The Way Things Are



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Dadís prognosis is okay
2005-10-18, 4:19 p.m.

Dadís prognosis is okay. Not brilliant, not bad. Heíll probably do okay. However, it is progressed past the point where it is no big deal, and to the point where his best case scenario is surgery. Removal of the prostate gland. From what I gleaned through the haze of my motherís inability to come to grips with things EVER (believe me Ė 20 years from now, she will still be in denial), this means a cessation of sexual function, with little available to ameliorate that.

Thatís his best case scenario.

The worst case just spins out of control from there. The doctor did not believe that a bone scan is necessary, until dad mentioned that his back has been hurting for the past 3 or 4 months. So now a bone scan is on order, and hopefully the back soreness will not be further cancer, but just tiredness from having cancer.

His numbers are up Ė I donít know what numbers, or what they mean, but thereís an indication that it is not localizedÖthat it might have spread. If they find that the cancer is in his lymph nodes when they open him up, they will just close him back up and send him home. There wonít be much life expectancy after that. BUT that hasnít happened yet. Itís just one of those wild possibilities.

So weíll see. We have a best case scenario, and no reason to think it will be worse than that until something worse happens. And so far, although something bad has happened, but nothing worse has happened yet.

My sister and I had a long conversation about Ė what else? Ė ourselves, and how dadís diagnosis affects US. And it really is very difficult, because we donít come from a normal family. Who does? But ours is weird and bad in its own unique way. The hardest thing about it for us is, how are we supposed to feel any kind of compassion for someone who has just been a complete dick to his children and stepchildren? How do we make our emotions turn 180* from distance and self-preservation to compassion and support?

(Just to give you perspective, heís my stepfather and heís her father. Weíre half-sisters. And she has a harder time with him than I do, I guess because she canít say ďWell, heís not my REAL father.Ē )

This is a person who we grew up having to protect ourselves from, not physically Ė he didnít physically abuse or molest any of us, but emotionally. Sis and I agreed that if you can strike a fatal blow emotionally, he would have killed us on any number of occasions, and we very frequently wished we WERE dead. Just get it over with, dad.

So time and distance have mellowed (thatís one of DWís fave words: mellow) that intense hatred and revulsion into a kind of tolerant distance and, well, mockery. The siblingsí favorite pass time is comparing our more light-hearted dad stories, and laughing at his expense. Laughter is the best medicine. Itís like laughing at the scary thing in Harry Potter (I canít spell it because weíve never read it- just listened in the car, but I digress), but itís that whole deal where you laugh at what torments you most, and you render it powerless.

Well, shit! How do you laugh at the old man with cancer? What the hell are we supposed to do now?

Beyond the surreality of finding out your parent has cancer, beyond the disbelief of that, we have the problem is how to act. How do we act?

Sis expressed her greatest fear: that there would be some kind of emotional, cathartic outpouring of sorrow and regret; that we would all be forced to face the past and hash it out; that there would be the putting to bed of old disagreements and conflict; that there might be some kind of group hug involving tearful confessions of love and tenderness. Something that will render our current family dynamic KAPUT.

I hereby call bullshit. The past and all its hurts have been encapsulated and Iím not excising that teeth-and-hair-containing boil. Nope. Not gonna do it. At the first indication that there might be tears or hugging, Iím outta there. Iíve dealt with my past and pain, and Iím not dragging it all out to pacify an old man with cancer. I donít trust him with my emotions, and Iím not going to start now.

Hopefully it wonít come to that. Hopefully, the best case scenario will play out as scripted, and my siblings and I will go back to our mockful eye-rolling and patronizing inside jokes.*

Donít you wish your family were as well-adjusted as mine?

*Hereís a mild example. Dadís exclamation when he admires something or is really, really happy is to cry ďOutSTANDing!Ē Will just repeat it over and over again ad nauseum when heís (1) eating a really good dinner (2) loving the good weather weíre having (3) THERE IS NO 3 (4) or perhaps making money on his investments. So my brothers and sister and I will say to each other Ė not to dad Ė outSTANDing to get a little dad-dig in. Just a little one. As in ďOutSTANDing Bloody Mary, sis. Out.STANDING!Ē

Itís hard to know if we can still do that. Itís part of our lexicon, and now we might have to relearn how to talk to each other.

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