When my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, I felt nothing. Then I felt terrible. Because I felt nothing. Because what type of granddaughter feels nothing when her last grandfather is diagnosed with lung cancer?
Even if the two are on rocky terrain, as my grandfather and I were. Even if he is the type of person who cuts five dollar bills in half, sends one half to his granddaughter with a note saying, “You can have the other half when I get your thank you note.”
You should still feel something right? Even if this was his fourth cancer diagnosis, and you felt like the boy had cried wolf one too many times.
I suppose I felt something. I felt bad for him. I felt bad for the situation he was in. But I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel like this was a great, terrible loss in my life. I had been preparing for his death for over a decade, and now he was diagnosed with cancer, again, but it was curable. I had gone through too many, “This may be the last time you see him alive,” to feel like seeing him again would actually be the last time I saw him alive.
I hadn’t been to his annual christmas party in 4 years. It could be excused by the fact that I was in college 3,000 miles away, and for four years in a row, “I just couldn’t be back for the gathering. Sorry.”
But this year, that excuse was up. I had just finished college. And the man had just been diagnosed with cancer. And I hadn’t seen my family in 4 years, so it was time. After all my family said, it may be the last time I saw him alive. Something I hardly believed.
No one can blame me for that. He’d been diagnosed with three different types of cancer that were bound to kill him, and yet he survived each one. And made a hasty recovery to boot. Now doctors were telling him that he could beat this cancer too. So “last time I get to see him” my ass.
The weekend after I finished college, I drove down to his house with my family. Hopeful that I would avoid any major conflict with the man. Or any post event conflict. One never actually experienced conflict while at his house. It was only after each party that you realized your guts had been spilled all over the living room rug, and you hadn’t noticed till you were 30 miles away from his home. Then you had another 364 days to lick your wounds before seeing him again.
I was hopeful I could avoid that. I was hopeful that I could fade into the background and avoid conversation with him. But he wanted to talk to me. He sought me out. I was trapped.
The conversation started out cordially enough. But they always did. Then he threw the ultimate curve ball at me: humanity. He turned into a loving grandfather who was interested in his granddaughter’s life. I hardly knew what to do with that.
I only figured it out once I was 30 miles away from his home. I didn’t want him to die. I wanted him to live, and be my grandfather, and be someone who I didn’t view as a good story for the embodiment of all things evil. I wanted the man. Not the legend.
But fate has a cruel way of intervening, and three weeks later, he was gone. The man, who seemed like he could survive anything was gone.
And I was left to feel crippling, devastating sadness.