Thanks to the human heart by which we live, Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears, To me the meanest flower that blows can give Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. - WORDSWORTH, Ode: Intimations Of Immortality
My Dad may have prostate cancer. He is undergoing exploratory surgery tomorrow. Preliminary testing has revealed nodules on the prostate and elevated PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) in the urine.
My sister rang me to tell me, relishing her role of keeping the family together. I ignored the covert nature of her glee, becoming quite upset after she had rung off. Whatever has happened, whatever will happen, I love my Dad and I want him to be OK. I was so mad that she was gloating about the fact that she knew all about the cancer scare and I didn’t. I mean, does everything have to be a power play? Enough, already.
I rang my Dad straight away. My hands were shaking. I couldn’t remember the phone number. I have been ringing that number for ten years and I couldn’t remember the bloody thing when I really needed to. I had to look it up in my address book – me – who remembers every single number of my nearest and dearest off by heart.
I was so nervous he would be angry with me or hang up on me I croaked at him like an old hag. I felt like I’d just had a shot of novocaine. I was numb and uncoordinated. He cried when I called. He had thought that I wouldn’t care. He admitted that he has been unfair, that he has been treating me badly. He praised me for always trying to do the right thing, regardless of how my actions might be received.
It was a relief. It was sad. It was sobering to speak to a man who might be about to begin the journey of staring his mortality in the face.
When I was a kid I thought my Dad was a superhero. He could do anything, fix anything. He never let anything bad happen. And he knew so much about the world and its goings-on. I thought my Dad was immortal when I was a kid. I couldn’t imagine this earth without him on it. I still can’t.
During the phone call I had glimmerings of the way it used to be between us. Me and my Dad. It felt like it would be easy to latch on to that old rapport. Can you imagine anything as heinous as cancer being the thing that pushes people back together, that glues together the fractured pieces in a relationship?
I hope my Dad doesn’t have cancer but I do hope that today was a fresh start for us. That we can live through this intimation of his mortality and begin again.