Saturday evening. The red light on the answering machine blinks. There is a new email in my inbox, alerting me to the new voice mail on my line. I am interested to know who called until I see the number. Dad's phone number, a long message, over a minute. I turn away.
We go about the business of putting the kids to bed, nagging about teeth brushing, 'are you sure you'll be warm enough in those jammies? It's supposed to snow tonight', short or long bedtime stories. They are finally settled in, we meet in the hallway tentatively, waiting to see whether anyone will holler for one last drink or hug before we descend the creaking stairs. We are finally settled on the couch and the blinking light reaches across the room toward me, reminding, but I brush it away.
My dreams are filled with frantic pursuits of old friends, decades old friends whom I've not seen or spoken to since high school. I've arranged meetings with them to clear up old misunderstandings. I am late - the car breaks down, my kids need something right now, I have to explain to my family why this is important. I can't get comfortable beneath the down comforter and my specially purchased pillow won't support my busy head tonight. I start awake at 7:30 - wondrous that the girls have slept in, and jostle Bubba - he's got a plane to catch. He smiles quickly and springs out of bed to get ready to go. I am disturbed by my dreams and just want to pull the covers over my head, but I know the shower will wake the girls and start my day, too.
Hours later, the three of us meander down the stairs to greet the animals and find some breakfast. Daddy's long gone - probably already on the airplane by now. As the girls settle in with their hot chocolate and SpongeBob SquarePants on the TV, I find the courage to check the voice mail. I wish I hadn't.
The specialists say there is nothing they can do. They decided, for some reason, to look for more. Dad submitted himself to a colonoscopy which didn't show anything. The next day he feels some pain in his hips and goes back to see why. Three hours later the films show it has spread to his bones. This strong, healthy, vital man who has bounced back from chemotherapy, major surgery, tours in VietNam, divorce, heartbreak. Nothing can be done.
His voice comes through - something about "...the Gerson Institute in San Diego...", raw food diets and special enemas - good survival rate with certain cancers. Maybe it's worth a shot. I wait. I sigh. I wish Bubba were here. I wish I could call my father and listen to his ideas with some enthusiasm. I wish I could call my father and tell him I'm sorry I missed his call last night. I wish I could call my father.