This morning, I got a text from my dad. It was a simple text. So simple, in fact, that even the most casual observer would find it pretty straightforward. He texted me to ask how I was doing this morning. That’s literally the entire content of his text.
How are you doing this morning?My dad via text this morning
In case you’ve forgotten, it’s 2020 still. So my answer really could have been anything. This has been such a manic year. A year overflowing with stuff and things and drama. 100 pounds of shit stuffed into a 10 pound bag.
I stared at the words on the screen for a few moments. I was struck silent. Incredulous. Without words. How am I doing this morning? Why on earth does it matter how I’m doing this morning. How on earth can he be making this about me?
I closed my eyes to center myself and thought back to this morning. Those first 5 or 10 minutes of my day curled up in bed quietly not asleep but not fully awake. Curled up with my partner knowing I had to get up and face the day, thinking that coffee would be nice. And not remembering what happened last night.
Because last night sucked.
And then all of a sudden I sat upright and remembered the phone call I had with my dad at the end of my workday.
Then I couldn’t stop thinking about a lunch I had with my parents, my brother, and my sister-in-law a little over 5 years ago.
And then I just wanted to go back to sleep. But I couldn’t. Because my brain was a swirling buzzing mess of thoughts and fears and anxiety. And I just needed it all to stop. So I got up to get ready for work.
Because, I mean, what relieves stress better than tromping 20 steps to your pandemic addled work environment? But even immersing in my work stress seemed more relaxing than being present in my own stress.
Anything to take my mind off it.
Yes… yes this is one of those posts that’s going to jump around the timeline much like a movie that has too many things happening all at once and so George Lucas thinks panning from scene to scene to scene is the right thing to do. But it’s really disjointed and jarring. And despite your respect for the overall story and the genre, you really just wish he would stick with one scene at a time.
But Cami, what is going on with that text??? We’ll get back to it.
Last night night at exactly 5:00 Post Meridiem time in the Pacific time zone during the time that is not daylight savings time my phone rang and my dad’s face popped up. I was listening to old country music very very loudly on my noise cancelling headphones while I tried to wrap up some stuff for work so it was surprising that I noticed the call coming in at all. When I saw the time, that it was 5:00PM — exactly — the hair on the back of my neck prickled up. It set me on edge.
But it was my daddy. So I answered the call and after a brief hello his tone of voice made me ask something that I often ask when he calls… “Did somebody die?” but this time I added “I mean aside from Sean Connery and Alex Trebek.”
He told me no. No one else had died.
But then he asked me if my partner was home. He’d tried to call him earlier but it went to voicemail. I explained that he was home but that he’d been in meetings and my dad said “oh good.”
And my mind raced. Did something happen that made him fear for my partner’s life? I remembered the time that a man with my brother’s exact name died in a car crash and they said his name on TV but there was no picture and no other information and my brother wasn’t answering his phone.
But my partner was home. I looked across the room and saw him typing away at his keyboard preparing to jump into another call. Nope. All was well there. I looked the other direction and saw my kid sitting at the table near my desk, headphones in laughing at something on the internet. Nope. All was well there.
I tried to stop my wandering mind and focus on what was happening on the call. And that’s when he said it. He said something eerily similar to what he told me a little more than five years ago over lunch at our favorite neighborhood lunch spot.
“I have cancer. Again.”
A string of expletives thundered through my mind like a herd of rabid dinosaurs deomolishing everything in their path. Their feet leaving the word FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK stamped on the ground in their wake.
I looked at my kid oblivious and laughing. I looked at my partner typing. I stood up and listened as my dad started to tell me exactly what was happening while my mom interjected support and cheer in the background.
I put my hand on my partner’s shoulder to pull him away as I held the phone to my ear. And I remember saying one word over and over and over again.
As I listened to my daddy tell me he has prostate cancer. As he explained to me exactly what state everything is in. As he told me that there was no spread, that it is contained.
This is, I think, the first time I asked a question instead of saying okay. I asked how they knew it was contained. I recommend never asking your father this question if he has prostate cancer. Just take his word for it. Because if your dad is as honest and forthright as my dad he will tell you all about the biopsy process and you will hear about what sounded and felt like a stapler inserted into his body and all of the clicking noises as the samples were collected and then you will never want to use a stapler again.
Even your fancy red Swingline stapler.
And he told me everything he knew. About his cancer. About how it compared to his brother’s cancer. About treatment options. And he repeated again and again that even though he hasn’t decided between a couple of treatment options, this is treatable. They caught it early. He’s going to be okay. It’s an inconvenience.
I talked to my daddy for 17 minutes last night. 17 minutes of learning about my dad’s cancer. For most of that time I sat still holding my partner’s hand as he listened to me say the word okay 17 million times.
All I could do when I got off the phone was sit and reflect on what a dumpster fire this year has been. Knowing that it’s the year that doesn’t stop taking from us, that it is the year of always one more thing. That didn’t prepare me for this particular thing.
So when he texted me this morning to find out how I was doing — yeah, I bet you forgot that’s where we started with all this because you were thrown by the cancer thing… which honestly isn’t your fault because cancer things have a way of doing that like no other thing — I was in a state of disbelief.
He was texting me to see how I was doing.
I immediately felt like an asshole for not remembering he had cancer for the first ten minutes of my day. Then I felt like a total asshole because, if you know my dad, you know that the last thing he’d want is for me to feel like an asshole for actually getting sleep and not being awake enough to remember an awful thing.
I responded by letting him know I wasn’t doing great really, because — in case he’d forgotten — he has cancer and I’m taking it personally. And then I asked how he’s doing. Because, you know, cancer.
So we’re back at it again. He says he’s totally going to get through this and I believe him. So let’s do that. Let’s believe. But also fuck cancer.
The jury is still out on the Swingline.