Blast you coronavirus for keeping me distant from my parents through the spring, summer and early fall. We followed the rules. Mom sewed festive masks. Hands were washed raw. We avoided all things that would normally make us feel loved. We talked on the phone, held Zoom parties, chatted via group text and shared digital pictures of our funny socks.
Keeping in touch remotely was fun for a while until creativity diminished and the infection charts looked like an outline of the Himalayas.
My parents have always been young — a blessing. On their honeymoon, Auntie Jeanne bought the young couple a bottle of champagne because neither mom nor my dad was old enough to buy alcohol. I was in school by the time we celebrated their college graduations. Having young parents was great. We hiked and camped and sailed in Bay Area waterways. They frequently embarrassed me in public.
In many ways, we grew up together. And now we’re older.
I’ve taught math. If I see my folks 10 times each year for the rest of their lives … well, nobody wants to do that kind of math.
Microscopic, invisible, crowned invader that cancels our plans, dulls joy and can’t be cured by eating too much chocolate.
My parents were recently gypsy retirees. Now they wear pajamas and food arrives at their doorsteps in cardboard boxes.
Yet, they are keeping safe.
I stayed away. We planned to see each other for wild shenanigans “when this is over.”
My parents are at a vulnerable age.
Last summer, unemployed and isolated, I called my parents more often, usually when I walked in the neighborhood. Now that I’m teaching, I call them every morning while I drive to my school.
I always begin the conversation by saying “I love you,” because the cell phone starts to crackle when I hit that long stretch of Highway 99.
Then dad had a terrible pain. Dad had a CT scan. Dad has cancer.
Suddenly the coronavirus was no longer my biggest foe.
I know our family is among many to have battled cancer. Yet, this is my dad, and he’s my No. 1 guy.
As much as my fear of losing him is overwhelming, I am grateful to know this great fear is due to great love.
Luckily, I teach online. Even before the official biopsy results, I started traveling to Dad’s house most weekends.
An official “prognosis” has not been shared with me. We don’t talk about that right now.
I also waited to write about what we were going through. However, not writing about something this important felt like a lie of omission. Now is the time to ask for all the prayers we can muster.
Despite the heaviness of the backdrop, I’ve enjoyed the weekend visits. As adults, we often gather for holidays and weekend day-trips. Now we’re just hanging out, watching TV and being together like a family. My “new sister,” joins us as well. Last weekend she made stuffing and cheesy muffins because no one was particularly hungry for a Thanksgiving feast. Dad has recently been zapped with chemo, and didn’t even touch the key lime pie.
Of course, this isn’t our first family battle with cancer. My cousin had a double mastectomy and now she is queen of her Jazzercise group, living just fine, thank you very much.
Five years ago, my uterine cancer was efficiently removed. We caught it when it was the size of a pea and radiation was not required. At my recent annual check-in at UC Davis, the doc said he didn’t need to see me for a while.
However, when I first learned I had cancer it was a big deal.
I remember how people held their breath, and we all hoped for the best.
I know my Dad was scared he might lose me, but only shared words of encouragement. When I woke up in the hospital after the surgery, he was next to my hospital bed, reading a book and waiting for me to wake up.
He’s always been there.
Blast you coronavirus. Blast you cancer. Let’s get through this.