Pat Moore, my aunt, died sometime last night. Previously, my plan was to drop off Suzie at the train station early in the morning, go back to sleep, see all my guests out to a late brunch and then drive down to Delaware with my brother and his wife to visit her as she fought late stage bile duct cancer. I got the news driving back from Somerton station and wasn’t much able to get back to sleep. I asked John and Ken to leave, canceled my lunch plans and sat and talked with Pat and Clara. They are both in the medical field and are comfortable with death and generally I am too but I was glad for their company.
I didn’t really cry when my uncle Ted died nor at the passing of any of my grandparents. I didn’t cry when Nate DeTemple passed nor any of the other camp staff members I knew left us. But over the last year I’ve become either more emotional or more in touch with my own emotional state and while I don’t want to say I was hard hit by the death of my aunt it left me in tears at several points. She was my favorite aunt/uncle and her decline was gradual and foreseeable but her passing was still forceful. After Pat and Clara left I did my general browsing and found that Joe Paterno had died. Someone for whom I have no strong feelings but lamentations at his passing would drown out any epitaph I’d have for the aunt that none of my friends knew. My sadness passed to anger. So I called some people, cleaned up some odds and ends left by my guests and drove to my mother’s house to feed her pet bird who knew nothing of why his owner was missing.
I sat in a dark kitchen and as I threw out my second tear-blotted tissue, I ask myself qui sum ego decet, who am I becoming.
I talked to my brother to make arrangements for Fathers’ Day and he as an aside mentioned to me: did dad talk to you about his bladder cancer?
That’s a statement that implies a lot, like that my dad had cancer, and that my brother was told and not me.
Me: So, you had bladder cancer?
Dad: Yeah, nothing big.
Me: Sure, but you were peeing blood, and you had bladder cancer.
Dad: Everything worked out after I got the tumor removed.
Me: And none of this stuck you as something you should have told me?
Dad: You were driving, I didn’t want to distract you.
Me: I stopped driving four days ago.
Dad: *shrugs shoulders* I’ll try to remember to tell you next time.
I guess it’s a ringing endorsement for modern medicine that someone’s encounter with bladder cancer can be so dull that it slips under the conversational radar within ones own family. Also, if this is below the barrier of notification, I hope this means that the little accumulated indignities of age like prostate issues and comb-over techniques also remain perpetually unmentioned.
Cat is fine. Wound is scabbing over nicely and he’s lazy and cranky again. And yes, Joe, should my cat ever die (which seems pretty unlikely at this point considering how long he’ s already lived) you may mock his passing incessantly. Should I feel insulted, I will do the manly thing and re-direct all my incoming voicemail to the program director’s mailbox.
The cat came in today with a heck of a dent in its head. Over the last few years scabs have been appearing from his frequent scrapes with owls, other cats, a small fox and in one case what looked like a wolverine. The dent had no scab and was quite white and about the size of a dime, which is pretty big on a cat’s head. My dad said it’d been there for a day or two and may not just be a scab and that it had a lump under it while at the same time the cat’s been far nicer than normal. The cat had to go to the vet anyway but I started to envision the conversation with the doctor.
Me: What’s wrong?
Doctor: Your cat has one of the most adorably deadly diseases in the animal kingdom: kitty cancer.
Me: Well, what can we do?
Doctor: Well, sit by and watch him nuzzle against you as he descends a cute spiral of snuggly death.
Me: That’s terrible…
Doctor: Terribly soft and cuddly.