Covid, Cancer and Contentment

The “Cancer” Call

As they readied themselves to dry up and tumble to the ground, the leaves of my maple tree were turning stunning shades of yellow, amber and crimson in the cool autumn air. The chill of that brisk October 2020 day weighed heavily upon my heart – it had been a year since I had seen my family. The phone rang, it was mom. She had that “warning” tone that I have come to recognize through the years. She asked if I was at home, and I knew that the conversation to come was going to be difficult. 

“Your father has colon cancer. Because of the pandemic, we’re not sure when he’ll be able to have it surgically removed – I’ll keep you posted. Are you okay?”  I was feeling some anxiety, but a conversation I had years ago with my father eased my mind. To put this into perspective, my dad was one male in a house of five females. His stamp room was his mancave and he often struggled to find few words among women who talked over, through and around one another. After years of fearing his thunderous voice and perplexed at how he can bide so much time “playing” with those tiny squares of paper, I grew to feel somewhat distant from him. However, a couple of years ago, we spent 2 hours alone in a car together, returning from our cottage in Northern Ontario. With my background as a motivational audio book producer, I am accustomed to interviewing authors to mine for the gold within their hearts.  So on this awkward drive home, I began to ask my dad questions…lots of questions about his past, his passions, his regrets and his life perspective. 

What became clear to me that day was that my dad possessed a trait that I have never ever experienced in anyone – complete and utter contentment with the life he has led. He shared that he “got the girl (my mom)”, had all of life’s comforts and wanted for nothing. He cherished his life and literally had no unfinished business.

Colon Cancer Stinks!

Returning to October 2020. After mom shared the news of the cancer, for 2 days I couldn’t find the courage to speak to dad. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. Being 500 miles away, I could not lean on physical cues or subtle gestures. The hard, cold cell phone was my only source of connection. Finally I called, and started the conversation, “Dad, this is the sh*ts, literally and figuratively.” We both laughed and had a very candid conversation. “Well, Theres…you know, I’ve lived 83 years on this earth and if it’s my time, it’s my time. What are yah gonna do?”  Our short conversation was filled with laughter and heart-to-heart connection. 

Dad is oblivious of the great gift he has given me. I know that when his body shuts down and he takes his last breath, he feels complete. No regrets and no deep wells of unfinished business. Thank you, dad, for showing that simple contentment is possible, and does exist. 

P.S. – In February 2021 dad finally had the surgery to remove the cancer. It has spread to his lymph nodes. They told him that he had about a 40% chance of the cancer returning if he underwent chemotherapy and a 60% chance of it returning without it. Of course, he opted for quality of life over the chemo because that’s my dad. He has taught me that life should not be measured in length, but in our sense of contentment. Thank you, dad. I can’t wait until the border opens once again and we can share yet another awkward stuttering, stammering hug…and by the way, Happy Father’s Day!