Tall Drink of Nerd: Father Time
a blogumn by Amy Robinson
This week I wanted to write something fun, kicky, summeresque for my FaN blogumn. I wanted to talk about the resurgence of mobile food coaches like Cool Haus, the handmade ice cream sandwich truck here in LA. I pondered on writing about my love of Vuze.com, a new peer-to-peer file bit torrent app where I downloaded the entire 2006 season of Doctor Who in HD for free! I wanted to talk to you about a gazillion different cool things that the nerd in me loves/is excited about, but I can’t focus on anything other than my current reality.
My Dad has Leukemia.
That sentence just keeps rolling around in my brain like a mean-ass pinball. It’s amazing how much space a 4-word sentence can occupy. As I write today, I’m sitting at the cluttered kitchen table in the house where I spent my formative years. Lappy and I are in a little burgh named Haxtun, a tiny town of 900 brave souls on the Colorado prairie.
Before Dad’s illness began, I would travel to Haxtun every other year or so, usually catching up with family news on the phone. I was an awkward, artsy, odd child who packed up and moved to a bigger town as soon as my 18th birthday hit. Haxtun is worlds, planets and galaxies, away from the fierce life in LA. There are no stoplights, no ice-cream trucks and the only grocery store in town doesn’t sell beer and closes at 10pm. You have to walk across the highway to the liquor store for that. There is a town whistle that blows at 7am, Noon, 1pm and 6pm. My parents have lived in Haxtun for 36 years, 32 spent in this house.
Today, Mom lives in this house and my father is in the hospital about 500 yards away. He has been sick with a blood disorder, Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), for the past year. Over that year, he has had chemo and way too many hospital stays. Two weeks ago, the Doctor informed them that his condition had progressed into Leukemia. Treatments for the MDS and Leukemia are contrary to one another and, at 73, a bone marrow transplant is no longer an option.
If I tell you my Dad has always been strong, that seems such a thin description and it doesn’t come close to covering the subject. He was an actual cowboy, breaking horses and herding cows for a while when he was young. He is a crooner, a math genius and a tenderhearted man who is a sucker for lost animals or people. He has always shown his love for his wife, calling her on the phone to ask her out for a Saturday night date, even though they’d been married over 50 years. He’s an ornery pain in the butt, but would pretty much give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Then he’ll tell you a fart joke.
After Mom told me the news, I came home. I’ve come home to sit with him and give Mom an occasional break from the hospital. I’ve come home to weed the neglected flowerbeds, brush the shedding animals and bake cookies for the rest of the visiting family. I’ve come to spend some time with my father while he still has a little time to spend.
I’ve come home to be with my brothers and sisters. Right now I’m pretty glad that Mom and Dad decided to have 5 of us, and not just because I’m the 5th. My siblings are coming in handy right now. We can cry on one another, get teary-eyed in the hospital hallway or on the front lawn with little provocation and it’s understood. We can also make each other laugh like maniacs, over new jokes or decade old stories that have grown into family legend. My daily goal is to make Dad chuckle and Mom giggle.
The house is quiet today because Mom is at the hospital, sitting with Dad. My siblings have driven back to their homes and families, some close, some 4 hours away. I will be flying back to CA in a few days, to my own home and husband. While it will be nice to be in my own bed again, a huge part of me will be wishing I was still here helping, even if it’s just reading Mark Twain out loud while my Dad drifts off to sleep.