On Black Friday – that ultimate day of impatience, I am reminded of snail mail ( sending a letter by carrier ) and when long distance calling was far too expensive and letters, hand crafted, were the best way to hear from people far away.
Before email, we waited impatiently checking the mailbox each day for a letter. Then there was a special way to read each letter. The initial urge was to rip it open and devour it like a child with sweets, but then we wondered could it be bad news, maybe I should wait and would set it down — walk two steps away then rush back and tear it open.
Every letter got several readings, and parts read out loud ( content permitting ) to the rest of the family. The first reading was a mad rush through and then the second more closely, and then we might set it down for a day or three, then return and read it thinking of what was implied and not said, or why was one word chosen instead of another.
To me, this was always the best reading – and the one that the reply came from.
I don’t write letters by hand anymore, I’d have to include a Rosetta Stone to decipher the hieroglyphs, but if you’ve sent me a long email and haven’t received a prompt response take comfort in the realization that I am likely savoring each word before crafting a response.
You asked me recently about life and love. I cannot answer with wisdom, for love and wisdom are rarely companions. But I can tell you what I have seen, and how I felt as a young man, and how I feel now as a father.
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Two limericks about waiting to renew my driver’s license. Nobody can make
you wait like the state.
The license allows you to drive
As long as they think you’re alive
But if you look like you’re dead
No matter what’s said
You’ll only get one with a bribe
The computer was running so slow
As to why, no one else seems to know
So I sit and I wait
While it determines my fate
‘Till they tell me it’s OK to go
Lots of waiting in this cancer game.
More doctor appoints coming up tomorrow and the next day, surgeon, primary physician, and then the endocrinologist.
So we wait, and recover, and take each day as it comes.
No one really knows, especially your doctor. Miracles occur, sometimes like skilled surgery, but follow up treatment for this cancer is like Sherman marching through Georgia, scorched earth and hope we got it.
With papillary cancer, the treatment is radioactive ablation, short for try to kill the cancer cells, and hope the cure doesn’t cause other long term problems.
When you finish the treatment, you might be left with a metallic taste in your mouth. How long does it last? Well it should go away, eventually. Or your left saliva gland might not work. Will it come back, maybe. What about the soreness in my neck, up by my chin. Does that mean the cancer was up in the lymph glands there too? Not sure.
When should I come back in? Wait six weeks, get a blood test, come in for a visit then. I wait. Per my plan, this battle happens on the cellular level and I am just along for the ride, so there is not much I can do. I am eating healthily, assuming all treatments worked as expected and generally positive. After all the doctor knows, sort of.
Edward Hospital in Naperville flows. It embraces you, and you drift down the halls like a youth in a tube riding the current of a gentle stream. The check in is seamless, we follow the Ronald McDonald large orange footprints down the halls to our elevator.
My little team, one of my two daughters and wife, representing the bigger team that supports me from afar although inadequately thanked, but not unappreciated, and I arrive. We get a secret tracking number, and they can follow my progress from waiting to recovery room on a TV screen like flights at the airport.
I am in a good state, the no hassle login has allowed me to remain calm. I am quieter than normal, it is a bit like putting on a “game face” before an important game. My wife and lover is quietly supportive at my side while my daughter is unsettled. No matter how old you are, when your parents are ill, you feel like an orphan.
Next we go into a temporary waiting room and I don the a paper gown, not the typical cloth one, this one is lined heavy lined paper, and I think, “This is going to get messy”.
I am in the gown, with my little footie socks, reclining on my bed/cart that will wheel me to the operation. There is no more to be said, and I ask if I can be alone, and my wife and daughter return to the waiting room with the other hopeful, helpless people.
She is trim in jeans and a black sweater, and leans against the sill looking out to the drab grey skies. The rain pounds down against the window, suppressing our spirits. She makes light talk, but I don’t listen. My eyes are closed, and still I see her, the hard wall supports my head the chair holds me as I sit half alive, half suspended waiting.
He is late and I made sure we arrived on time. But until he comes, hope remains. It isn’t final, one big mistake with the hero’s escape. She will hold my hand and we will take it, but instead I sit imprisoned in time, fugue, between action and waking dream.
Although it pisses me off that he makes me wait, it comforts me. No decisions, just silly little boy hopes of future halcyon days. Soon enough pragmatic decisions, and forth to march, playing percentages, well if we do this, then 95% of the time all is well. To bad for the 5%, it would never be me.
We listen to the rain, it is softer now, no words, just wind and sound. I hear his hand on the door.