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Posts Tagged ‘don’t be jealous that my father has lung cancer’

|| February 17, 2014 || 11:52 pm || Comments (5) ||

Just got off the phone with my father. That call didn’t just elicit a couple of emotional swings, it built a whole damn swingset.

Let’s focus on this one thing, though: I just got off the phone with my father. You know, the guy who two years ago was given a death sentence containing the words “small cell” and “inoperable.”

He’s still here.

Now let’s tease out one more detail from that call: He’s going to Guatemala on a mission trip. This leaves me stunned in about fourteen different ways.

ByGod, it occurs to me that I am still proud of this man. Not thoroughly; not even mostly. But in certain key, important ways that damn near make up for the lack. I call that a win.

“I hope you’re proud / to be my dad.”

Even a decade and a half of estrangement can’t kill certain things.

|| July 19, 2012 || 4:06 am || Comments (8) ||

My father has spent most of his adult life being a success.
Cancer is beating the shit out of him.
I feel terrible for him.
Lots of people might ask me,
“How could you spend and decade-and-a-half without someone
Who was supposed to love you, to be there for you

No Matter What

and then love him and tend him and fret in your heart over his pain
when he shows back up only to
promptly get sick?”
(It is indeed a long-winded and big-ass question)
My answer to them what would ask this is,
pretty much:

“Man. I don’t even know.
I do not know
I’ve come to realize that
I do not care


All I know is that this is in my heart, this thing,
a knowledge that says, concrete but sorta kind,
This is what You Are Supposed To Do.
Not just that, I guess.
There’s some sort of biological imperative
thing at play that won’t let me peel off
Or turn away
Or fall down and holler quits.
I guess I’m finding out, too


This is maybe just who I am.”
“Thank God, because seriously:
If you’d have asked me as early as ten months ago
to predict an outcome, well….
I’d have never put money on myself.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

(you might want to hold your breath a little for this one, y’all)

|| May 4, 2012 || 4:19 am || Comments (6) ||

Hello there, you—

So I set a fire.

That’s what you do in middle Missouri, it seems. You make a careful pile somewhere out in the back forty (‘back forty’ in this instance means ‘the pavers stacked together with military exactitude until a burn ring was formed there’) and when you can stand it no longer, you burn that pile. You’re supposed to have a burn permit. That’s what my father told me the last time I was here, anyway.

And because there was a sizable pile of thick honeysuckle vines, newspaper, and potentially-funky boxes (potentially funky because I’d gotten them out of a man’s warehouse and said warehouse was neither clean nor orderly nor without pests-slash-vermin), because I have a healthy sense of don’t-give-a-fuck, I did it without an official burn permit*. Probably it had something to do with the full moon, as well, don’t you think? A full moon and some sketchy, shifty-looking sort of clouds beg a fire.

See, one thing I’ve always been good at is arranging a pile of things so that they are combustion-friendly. I’ve never had any trouble, overmuch, getting a blaze to form up where there was none before.  I can make the kind of fire that melts your face if you dare turn toward it and I can make the kind of fire that you can cook a meal by and I can make the kind of fire that burns low and steady and, for the most part, is still there waiting to be stirred up the next morning when you rise, head beer-fuzzy and mouth dull with the aftertaste of marshmallows blazed to a non-sticky crisp over and over again.

I took myself and my black Bic up to the deck and leaned across the railing as the thing caught good, flames pushing back night, spinning and falling and tumbling into and over themselves. Flames! You are so rowdy! How can man not love you, you remarkable things? Fire, you are triumph itself!

The smoke was dense and sweet, and because I sometimes have an overactive imagination I wondered if some great mystery would be revealed to me if I stood in the middle of it as it billowed past.

Honeysuckle smoke is a new one on me, let me tell you. It was a happy accident borne of my father’s diligence. Because of the radiation he is taking into his brain and his chest, he is limited in what his body will allow him to do anymore. Even when the cancer had him near-dead, he was still able to do just about damn near anything he wanted. It infuriates him in his low, quiet way that the thing that is making him well (supposedly. all it’s really doing is prolonging his life, and nobody has any illusions about this bit of business, even though we don’t talk about it with him) is stripping him of his no-holds-barred go at life. He tries to do physically demanding things and, aggravated, resigns himself to the sofa with his Kindle, reading book after book set in Africa. When he tires even of reading he boots up his iPad and watches videos of African men dancing, shouting, celebrating, fierce. He is quiet and reverent as he does so.

I have no earthly idea why, in his cancer-soaked retirement, Africa calls to him, but it does. I hope he will treat himself and go there when he gets his strength back from the chemo and the radiation and the forced-march cadence of Being A Cancer Patient.

So yeah, diligence: He can only do one or two things on the days that he can can stay vertical for very long, and those things are usually very manly things like scrambling around a roof or hauling brick. He won’t quit and I don’t tell him to.

His energy was sorely lacking last week and so he attacked the overgrown honeysuckle ferociously and without prejudice. Out of his frustration, then, grew my full-moon discovery that a honeysuckle fire gives off a gently sweet smoke.  It is so strange, sometimes, how we make our way toward knowledge.

I do part of my work on the internets. The internets are a swamp of distraction (maybe you know this already). HOWEVER! This evening I found myself watching a video wherein Ms. Natalie Portman and Mr. Johnny Depp were signing –yes, S-I-G-N-ing, not S-I-N-G-ing—along to a song by one Sir Paul McCartney, the Most Ancient High Beatleperson. I was captivated by the complete dissimilarities between said Ms. and Mr., by the swooping and precise way in which she executed the American Sign Language to convey the words to this song versus the very grandiose and looser way that he undertook the same task.

Though I was leaning heavily toward making Ms. Portman my favorite in that instance, it was Mr. Depp (with woefully puffy face and sternly exhausted countenance, poor Johnny) who won out and it was because he made me take more careful notice of the way that the word ‘valentine’ was executed.

And here, now, three hours past the sweetness of honeysuckle smoke , as I pen this in order to get it in the post in a handful of hours, I find it intensely interesting to note that the sign for ‘valentine’ looks for all the world as if a bomb were being detonated just before tracing the heart.

Over and over my heart has been detonated. I guess this is how I’d assure a complete stranger such as yourself that I’ve had a good life thus far, an intensely satisfying life. In matters of faith, of art, of love, of politics, of travel and taking meals and having conversations, my heart has been detonated. Some explosions have been messier than others, of course.

But you know that: You have a heart, too.

I hope this finds you well, warm, and happy.


*oooh, Rebel Rebel, we’re afraid-a yoooou, making a FIRE in a RING after a two-day RAIN. Risk taker!

pee ess….not long ago I found a box full of vintage writing papers for a dollar. A DOLLAR! Such a great find.

I want a cigarette. I want to connect my mouth to it and drag deeply from it in a way that could only be described as ‘ridiculously porny’. Of course that’s stupid, especially given these circumstances.

There are guns (‘weapons’, natch)  all over this house: Three down in the shop, five in the office, one (maybe two?) in my father’s room. This doesn’t bother me. I was raised around them; my father took me shooting for the first time when I was five, took me hunting with him as early as my mother would allow it. I loved it. I loved wearing dresses and I loved shooting guns. To me they were equally enticing and I felt just as powerful doing the one as I did doing the other.

Kyle and I are sharing a room, a bed. It’s strange: We didn’t share a room growing up. Hell, we didn’t even share our father’s house at the same time for very long at a stretch. Now everything is halved in equal shares: The bed, the dresser, the closet, the time spent alone in there striving for emotional equilibrium. We have a writing desk and an oldskoo tape player and the window is always open because our father keeps it so godforfuckingsaken hot up in this joint. His basal temperature runs on the low end normally.

Coincidentally, so does Kyle’s and also mine. The things we are learning about one another, the three of us, would stagger lesser mortals. Maybe soon it will crack each of us down our respective middles, who knows? Right now we laugh a lot when the three of us are together.

Kyle and I both have his eyes, his thick and wavy hair, his savvy, his stubborn streak. We put our heads together conspiratorially when he is out of the room, when he is out for a walk, when he is napping (which is frequent now). We compare and contrast what he is telling us individually. We catalog our observations, ticking them off to one another. We review facts, we review feelings, we wish we could rely on our gut instincts because each of us typically boast a strong internal compass. Everything is muddied in this place, though; time stretches out and vibrates with intensity and then accordions back, leaving us running from one appointment to the other, long drives and labs and chemo and shots and scans and then back to the stretched-out quiet of this big house again.

There is some sort of field here that makes our compasses obsolete but offers the respite of long and thorough naps in place of intrinsic knowledge. So odd that I have never slept so well and so deeply as I have here, in the middle of trepidation, during three-hour naps. Trading knowing for rest isn’t as easy as all that, though….I have a lifetime of Just Knowing and Not Sleeping to get around, see? I’m having to do an awful lot of adjusting and feel as if I’m seated just exactly four inches to the left of myself. Anything I might perceive as True North is a complete lie, and I’m fully aware of this, thankfully.

Kyle has dreamed him shooting himself in the head more than once now. The other day I went in to vacuum his room and noticed his nine mil on the lip of his platform bed, right up there by his head, not down further where his hand would fall instinctively if he was sharply woken. I looked at it dumbly, thinking of her dreams, but not appalled or filled with dread. I don’t have it in me to think he will do such a thing, I guess. Also I guess that it is probably not much of my business if he chooses to. He has a softball in his chest, for Chrissakes. How do I know that I wouldn’t entertain a much more drastic, sudden completion to that softball, as well?

I don’t think he means himself ill and I tell her this. Kyle reminds me that he waited a year to even get diagnosed, waited almost three more months before seeking conventional treatment(s). She has had the dreams. In them we run innocuous errands, we buy milkshakes, we come back and our father has removed himself from this, all of it, the tedium and the lethargy and the pain. Thus, she listens carefully to the things he says to us before we climb into the car, watches well his demeanor.

Yesterday he hesitated, he didn’t know if he could finish this. Today he ate cookies all day and laughed. I think there may be more cookies and more laughing.  I know there will be more days where he doubts his ability to follow through, too. I’m not keeping count of either one, because something inside me says that is the way to madness.

We are here, our hands are knit together, we look one another in the eyes when we speak. I want to be more present than I’ve ever been in my life. The outcome is just an aside.

I don’t expect anyone outside the Cancer Bubble to understand.