Aug. 5th, 2014

They are simply gone.

Hazel Anne was seven months old when she was diagnosed with Anaplastic Ependymoma. She and Gus shared the same doctors, and nurses. From diagnoses to surgery, to radiation and on, we have shared our entire journey with the lovely Miss Hazel. Sadly, she had recurrent tumors diagnosed when Gus started chemo in January of 2013.

I put her MRIs on my calendar so I knew when to be there to support her mom through the stress. Her mother was who I reached out to when I scheduled Gus' - only she knows what that day feels like. It was through Hazel's mother I knew of Campbell Hoyt, whom I spoke of previously.

Recently Hazel's disease progressed and she had another round of radiation to hopefully shrink the tumors a bit, and give her relief. She was doing so well.

Last night Hazel was admitted to the hospital for pain control and quite unexpectedly...left. She was just three years old.

There are not words enough in any language to express what the loss of a child does to your heart. There is no way to say "I am so sorry" to her parents with the weight if what it feels like to know that she is gone, and there is nothing at all that will console them, and her grandparents, her entire family.

There is a hole in the world today.
I've lived in Colorado for eight years in October. It is my home, I love it here so fiercely I cannot imagine living anywhere else, and that includes my hometown even though I love it dearly. I am continually in awe as we drive just about anywhere. Coming around a curve, or over a hill on a side street can be breathtaking. It hasn't gotten old and I doubt it ever will.

I have often heard people who didn't grow up in southern Arizona wax poetic about the landscape that I took for granted my entire life. It's brown, guys. Even the green of the trees is brown. The saguaros are cool, I guess, but they are EVERYWHERE. We decorate with rocks. We wear flip flops on Christmas day. I've never quite understood people (particularly those from the eastern part of the country) who called our boring desert "ethereal" and "beautifully alien" and "it's like being on a completely different planet" and "the sky is so BIG and so BLUE." Uh, okay?

But I've been away just long enough, I've visited huge cities just enough, I've grown so used to my new environment that despite my frequent visits home, it has finally sunk in.
A few weeks ago I snuck into Arizona for a week to hang out with my dad after his knee surgery. We took the back roads from Sky Harbor to Oracle Junction and as I drove along quiet, tidy blacktop - mostly alone on the road with the music of my childhood softly playing on the radio, my dad silent and sleeping in the passenger seat - my breath caught, gooseflesh raised on my arms, and I felt a little teary eyed.

The whole area had been drenched in unseasonable rain in the week preceding my visit and the desert was alive in a way we usually only see in the spare weeks right before it hits a hundred degrees. The sky was crisp and brightly blue, wild flowers lined the roadside. It was good there was absolutely no one else on the road because I caught myself many times leaning far forward over the steering wheel and gazing in awe at the pristine white clouds; massive blinding thunderheads building higher and higher, climbing far into the cobalt that stretched all the way to the horizon.

We don't really get clouds like that here. Our storms tend to crawl across the sky in a great grey mass, overtaking the pale blue steadily, light drizzles giving way to heavier rainfall.

It was breathtaking. It was ethereal. It was alien. It made me so homesick I nearly shook with it.

It was hot that weekend, right before I left. It wasn't so bad in Mammoth, dad lives right next to the river, but I drove into Oro Valley to have lunch with Amanda (we've gotten to see each other three times this year. It's kind of surreal to be honest) and get some groceries for dad and it was hot.

It wasn't quite a pleasant sort of hot, especially since fall was beginning to march its way steadily into Colorado, but it was a familiar kind of heat. Hot in Colorado is sharp, occasionally damp and cloying. But it *is* only a couple of months.

Hot in southern Arizona is total. It envelops you completely, not just where the sun touches your skin. It radiates from the ground, the plants, the *air* is furnace-like. It wasn't comfortable, but it was *comforting*.

Today I got caught in a link spiral through a series of lists about the truths of Tucson. They're funny because they're so true. The end result, however, is that now I'm sitting here waxing poetic about the place I grew up even though I was glad to leave and am glad to be where I am.

I present, in a vague sort of numerical order, a glimpse of my hometown to amuse my Tucson-native friends, and those who've never been there, alike.

Nine Things Only People From Tucson Will Understand
Ten Tucson Stereotypes that are completely accurate
Twenty-nine Things People From Tucson Have To Explain To Out-of-towners
Thirty Things You Need To Know About Tucson Before You Move There
Fifty Things You Probably Didn't Know About Tucson