Where was I? Oh, yes, “Mom, the doctor called this morning. I have cancer.”
The moment Brandon hung up, I leaned against a shelf in the closet and the tears started. I think that’s how Tony found me. The fuzzy numbness still wrapped me in its arms.
I spoke with my husband Joe, but I can’t remember who called whom. He said he had a call in to the surgeon who’d removed Brandon’s nasal polyps, and he promised to call again after he’d spoken with him.
There were beds to make, rooms to straighten, and a dining table to set. Joe(y) and Mia were already on their way from Chicago, and our in-town children would be arriving for dinner within hours. With Tony’s help, I woodenly checked off each of the tasks on my list, moving through our house in a daze.
Joe called back after he’d spoken with the otolaryngologist. Brandon had some sort of squamous cell carcinoma. The “tumor board” at our university hospital was to discuss Brandon when they met the following week. Then they’d recommend what they thought should be done next. Joe also said he’d decided to leave Florida early and come home. He already defaulted his tennis match and had scheduled a flight later that evening. I wrote down the details, and Tony said he’d go to the airport when his dad’s plane came in.
I had mixed feelings. I wanted Joe home and was glad he’d have more time with the entire family. But did he really need to interrupt a trip he’d planned for months? My brain wanted to think this really wasn’t a big deal. If Joe was ready to default and come home, it felt as if he was trying to tell me something.
Soon younger Joe(y) and Mia arrived, creating a happy distraction. The house filled with adult children and their significant others. Brandon worked his magic in the kitchen and chatted with the rest of us as we snacked on appetizers. Bottles of wine were uncorked and glasses poured. Eventually, dinner was ready and we moved to the dining room. More wine was opened and poured.
Conversation remained fairly light, the meal was delicious, and the evening’s conversation seemed to set the new family standard of sadness coupled with joy. The unwelcome guest, Cancer, became a topic of conversation for the first time, and I think fear led everyone to treat its intrusion as a joke. Discussion of Brandon’s news mingled with joyful conversation of the two upcoming weddings. Tony updated us on the plans for his wedding to Kristin in late June. Brandon and Christina shared the details for their July wedding. Tony left for the airport and then returned with his dad. Joe jumped right into our boisterous discussions.
Then Joe(y) and Mia announced their joyful news. They were expecting their first baby in September! The excitement was palpable and everyone was speaking at once.
As the room finally quieted, Brandon hugged his brother and joked, “Wow, you couldn’t let me play the cancer card for even one night!”
With that I felt joy and sadness settle in my soul as inseparable inhabitants. My guess is that both have taken up permanent residency.