Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Last week I wrote about my mom going into the hospital, and how my dad dived into his work in an attempt to deal.

Well, she's still in the hospital. I've been going to see her every day as the doctors have poked and prodded and scanned her trying to figure out what's wrong.

Every day she's gotten a bit more rest, felt a bit better, and taken less morphine, and as she's gotten better I've been able to scale back the visits and somewhat return to my normal routine. No matter the outcome I'm considerably less worried because I see her improving every day.

So yesterday finally the oncologist figured out part of what is wrong; she has ductal cancer, i.e. cancer of the milk ducts. It's a well-known precursor to breast cancer but it's easily and effectively treated with localized surgery and chemotherapy.

Mom is at peace, happy to finally have some answers, and looking forward to her treatment. Everyone is relieved to have at least a partial diagnosis (there are other symptoms caused by something other than the cancer that are being investigated) and it seems almost everyone understands that Mom's life isn't really in danger at the moment. Plus "easily and effectively treated" seems to have sunk into everyone's minds. Everyone except Dad that is.

So my brother David (who lives in Dallas and is the most calm member of the family by far) is flying in on Saturday for a visit that was planned months ago.

My cell phone rang at 4:52 this morning. I didn't recognize the phone number but it had the 972 area code so I correctly assumed it was David.

He wanted to know what was wrong with Mom, that Dad had just called him and said he needed to be here.

As far as I knew, NOTHING was wrong.

So I promised him I'd call Dad and find out what was wrong so I could run to the hospital if need be.

I call Dad, and all he says is "Nothing's wrong, I just need David to be here."

There are tears in his voice. If it wasn't my father in particular, I would swear he was drunk. But no; he's officially entered mental and emotional breakdown land.

I called David back and told him nothing was wrong, other than Dad wanted him to be there because he'd stopped dealing. We determined Dad's guilt complex had caught up with him.

Why? Because Mom hasn't taken a break since David was born 38 years ago. Because she's been trying to get out from under her "temporary secretary" job at the family business for 20 years. It took cancer for her to finally get a real rest.

Oh, and as icing to the guilt cake, Dad and my other brother Tim encouraged her to ignore the symptoms that finally led to her going to the hospital because they thought with exercise her rapidly expanding abdomen would return to normal (turns out it was full of fluid, not fat).

Dad has a ton of actions and inactions he could turn into personal guilt, and Mom isn't there to stop him. So now he's unraveled.

As soon as it's a more reasonable hour I'm calling his pastor.