You will get the call
That changes most things, not everything
You take it at the coffee shop, Blue Owl,
Where your favorite table is not taken,
Your laptop open to work,
the news article you are writing about mouse research.
Your Mom’s number, good, you needed a break.
You take it
Stepping outside to the empty parking lot
A quiet place between two concrete buildings
The sun shining on a west facing wall
Leaning against it in between two yellow lines
And you will hear that something is not right.
They are doing tests,
Lab work needed in Portland
Pancreas and liver showed up on the MRI, lights,
Could be something else.
Your Mom does not say it on the phone,
But from this day on they are the hardest,
The most precious days.
The days you are furthest away and closest to home.
Painful distance, painful diagnosis.
Six months to a year, but your dad is strong
And on the young side,
So aggressive treatments could be worth it.
Treatments like holding back a flood
With just a few sandbags, piled up
As the rain pours down, chemicals pour through.
There is no holding it back.
The Power Ranger is powerless as it stands,
In the om position
On the table beside him during chemo.
I fly home after the call and
My eyes rest easy on the folds
Of hills that reach down to the river.
I think, “They are like the folds of my own brain.”
The river circuitry running through it
A pathway of blue.
“The folds of my brain, they must be similarly drawn
Down to the water that runs through them.”
I drive east after flying west to meet my mom,
Preparing for an experience I’m not prepared to have.
Thinking of my dad, who never complained,
Always worked hard.
Spoke a little too fast without listening,
but his heart was always good.
He always had a way forward in mind.
I wonder what way forward he will find this time.
That’s really the only way that Dad goes, forward.
Finding a way.
I don’t know what new folds
In my brain I’ll come upon as I go down this winding river.
I can’t see around the bend.
Should I stop now and wait?
Should I keep going?
Should I build a fire here?
Should I portage?
What’s around the corner?
Is it that water fall?
Is it a dam?
Is it rapids?
I’ve had a calm journey until now.
I’m not prepared.
I want a life jacket to save me.
I’m not ready to take off my Dad’s.