In the summer of 2011, he sensed “discomfort” in his belly. The cancer was back. The couple downsized to a condo in Minnetonka a year ago.
Limited to juices and soups, and weakening after his sixth round of chemotherapy, Dave decided to stop treatment in October. “That’s it,” he told Jan. “I’m quitting the chemo. We’re very blessed. Let it take its course. I’ll live as long as I can.”
Doctors gave him three months. He’s gone six. “Still going,” he says.
“This guy has passed all of our boundaries,” Jan said. Still, she added, “we know we are living day to day. We’re doing everything we can do to make him feel good. We try to live.”
Dave gets up and dresses handsomely every morning, sometimes heading to the Braemar Golf Course to hit balls. He and Jan still go to Orchestra Hall and the Guthrie.
Instead of preparing dinners for friends, they gather for coffee in the late morning, or for a glass of wine in the afternoon. But even “wine doesn’t taste like wine” anymore, Dave said. “Your taste gets so weird when you get this.”
Jan jokes that, for a guy whose options are so limited, “he sure is fussy.”
Despite that, he wanted one special night, a night to gift his wife with an emerald ring to thank her for 55 years of marriage.
A few days before their anniversary, Dave called McCormick and Schmick’s and spoke to manager Mike Herstine. “I have this situation,” he said. “I can only take liquids.”
Herstine didn’t hesitate. “I’ll talk to the chef,” he said. “I was happy that I happened to answer the phone. Fifty-five years together is pretty special.”
Twenty minutes later, chef Neu called, which delighted Dave. “I’ve never had a restaurant call me!”
“I have a fantastic blender,” Neu said. “I can blend anything. I can blend a steak for you.”
“Oh, clam chowder will do,” Dave said.
Their son, Paul, sent flowers to the table. They ordered champagne. As Jan enjoyed her filet, a rare treat for her, Dave finished his clam chowder and looked up to see a server carrying over a tray with “three little dishes” for him. Cold, puréed beet salad, walleye soufflé and beef soufflé.
As they dined, Herstine and Chef Paul came out to meet them. “They’re a lovely couple,” Herstine said. “They were so appreciative and down to earth.”
Tiring and preparing to leave, Dave looked up to see one more surprise. Dessert was coming. Apple pie — puréed. “You’ve got to pack it up for me,” he said, delighted. “He ate it for two days,” Jan said.
Many days later, they still marvel at strangers who, for one night, helped Dave reclaim one of life’s simplest pleasures. “The fact that the people cared that much,” Dave said, “made it so extra special.”