Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Damn Cancer

I wrote this story for my grandmother.  I don't know that it succeeds, but I did the best I could with it.

The goddamn cancer hurts.  It’s like a knife twisting in my belly.  The stupid doctors said it was just IBS, but like all young kids, they didn’t know what the Hell they were talking about.  They sent me to get an arteriogram, and now suddenly I’m dying.  “No kidding,” I told them.  “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for months.”  Damn kids never listen.
“Hey Dad.”
I look up, and there’s Janie.  I hate having her see me like this, but I can’t help but be glad she’s here.
“Hey Janie...” I start.  But then I’m coughing, and the knife is twisting in my guts again, and I can’t even finish a simple greeting.  Damn cancer.
“Don’t try to talk,” she says.  “Just hold my hand and listen.  I want to tell you some things.”
I nod as best I can, and I hold her hand.  Despite everything, she’s still my little girl.  It’s true what they say: that’ll never change.
“Daddy,” Janie says, and I notice the tears welling up in her eyes.  But I don’t say anything because I know this is already hard on her.  She wipes the tears away and pulls herself together.  
There’s my girl.  I’m so proud, I could burst.
“Daddy,” she says, “it’s time for you to go.  I came to tell you that it’s all right.  You don’t have to be strong any more.  I’ve made my peace with it.”
Oh Janie, I know.  But there’s more to it than just my pain.  Who’s gonna take care of you?  Who’s gonna take care of Ethan?  That bastard Ronnie couldn’t do it, and I know how hard it is to be a single mother.  Ethan is a great kid, but...  You need me, Janie.  
“You’re still my little...” I say.  But then I’m coughing again.  Dammit!  Last week my voice was at least a frog’s croak.  This week, it’s not even that.
“I know it, Daddy.  And I love you.  But I’m gonna be okay.  Me and Ethan, we’re both gonna be okay.  We’ve got things under control.  I need you to believe me, Daddy.  I need you to believe in me.
“I can do this without you.  You raised me right.  Trust me.  And trust yourself.  You were a great father.  
“But I need this one more thing from you.  I need you to let me go now.”
Those are the words that no father wants to hear.  But I look at her, and I can see the truth.  She’s handled this damn cancer like a trooper.  She’s so strong.
Just look at my little girl!  Look at that strong young woman.
“Close your eyes, Daddy,” Janie says.  And then, “Ethan, baby, come here and hold your grandpa’s hand.  Tell him how much you love him.”

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