In Advance of My Father’s Cancer Treatment

IMG_3871Dear Dad,

Next week, you start immunotherapy for cancerous cells found in your bladder. I know you are not going to die. But that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t stop every time I see a Virginia number flash on my cell screen. I believe, because I have to, that you will be ok.

Two years ago, you had your kidney removed. I waited at the hospital for you then, and cried even though I didn’t want to. It felt weak and over-emotional and dramatic—and in that way, I felt like I was dishonoring your very spirit.

I always say, (when I write fake eulogies for you in the dark), that you do not give the shirt off your back to those you love. No. No, you, YOU give the skin, the muscle, the bone, the marrow. Whatever I have asked for, and even the things I have not, you give me.

When I thought I was not long for this world—those days when I couldn’t get out of bed or walk the dog or take care of myself in the simplest ways—you came straight away to take me to Target and buy me sponges and a shower caddy so I could be a human being again. What can even be said about the things you have done for my brother, your son, our burden (forgive me, Takkin but it is the truth). You throw your physical body in his path as he strikes you with his own, with his illness, with his inability to understand that your life is no longer your own, but almost entirely his.

How did it feel for you to have one child who did not want to live anymore and one who barely could live without you? I think about that and I am sorry, and then I realize you don’t want my sorrys, that sorry is not in the lexicon between you and me.

They are going to inject you, Dad, with tuberculosis germs that will, through a magic I don’t understand, eat away the black, malicious cells that won’t leave you the fuck alone. I believe, because of magic, that this will destroy them. And if it doesn’t, then I will stop reading about Tarot and alchemy and ghosts.

There are images that begin in my mind’s eye and find their way through my veins to my heart.

Age 5: Daddy drying my thick, raven, bowl-cut hair with a giant green towel. He sits on a chair and I stand in front of him as he somehow absorbs all the water.
Age 10: Dad and I driving the long way home so I can keep talking and talking and talking about geography and the books I’m reading and the stories I wrote at school. What was the capital of Ecuador that I could never seem to remember?
Age 16: Pop giving me the keys to my car, my butterfly as he referred to it in the birthday card. I will never know how you managed to pay for it or keep it such a true secret from me.
Age 28: Behrooz telling me to screw it and quit my job if I was so miserable, that he’d support my decision and that it wasn’t crazy to move halfway across the country. I sobbed at that diner because of how unhappy I was and then sobbed even more because I trusted every word he said.
Age 33: My father, on the phone, sounding a million miles away; an entire universe away; in his own realm alone with nothing to tether him to earth, to his body, to me.

There is almost nothing I can do. But I will give you what grit and marrow I have because without you, I am only part me.

Dad, you should have received your plane ticket from Virginia to Chicago in your email. That isn’t magic. It’s just science. But it’ll have to do for today.


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