Monday, September 05, 2011

Earthquakes, Part 2

So, where were we?

Oh, that’s right, thank you, Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius. We were about ten steps of the canyon ledge and still thinking there was solid ground beneath us.

But let’s back up a bit. Let’s put Wile E. Coyote back on the cliff.

That would be July 26th, 2011.

That was the day my sister Agatha and I got the email from My Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much about the results of my Dad, The Great Stoic Wonder’s routine colonoscopy.

I knew the colonoscopy was happening, I talk to my parents every week, we knew it was happening, it was routine. My family is notorious for coming from a good genetic stock. We rarely get sick, we don’t get long term diseases, we rarely break bones (the last one was sister Agatha in high school, some twenty years ago.) We don’t get divorces, we don’t have miscarriages. Yeah, my mother the Phone Harpy had an issue with her vocal chords that meant she couldn’t sing on key, but frankly, she couldn’t sing on key anyway, so this just meant she had to tone down the volume (she would tell you this herself.) No big deal.

I am the last person in my line (if you’re not counting the cousins under 10) to not have any cavities (it’s really simple, people, just floss. I swear, it works.) We don’t even get food poisoning, unless it’s pesto, pine nuts, or leftover crab (I was watching the documentary “Waiting For Superman” that day. That was a bad bad bad day.)

The email of July 26th, 2011 from My Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much said that the my father, The Great Stoic Wonder’s routine colonoscopy turned up a cancerous lesion, and they had scheduled surgery to remove the part of the colon that contained the lesion on August 1, 2011. It certainly seemed scary, and prayers were offered up, but I remembered that my father, the Great Stoic Wonder, had had various skin lesions removed in the past, the result of playing golf in the sun for half your life. And I guess my brain chalked up the colon lesion up to those tiny no big deal skin cancer lesions. We had no reason to think any different.

August 1, 2011 – While I turn in my Golden Gecko Gymnast outline, my father has 8 to 12 inches of his colon removed. Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much calls to say that while they were mucking around in my Dad’s intestines, they saw something else to give them pause, more information later. Um…. Okay.

(Wile E. Coyote has just started his dash off the cliff, yet still is upright on faith alone.)

August 4th, 2011 – My Dad is released from the hospital. I didn’t think they would call today, which is why I’m trying to munch a microwaved Smart Ones chicken and cheese quesadilla while they give me the news that they found cancer in eight of the surrounding eighteen lymph nodes. They’re scheduling a PET scan for August 25th, results to be discussed August 29th. Today is also Sister Agatha’s birthday, and the day ends with the email from the Creative Exec that the Golden Gecko Gymnast movie is on hold.

August 8th, 2011 – I get the email that the Golden Gecko Gymnast movie is officially dead. However, my father the Great Stoic Wonder is still alive, and that’s more important in the grand scheme of things.

(Wile E. Coyote is still running his heart out, he can even see the other cliff waiting for him on the other side)

August 15th, 2011 – I get a postcard in the mail from Pastor Home Church. He is indeed the pastor of my home church back in Alabama, the church that My Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much faithfully attends, and the church that my father the Great Stoic Wonder attends on Christmas and Easter. On the postcard, Pastor Home Church says, “I just heard about your dad’s diagnosis with cancer,” For some reason, I was able to happily bop along in my Denial Bubble That Has Served Me Faithfully For So Long In So Many Ways, so that when I read this orange postcard (I’m sure the mailman also sends his regrets, since he can see it too) it finally hits me that this is real. Uh… okay. My Dad has cancer. Um… okay. But there’s no reason to panic yet, right? Right?

(Wile E. Coyote is gradually realizing that the ground may have left him.)

August 25th, 2011 – Dad goes in for his PET scan, which will illuminate how far the cancer has spread, if at all. When I talk to him on the phone, he sounds fine, if somewhat subdued. He’s his usual stoic self, taking potshots at the Phone Harpy and her hoarding I-Can’t-Throw-Anything-Away-Including-These-Three-Pictures-Of-A-Mountain-In-Europe-That-I-Forgot-To-Label-When-I-Took-The-Picture-30-to-40-Years-Ago ways, which have been threatening for decades to consume our entire house. Business as usual.

August 29th, 2011 – Sister Agatha and I get an email about the results of the PET scan. If it’s bad news, we get it via email, because the electronic buffer is safer. But Phone Harpy Mommy hasn’t cc-ed the right email address for sister Agatha, so I print out the email and run out of my office on the Unnamed Studio Lot, but there is no good private place to talk, so I land on a bench somewhere between the casting building and the costume museum, and trams of tourists are passing by as tears are streaming down my face as I tell my sister on the cell phone that our father has Stage IV colon cancer.

(And Wile E. Coyote begins his freefall.)

The cancer, which showed no outward symptoms, has spread to his liver and around the aorta. He’s scheduled to have a central port put in on August 31st, with chemotherapy to start September 7th.

August 30th, 2011 – I call in sick. My face is swollen from crying, my eyelids are the size of Vienna sausages, and I only leave the house to shop for my parents’ anniversary card. They’re celebrating 50th years of marriage on September 2nd. We were all going to fly to St. John in the Bahamas in October to celebrate. It’s not happening anymore. I put together hooks in the wall to hang my stepstool on (shorty me needs a stepstool to reach shelves in the kitchenette) and a shoerack for my closet. I buy a basil plant. I am thwarted in putting another wall rack in the kitchenette because the wall has a sheet of aluminum on it, and I

don’t have a power drill, and the landlords and the Dalmatians Pepe and Pembleton are out of town. I cannot fix my father’s cancer, I can fix these things. Most of them, anyway.

September 1st, 2011 – I’m back at work, and there’s an earthquake. Not one that I dreamed about two months ago, this is real. It’s a shaker for about four seconds, long enough for me to shove off my headphones, turn the chair around, and grip the armrests, ready to bolt if it goes longer than four seconds. This is more movement than my co-workers do, by the way. They’re all frozen like deer in headlights.

I am not frozen. I am ready to move. But the earthquake is only four seconds long. And truthfully, there’s nowhere to go. Nothing to do, nowhere to go.

I can’t stop this earthquake, just like I can’t stop life. It began with a dream two months ago, it has led to this day, and it will go on for many many days more.

We are all falling with Wile E. Coyote, and all I can do at this point is grip the armrests of my chair and hold on for the ride. At least we’re finally in September. Because I don’t mind telling you, August 2011 officially goes down as The Worst Month Ever.

1 comment:

Ashes said...

Oh Ames. I am so sad to hear this news. Know that you and your dad and your family will be in my prayers. When my mom was sick, it meant so much to me just to know that people cared, that they were reading my panic-filled texts and emails, that they were holding me and my mom in their thoughts and prayers. But more - it helped me to have someone actually reach out to take the toxic-fear-dump in both hands. So you have been warned. I'll be calling. If you don't feel like talking to me, don't pick up. That's fine too. Love you. -ash