"Mama, do you remember opa J.?" Lola asked me softly last night when we were snuggling before bedtime. "Yes I do," I answered her. "He’s sick," she told me, "and he is never ever going to get better. I really miss him."
She was talking about my uncle, my dad’s younger brother who lives in south east Wisconsin. When he retired, he and my aunt bought a catamaran in the Caribbean where they spend their winters sailing from island to island. Last March, while visiting a street festival in the lovely Santa Lucia, J. ate a fishy looking fish and promptly got sick. Food poisoning was everyone’s first thought. Except the vomiting and diarrhea wouldn’t stop.
After dropping forty five pounds, several visits to local ER’s, and an overnight hospital stay, they decided to fly back a little early and see a doctor here. The doctor suggested a cat-scan to look for a possible obstruction in J.’s colon, something they did indeed find. They also found something else; advanced pancreatic cancer. There is no cure for that. And just like that, everything changed.
I took a few days off last week and drove south for a visit. My aunt, uncle, and my cousins have been my second family since I was seventeen. It was a good visit. It was a little shocking to see J. minus forty five pounds. The 4,000 calorie diet he is currently on hasn’t done him much good yet. (It worked great for us though, especially the rhubarb crumble pie and the blueberry cheesecake.) And aside from the fact that we talked a lot about cancer and death, it was very much like old times.
J. started chemotherapy last Wednesday. When I called on Friday to see how he was holding up, I was told things were going okay for the most part. But Ryan spoke to my cousin last night and found out J. had spent the weekend in the hospital, very sick from the chemo. For the next eight days, he can recover, then he goes back for round two. Every other week a round of chemo, for the next eight weeks.
I don’t know why Lola thought of J. all of a sudden. The conversation from last night was a carbon copy of the conversation she and I had a few weeks ago, when J. was first diagnosed and she wanted to know why I was crying. She has been talking a lot about death lately, brought on by a dead deer she saw alongside the road. There is a lot going on in that little blond head of hers. And it won’t be very long that I will no longer have all the answers.