cancer diary

Last Q standing

Coming home from my mother's wedding, with thoughts of Washington and Arkansas and Alabama mixing reluctantly in my head like oil and water, the thought hit me. Last Q standing.

I'd managed to find a close-enough relative to whom I could toss the question to with some degree of nonchalance, though I think I knew what the answer would be all along: "Yes, she's planning on changing her name after the wedding."

Six years

Dad -

I didn't really call you that while you were alive, and it feels strange to call you that now, but I didn't know any other way to start this letter.

I've become a person who grumbles at roadside memorials for victims of traffic accidents but who writes something about you every year on the anniversary of your death. I wondered about that for a number of years before I realized that I was closer to your death than I was to your life, and I've spent the years since trying to come to terms with your absence.

This entry covers it better than most:

Snow in Alabama

I was sitting to the right of Geof, enjoying an Over the Rhine concert that he'd talked me into attending, when I saw my silenced phone light up. The number implied Arkansas, and I had the familiar lump of dread that always came when a number starting with 501 showed up on caller ID.

It was my mother, and thanks to the ongoing performance, I had no way of answering it before the phone would go to voice mail. I watched, and waited, and saw no new voicemail notification pop up. No message.

ocean's gift: paradox

It was late, and our words were quiet. The house slept around us, snoring noises emanating from the various rooms."It's not so much about turning thirty," I said. "I've earned this number, and I have no reason to hide from it, but…"

"The round number makes it easy and natural to take stock of your life."

I whispered agreement. Conversations like these don't often take place during the light of day; they are the omnipresent thoughts, but the last to be voiced. First in, but last out; only after the chitchat and the catching-up conversations are exhausted do the soul-searching words tumble out as the friend's hand reaches for the metaphysical doorknob of sleep.

I write this here knowing that he will see it, knowing that I'll dread the moment he comes home, wanders off to his computer, and eventually spots these words, because it'll likely happen while I'm here. None of these words will surprise him, but it's the first time I've acknowledged any of them openly.

an audience of one.

Somewhere, in the Official Book Of Personal Websites, there is an admonition about never creating posts for an audience of one. "The readership," it bemoans, "think of the readership!" The OBPW (a righteous tome inwardly certain of its correctness and self-worth, very British in that regard) goes on to decry those who would veil the true nature of a public piece of writing behind anonymizing pronouns, because if writing is made available online, it should be as comprehensible as it is physically accessible.

Hogwash. I've been creaking around this domain for six years now, and while the OBPW makes a fantastic stepstool in my kitchen, it's of little other practical use to me. I keep trying to run off all but the most patient of you lot; what's one more post in that vein?

If this post is impenetrable to you, then worry not and read on; it's not for you, but you're welcome to tag along for the ride.

* * * * *


Lest we forget: life is so achingly fragile, and there are no second chances.

A week ago today was the fourth anniversary of my father's death. That morning, I asked myself the kind of question that defines the difference between adulthood and childhood: "If I had no more chances after today, what would be my greatest regret?"

For me, the answer was clear. Something about the day, the anniversary—something indefinable and pressing—meant that I spent that morning finally doing something about it. Actions that may or may not get written about here. It's too personal, and has ramifications on lives not my own. Even if I could write it, I am not sure that I should.

Today, after a crossword-and-cat-induced nap, we dressed and headed out for Indian food, at a restaurant in which we are regulars ("No bread tonight?") and came home to a message on the answering machine.