It has been a long day. We arrived at the cancer center 15 minutes early this morning. Daddy absolutely hates to be late so we’re always well ahead of schedule when we arrive. About 20 minutes later, the nurse calls my Dad to take his blood. He is finished in five minutes, the samples enroute to the in-house lab for examination.
And so we wait.
About 45 minutes later, we are called back to the doctor’s office. She is a personable woman, Indian in heritage, bearing the last name of a Hindu god, Rama. She is pleased with the blood reports. No signs of lymphoma cells, the indicators for internal organs which can be damaged by chemotherapy all normal. Of the 25 lymphoma caused lesions with which he began three months ago, there are now only three. They are shrinking, not at all “angry” anymore she says with a smile.
The treatments from here on out will be reduced to one day. After three rounds of back-to-back two day chemotherapy sessions with a third day of treatment provided by an attached automatic injection device he wears home with him, Daddy is now 2/3 of the way through his treatment regimen. The doctor remains optimistic the remaining lesions can be healed by the end of the treatment period in July. I am hoping she is right.
We reward ourselves with a lunch at Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, one of my Dad’s favorite places famous among locals for its soul food. Daddy gets the chicken gizzards. He’ll need a lot of hot sauce to finish up the dozen pieces plunked down on our table by an ancient black woman who calls everyone honey and smiles revealing gold capped teeth. She fishes the hot sauce and ketchup packages out of her apron pockets. Daddy will leave Ruth a tip at the end of the meal, a rarity in this fast food joint. Ruth will thank him and bless him repeatedly as we depart.
My sister’s house is close to the restaurant so we go to there to await her arrival after work. Her boys come in after school about 3:30 waking both of us from our naps. They adore their granddaddy and will even watch the Fox channel with him. He is intent on hearing the business report.
The older boy graduates from high school in two weeks and we rode by the Livestock Pavilion on the north side of town to make sure we knew where to go. The ceremony begins there at 8 AM which means Andy and I will need to leave Orlando by 6 AM to pick up Daddy and get there on time. The younger boy is trying to find a summer job and is working on getting his soccer skills in shape for the coming school year. He’ll be a junior next year.
With the arrival of my sister, it’s time for supper. We head to Aunt Fanny’s, yet another soul food joint frequented by the locals, where the vegetable plate with lima beans, fried okra and greens and a big chunk of cornbread is often the favorite meal in the house. Tonight we all enjoy a round of fried green tomatoes before our dinners arrive, swilling down iced tea served in plastic glasses big enough to take a swim in.
After dinner, as my Dad and I head home, we drive down the local back road to Sumter County, a canopy road that snakes through horse country and patches of rare surviving Central Florida highland woods. The sun is setting through the limbs of the live oaks on the west side of the highway, the Spanish moss swaying in the breeze sending alternating flashes of light and darkness down the grey worn two lane roadbed.
We talk about my Dad’s desires for cremation and internment with my Mother in the VA Cemetery near Bushnell. It’s the town where he was born and I was raised. He talks about his bequests to his children and grandchildren, about what he wants me, his lawyer kid, to do as the personal representative of his estate.
He even talks a little about dying, how he doesn’t fear death, it’s just the natural end of the life cycle. And I think to myself of how the setting sun amidst those moss draped oaks so perfectly symbolizes this reality, my 89 year old father, talking about end of life issues with his oldest child who loves his father dearly, as we drive along a stretch of country road we have both traveled and loved all of our lives.
Tonight I smile as I reflect on all of the happenings of this day, my empty wine glass with the dregs of the Malbec now consumed just to the left of my keyboard. I’ll soon be headed to bed with my dear husband hoping to somehow claim a spot between him and our beloved hound dogs, the dachshund who has tunneled under the sheets into his make-believe badger hole and the beagle who prefers to lie diagonally across the entire bed.
I think about how grateful I am for this unusual, unpredictable but inevitably grace-filled life that I have led. And I bow my head momentarily to give thanks to a very generous G-d for the many unearned but never unappreciated gifts like these I have been given this day and all of my life.
Harry Scott Coverston
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things worth considering do not come in sound bites.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it. – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Wisdom of the Ages, Commentary on Micah 6:8