Sunday, July 25, 2010

D Day Minus 186 (September 3, 2009): The Present

"Do you think the chemo is working?" I asked Dad when someone in a minivan cut him off just as we exited, off I 66 on to I 81, on our way to Bassett. Dad yelled "Pay attention" and glared at the minivan ahead. He let out a loud sigh and shook his head like he does when he thinks someone is an idiot.

I waited for an answer, but Dad didn’t answer. Maybe he was replaying what he’d really like to do to stupid drivers if he had a gun or contemplating winning the lottery. Dad fantasized, while I debated whether to stare off into space or listen to Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden that I downloaded from Audible a few days ago. I just reread, Tim Ferris’s book, The 4-Hour Work Week, and Walden was on his short list of recommended reading. Remember I made you read Tim’s book last October just before we found out that you had to start Dacarbazine. I thought you’d like the concepts to simplify and march to the beat of your own drummer. And you did.

Dad still didn’t answer! So I listened to Walden and stared off into the sunset. The rhythm of the road vibrated my face as I leaned against the passenger window. I tried not to think about whether the chemo was working, but failed miserably. I’d miss two or three paragraphs at a time of Walden. It would have helped if Thoreau didn’t meander and muse so much. He made the ‘simple life’ complex, confusing, and boring. The sunset didn’t help either. I’d go into a trance as strands of pinks, purples, and yellows hugged the Shenandoah Mountains like a blanket and think of how much you liked sunsets and how I wanted you to have a million more. I wanted the chemo to work. I wondered how much “the want” invaded your thoughts today at work or if you were too distracted to think.

My cell rang, but I didn’t make a move to get it from the tangle of electronics in the middle console. Dad was annoyed I didn’t answer. But, he answered it for me anyway. Aunt Janiene wanted to know if I was doing okay. I nodded yes and pleaded with Dad not to talk. You understood. You knew how hard it was to talk sometimes and assure people that it is going to be all right. You knew how hard it was to be fearless when you felt like the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Like I told you earlier today, waiting and not doing anything is the hardest part. All I wanted to know is the chemo working?

“How is my am-me-nal? Dad asked, when he got off the phone with Janiene. I turned off Walden and put my left hand under Dad’s sleeve. “I just want to know if the chemo is working.”

“We’ll know next week.” Dad said as he moved to the far right lane so we could make our first pit stop (on the way to Bassett) at Sheetz.

“And if it doesn’t work?” I asked squeezing Dad’s arm. “What then?” I wanted assurances, but knew it wasn’t Dad’s job. But, I wanted him to tell me it would be okay - anyway.

“One day at time.” Dad said. “One day at a time.” I nodded to Dad and did my best not to bawl. Then, he kissed my forehead in front of the gas pump, just after he put the SUV in park. While he got gas, I got a liter bottle of Diet Mountain Dew and waited for him to get his lottery ticket. I texted you that we were at Sheetz and you texted right back with “k.” And I felt a little better. In fact, a lot better. I thought of something I heard a long time ago:

                       The past is history.
                       The future is a mystery.
                       This day is a gift.
                       That is why they call it the present.
And finally smiled, just as Dad opened the driver's side door.


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