“I know it. I can feel it.”
“What else? Questions for me?”
“I’m going on a trip tomorrow.”
“San Diego and Knott’s Berry Farm with all my grandkids.” She updated their progress, and Druker recited their ages, as if to check that he had the facts right. When he addresses scientists at professional conferences, he often shows photographs of LaDonna and her grandchildren. Contrary to all expectations, he says, she is getting to watch her great-grandchildren grow up.
“I have such a wonderful life,” LaDonna said, tearing up. “And I didn’t want it. I told my doctors, ‘Don’t do any more to me.’ ”
Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, she mentioned her first visit to the clinic, in 2000, when she’d barely made it through the door. “That was a long time ago,” she said to no one in particular.
Then, to Druker, she said, “But it’s gone fast, hasn’t it?”
“Hasn’t it?” he said.
Terence Monmaney first wrote for Smithsonian in 1985. He is the executive editor. Portland-based Robbie McClaran photographed his adopted hometown for the November 2010 issue.