7dd5e9ba3a73a38fdb193bd100d727ae

Years ago I read an unsettling collection of short stories by Barry Yourgrau, titled, “Wearing Dad’s Head.” The stories were dazzling examples of the short story form, most of them between a paragraph and one page in length, packing in an amazing amount of nuanced back story, atmosphere and punch.

They read like fragments of bizarre dreams. Funny and creepy, asking you to jump right into the middle of something already underway and there was a logic and deep understanding of what you were working with, and you just went with it.

The story titled “By The Creek”, concerns a boy who “borrowed” his dad’s head while he was taking a nap. (Relax, this is not Game of Thrones.)

How cumbersome it was to move in it as it bobbled about straining his neck.

His voice muffled through his father’s thick lips. Trying his dad on for size. At the end there are a half-dozen giant headed young boys gathered at a small pound, skipping stones, while their fathers torsos silently nap in hammocks and on beds, unable to snore.

Six years ago, two weeks after my final chemo treatment, (first go round) my father was diagnosed with brain cancer. Dad’s head. He died 18 months later, that was three years ago.

I always seek out the same bed in the chemo lounge. To the far left, against a window with great sun. I can stretch out like a cat, do some yin yoga. If that one is occupied, I take the one next to it.

Always the same nook.

Last week, Pat, the charge nurse at MSTI, mentioned that she had read a post of mine and how much she enjoyed it. It helped her understand the other side of the equation even after 19 years of working in the chemo lounge. She knew my dad and enjoyed seeing him when he came in for his treatments. How sweet and funny he and my step mom, Syd, were and that he always chose the same bed in the same nook that I did…

Last week, I rode the rougher waters of the 48 hours apres treatment that flatten me into a liquid lead soaked paper doll. I am dressed in black leggings and a light blue soft cotton mans shirt rolled up at the sleeves. The same color combination and outfit my dad lived in. The same kind of shirt, actually. My forearms spotted with the same white flecks that come from so much time in this skin suit, my right hand mildly swollen with fluid retention, it looks like his.

One hand mine. One hand his.

2017-06-16 13.29.44

We made each other laugh so much , but were always mildly awkward and challenged in communicating about real things. Our time together infrequent and infused with a high-octane Disneylandish excitement level when he was home with my mom and my brother and I, and then he was gone. The adrenaline rush and the crash.

How many smiling yet heavy silences we shared together. Silence on the outside, as all of the questions ricochet around on the inside. Not wanting to spend what time we had together on anything that wasn’t easy or fun.

Trapped in our own heads.

The hanging baskets of geraniums on my lush back patio, identical to those in his backyard around the pool at his house. Their private, peaceful haven. I couldn’t understand why they never left the house when they were home. Now I find myself never wanting to leave my house, my geraniums, my porch, my solitude.

How much he gave of himself as a performer.

Endlessly available, for everyone else.

The vein I have laid open in myself to be available to every one I came in contact with over the last ten years, has been closed off and cauterised. Motivations questioned, reviewed and analyzed. I will not move forward in my life in the same way. Acknowledging the similarities and being clear about the differences, finding a space of understanding and maybe some insight. I attempt to look out through his eyes, to learn and make peace with us both.

Happy Father’s Day daddy. I love you.

2017-06-16 13.30.10

“Finally my mind caught up with my mouth…

My apoplexy ceased. My fury lost its redness. And, for the first time that trip, I really took my parents in: Dad’s once-chiseled face, collapsing with age. Mom’s hair, pinned up in a bun, one step closer to hoary and desolate white. How old they’d become. How many more visits would I even be blessed with? How many more chances to make things right?…These were not the same people who had raised me. Those people existed only in my head, caged and rotting behind my tight, unhappy grin for decades while my actual parents got older, gentler, wiser: while their bodies fell apart and their souls grew deep.” -Shozan Jack Haubner A Zealot Comes Home