This is the last sentence from the last exercise, written in the last minutes of class last Monday night. My workshop group will meet one more time tonight for our performance at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe at 126 Crosby Street (at 7:00 PM). I’m going to miss everyone. They are a wonderful group of songwriters and people. I’d like to do another workshop but need to find a place to do it and this is always my weakness. The logistics. It’s hard for me to get organized.
It’s been a beautiful week here in NYC. I know many people get melancholy in the fall, but I’m happy for the change. I’ve been delirious with heat this summer. Adjusting to a new place and new circumstances. Lonely a lot of the time and worried about my father and Doe. They’ve had similar symptoms. At the hospital, when I asked the doctor to clarify something he mentioned, my father said:
“Are you asking because of the dog?”
“No, Dad, of course not.”
But maybe a little bit. Is it shameful that my father is terribly ill and I’m still worrying about Doe? I want them both to be well.
My father is very sick. He’s been hospitalized again this week. Pancreatic cancer. We argue with the doctors about his care, badger the nurses about giving him attention overnight. We worry about all the details because the big picture is too scary. Tuesday, hopefully, he’ll be moved to Sloan Kettering if he feels well enough. Once he’s there, at least we’ll be able to trust the care he’s getting. But everyone reminds us he is very sick. We refuse to look too far ahead. We think about getting him well enough to start chemo. Turns out he also has something called CLL, a form of leukemia. He’s had it for 35 years, but never showed any symptoms until now. Now, unless his platelet count rises, he can have neither chemo or surgery.
“He’s very sick,” the doctors keep saying, as if we need to be reminded of it. The pain medication keeps him out of it. He appears to be asleep, but when I say to my mother:
“I think he can hear every word we’re saying.”
He nods his head.
I’m amazed I haven’t called D as all this happens, but finally I get it. There’s no point. He can’t comfort me with what he has to offer. He only makes it worse. Only love is a comfort. But I think of his sister who died of pancreatic cancer. I think of his being the one who cared for her in the end. I hear him telling me she died only four months after being diagnosed.
I’ve done my research and this is the average. My mother found a case on the internet where one man lived for 35 years. My father looks so frail and helpless lying there. I stay at their house to keep my mother company and see photographs everywhere of him at different ages. My parents have known each other since they were fifteen years old.
“He was so tall and handsome,” she always says.
It all makes me feel I am moving forward on a conveyor belt that will not stop. It’s suddenly moving faster. I want to make a soft place to land because the thought of doing the rest alone is terrifying. Next time I’m going to choose someone with kind eyes, someone who values what I do, who values me. I look back and see my criteria has been misguided at best. I have to start choosing people and situations that have the potential to bring happiness. To the expression life is short, I’ve always countered: Life is long, sometimes seems too long. But eventually it does run out and I’m done with wasting the most important things.