Combernation

It’s in the air. With only two months left, hundreds of women have started to gaze into their computer screens like pixilated crystal balls, asking the Internet gods what their future gowns might look like. Will it have ruffles, lace and princess shoulders or will it be simple, refined and short? Tonight they’ll order THE dress, many more will order three, with only the UPS man to curse their indecisiveness – their husbands will never know. Sneaking home during lunch they’ll try on the gowns the moment they arrive, quickly eliminating and returning all but one. This will be the one they’ll show to their husbands, to which he’ll dance a fine line, saying even the most hideous hot pink color looks beautiful on his bride. But even this does not matter, for no matter how perfect, she’s bound to find another one better than this one days before the gala and promptly after the return policy expires.

It is time for the Cure Starts Now Once in a Lifetime Gala. You probably already even know. Many of you might even be on your third dress by now. But for men, it’s never quite this easy. For in my wardrobe I have but one suit and two opinionated ladies. Gracie thinks I should match the logo. This year it is purple. I somehow imagine she has visions of a purple suit and a purple boller hat to match. Brooke wants me to look like the model in the magazine. Tweed suit, sweater vest and an off white shirt. All I want is to save money. Still somehow I know I will lose.

We go to the haberdashery (I call it this to confuse Gracie and to annoy Brooke) and there Brooke is confronted with reality. The man she married is decidedly shorter and smaller than the man she dreamt about as a teenager and visions of tweed and vests disappear as I’m escorted to the adolescent corner for a dizzying choice of blue blazers. Then again, that’s only if they actually carry suits in my size. And in the end, I walk out 30 minutes later with a suit that can fit my father, but in the color Brooke envisioned. Gracie will not be proud.

But in every way this gala is the same as in previous years, it is also markedly different. In years past, the gala has been about money – how much we raised and how much we’ve spent of research. This year, though, it is also about results. It is about achievement.

For those of you that know us best, you know of the “Combernation”. This was a word that Elena invented prior to her diagnosis and for years she’d always be preparing. Part celebration, part combination we never truly understood what she was combining with the celebration. Still, we knew that it was all about the planning, the gowns and ceremony. Weekly, if not daily, she’d impress us with her choice of shoes, hats, scarves and princess gowns – telling us each time that this was for the Combernation. And each time we’d nod and tell her she looked lovely.

In two months we celebrate her “Combernation”. To everyone else it is a gala. But it is only four years after her passing that I now understand the combination element of the celebration. And after four years, Elena’s Combernation combines not only a grand celebration on Saturday March 19th, but also one of the first pediatric brain cancer symposiums ever assembled on the days preceding the celebration. On the 18th and 19th, over 60 pediatric brain cancer specialists and foundations will come together in a historic effort to eradicate brain cancer, a type of cancer that many experts believe will ultimately lead to a cure for all cancers. But even more than a meeting, it will also establish a revolutionary collaborative using the money we generate from celebrations like these to not only fund research but create new thoughts and strategies.

So tonight as we prepare, we also give thanks to the inspiration of our children. Personally I give thanks to Elena – for showing me a path that I would never realize on my own. Purple suit, tweed or vest – nothing else will matter. More importantly is what we will accomplish. Thank you Elena. Happy Combernation!

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