Finding words for two cookies
By JEFF LUND
April 21, 2014
When I read books or magazines in which the protagonist or narrator suffers the physical and emotional battery of cancer, I get a weird feeling. It’s almost been six years since cancer took my dad so it’s not fresh or raw, but it’s still there.
It’s a soup of nouns and modifiers. It’s sad without being depressing because it’s a fact - not a flat, bland one, but not fanged and vicious either. Like my brain has everything placed on the shelf, but is still tinkering with the organization.
After he died I was supposed to remember, but not too much. Don’t hang on, but at the same time don’t let go. It was a nice way of saying, “you’ve got to figure it out for yourself.”
Just this morning mom recounted the decade-old plans for the house. They’d remodel one room per year, sell and retire to Tucson. Dad liked it down there.
Reading books about people with cancer makes me remember what cancer looked like for me. I wonder sometimes how accurate the vivid images are. If that’s how I choose to remember those moments, or since I don’t remember a lot of the in between that must mean the brain studied those moments more thoroughly for accurate recollection.
I remember the pre-chemotherapy meeting a few days before the therapy itself began. The women were ready for battle. They forged new friendships with their comrades either with forced, or genuine enthusiasm. I took dad in by wheel chair. We were quiet. The treatment itself was just hours of liquid taken by IV in a room that looked like a reception area only it was quiet, clean and relatively comfortable. Dad dozed. I looked at words. Couldn’t read.
The last night I saw him he had managed to order two cookies from the cafeteria. I don’t know how because he wasn’t allowed solid food, but he had persuaded someone to get two cookies and hot chocolate brought up to the room. They were waiting when mom and I got there. He had called mom on her cell phone shortly after we left for the night and summoned us back to the hospital. For two cookies - two, creme-colored sugar cookies on two small hospital plates. Given the circumstances it was the best he could do for his wife. One of the last gestures of love he could muster before his body failed. I turned and let them share the moment and either left the room or just disappeared into the dark corner. I can’t remember which, I just remember the cookies. I also don’t have a memory of how long we were there, because I turned inward and contemplated the type of man I’d become. Would I have courage and grace in my final days? He was supposed to have months left at that point according to doctors, but it ended up being a week. Maybe he knew.
In Seattle last May when mom almost died of a brain aneurysm I saw one of the doctors who diagnosed my dad as having stage IV cancer. It was in the cafeteria. I said hello. Asked him how he was. I told him he treated my dad before he was sent to Arizona for chemo and thanked him for his care. I don’t know what I meant to accomplish with the conversation. Maybe he remembered my dad maybe he didn’t, but he probably knows what happens to many stage IV cancer patients so if he didn’t remember Fred Lund, he would remember a prognosis. Maybe that’s why he didn’t ask how he was.
I hope he got some comfort in that though I was back in the hospital for something, I was still kicking and didn’t hold him responsible for something he couldn’t control.
Anyway, like I said, these sort of things float into my consciousness when I read about cancer sometimes. I put the book or magazine down and stare off until the room becomes the hospital. Not always, but sometimes. I don’t know if I’d call it healthy, or a flashback or what. But I do know when it does happen and happens quickly, like getting off the freeway only long enough to use the on ramp at the same exit.
Is it normal? I don’t know. It’s normal for me I guess and that’s enough.
It’s just a fact, but with a little bite - sad but not depressing. Something.
I doubt I’ll ever figure it out and that’s fine.
Jeff Lund ©2014
Jeff Lund is a Teacher, Freelance Writer, & River fishing guide (Tranquil Charters) living in Klawock, Alaska