Howling at the moon

My father is depressed. He sits in the chair, head down, clutching a pillow and saying little. And why shouldn’t he be depressed? He has cancer and it’s starting to seep in that this is much more than a temporary bump in life’s road.

“I asked the doctor if he’s going to live, and you know how they are,” my mother whispered to me in another room. “He didn’t really want to give a direct answer. He finally said he didn’t think there was any point to radiation and chemo, that this was a very aggressive cancer. But he doesn’t know, I don’t want him to know. I’m going to try to talk to him tonight.”

Later, I am helping my mother get dinner in their tiny galley kitchen, and she breaks down. “I told him he has to fight, I can’t do this alone. I’m notready to be a widow,” she says. I hold her until she stops crying. As I’m heating my father’s soup, I tell her, “Mom, I don’t care either way what he decides. But I want it to be what he wants.”

I think she thinks the force of her will is enough to keep him alive. The thing is, we’ll all going to die and when it’s time, nothing stops it. But hardly anyone’s ever as ready as they might be.

I remember talking to my ex-husband the December afternoon before he died. He was very angry that he didn’t have the two years they promised him after the stem cell transplant.

“The thing is, the time you have is the time you have,” I said after he was done. “Whether it’s two days, two weeks or two years, it’s what you have. So you can spend it being angry that you don’t have more time, or you can spend it living. But whatever it is, it’s yours. Live it.”

He just nodded. A few minutes later, he went to sleep. The next morning, he died peacefully on a hospital gurney during a liver scan. No one even noticed until they brought him back to his room.

I was thinking about that tonight, driving home on I-95. By the time I hit Bridge Street, I was crying out loud. For my father, for my mother, for myself. For all the time we always think we have and how carelessly we spend it.

Howling at the moon, for all the good it did me.

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