
Your littlest brother starts baseball on Sunday. Uncle Stinky is coaching again in Takoma Park. This is where Joe shines - though he isn't too shabby in the classroom either. I'll give you an update on him soon. He is still great at baseball - we've been going out to Stoddert pretty frequently this winter, it hasn't been too cold, and still singing and still beating me badly at chess.
There is a lot I haven't gotten you caught up on. Uncle Stinky Andrew bought an old jeep. No-one has seen it yet. Hannah is getting a companion for Kahsa (I am hoping she doesn't ever read this - if she does, "sorry" 'cause it's a surprise). Pictures and more details coming on those. And here's a big one. You cousins are going to Hogwarts. I don't know if I told you that Aunt Abby, Uncle Andy and Michael, Joshua, Rachel, Noah and I bet Bing are moving over to London England for a few months. Mom said that Michael, Rachel and Joshua are going to school somewhere in the English countryside. Sounds kinda cool. Details when I know more.
I love you and I miss you.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
We went on vacation with Richard and Helaine last week. Here are some pictures. This is the 4th year in a row we have gone away with them around this time of year. The first trip was 5 years ago right after you died. Mom and I went by ourselves to a place called St. John. It was a really special 40th birthday present from all my friends. It gave Mom and me some time away to try and recover from your death. I was thinking back to that trip a lot on this go around.
Mom got hurt one day near the end of this trip. She got pushed by a wave into a coral reef. Then when she was trying to get unstuck, she stepped on a see urchin. A spine went through her toe. I have never seen Mom so physically hurt and scared before. It is hard to see people you love in pain. It is harder when you know there isn't a whole lot you can do for them. You will like this though - the way to make the sea urchin spine dissolve is to pee on it. How crazy is that. You can help someone feel better by peeing on them. It is the same thing if you get stung by a jellyfish.
I volunteered but Mom wasn't too psyched. Instead, we bought some vinegar and she soaked her toe. Helaine also did her best to try and remove what she could with a needle and a tweezer. That was as much excitement as I ever want on vacation. It was not good.
Otherwise, like everyone else, I got a lot of sleep and with that sleep came a lot of dreams. I need to go and see if I emailed myself notes about what I dreamt. I do that.
Joe and Jack had bad dreams the other night. Jack had a dream that Nana and Aunt Tracy had heart attacks. Joe dreamt that an elephant crushed a man and then Joe picked up the elephant. These dreams came a day after Joe said something sad in the car on the way to the bus in the morning. He said that he thought the little sister of one of his classmates had died. I said that I was pretty sure that wasn't the case but I would check. Thankfully Joe had misheard what his classmate had said. Jack told me he had his dream because of what Joe had said in the car.
As you can see, it is really beautiful where we went. We sat, read, watched the sunset and swam. That was it. Oh yeah, I do remember one dream I had. A big snake hit me hard in the shoulder with its head. It didn't bit me. It just smacked me hard. The day before I had the dream I ran over a snake on the road by accident. I thought it was just a branch. I felt pretty bad. I feel worse about hurting snakes ever since we started watching Jeff Corwin on Animal Planet.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Helaine sent this to me and Mom today. I sometimes worry that Jake, Ari and Simon might forget you. You guys were so close, but you also were so young. I worry that you might become an abstraction. I don't know how to explain that to you, but I want them to remember you, the boy. The way you talked, laughed, smelled, walked, slapped them in the butt, drank water from the water fountain. That kind of thing.
Jake wrote this for his English class. I know that I've told you how talented he is by making up song parodies. Clearly he doesn't just know how to be funny; he knows how to feel and how to talk about how he feels. Funny is hard, feelings harder.
HOPE FOR HENRY
I am him, the kid who never stopped smiling, the shining grin never escaping from his sick face.
I am what he loves, superheroes like batman, with a cape and a mask saving the world.
I am where he went, from the bone chilling weather of Minnesota, to his grandparents’ house on the eastern shore.
I am what he felt, love, support, assurance, and the motivation to never give up.
I am why he never gave up, because there was no reason not to try and all the reasons to try.
I am who loved him, his family, my family, my friend’s families, and the world.
I am who he impacted, changing my life and teaching me to never give up.
I am who thanks his for parents never leaving his side when he needed it most.
I am him, the kid who always made you smile, who could make you feel good after a long day.
I am him, the kid that couldn’t hate, couldn’t show anger because he didn’t want to.
I am him the kid who never lost hope even when things couldn’t get worse.
I am his memory, his love, his smile, his spirit, his flame that never died.
I am his hope.
I am Henry’s hope.
Jake Mintz 2008