My palms sweat and my right eardrum feels as though it is half-plugged with cotton. I know it's not the double espresso I'm working on, and it's not the anticipation of the long drive I have ahead of me. The forces working on my nervous system stretch back behind me to the tension of the last month, last week, yesterday.
Bubba is leaving his job - his only ever grown-up job, the first one he got right out of college and has had for over 15 years. Starting in February, he is following his dream and it's about time. I'm thrilled for him and completely supportive. Mentally. I know I'll struggle with keeping my nose out of it. I will fight to zip my lips and sit on my hands when I start to see that he's running out of printer toner or business cards. Too easy to have my accomodating 'fix-it' style spill over from wife to business partner. Too easy to forsake the time at my laptop chasing MY dream in an effort to help him with his. Deep breath.
The phone call that came yesterday burned a path from my head through my heart and it's not done yet. Amazing how such small pieces of information begin a chain of devastation almost instantly. The cancer that was cut away from my father's lung in February has taken hold in his brain. The CAT scans and x-rays showed nothing, but his bloodwork continued to alarm the doctors who followed him. After a summer of poisoning his body with chemotherapy there should be nothing left of the cancer. But it appeared there was. Their job was to find it. Mission accomplished. Eight tumors in his brain, glowing on the brain scan. I was calm and clinical on the phone - 'get a second opinion before you start radiation', 'go to the university hospital in case there are some new therapies.' All it took was the touch of another, her arms around me, warm hands pressed against my shoulders, and I erupted into hot tears and shaking, the fear and sadness carving out my organs and leaving only darkness in their wake.
As my father struggled to recover after his surgery, depressed at his inability to heal more quickly I tried to encourage him and give him realistic information at the same time. Knowing that he would spend his summer having weekly chemotherapy treatments I said, "By Christmas you'll be back to your normal self. I know that seems like a horribly long time, but when Christmas comes, you will feel terrific." Ironic, here we are ten days before Christmas and he is back to work more often than not. He is walking on the treadmill and has an appetite again. "I feel fine - great, even!" he assured me on the phone. Both of us wishing that that truth had the power to erase the eight glowing spots on the radiology film.
My palms sweat. My heartbeat is picking up. In one hour I will buckle my girls in to their car seats for the five hour drive to his house. A planned trip to play Santa and visit my fully-recovered father. I am afraid to look into his eyes and see the fear there. I am afraid he'll look into my eyes and see the same. I am afraid he is dying.
"Don't be his doctor. Be his daughter," Bubba said softly in the dark last night as I lay on my pillow, tears streaming down into my ears.
Being his doctor would be so much easier.