I looked at my friend blankly when she posed the questions. Tough questions that could only be asked by a friend who knows that if she did pinch a nerve, she could handle any fallout that would come as a result of my response. Questions I wouldn’t be able to stand for if I had not already survived the news of my mom’s sudden pneumonia, the prognosis that “she probably won’t make it,” the denial and the acceptance and the reality of living with the words, “Yes, the doctors were right. My mom did die of pneumonia.”
My brain had no answers when she fired off the questions, “How do you feel knowing that this cancer might just get your dad, and then you could be parentless?” Before that one sunk in, she came off with another one “How will this change the way you act around holidays?” and “Do you think that something is trying to come in and cut his life short?” “How do you feel about that?”
I had no answers. The truth is, I am not worried. The doctors said this is an easy surgery; they will cut out the cancer on Thursday, and that’s it. No radiation, no chemo. Done. The recovery from the surgery will be difficult, yes that’s expected. This I know: Those gleaming blue eyes are meant to stay on this earth, and guide me through many more years. This I know. I’m grateful for that knife that will cut this cancer out of his body; and my Dad gone, is an inconceivable thought. Plus, he’s eating those cancer-fighting raw red peppers, just like his doctor ordered.
These thoughts are from the same vein of confidence (or is it denial) I carried into my mother’s illness, just a few years ago, when they carefully spelled out the words, your Mom will die of pneumonia. She will not die. Who dies of pneumonia in 2005? Look at all of this medicine. Look at all of these tubes carrying antibiotics into her body. Are you crazy? My Mom will be here for years to come.
Death snuck in through the door that was standing wide open, and I refused to look.
My friend is looking from the outside in, with her parents both still alive and healthy. She has answered these questions upside down, from the trials in her own life. Yet, she wants to what it is like to loose a parent, and what it’s like to live with the possibility of loosing a parent. How do you live with that knowledge?
It’s not a how, it’s a place. I wish I could hold her hand and take her there, and show her, but I cannot. I cannot prepare her. But, for my friend, I would love to give her the comfort of letting her know, that yes, you can live there, comfortably.
But, I simply looked at my friend and said, “I haven’t even begun to think through those things. The kids are starting school, I’ve been buying school supplies, buying clothes and socks for them, doing laundry, and getting the house in order. I haven’t had time to think, and when I put my head on the pillow, sleep comes within seconds. ”
But she did pinch a nerve. Why am I not thinking of those things? Maybe I should be?
But the knife is going in. On August 27, 2009, the knife is going in to cut out the cancer. I’ve known about this date since early June, and in the back of my mind, it’s played a steady beat… Dad will be OK on August 27. And then, on August 29, my husband will ride his bike for 180 miles for Pelotonia and help raise money for The James Cancer Research. For his Dad, and my Dad. We’re going to beat this… we’re all going to beat this. Everything will be all right. The knife will do its job.