Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Cancer

I see clearly now that I am still a child.

I wear the costume of a grown woman; the clothes, the hair, the make up.  I do things like make appointments with the pediatrician and prepare vegetables and write notes excusing my son's absence from school.  My mouth discusses things like mortgages and car seat safety and unemployment rates.  I process the words of people I love, such as "I have to work late" and "I'm afraid I'll never be pregnant again" and then, heartbreakingly, "I have cancer." 

And then I see.

I am going through the motions of an adult, but really there is a little girl lying just underneath the surface.  She is five and has uneven bangs and bruises on her legs and she stomps her patten-leather shoe on the ground, balls her fists, screws up her face and yells, "WHAT!  THE!  FUCK!"

And then, just as quickly as she is five, she is ten.  There are new babies in Seattle, such sweet little twin babies, and my dad has nicknames for all of us.  I am visiting from Boston.  I watch my sister with her blond hair and wonder how it is to live still with your mother and father and these babies all in the same house.  I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling and wonder what it would be like to live here.  And then my eyes burn with quick, hot, shameful tears because I miss my mother and my room and my things.  When it is time to leave for the airport my stomach twists like a nervous woman wringing her hands.  My dad sits on the couch; I climb on his lap and bury my head into his neck to cry.  I breath him in; I take home his sweater.  My thirty-five year old self wants to be back there again; I want to climb through the phone wires and be on my dad's lap and bury my face into his neck to cry.   

I vacillate from one extreme to the other; I want to be the child, maybe if I climb into bed and close my eyes tight I will wake up and everything will be okay again.  I want to be the grown up; I want to hop a plane and sit at a bedside and nod at doctors and get the coffee.

There was a moment, once, when I actually was a grown up.  My father gave a very moving eulogy at my grandfather's funeral.  He was 3,000 miles from home, burying his father without the comfort of his wife beside him.  After his speech, he came back to the pew and sat next to me.  I reached over and took his hand in mine.  I squeezed. 

I am here, with you

He squeezed it back.

Tonight I am 3,000 miles away and my dad is sick.  He's temporarily sick, but sick nonetheless.  I feel far.  And helpless.  I am five and yelling, I am ten and crying, I am grown and squeezing his hand. 

I am squeezing his hand.

I am here, with you.


  1. Oh Jenn, I'm so sorry to hear that your dad is sick. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  2. ((((hugs))))

    (I linked this post to my blog.)


  3. I am here from MBC. This post brought tears to my eyes. I hope your dad feels better soon.

    Mama Hen

  4. I'm a new reader, but having lost my dad when I was in my late 20s, I fel compelled to just say...I know. I get it. Much love.