It has been one week since the nurse from the dermatologists’ office called to tell me the results of my mole biopsy.
When I washed the dishes this morning, I kept looking at the telephone. The results of my excisional biopsy are sitting on someones desk – or the slides are in a microscope now, and someone is looking at a slice of my skin. The truth of the cells in my skin exists, I just haven’t been told yet. The phone is silent.
The last time I saw my father alive. He was laying on his back in his bed in the hospital. His closed eyelids facing the ceiling. He was surrounded by the sound of the morphine beeping into his blood and the rattling sound of his breath. His body was shutting down. The warehouse of organs were closing the store. His body was going out of business. The nurse said he could probably still hear, as hearing is one of the last senses to go.
” I love you daddy”, I said.
I kissed him on the forehead and walked out of his room to go home and wait. The nurse said she would call if I needed to come back to the hospital. I went to bed to dream. The phone rang in the darkness.
“Hello ” I said.
“Please come back to the hospital,”
“Is he dead?” I asked.
“Please, just come back. We will tell you when you get here.”
The nurse wouldn’t tell me on the phone if my dad had died. Until the nurse told me he had died, or until I saw him dead, my dad was alive.
My brother drove to the hospital. I looked out the windows at the prairie fields covered in snow, the dark houses. People asleep, not aware of the sorrow driving past their homes. I remember taking off my gloves and looking at my hands. They felt warm. I wanted to remember that specific moment sitting in the car. The moment where I could have my dad alive for just a few more minutes.
Dad’s room was quiet. The silence felt like a physical force. His belongings were in a plastic hospital bag on the window ledge. The cord from the morphine machine was unplugged and wrapped around the base. I looked at his chest, to see if it was moving. It was still. He was silent. His hands were by his side, and the sheet was pulled up just under his chin. Someone had run a comb though his hair, and combed it straight back. The fresh tracks from the comb made little rows from the front of his forehead to the back of his head. His eyes were closed. His mouth was open. There was dried blood on his tongue and on the roof of his mouth.
I walked to the side of his bed and said,
“Hi Daddy. I love you.”
He looked like my dad. I bend down and kissed him on his forehead. His skin was cold. It felt loose, like it had separated from him, and was now just laying next to his skull. I felt like I was kissing a stone. My dad didn’t live there anymore.
I asked if I could have a few minutes alone with him. The nurse and my brother went and stood in the hallway. I took a pair of scissors out of my pocket and cut off a piece of his hair from the back of his head. I put the hair in my pocket and walked out.
Until the phone rings today and the nurse tells me the results of the latest biopsy, I don’t have cancer. I will believe that all the cancer was cut out in the surgery. I will believe that I have good margins. If I don’t know about it, it doesn’t exist. I will look at the hands of my children, and I will remember this day.