I never followed through here with the aftermath of my breakthrough at the Witch Doctor's—i.e. that I should forgive myself for getting cancer. First of all, I think that it's not that I feel I "deserve" it, nor do I think it's a "punishment", nor did I somehow ask for it to come. Rather, I think I've been judging myself for being so weak? inattentive? just plain foolish? as to get it at all. How could I, strong, smart, independent, farm-bred, International Woman of Mystery, capable I have somehow acquired cancer? It just doesn't compute. Someone must be to blame. It must be me.
Witch Doctor Dan did open up some physical blockage, for which I am grateful. Ian came home from work hungry the evening that I was writing about the experience, before I was done. I, in the midst of emotional housecleaning, was not hungry in the slightest. Ian fixed himself a snack and fiddled with things until I had posted.
"Okay, I'm done," I said from the couch, which has been doubling as my office during the colder winter months, since low temperatures coupled with our 90-year-old single-paned windows and uninsulated lath-and-plaster walls have made my actual office an unfriendly 54 degrees. "Can I read it to you?"
"Yes, please," said Ian attentively from the easy chair, laying aside his new android phone.
I read, about Dan recognizing my emotions still bottled up about my dad, and tears came. Ian moved over to the couch and put his arm around me while I went on, to the part where I needed to forgive myself for getting cancer.
"Sweetie-pie," said Ian, and my heart center ruptured into gasping, wracking sobs. He tightened his arm and patted me, as I choked and coughed and wept. "It sounds like you needed to cry about this," he said, holding me close.
Cut to last night, episode 3 of season 2 of Glee (spoiler alert!). In the episode entitled "Grilled Cheesus," Kurt's father, a self-employed business-owning mechanic, suffered a serious heart arrhythmia and ended up in the hospital in a coma. Kurt had already lost his mother, and his father, a more complicated and more sensitive guy than "mechanic" implies in our culture (note: much like my father, for those of you who didn't know him), was obviously dear and important to him. After several days of no change to the coma, Kurt came into Glee Club after school and sang a song to his dad: I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
When my dad went into anaphylactic shock and was airlifted by the US Coast Guard from Stuart Island to Victoria, and my mom taken by cutter, the charter company we'd been renting our boat to for the summer was contacted by one of my aunts (who were on board for our mid-August San Juan Island boat trip), and the company sent someone out to meet us and bring in our boat.
I was annoyed by this. At 19, I was already more skilled at captaining than my mother (who, granted, had no real interest in running the boat anyway), and I desperately wanted something to do, while we waited to hear something, anything, from Mom. The adults didn't think I should have to be in charge, however, or didn't trust that I could be, or who knows what, and so I sat on the flying bridge next to the rep from the charter company and focused all my attention on holding my father's hand.
His hands were stained and the skin of his fingers cracked from years of working with grease and oil and heavy, filthy car parts and not wearing gloves (although, I think you probably do better as a mechanic without them)—and not being at all vain, so his attempts at cleaning up were notably imperfect. His fingers had grown large and rugged over the years, and I never saw him wear a wedding ring; it would've been dangerous in his line of work, and his strong fingers grew out of it, anyway.
The same hands, though, gently held newborn lambs to be fed, intertwined with kids' hands to comfort and protect, and fluidly manipulated French horn keys so that Dad could share his soul through music.
On the boat that August day, in my mind, I held my father's hand from Stuart Island back to Anacortes, barely seeing the glowing northwest summer, the glinting waves, the green and rocky islands that we passed. "Stay with me, Dad," I repeated silently, over and over. "Stay with me."
We were just coming into port in Anacortes and I was on the bow, ready to jump off and moor, when our giant, early-90's brick of a cell phone rang from where I'd stuffed it in my back pocket. It was Mom. "He's gone," she said.
In Glee, Kurt's father of course regains consciousness near the end of the episode, with Kurt holding his hand. The tears, they started, and Ian said "do you want to watch another episode?" and I said "YES, of COURSE," and then Ian said, "but do you want a minute?" and I said yes, and then suddenly I was sobbing, gut wrenching sobs. Hoover came over to minister to me, while I, again, as fresh as yesterday, lost my dad. He never got to meet Ian. He isn't around to help me through difficult times now. I will never again make music with him. He can't tell me he's proud of me, or even disappointed. He's gone. And I miss him. I always will.
I can still remember the feel of his hand in mine.