Others can hear the bits and pieces of one-way conversations. Sometimes they’ll catch some bit of a chat with one of his doctors. Otherwise I’m discreet. I take to the supply closet, the hallways, or the empty speech therapy rooms where I sit on itty bitty chairs. Exam room 5 is my favorite retreat when the cardiologist isn’t in session. The view above the trees creates something of an escape.
These are the places where quietly I orchestrate what remains of my father’s life.
It began with calls from the dodgy dermatologist who was fired in a subsequent call. The calls to get him properly placed at The Dana Farber Cancer Institute were too numerous to count. There was the call about the CT that looked good and the call about the CT that didn’t look so good. There was the time he arrived for his CT alone without having Ativan. Mini-conferences with radiation oncologists, head and neck oncologists, social workers, and nurses. Sometimes my Dad just needed to hear that I thought what the doctors wanted to do was right. There was the kerfuffle with the surgeon who was slow to communicate when there wasn’t much left to offer. There were stern calls from my brother when I hadn’t called enough and the call that I probably needed to come home.
I’ve mastered the art of being desperately concerned while at once concise.
Despite my discreet disappearances and the attempt to maintain business as usual, my staff knows when something’s up. My cadence, rhythm, posture and the way I move from room to room gives me away.
They inquire as I breeze past, “How’s your Dad?”
“Oh, yeah. He’s alright. You know, ups and downs. Tough road. Thanks.” And I’m on to the next room before I have to say too much.
To condense the angles of this experience in a water cooler summary is impossible.
Everyone’s sorry. Everybody’s concerned. But few understand what it’s like from 2,000 miles away.