I greet the usual gang. After four months they are as familiar in my routine as coworkers and neighbors. Down the hall...through the doorway, I notice new faces. Without meaning to... I catch them in an intimate moment. Their raw emotion hooks my attention.
Two very attractive men...one with his eyes closed relaxing in the recliner...a blanket pulled up to his shoulders. The other man leaning over the chair lovingly running his hands over the resting man's face...massaging his head. Gently rubbing his shoulders. He stands up. I can hear him apologizing sadly. He has to leave.
He softly kisses the top of his loved one's head. Common courtesy dictates that I should turn away, but their poignancy is riveting. He can't help himself....he starts the therapeutic touching again. Face, neck, chest, head. He straightens and even from my stand point I know he can not pull himself away. Adjusting the blanket. Checking the water bottle. Touching a cheek. Smoothing the beard. He turns to speak to someone out of my sight. He is already late and he has to leave. One last kiss and he heads towards me.
Passing next to me in the narrow hallway he catches my eye and says,"Good Morning."
There is a strident sense to his voice that is all too familiar. He so wants this to be a good morning. I smile and say, "Hey". I watch him scan me and then my Mama with the nurse. I watch him figuring out our gig. He touches my arm... turns... and strides back into the chemo room. Reaching out for the other man once again...he needs to get going....but in his face I see that he can not bear to leave. He is torn between love and obligation.
We walk from the lab office to the doctor's office. The man standing sees us and greets my Mama "Hello". He watches our slow stroll....her arm through mine. At 5' 2" I am never tall but these days I tower over her. I have this ragg-mopp of hair...she has none. He watches us walk by...his fingers still stroking. I smile at him and make some typically smartass comment to the chemo staff. They have finally become accustomed to my irreverent banter and laugh out loud. Humor is my shield. As we pass I see the man resume his affectionate goodbyes.
After our time with Dr.A (for whom I am most thankful) we join the chemo group. A circle of lazyboys with colorful blankets and pillows hold a half dozen warriors reclining with their poisonous IVs. Lengths of tubing. Drip bags of venom. On days like today there is room for embedded family and friends. As Mama gets situated I realize the anxious man is gone...and I get a first look at his loved one.
They are virtually identical...the same man a couple decades apart. This is not his lover...this is his SON. There is a tug on my heart. Those endearments were not that of a lover's distress... what I had witnessed was parental anguish. I feel that hot pressure threatening to flood my eyes.
I gather Mama's coat and hat to stow during treatment. Crossing the threshold out the side door tears escape and I am ticked. I haven't cried at chemo since the very beginning and I am not about to do so now.
Later. When I can think it through and control the tears. Then I will cry for the father's torment. It has been a year of tears.
Back in the chemo room I sit between my Mama and this boy. He is well over six foot. Handsome. We exchange names. He graduated high school in 2003 and just transferred to Sonoma State. He's read about LittleMissy. He is majoring in kinesiology....wants to be a physical therapist. I remember his father's attention. Like my BearCub he wears those stupid ass corduroy bedroom slippers as if they are shoes. Today is his first treatment. He has a ream of paperwork to complete. He needs to schedule other sessions. A girl calls his cellphone. He draws designs in sketch book.
I look about at the other players in our little drama.
Knitting lady who is dropped off and picked up by her husband...but her friend always joins her in the chemo room. Usually eating...they sit and talk the entire time. The entire time.
The black guy who can sleep and snore through everything. A linebacker type who barely fits in the chair. I wonder if his shiny bald head is by choice or a circumstance.
The elderly woman from my church who comes with her oldest son. She lost her husband in January and her younger son in July. To look and talk to her you would never know of her illness or loss.
The police detective who is always reading. He carries an accordion file stuffed with work. His chemo quit working (why does it do that??) He will transfer to Stanford for a clinical trial.
The well dressed quiet fred astaire type who seems so sad...but whose face becomes brilliant when his three year old grandson brings him lunch halfway through.
And the new kid on the block. Chatting with me to keep the other stuff at bay. I know I will think of him...and his father for a while. I start to sigh...then manage to take up a deep breath before the sigh has a chance to take hold.
I've gotten pretty good at that.