Thursday, November 25, 2010

D Day Minus - 149: (October 10, 2009): Stupid Phone

I circled Dulles Airport in search of the stupid cell phone parking lot for twenty minutes – only to end up in some industrial park where bad people dump the bodies. I didn’t care. You were coming home. That is if you still wanted to. I wouldn’t have blamed you, if you didn’t. I’d been a drama mama most the week. And it wasn’t like you were on a trip to Disneyland. You were in Houston to start the BrAF Clinical Trial. So while you traveled light with Katie and carry-ons, I stayed behind with more emotional baggage than would’ve fit on a DC-10. Frankly, if I would've had a choice not to live with me, I would've left myself.

On Tuesday, you called me at work on the stupid phone with the news. “I can’t start the trial until Friday after I go to Clinic. I can't get to Clinic today. There was a little mix up. They can't fit me in. Thursday is the next day for Clinic. So I have to stay an extra day or two. I can’t fly home on Friday because that is when treatment starts. I’ll probably have to fly out on Saturday. I don’t know for sure yet.” You were walking I could just tell—probably on the Sky Bridge or between windows where you got stupid phone reception. 

“What?” I said loud enough for me to shut my office door. “We told the Scheduler that you were flying in. Not staying. Didn’t we? I asked at least ten times when I was there. Both you and the Scheduler were annoyed when I asked. And kept asking. Right?  Didn't I say we needed to make sure we got the appointments scheduled because we needed to work around our schedules?"

You signed on the other end and rolled your eyes. Frustrated.

"Where's Katie? Is she next to you? Can she hear?" I asked even more frustrated.

"Yes." You said, voice even. But I knew you were forcing calm out. Meanwhile, I felt like psycho meddling mom. I didn't care what you or what Katie thought at the point.

"Have you called work? You're supposed to work on Saturday. Katie’s supposed to work on Saturday, too."

“I know.” You said, “But what do you want me to do? What do you want me to do?” 

I was silent, figuring out the next volley. What I wanted you to do and what I wanted to say were two different things.

“I wanted you to kick someone or some things a** and make the cancer go away. I wanted you not to be half a continent away. I wanted to take it all away. I wanted the treatment to work overnight. I wanted the Scheduler to pay attention. I wanted not to get so mad. I wanted not to be so afraid. I wanted to be there. I wanted. I wanted. I wanted. Anything but to go through this with you.”

What I actually said was a snotty. “Let me know when you know.” It slipped out just before I hung up the stupid phone— knuckles white, cheeks hot, knees weak, stomach knotted.  

Ten seconds later, I was ranting – more like hyperventilating—to Dad on the stupid phone. The more I explained how wrong it all was and that this wasn’t fair, the more my voice cracked and tears ran.  

Dad was all, “Let Greg handle this. He’s a big boy.” And “Nance, you need to calm down, you’re making it worse.” That damn stupid rationality pissed me off.  Really, you know and I know that rationality and emotionality are like oil and water. They just don’t mix – ever, evER, EVER.  

I tried to work, but couldn’t concentrate. So I faked it – glazed eyes checking email or open documents that made as much sense as all those black and white CT scans of yours.

I grabbed the stupid phone along with the calling card twenty or so times. But five was the number of times I actually called. 

“The Scheduler is not at his desk. Please leave your name, number to be reached, the patients name and ID, and he’ll be sure to return your call.” Was what I got. But, I didn’t leave a message. Instead, I said a few bad words under my breath and flipped off the stupid phone

As soon as I left work I called the Scheduler on my stupid phone from my car right, there in the parking lot. My little Miata was vacuumed sealed so some insane part of me reasoned that I would let the Scheduler have it whether I got him or voice mail. Anyway I got the voice mail – AGAIN. And I went on a full on rant that went something like, “You can’t mess with people’s lives like this. We TOLD you we wouldn’t be staying in Houston and that we were flying in. This isn't a game. My son could die. We need to get him started in the trial.  He needs it to start now. I want him to live.  I want him to live. Don’t you get that?” As soon as I hung up, I threw the stupid phone really hard on the passenger floor with a thud. 

The silent echo punctuated my pain for ten seconds. Then I wanted to take it all back. Erase the stupid message. I knew this was all new, a TRIAL. Duh! MD Anderson was just getting it set up. There were no guarantees. I knew that. But, like I said, rationality and emotionality don’t mix. And I can be an idiot. Then I got to thinking about the next time you or I’d see the Scheduler again. Then I panicked even more – if that were possible. You’d see him the next day and I’d see him next week. Crap, Change, Cancer, Catastrophe came to mind. Then I imagined wearing my Scarlet Letter, “C”, for Crazy. "C" for Charming was dead to me. 

I told you part of the epic drama, the next day. That was after I fished for information on the Scheduler and whether he mentioned my call. You assured me, he didn’t say anything and you were going to start the Trial – just a couple of days later. I guess Cancer makes for a lot of Crazy. 

Dad and you worked out the details and left me out of it. Did Dad tell you I was losing it? You wouldn’t say. But I asked. At least you kept me in the loop at a distance. If not emotionally, then geographically.  I even tip-toed around you through a couple of calls to Katie.  But you figured that out.  Didn’t you? 

The rest of the trip, you were cordial – another “C” word.  You’d give me basics about the treatment and what you were doing. Things were going well.  It was all working out. Katie is keeper. But, that wasn’t enough. I was used to nuances and how you felt.   

By Friday, I realized all my worst fears about this trip – not knowing the details, changing plans, and falling apart.

But this morning I was much better. At Bush International, you called my stupid phone. You said "Mom, I love you. You're not crazy. I really do appreciate you and everything you do. I think the treatment is working. I can't wait to get home." You'd said all this twenty times before. But this morning I was calm enough to receive itFinally, we were on the same wavelenghth and communicating – almost like magic.

There still was distance. Only now, it was geography. The emotional distance was my fault. I smiled, just a little, all by myself in a scary industrial park with who knows how many dead bodies. All because now I knew a secret about distance and connection. The only thing left was your call and my stupid phone to ring. And it did. 

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