the tumors in my father’s body made him softer.
i remember seeing him cry at a restaurant because his sisters sent a bottle of wine to the table and they live in colorado and we were in new york and he missed them.
he said when he gets chemo it feels like the medicine is burning through his veins. he aches everywhere after, deeply.
i watch him walk from the car to the bagel store that i like and he doesn’t. i think the bagels there are perfect but he thinks they are too large and dense and they never have the whole wheat options he wants. he is the one who is sick but he lets me choose where we get breakfast. in his walk i see that his hips are hurting.
he calls me when everything seems to be going to shit and this time i cry. i forget to ask how he is feeling but it doesn’t matter because he wants to listen.
i watch him drink a bai 5 antioxidant drink and i say, “isn’t it a little late for that?” he doesn’t get what i mean at first but once he does we both laugh.
he says he needs a book to read so i buy him howard zinn’s “a people’s history.” we often fight about this country and i thought this might change his mind. i go home for thanksgiving break and see it on his nightstand. he says sometimes it is hard for him to concentrate and read after treatment but he is committed to finishing it.
i rant about astrology at the dinner table and how my cancer sun makes sense in conjunction with my scorpio ascendant. he, a capricorn, says, “i guess i’m a cancer now, too.”
i knock on the door after it took me 8 hours on the bus to get from boston to new jersey in what should be a 4.5 hour trip but always takes much longer. he doesn’t know i’m coming home for yom kippur. i ring the doorbell because he didn’t hear the knock. when he sees me he breaks down, and so do i.
the next day my family goes to temple but he and i stay home because he is too immune deficient to be in crowds and he doesn’t want to hear the rabbi say his name during the mi shebeirach. we sit together in silence and read. when he goes upstairs to get something i run into the kitchen and grab pretzels that i quickly scarf down and return to my seat pretending like i had been there the whole time. i’m supposed to be fasting. i know he isn’t going to die but he keeps dying in my dreams and i don’t want to be hungry in my last memory with him.
he tells me he wants to get a dog when it is all over. he says we’re gonna name it “chemo.”