Happy. Normal. Scary. A memory of cancer. Part 3

16 Dec

Tubes. I will never get used to the tubes. Not in the beginning, not ever.
Tubes into his nose, tubes into his mouth. Tubes taped to his arm, disappearing into his wrists. Tubes for food and nutrients, tubes for medicine and morphine, tubes for oxygen. Something beside his bed keeps going beep beep beep and fluid trickles from under his gown each time. Jesus. beep beep beep. And tubes that are shoved into his dick and go beep beep beep each time a little piss passes through.
Do I really need that? Is that necessary? Who’s fucking idea was it to have the tube crammed into my dads urethra beep. Not a situation I want sound effects for.  The beep screamed ” your dad is hooked up to a  machine, a machine that pisses for him! sShall I remind you of that fact over and over?”
“Ok, I love you. OK ok, we will see you real soon, alright? Rest up, love you.”

He says help your mom. Just like that-’help your mom’. Something is crashing down, but it is crashing slowly and I don’t know what it is yet. but plaster shakes loose from the vaulted ceiling of my being when he says help your mom. Like a monster still too far away to see has taken a step in my direction. I will, don’t worry.
“She needs you guys, help her while I’m in here.”
I wonder how much of him is buried under  the protective blanket of morphine. I wonder how much of his brain they took. His eyes swim in and out of focus, he is fading.

In the hallway the open spaces seem immense, swelling and stretching. My head looses all its weight and a riot of black sparks dance into my vision. I take a breath and almost choke on it. I was not breathing in there. I was holding my breath. I didn’t notice. The world is slipping and my feet find their place on their own. I have my arm around Dustin and he doesn’t know I’m passing out. He soldiers somberly down the corridor. My head bristles like a waking limb and light comes back into the world. The hallway snapped back to its usual size and I walked on with my brother.

I think I acted the way I was suppose to. Happy and Normal. I didn’t know then that pain and dread and senseless hope are my new normal. I didn’t know you can be happiest when you are full of despair. The less you have to be happy about the easier it is to be happy for the small things, like 5 minutes of silence and honest eye contact.  The iodine was that putrid, hateful brown. His eyes struggled through fatigue and morphine, he said he loved me. I remember that.


If you have read this, thank you. It has been sitting for 7 years and I thought it was time to drag it out of the shadows and throw it into the light, your light.


9 Responses to “Happy. Normal. Scary. A memory of cancer. Part 3”

  1. Abbie December 17, 2009 at 1:07 am #

    I read it and I can feel the raw emotion in your words – thank you for sharing.

  2. Hal Amen December 18, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    Man, I know you’re certainly not looking for “recognition” on this, but I think it should be read by many more people. Definitely the right move to get it out here like this.

    • joshywashington December 18, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

      That means a lot coming from you Hal. Thank you for your kind words!

  3. christine garvin December 19, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Sometimes it takes many years to get to that place of both understanding and the ability to share these types of emotions with the world. I hope you write more about it; so beautiful.

  4. david miller December 26, 2009 at 1:55 am #

    damn brother you kicked the walls down with this. miss hanging out with you.

  5. austin December 26, 2009 at 5:02 pm #

    I don’t know you- I stumbled onto one of your travel articles about your time spent in Italy. I clicked on this blog hoping to find exactly this-the first hand account of another person my age; a young guy dealing with things light years beyond his comprehension level. This affected me more than you know. It helps. My mom was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, and had a golf ball sized tumor removed from her head about four months ago. 2o years on this earth have not equipped me to deal with this.

    Today is a rough day, reading your words left me feeling a little bit less alone. Thank you for floating them out into the internet.

    • joshywashington December 31, 2009 at 9:40 am #

      Man, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated you speaking up Austin. I am glad you came across my little narrative. You know, I thought I would just put it out there. I wish you the best of luck and know that adversity it an opportunity for surrender and compassion.
      ~ J

  6. Tim Patterson January 2, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    Incredible. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for writing. Thank you.

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