Happy. Normal. Scary. A memory of cancer in three parts. Part 2

13 Dec

While dredging the files of abandoned thumb drives I chanced upon 1,000 words written by a younger Josh in the days after my fathers passing. What I submit to you now has been edited for spelling only. It is not the best writing, it is the stream of consciousness of a grief stricken son. I read it with the fascination of a voyeur. 7 years is not a lifetime, but it seems that way sometimes, doesn’t it?


We step out of the peaceful tones of the waiting room. The nurses station is a white murmur of softly ringing phones and soft voices answering. Steve walks us down the tiles, also white and most of the patients doors are ajar and everyone is passed out and chopped up. I don’t want to look. The nurses, speak of insipidly normal things.

“Yes, and it went potty all over my carpet. We just had it pt in 7 months ago you know?!”

I wish they had some respect for a couple guys trying to be normal and happy seeing their father for the first terrifying time after his emergency brain surgery. The circular corridor was filled with drug addled death dodgers.

How does it feel to be apart of my bad dream ladies, to be the back ground chatter in my nightmare? A hundred little devises beep politely and always a shoe whispers on the polished tile and papers ruffle like settling wings. Suddenly the last thing in the universe that I wanted to do was walk through that door and see my (scary) father. He needs to see you, something small creaked deep within me. He needs to see you. I had never thought that it might comfort him, the object of this ordeal. Then it all came crashing down on me. I had not considered his position fully, it was all “my father” and “my life”, but as we walked through the door and saw his gray eyes, I thought of Randy, the man, and all he had endured these last 48 hours. What pain, what sadness, what fear and confusion, and what seeing his sons might mean. These thoughts ran through my head like a arrow of hot lead. we all need to see each other.

He wasn’t sleeping like I imagined. He was awake. His eyes seemed too open, if you can understand it. They were wide and round and lolled from side to side as my brother and I flanked the bed. He smiled crookedly. We bent down and hugged him best as we could. Just put my face on his chest, just hold it there, and under the sick and sterile smell of the smock there he was, battered but not broken, my father. Fuck. His hand feels heavy and immobile.

“How ya doin pop?”

Only stupid questions come out because I can’t say “please don’t die,please don’t have cancer.”

“Oh, not so bad. I think it’s gonna leave a scar though.”

His words are crawling things lurching from his mouth but there is that sarcastic joviality that puts the devil in his eyes for a moment. He is there, or he is trying to be.

“I love you boys.”

Slowly, said slowly and more genuine than I had ever known. He is smiling. Maybe they told him to be happy and normal too. I love you too. I say it and the fucking Universe pours out, everything, no exceptions; i love you too. That is it, baby, the Earth we straddle. It smashes through everything and absolves us of everything. I we exist in “I love you”. That’s all we really want to say. But he says, slowly, through a low gurgle in his throat.

“I’m sorry.”

His hair is greasy and matted, hanging in tussled oily clumps. The left side of his head is shaved, something he hates, and a huge arching frown is cut into his scalp. He is sewn together and the stitches dimple the blood-crusted skin.
“Pretty ugly huh?’ he laughs’ I wish they woulda shaved my whole head though.”
Oh the thousand little embarrassments of cancer. There is no glamour in it. It takes decencies one by one by one. Until you can only laugh or cry, naked in the dark.
It looks like no cut or injury I’ve ever seen. The word trauma comes to mind. A door was made in the left side of his head, just above the ear. Like a storm cellar, all the way the core. Don’t stare. When he turns toward Dustin or blinks slowly my eyes hurry there, unable to help myself.
Iodine was unceremoniously smeared over the Healing head wound and had dried in brown dribbles down his temple and neck.


4 Responses to “Happy. Normal. Scary. A memory of cancer in three parts. Part 2”

  1. Candice December 14, 2009 at 5:43 pm #

    Words fail, Josh. You nailed it: “Oh the thousand little embarrassments of cancer. There is no glamour in it. It takes decencies one by one by one.” Like Hal said, you a great writer 7 years ago too. I know it’s late, but so sorry for your loss.

    • joshywashington December 15, 2009 at 6:12 am #

      Thank you so much Candice. It feels good to let it out into the air. Trying to cast some light on shadows that penetrate deeply into my being… Thanks for reading.

      • Candice December 18, 2009 at 5:11 pm #

        I just finished reading the third part, and yeah, that’s gotta be the most open account of cancer I’ve ever heard. I’m glad you shared, and I hope you are too!

      • joshywashington December 18, 2009 at 9:20 pm #

        Thanks for reading Candice, it means a lot to me. I have wanted to commit my experience into novel form for a few years…I don’t know that I ever will. What I presented here is about as warm and fuzzy as that story gets…it goes to some pretty bad places, but rather than being afraid to go there, I am afraid I won’t do it justice.

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