The Last Normal Day: Cancer, Covid, and Cabernet

Patrick J. Sauer
9 min readDec 31, 2020

I don’t do much personal essaying anymore, but inspired by the great “Last Normal Day” series at Luke O’Neil’s Welcome to Hell World substack (and because I couldn’t get my shit together in time to send it to him before it went on hiatus), I wrote about a decadent French dinner in Manhattan shared with my Dad, his wife Terry, and our Brooklyn Three on Tuesday March 10.

Hope you enjoy it. R.I.P. Frank’s. Gonna miss you, old friend.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Fuck off forever, 2020.


Dad was always ahead of his time — Mayo Clinic, 2017

On the last normal day, someone in our small dinner party — I’m not saying who — ordered the $60 fish.

Was it the dover sole? I think it was the dover sole? Let’s just say it was the dover sole. It was the Tuesday night in the before times and my dad, the good Dr. Patrick Sauer, was in town with Terry, his wife of 25 years, and thus our Brooklyn Sauer Three met them for an indulgent French meal. We dined on Coq au Vin at La Goulue, one of those fahn-ceee old-school Upper East Side bistros where Truman Capote and Lee Radziwill presumably got their Death in the Afternoon on. La Goulue wasn’t crowded, so we took our time. Lingered and laughed. We made our embarrassed 4th-grader practice some of that French immersion public school Gallic patois the family tax dollars pay for. We drank wine as my wife Kim explained how all the factories in China she works with — and used to visit — had shut down and how bad it was on the ground, official state reports be damned.

Hold that thought for a moment, we need to back it up. The Last Normal Day was actually August 19, 2016 when my 74-year-old father emailed with the subject line “some news is not so good news.” You take a long moment to open it, knowing the text contained within might just be, “I have some form of blood cell cancer.” Turned out to be Multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells, not a common one, except in the Sauer family, as my Mom has it too.

(I’m sure it has zero to do with growing up in Billings Montana not far from a refinery, a sugar beet factory, and an railroad hub with coal and coke trains passing through 15 times a day. All aboard!)