I spent about twenty minutes zipping about the Web, trying to find a graphic to go at the top of this when I realized that I was avoiding writing it. I’ll find a picture later. For now, I have to say this:
My grandfather’s been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer.
This comes after being diagnosed with very operable kidney cancer…so operable that the survival rate is around 95%.
We’re not sure how much longer he’s going to be alive.
I really don’t know what to think or feel about all this. In fact, I’m not feeling much at all, which worries me more than Grandpa’s cancer (say it out loud: “Grandpa has cancer. Grandpa has cancer. This old man whom you love and like dearly has just been given the ultimate deadline”). When Mom told me about this, she might as well have told me that the toaster wasn’t working; it just bounced off me like a superball against a building.
It definitely got me to thinking about death, which, I won’t hestitate to say, scares the living shit out of me right now. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have minded death that much, ’cause I was living full time. I was out in the world, drinking up life like a keg of chilled root beer, inhaling it like someone who decided to stop holding his breath after a year.
Now I’m in the half-living of work, where the days run together into “Milestone Day” and “Non-Milestone Day.” I’m alive, but not really living, and I don’t want to die right now. Right now, I feel like I have to do a lot more living to justify Death coming for me.
Grandpa’s diagnosis drives all this home, and I’m ashamed that I’m thinking about me when I should be thinking about him. While he’ll get the malignant kidney removed, he’ll still have to deal with the pain coming from his liver. Grandpa’s too damn nice to go out like this. He should live to be 100, so he can see me and my brother and my cousins all get married and have kids and have them all call him “Great-Grandpa.” I want him to meet women I’m dating and flirt with them and give me hell ’cause he loves me, ’cause he is me. A quarter of me is him; my height is testament to that. My brother and I are huge because of him, and I want my kids to know where an eighth of them comes from.
I screwed up with the deaths of one set of grandparents. Papa died when I was in junior high and didn’t really get the whole thing. Grandma died when I was in college and was too stupid to be there. Again, I’m being selfish; I don’t want to feel guilty about not being there to say good-bye to his face when he goes. I want him to know I love him when he dies.
But, then, I’m probably being overly melodramatic. We won’t know for sure how inoperable his liver cancer is until they do a biopsy, and that won’t be until after Christmas. Maybe it can be worked on, maybe he can get chemo or radiation or some brand-new thing to buy him more time.
Maybe that’s what it all comes down to: Time. It ticks away, leaving us wondering where it all went, wondering how we wasted so much of it, wondering how much more we have left. In this half-living, time drips away, crawling when I want to leave work, screaming by when I’m living.
And then it stops, like a clock someone’s hammered to death with a bowling ball.
And it’s all done.