To misquote T.S. Eliot, “March is the cruelest month.” Sorry, T.S., but my cruelest month comes a little early every year.
Two years ago, it was when I found out that my sister was going to stop the treatment that she had been undergoing for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I mustered the nerve to write about it here, and got some more catharsis here and here. Really, it was just the beginning of the gut-wrenching parade that March would become infamous for.
Last year, it was a call from an aunt to tell me that my father had been in the hospital for a week, due to a 10+ cm basal-cell skin cancer on his back (that he had known about for at least a year, and was in pathological denial about). My father had been in the hospital for a week, and hadn’t seen fit to call me, to let me know anything about it. I sobbed during much of the phone call, and completely lost it when I hung up, and ultimately, I was mad. I was angry at him for thinking that I would be bothered with this news, instead of wanting to drive as fast as I could out to the Central Valley to be by his side during multiple surgeries, skin grafts, blood samples, and crummy hospital meals. When I finally called him later that evening, on the phone in his hospital room, I started the conversation by asking him if he’d seen any of the recent basketball games (my dad is more of a rabid Bruin fan than I am, even though he’s not a UCLA alum). From there, I decided that a good, “What the hell?” was in order, and a healthy amount of crying into the phone, again. I am pleased to say that my dad (my stupid, stubborn, denial-ridden, clinically-depressed, light-of-my-freaking-life dad) is doing well now, is missing many, many cancerous and precancerous skin irregularities, and is, above all, still alive.
This year, to continue the streak, I get a call from my uncle. This is my dad’s brother, the one who is gay and was an extra parent to me when I was a kid (and continues to be, even when I am less of a handful to babysit), who has had his partner for longer than I have been alive. He leaves me this message, saying that they had been in the south coast (Cambria, I later found out), and that Mark, his partner, is sick, and call back, “maybe tomorrow evening or something.” The next day after work, I gave him a call back, and within the first thirty seconds, learn that Mark, my “uncle” and extra-extra parent, has lung cancer. This is no surprise, really, because both of them have been smoking for at least thirty-five years, but it never seems quite as real as it should be. How do you begin to absorb, “Mark has lung cancer. He coughed up a bit of blood, and he’s had a chest x-ray, a CAT scan, and a biopsy. We don’t know the results yet, but we do know that it’s in his lymph nodes, around his trachea”? How do you pull yourself into the reality of, “I think what they’ll do is start chemo, and then do a surgery,” when all you want to do is crawl into that small, black box that’s “safe” from these things that you knew damn well were coming, but still aren’t ready for?
I, of course, have to be the one to tell my brother, just like I had to tell him about our dad. And I will have to tell my mom, who was close to them when my parents were together, who is only a couple months older than Mark. I will have to make a trip out to Stockton with Greg, who has only met them once, and I will have to get my brain around the fact that this is real, that this is happening, and that I have to be a grownup about it.
I’m sorry that this is such a stormcloud of a post– I swear there are wonderful things happening in my world, too, but I need to get this out before I can talk about any great things that happen to be going on. I promise, y’all, that I’ll be reporting back about delicious food and good spa times had by all, in the near future.