"I don't want to be like my dad."
We were sitting at lunch and I was staring out the window. The Hub was listening to a conversation in the booth behind us. "Eavesdropping" would be the wrong word to use in this situation since the family in question obviously didn't care who heard them. It was like sitting behind a booth of roosters at dawn. Not chickens - roosters. And at dawn when, as you know, is the friggin' loudest time to be a rooster. COCKADOOLE-BRING ME MY FOOD-ADOOO! They holler. COCKADOODLE-IS THAT YER NEW PICKUP? Scratch Scratch COCKADOODLE-OFFENSIVE REMARK ABOUT A MINORITY CLASS HERE-A DO DO DOOOOO! With all that going on, I wasn't doing much other than thinking. Just thinking. The clash of the booth behind kept me from dwelling on any one thought in particular for too long, kept me from concentrating at all really. So I was just sort of letting my brain bump around in the dark without my thoughts to guide it. Instead of trying to direct intention toward a certain end, I was just calmly drifting on my thoughts. Without purpose. Nothing in mind. When without much effort at all, my brain coughed up this solitary and stunning thought. "I don't want to be like my dad." And this one thought unlocked a puzzle I'd been muddling over for days.
This, by the way, happens sometimes in my head - this meandering thinking without purpose - and leads itself to a solution I've been trying to get after without success. It's like if I get out of the way, whatever's been bothering me decides to show itself. A child who has been chased and chased without success who finally comes popping out when you've announced you're going to sit quietly and do nothing - least of all look for that silly little kid you've been after.
I have this pattern with many things:
Answers to crossword puzzles.
Occasionally Pickles (the dog, not the prepared cucumber) finds her way outside the house without a leash. Once she's escaped, the only surefire way to get Pickles back in the house is to act like you don't WANT her in the house. Even if she's at a dead run AWAY from the house, you can guarantee her return if you can just get her attention and then act like you DON'T WANT HER ANYWHERE NEAR THE HOUSE. To get Pickles back, you have to run FROM her. Not TO or AFTER her ... no no, that doesn't work at all ... FROM her. You have to act like you WANT her outside barreling through the neighbors' back yards at a million miles an hour with her nose to the ground. You WANT her dodging traffic and spinning around like a damn idiot in the middle of the street chasing her tail. You WANT her to fly with her ears flapping and her legs a blur up and down the sidewalks miraculously missing the old man down the street with his walker by mere millimeters ... you WANT her doing all of that. And what you DON'T want, no way, no how, is for her to come BACK inside. In fact ... you are going to RUN as hard and as fast as you can and RACE lickety split up the sidewalk and BURST through the door hoping to slam it in her fuzzy yellow face! Never ever to let her in again! And if you act like that's what you really want ...what your heart desires MOST ... then and only then will she break the laws of physics to ensure that she beats you back to the house. Where you can calmly follow her inside, lock the door and beat the tar out of her while she tries to lick you to death.
Troubling thoughts ... they are all the same. Ignore them and they'll come a runnin'.
So as I sat there watching New Year's Day traffic out a window framed with yellow ruffled curtains in this somewhat down-homey (albeit terribly loud) restaurant I suddenly had the urge to speak the thought that's put a fuzzy gray hue around my life for the past few days.
"I don't want to be like my dad."
Since The Hub knows better than anyone how much I adore my father and how much I admire him and have told story after story about him and have intentionally done things to raise The Kid in ways similar to how I was raised, I'm quite surprised he didn't schew up his face and say "Do WHUT?!" Instead he assumed, rightly so, there was more to this statement than met the ears and simply stopped listening to the roosters in the booth behind us and started listening to me. Seamless and smooth ... he transitions so well.
I know so little about my dad's illness. His cancer. I know I was a year old when he was diagnosed. I know he first found a lump under his arm and the cancer was in his chest and neck. I know he went through chemo and radiation and the diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma should have been a death sentence for him long before it was. I know the fact he lived 14 years after his diagnosis was a miracle and I know he was dying long before I recognized it. When I was going through my own cancer treatment 2 years ago I remember asking my mother to review my dad's timeline with me again. When was he diagnosed? What was that treatment? When was he re-diagnosed? What was that treatment? When did it come back again? How did you know? When did you know treatment wasn't working? When did you decide to stop treatment and why the hell didn't I realize any of this? I guess so much of what I know I gathered as a child. And those memories are spotty at best. What I know is just little pieces I've nailed together here and there with thumbtacks and reinforced with scotch tape. Children have a way of taking little bits of information and observation and creating their own reality. Once my father told some joke about grandfather being an old Indian fighter ... and grandmother being an old Indian. From that I created a whole history of my family tree that led to me asking him one day years later if we were Cherokee or Chickasaw. Neither, he said, we're Irish. Which I've come to realize isn't true either. So I guess it's understandable that I'm confused about many things that have to do with my dad. Many things that have to do with his cancer are so foggy and unclear. Seen through the eyes of a child. A child who grew up listening to her daddy get sick and wretch in the toilet. A child who thought all daddys had scars like that on their chests - deep, wide and long - smooth, shiny tissue long healed from deep burns. A child who thought everyone went to the hospital all the time and didn't understand when people gasped when she blurted out "My daddy has cancer!" A child who, despite all she'd seen and heard and experienced, fully expected her dad to walk her down the aisle, to be in the stands at her graduation, to help her buy her first house and to bounce grandchildren on his knee.
Want to be
Like my dad.
I don't want to be chased by this damn disease the whole rest of my damn life and have to fight it again and again and again. I don't want to muscle my way around my life bullying a disease into thinking I have the upper hand. I don't want to strategically plan and pursue a life that evades and avoids the killer that is stalking me. I don't want to live whatever years are designed for me to live with the hot breath of a lunatic assassin warm on my neck. I don't want to live for 14 years and then try to figure out a way to die with dignity. I don't want my mother to attend my funeral. I don't want my child to be called to sit up with me late into the night when my breathing is shallow and labored. I don't want my legs to fill with fluid and my skin to turn ashy and green and I don't want to sit in that godforsaken chemo chair ever ever ever again.
And I don't want to write about it anymore today.