By Darcy Lee Malone
My dad is sitting in his easy chair.
Next to him is the end table that holds a lamp, his
clicker, his razor (because he likes to shave while he
watches TV, feeling for the razor’s accuracy rather than
looking for it in a mirror) and, even now, his pack of
cigarettes, his lighter and his ashtray.
The cancer has moved to his brain.
We know it. We don’t need an MRI to tell us that
the cancer cells have done just what we have been
praying they wouldn’t: they have traveled from his lung,
unwanted passengers in his bloodstream, staking claim to
his brain and multiplying in an effort to dominate and
destroy. And if the golden hue of his usually pale
Irish skin is any indicator, his liver is now riddled
with more malignant tumors.
We are in my father’s living room, just
thirteen months since his cancer diagnosis and three
months since his 61st birthday. Tom Brokaw’s voice
is coming out of the television at a decibel level that
ensures the neighbors will be able to hold a decent
conversation about current events, whether they want to
or not. I am sitting on the sofa, my younger
sister Kathleen is sitting beside me; the weariness of
our day is etched on her face, her grief revealed
through the transparent mask of normalcy we are all
trying to wear. Jeanie, our stepmother and my father’s
soul mate, is in the spare room, probably on the
computer and probably crying. We all do a lot of
that these days. But not in front of Dad.
Whenever we do slip up and let a tear fall for him to
see he says, “Jesus Christ. I’m not dead yet, you
know.” His sense of humor has always been a little
“Dad, can you turn it down a little?” I
ask, shouting in my effort to be heard over the news.
My dad looks at me as though I just
asked him to strip naked in front of us. “You think it’s
too loud?” he questions me with a definite degree of
disdain. “Dad, I’m pretty sure the neighbors can hear
the TV as well as we can.” “I don’t care about the
neighbors.” And he really doesn’t, but he grabs
the clicker and makes a pretense of clicking the volume
I look around the room. Everything
is the same as it has been for the past few years, ever
since Dad and Jeanie finally got married and Dad moved
his stuff into the condo. He really didn’t have
much in the way of furniture, even after fifteen years
of being divorced from my mother and raising three kids
on his own.