Late in August I came home after a simple, enjoyable night spent in the company of my son and my brother, to be informed by my wife that I had cancer.
A short time afterwards we were watching an episode of "Vice Principals." Bill Murray plays the principal of a high school whose wife is dying from cancer.
There is a scene where she and Bill are sitting on a stage at a school function. She is in a wheelchair and does not look very good. One character asks another what she is dying from.
The character replies "melanoma."
Carol and I laughed it off at the time but it stuck in my head. Way back deep in the dark cave of my thoughts.
This morning I was reading "Feast Day of Fools" by James Lee Burke. One character tells another that he is dying. Has three months to live. "I'm terminal. I used to smoke three packs a day. Five years ago I quit and thought I'd gotten a free pass. I went in for a blister on my nose last week, and the doc said it was already in my liver and pancreas and had reached the brain."
I am going to have cancer shaved off my nose tomorrow morning.
These coincidences mean nothing. And they mean everything.
I read another thirty or forty pages. When I quit there was a bit of a meltdown. Rapid breathing, a tear or two.
All indicators are positive for what I am going through. Cancer on training wheels. I keep deferring to people in my family who have waged war against cancer, fought with everything they had or have.
Still, I am frightened. I have had only a short time to deal with this. My body was sliced up on 09/01; it will be sliced up again tomorrow.
I know in my heart that when you come right down to it the medical community knows nothing about the true state of my health. Or anybody else's.
I am talking about the deep down, what is really going on inside type of stuff.
Last week two people close to my brother died. Two. In one week.
The wife of a guy my brother plays baseball with died of a heart attack while walking herself to a close-by hospital to get checked out for an asthma attack she was having.
She was 34 years old. She was an exercise freak and a health food devotee.
A couple of days later, a guy on my brothers baseball team scored a run at the plate, doubled over at the dugout because he couldn't breathe and collapsed and died of a heart attack.
He was 58 or 59. He had recently had a physical. He was a close friend of my brother's.
If I do not react in an appropriate way to the health news I recently received I am a fucking idiot.
I could be alive for thirty more years. I could only have a handful left.
I don't know; the doctors don't know.
I have to change my life.
I am as afraid that I don't have the guts to do that as I am of the cancer.
The strangest things pop into your head at times like this.
Many years ago we were sitting in the parking lot of the NH Motor Speedway prior to a race. I was joking around with Sarge. I don't remember the context but I said something like "Well then, I will have to beat you up."
He replied "You'll have to grow a set of balls first."
It was all said in jest, we both laughed, but there was deep truth in those words.
I regret my life. Deeply. It is not my own. I look at it as if it was a joke. I was an accountant for most of my life.
Are you fucking kidding me?
That is irrelevant. No one to blame but myself. I could have changed things at any point down the road but I did not.
And I still have time.
What I regret more are the meaningful things. Keith lives 30 minutes away from me, Craig 45.
I go weeks, sometimes months without seeing them.
Because I don't make the effort. Their lives are busier than mine; it is on me. Christ, Emily's parents see Keith and Emily much more often than Carol and I do and they live hundreds of miles away.
Because they make the effort.
We get together formally, birthdays, holidays, and I worship those get togethers. But I have always wanted to have a more informal relationship with my sons. And with Emily and Karen, who I love and respect deeply.
Christ, four days a week I work five minutes down the road from Keith and Emily and I never stop in.
Carol and I have been married for thirty eight years. I have hurt her, she has hurt me. We came very close to losing everything at one point in our lives.
We are both 62 and dreaming about full retirement. A very unsettled time in our life.
Still, I believe that we love each other. Love each other in the meaningful sense of the word; love each other in the sharing of entire lives kind of way.
I love and respect my brother. Deeply. I see him as the intelligent one and the one with the wicked wit. I see him as a fighter, I see him as a success.
I don't see him nearly enough and his life has had deep pain in it. The worst.
I am not here to make promises today. My mind has been overwhelmed with thoughts lately. My emotions are running the show.
I had to let it out.