Thursday, June 27, 2013
Home again - A father's cancer
A year ago, June 27, 2012 we returned from our European vacation and a new adventure began. I use "adventure" here as a Mary Poppins euphemism. Adventures are fun, this wasn't going to be much fun. But if you sugar coat something, it goes down better, right?
The "adventure" began on the way out of the airport. Steve and I gave our girls big hugs and the first of our many trinkets for them. We saved mom and dad's gifts for a nearby restaurant as dad hadn't come to pick us up. "He has your car and he says he'll meet us at the restaurant" she said, "but he might be a little late -- he's got an appointment." As we drove away, mom had her best "everything is grand" look on her face. The one that means everything isn't grand, but she doesn't want to trouble you with the details. I figured my kids were more of a handful than she'd expected! She is trying to hide her exhaustion.
She got a phone call from dad. He was done with his appointment and would be at the restaurant on time. After a few more "uh hus" on her end, my mom hung up the phone.
"How was the appointment?" I asked.
"Oh alright. He''ll be on time, so it didn't take as long as he'd expected..." she started to fumble, then she became direct. "He was at the doctor. He has cancer."
My pictures of Bulgaria and Scotland were no longer important. Instead of spending our lunch going over the trip, we alternated between a strange mix of trip memories, "grandparent camp" memories, veiled cancer thoughts, and taking turns bringing the girls to ride an overstuffed fake buffalo so that the remaining adults could have deeper conversations about our cancer thoughts.
We discussed how maybe the cancer wasn't that bad. Maybe it hadn't spread. Maybe, even if it had spread, it wouldn't be that bad. Steve's dad had had the same cancer. He'd lived with it for over a decade even though it had spread before they'd caught it. He was still fighting strong.
After lunch, we gave several big hugs, transferred the suitcases and car seats from my parents' station wagon to our Saturn, and drove the many hours home. We got in just as the sun was setting. Maybe it was just the jet lag, but the day felt a bit surreal.