One or two of you might have caught a reference to pancreatic cancer in the last post. I’ve been avoiding posting anything about this for some reason. My oldest brother is 51 years-old. He has pancreatic cancer. I came as much to spend some time with him in what will likely be his last Christmas on earth as I did to visit the rest of my family. Please pray for him. He is at peace.
Thanks to the presence of a strong El Nino pattern this year, the week is forecast to be in the 70’s with rain every day. Strange Christmas week indeed. The morning was spent uneventfully visiting with one of my sisters. My dad stopped by. He’s doing well considering his own health scare earlier this fall.
We had reserved a rental car to pick up during the day today. Do you know how that works? So it turns out that a car rental agency can actually run out of cars to rent if people don’t return them on time. Four separate times my wife called and four separate times she was told that our car was simply not available.
Finally at 4:30 PM we were informed that a car was on the lot. In the back of my mind I knew that I’d be picking up some kind of econo-vehicle. Remember, this trip is budgeted for maximal dollar value.
So I thought nothing of the fact that, after signing papers declining insurance, I was shown to an SUV with plenty of bells and whistles.
Behind the wheel, I headed to the hospital. I don’t know how to describe the experience. I approached my brother’s room. I had only seen him since his diagnosis (about three months ago) through FaceTime calls and he didn’t look terrible to me. In fact, much of that time since his initial surgery has been spent in the home of another sister of ours. But about two weeks ago he returned with an infection. Coming to the door I saw a note that read “Stop! See nurse for instructions.” I looked around but didn’t see a nurse to question. So I peeked my head in the door and saw my brother. I was gratified to see his eyes light up. I explained about the note to see the nurse. My brother has always kept it “real”. But there’s something about knowing one’s time on earth is limited that causes one’s vocabulary to simply not care. The filter was gone, what had been left of it after years of harder-than-average living.
“Aw man,” he said, “don’t pay no attention to that sign. They haven’t been following any instructions like that for fuc*in’ weeks now. Just don’t get too near the bed.”
And with that I pulled a chair up and sat by his side. We talked, caught up. Told him about the flight and that he wasn’t missing much of the outside world. “Weather’s warm,” I said. What a strange conversation.
The thing that struck me most was just how small he’d gotten. Here is a man who used to be around 200 lbs, now a shadow of his former self. And yet he seems at peace. He even told me so.
“The occupational therapist called me earlier,” he started. “Told me he’d be stopping by with a grabby thing to help me put my socks on. I told him that was fine. Then he told me it’s $30 and he only takes cash. So I told him I ain’t got 30 fuc*in’ dollars cash. Then he said he only takes cash.”
I listened intently.
“Look, I’m at peace. I know what’s goin’ on. Don’t sell me no bullshit grabby thing for my socks. Just give me my meds and if you could help take away some of the pain until it happens, I’m good.”
And then we watched a few episodes of The King of Queens. After that I said goodbye and headed home. Strangely, little things that had been bothering me didn’t seem to matter much. I was still concerned about what I’ve been eating on this trip and how it’s screwing up my quest for 4% bodyfat (see earlier posts about running and training) but I knew in my heart it didn’t matter. I was still thinking about getting to the next level with my career but not so much. I was still pondering Chrstina Aguilera’s success despite a seeming lack of talent.
What did matter to me was trying to make the most of my time on earth by being a better husband and father, devoting my life to serving God in the people He’s given me.
I went home and tried to subjugate those now-seemingly insignificant quests into the larger vocational picture of my life. I would stick with running but only to make myself stronger for my kids. I would be careful with what I eat but choose to feast when the moment was right to celebrate life with my children so they could see their old man enjoy the good things God has given us.
I still don’t get Christina Aguilera.
Life goes on for most of us. For the others, keep praying.