This isn't about today, but about what's causing all these tears right now. I will probably never read this node again. It hurt so much to recall all of this just to spit it out, to float it into the nodegel.
Middle of the 1990s: Grandpa, Jose, Duke, Bob. One of my two namesakes. He was diagnosed with cancer. I can't remember what it ate at first, but I seem to remember the pancreas being the first thing to be attacked. Heavy chemo, radiation, I can't remember which treatments he received then, but they wore him down, drained him. I was in my tweens, growing closer to the man who brought joy to our entire family. It didn't hit home how serious cancer was, not to me. To me, it was something that involved high-tech treatments, long hospital stays, and grandpa being tired a lot. I knew it was bad, very much so, but there were no broken bones or open sores, he never howled in pain. He lost his beard, his hair, but that was fine. I just remember it being impressive.
He 'recovered'. It went dormant, into remission, the main tumors were excised from him in some surgery or the cancerous cells destroyed in some other manner. I wasn't privy to that information. Never was, likely never will be. Grandpa was Grandpa again, Duke and Jose and Bob and, when he was in trouble, ROBERT! He often was, but I think it was a way of getting on with us grandkids that worked well.
Maybe it was 1997, late in the year. Cancerous cells in his kidneys had metastasized. He probably needed dialysis. He definitely needed treatment. Lots of it. Chemo, again. Maybe more radiation. I still wasn't privy. Grandpa was in the hospital for most the time. We would go visit him. University of Washington's hospital was great to him and I'm pretty sure Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was there to help as well. Jose seemed a bit better for a while, but had headaches.
The adults in the family knew, but didn't tell. I was still getting to know Grandpa better. He was a loving man. Camera shy to the point of frustration - a friend and I sat down to dig through home movies and only found a few frames here and there of him waving the camera off. Ironic that he was such a force in our community. Anyways, we showed up and Grandpa had his head bandaged, talked to me about things I didn't understand, treatments that were as mysterious to me as anything. I was 12.
Late 1998: Grandpa was still having the headaches. There was talk of new treatments, cutting-edge, unproven technology that might hold hope. Interferon-3. I hoped. I knew then that there was little chance; that there lay, in each hour, a distinct chance of non-progress, a smaller-yet-still-sizable chance of the cancer marching further on. I started to know. It made me desperate beyond words. I was losing the person dearest to me. Near the end of the year, in December, he was transferred to a hospital closer to home. No treatment, just life support.
Early 1999, a meager three days after my birthday, we go to visit him. A day before his wife, my grandmother's birthday. He knew. They knew. We didn't. I thought I would get to go back to see him the next week. I said goodbye and hugged him. He hugged back. We left, went home. Entered through the garage. The first thing I see, in the black dark of the house, is the red, blinking light of the answering machine. Me being me, I dash over to it, eager for who-knows-what to be on there.
I hit the button. "I'm so sorry..." "ROBERT! STOP IT!"
I knew, then. That voice, it was someone who would rarely call us. I knew the tinge his voice had to it. I knew that tone. The feeling.
Almost as immediately as I knew, I knew that my parents knew. THEY KNEW! HOW COULD THEY!? That priest was the last person to see him. I HATED that priest instantly. Gods, if I had gotten my scrawny thirteen-year-old hands on him, I would have laid waste to him worse than any cancer ever could have dreamt of! I was infuriated, enraged, seething with pain and hatred and anger.
I was thirteen. There wasn't a whole hell of a lot I could do about any of that.
The next day, at school, a friend tried to console me. "I saw what happened in the paper." The county paper covered it. Great. I made some terse, maybe-rude comment (I don't even remember what, anymore) - something I've always regretted - about the topic and drew into myself for weeks, if not months. The funeral was awful. I bawled the entire time, from the moment the service started until well after he was committed to the ground. Everyone knew it was me. I didn't care.
If I can do half the good my grandfather did, I will be content with my life.