I. What Are You Looking At?

I. What Are You Looking At?

Sometimes we know what we’re looking at. Go to a museum, and, because a museum is where people cram art, you can be pretty sure “art” is what you’re looking at...

 

II. Where There's a Will

II. Where There's a Will

Apparently the urology department had Dad’s prostate cancer medication under control (namely, a shot in the pooper full of girly hormones) because it was six weeks before we ended up in a cancer specialist’s office.

III. Family Circus

III. Family Circus

It fell to me to be Queen of Dad by proximity; Chris lived close enough to visit Dad but far enough for it to be unreasonable to ask him to make Dad’s health decisions on his behalf. In fairness to both, they wished that we could divide all joys and burdens equally between us, including, I imagine, Dad’s health care.

IV. A State of Diminishing Horizons

IV. A State of Diminishing Horizons

I brought popsicles to Dad's house on a scorching afternoon and gave Dad a lime one, perfect for a hot day.

"I think I had my first hot flash,” Dad said. “Hard to tell though. Came and went quickly, just got sweaty all of the sudden.” He giggled. “Well, who can tell?”

“I think you’ll know it when you have one,” I observed.

“I’m pretty sure. Well, I think so.”

V. The Incredible True Adventures of Charles

V. The Incredible True Adventures of Charles

The house Chris and I grew up in was a tiny thing, 1100 square feet, but it unfolded like a palace of surprises. This was due in no small part to the mountains of books stacked to the rafters in every room of our house...

VI: Tuesday on the Phone With Dad

VI: Tuesday on the Phone With Dad

“Feeling better?” Dad asked. It was Tuesday and Dad called to check in. 

“Was I feeling bad?” I asked in return.

“You seemed at a low ebb,” he said. “On your blog.”

VII: Summer's End

VII: Summer's End

Milo was four when our cat Mini died, and his curiosity was boundless. He peppered us with questions for weeks: “Where did she go? Why did she die? Will I die? Will you die? Will we die at the same time?”

VIII. Thank Goodness!

VIII. Thank Goodness!

Hello, Everyone:
Round 2 of the hormone therapy has gone far better than anyone, Dad especially, could have imagined. We’ve become so accustomed to bad news that one could say we hoped for better, but expected more of the same. Upon receiving good news, it’s like Dad won the lottery!

IX: The Photograph

IX: The Photograph

In the beginning of Dad’s cancer adventure, it would have never occurred to me to take a picture of him. Not that photos are either bad or good—they are a medium onto which one person’s perception is recorded—but they are by their nature revealing.

INTERMISSION

INTERMISSION

 

This intermission brought to you by

 

Lupron® Brand Hormone Therapy

                                while it worked its magic.

November, 2009 through March, 2010

XI. The Statute of Limitations

XI. The Statute of Limitations

Dad stepped into the car and handed me an article from Atlantic Monthly called “Letting Go of My Father.”

“I’ve got nothing to say other than ‘Don’t let it get this bad.’”

XII. A Work in Progress

XII. A Work in Progress

I had begun writing for literary website, and when Dad’s cancer retreated to the level of background noise, I enjoyed my first experience with an audience larger than Dad. We both treasured my brief tenure as an essayist with a bent toward peculiar topics,

XIII. Orphans

XIII. Orphans

I sipped my coffee on another sodden, gray morning in Portland. The new dog and the old cat flirted, the dog approaching her gingerly, the cat tolerating his approach until she changed her mind and raised a paw to warn him off.

XIV. Letting the Membership Lapse

XIV. Letting the Membership Lapse

On the carnival ride in earnest, or at the very least in the car a lot, Dad’s radiation treatments had begun and every night I whisked him away to OHSU Waterfront. Then he got on the Sky Tram, had a beautiful view for five minutes, and stepped into the building to get zapped.

XV. Thursday

XV. Thursday

Life outside Dad’s illness continued with little concern for our needs. Lars and I negotiated our way through the demands on my time gingerly; we didn’t have many people upon who we could call to take care of Milo when I was gone, so I tried to schedule as many of Dad’s appointments for times when Milo was at school.

XVI. A Field of Narrowing Options

XVI. A Field of Narrowing Options

“These essays are getting harder to write,” I told Dad on another trip home from the doctor.

“I know,” Dad said.

We didn’t say anything else; there wasn’t anything else to say.

XVII. Trial

XVII. Trial

The days were balmy after the intolerably late start to summer. Portlanders were twitchy and edgy, all chatty conversations winding inevitably to the hope for summer to finally make itself known. But no one felt the delay more acutely than Dad, whose temperature had been in the reptilian range.

XVIII. Choosing How the Sun Will Set

XVIII. Choosing How the Sun Will Set

A friend invited us to a barbecue and encouraged me to bring Dad. It was a beautiful afternoon, warm sun cutting through the marine layer and scorching our friend’s grass.

XIX. Things Fall Apart

XIX. Things Fall Apart

One of Dad’s oldest friends Betsy was visiting from New York when Chris, Lars and I went to Dad’s house to do some chores for him. Dad had been persistently prodding Betsy to go through his library in the basement, thousands and thousands of art books, literature, mythology, to sift through them and take what she wanted. He’d been nagging all of us to do the same. It was the housekeeping of dying.

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