It was last year, in this month of April, that I got the phone call.
My mother, trying to sound only mildly concerned, called to tell me that they had taken my dad to the hospital and they were running tests. The catch in her voice betrayed her calm.
While working his usual Saturday morning crossword puzzle his brain had gone a little fuzzy. He couldn’t seem to get the words to travel the familiar path from his brain to his tongue.
Don’t worry, she said, don’t worry, I’ll call you when I know more. I heard the phone click as she hung up, and just like the click of a light switch, my world went dark.
In 52 years, I have never known of a world without my father. And somewhere in the part of my mind that stores all things that are unbearably true, emerged something that I had been denying since I was a little girl – that someday my father was going to die. And now dawn was breaking on that someday.
Over the course of the next week, we would learn that my dad had cancer. It had started in his lungs and made it’s way to the brain, which was further complicated by a multitude of other existing issues.
My parents were referred to an oncologist who laid the cards plainly on the table. Cancer was my dad’s new landlord and this heartless landlord was serving an eviction notice.
Together my parents decided that they would not do chemo, but they would do radiation to buy some time, but whatever time they had left, they wanted it to be free of the misery that medicine often brings.
My mother asked the doctor how long he thought they might have. Doctors don’t like to answer that question, so she asked him another way: Could they have the summer? she asked, as if for permission. The doctor said yes, with radiation they would probably get to enjoy the summer. But after that all bets were off.
And so that’s what they set about to do – to enjoy the last of what would be nearly 60 summers together.
As tragic and sorrowful as this past year has been, it has also blessed me in countless and unexpected ways.
The stories that follow in the coming days and weeks (or however long it takes to get it all out) are those blessings recounted.