my father struggles with the idea of losing my mom, living without her, and being afraid of dying. so much of his day is spent worrying about her, and not enjoying life himself.
on the way back from the doctor’s today, i suggested that he and i do something fun. “no let’s just go back home and see what mommy’s doing.” he can be so sweet, when he and i both know that mommy’s most likely either asleep, or in the bathroom, or possibly painting at her table.
he lives in fear that he not be there if she dies. his fear is so great that he spends most of his day sitting and nodding off in little cat naps while listening to the news, and listening for mommy to ring her buzzer. he plays ping pong a couple of times a week, but only if we encourage him to get out, he’d rather sit in fear.
we received a call from his hematologist/oncologist letting us know that the results from his CT scan show that he has a nodule on his right lung and that he needs to have a biopsy done. he went ballistic. ‘they’re just trying to make money off me! i’m tired of all these tests. i’m not going to do it! dr. pak says i’m fine.’
‘true dad, dr. pak did just tell you that you look just fine, but he’s your heart doctor. dr. tang is looking at your blood and he’s examining the health of your other organs. early detection is key, so this is a good thing.’
‘well i’m not going. i’m 89 years old, and i’m tired of all these tests’
‘we’ve already set it up dad – they want you there next wednesday; we’re just grateful that we have good doctors who care about you.’
2 am he wakes me, ‘manette, i just want to let you know i’m not going to any more exams.’
‘dad, i understand. we can talk about it in the morning.’
as i drifted back to sleep, i remembered hearing on npr the story a woman had shared about her grandmother in china. her grandmother had told her family that she would never want to know if she had a disease like cancer so not to tell her if she did. she was diagnosed with cancer, and her children honored her wish and did not tell her. she ended up living for another 15 years without treatment.
i shared the story with my mom and dad individually and asked each of them what they would want to do in that situation, and they both agreed,
‘i don’t want to know if i have cancer. it’s better not to know if i’m going to die. so don’t tell me.’
i woke this morning wanting to honor his wish. if it’s okay with my siblings, i’ll call and cancel his appointment.
maybe it is best that his mind and heart not live in fear; maybe it is best to stay believing that he’s “just fine.”
he’s a tough one; maybe he’s right. maybe knowing bad news will bring him so much fear that it’ll kill him before any treatments can help him…
one of these days, you have to meet my dad, i think you’ll love him, the way we all do.