Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hail and Farewell

Today is the viewing for my cousin Susan. She learned, about the time that Mom did, that she had cancer. The difference is that Susan was only 41, with a twelve year-old daughter. Cancer had claimed her aunt, my mother's niece, a few years ago. This is the curse of our very concentrated genes. Susan fought like a tiger to live absolutely as long as possible- to see her daughter turn 13 and go on vacation with her to Florida with Patrick, her husband, who is working long hours as a physician in the Big City. (Doctors' families learn early on that you jealously guard every moment you get when The Doctor is home or available to *gasp* actually travel with you somewhere. Those times are RARE. Patrick set aside his career to be with his family throughout this ordeal, to his credit.)

Susan and I had the same oncologist. She has the reputation for pulling off the impossible, but Susan was past even her ability. The last four months of my cousin's too-brief life were reflective of her sheer stubbornness and force of will. She used every possible iota of time that God would grant her in this world.

Tomorrow, I cannot be there for her funeral. My mother's last living brother has been diagnosed with colon cancer and will undergo surgery to remove the tumor in the morning. This is a man who is nearly six-and-a-half feet tall. I rode on the shoulders of giant when I was a child, because my then-bachelor Uncle Ben would fling me up there and haul me around piggyback. He was an engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and because he had little time and few things on which to spend his money, he spoiled me dead rotten. I received a number of crushingly expensive toys from Childcraft and FAO Schwarz, and a number of solid silver julep cups, owing to his largess.

This is the same uncle whom I failed so badly as resident summertime mole-killer on the farm. He also had occasion to spank me once with his very large hands because I defied him, climbing over a barbed-wire fence into a pasture with the bull. It only took once. I was also talking with another Airedale rescuer who has a peacock living in the woods behind her house, about how my uncle would put me on his ATV and drive me to the house of a former tenant of the family farm who raised peacocks. Mrs. Crawford saved the windfall feathers for me, you see, and it was those little excursions that have formed the basis for my desire to someday own a couple of peafowl.

Colon cancer claimed my mother's life in December. I am so ridiculously ill-prepared to deal with either Susan's passing or Uncle Ben's cancer diagnosis. My problems seem so pale and minor in comparison. I will also never complain in earnest about my personal physician's insistence that I have a colonoscopy five years before the normal baseline. I just hope Uncle Ben has it in him to fight as hard as Susan did, because I don't want to do this again...not now. Not soon.

Man plans, God laughs.

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