Living While Losing, Part I


I think it's funny (funny? maybe ironic... yes, ironic) how my last post was about my brother dying, and how at the time, I had no idea what was about to happen.  

Five days after I wrote that last blog post, it was a Friday, it was October 1, and I had just left work and was walking towards the train station.  I called my Dad's cell phone to find out the results of a fairly routine MRI (that's the thing about managing a chronic illness - MRIs become routine).  I'll never forget it, I was walking up 15th street, from Chestnut St. I was walking on the east side of the street, up towards where the sidewalk ends and you either have to cross the street on the right and head towards City Hall, or cross the street to the left and head towards Market St.  Right there, right as the sidewalk was ending, my Dad told me, in a very casual and calm manner, that the scan revealed an "explosion of metastases" in his brain.  A few minutes later, I was on the train, in the "quiet car", quietly sobbing.  

Three days later, on Monday, October 4, I was in Pittsburgh for a work thing.  What's most incredible about this is that I went to Pittsburgh for a work thing, even though my dad had "an explosion of metastases" in his brain, and all I really wanted to to was curl into the fetal position and hide under blankets and cry.  But I didn't.  I went to Pittsburgh to "train the trainers" about how to educate folks on Medicare fraud.  

I'll never forget it, we were at Kane Regional Center in Pittsburgh, and I stepped out of the training to answer a call from my brother.  I stepped out into a noisy hallway and all I heard was the panic and confusion in his voice; he said something about Mom crying.  I hung up with him and instantly dialed my parents.  There was a bad connection.  In retrospect, I appreciate the irony of this bad connection, because in 1997, when Dad called me in Philadelphia to tell me that Steve had died, we had a bad connection.  I now associate bad connections with bad news.  Anyway... we had a bad connection, so I stepped outside the building into the misty, cold rain and that solved the connection problem.  It did not, however, solve the cancer problem.  Dad went on to explain that they had met with his oncologist and the prognosis was grim: he had four weeks to live.

In a way, everything after the utterance of those words was a blur.  In another way, my senses were operating in a heightened and awakened state, albeit numbed, and I remember every detail of the ride home from Pittsburgh that afternoon.  It's like I have a series of still shots - the way sunshine splashed against the dark gray clouds, the cheesy classic rock radio station, the cheeseburger I wolfed down at Roy Rogers at the rest stop in bumblef*ck, PA while a parade of Amish people passed me by; the raindrops that seemed to be pregnant with more rain; the awful parallel park job I did once at home, and how Jay and I held each other and sobbed together once I walked in the door.  

48 days later, on November 21st, my Dad died.  Someday I will write a book about those 48 days, because they were some of the most joyous, heartbreaking and all-around surreal days of my life, and they deserve their own story.  I will write more about those days here, too, but I just know that at some point, this whole saga will be a book.  It has to be...

Until then, cherish each moment with your loved ones, because as cliché as it sounds, the only guarantee we have is this this moment.  We have no idea what will happen in between this blog post and the next...