It was a Tuesday when they found Dad’s cancer.
He had gone in for what we presumed would be a routine gallbladder removal surgery. After months of pain, Dad told me how excited he was to simply go to sleep and wake up from surgery back to normal. Instead, he woke up groggy, confused and still in pain. I stepped out of the hospital room while Dad listened to Mom tell him that they had found cancer and couldn’t remove his gallbladder after all.
When Dad’s surgeon had pulled Mom and I into a private conference room to update us, we weren’t sure what to think. As we looked at the images he was holding, Mom started to cry and I had my usual somewhat numb feeling and focused on comforting Mom. I looked so normal that the surgeon looked more concerned about me than he did Mom.
After a long day of family in and out of Dad’s hospital room, stumbling over encouraging words to try and give him some hope, I went back to my parent’s house a little before Mom. My husband met me there with some clothes and my meds so I could sleep there and he could stay with their dogs the next morning. I had been relatively numb all day until I walked into that house.
That’s when I saw it – the stuff.
I saw his slippers and his favorite mug. I saw his sweatshirt and his favorite chair. I saw the blanket Mom had made for him. That’s when I started to lose it. That’s when the numb feelings started to dissipate and the excruciating pain started to fill me like lava from a volcano.
By now, we had all snuck away at one point or another and Googled the prognosis for gallbladder cancer.
By now, a phrase that had been entirely unknown to us twenty-four hours ago was haunting our every thought.
By now, the sight of Dad’s stuff no longer held the innocence it had before.
By now, I’d give anything to sit with him while he wore those slippers and held that mug, wearing his favorite sweatshirt and sitting on his favorite chair under Mom’s quilt.
Mom came home from the hospital and somehow the three of us climbed into our respective beds. My husband never thinks he knows the right thing to do in these situations, not that anyone does. That night, however, he did the only right thing to do – he held me tight while the lava began to pour out in body-rocking sobs I couldn’t control.
As I cried, all I could picture was the stuff. Dad’s stuff. Longing for him to use it again.