Archive for the ‘cancer’ Category
It’s Movember, and you know what that means, it’s that time of year when a man’s heart turns to his prostate, testicles, and mental health. And so should you!
This year the boys and I are all growing moustaches to raise awareness and donations for Movember—a campaign that has shown incredible progress toward finding cures and saving the men in our lives. A single dollar donation might be the one that saves your father, husband, brother, son, boyfriend, cousin, neighbor, uncle, grandfather, football hero, boy band member, grocer, soldier, teacher, firefighter, hairstylist, actor, blogger, so forth and so on. Or it might save you.
The bottom line is our top lip, and you can help save every single man you have ever met. There are worse ways to spend a buck.
The players all looked at me, ready to hang on my every word. They had no idea that I had never given a halftime talk before. They only knew that we were in the locker room of my old junior high school, and that I had a whistle around my neck.
They didn’t know that I had never played basketball for my school—or any sport, for any school. In fact, the closest I ever came was two glorious weeks on the track team.
My friends and I were asked to turn in our uniforms after we missed a meet. We had been in the locker room seeing who could spin a discus the longest and impressing each other with our favorite celebrity impersonations. I was right in the middle of my Doug Henning when the coach came in and told us to wait on the bus. Needless to say, I was not a jock, and it would only be a matter of weeks before I took center stage in the school production of whatever it was and never looked back.
I glanced at the head coach to make sure I had heard him correctly. He nodded and I took a breath. The floor was mine.
“I grew up here,” I said. “I’ve known their head coach my entire life.
“This was my gym. I went to my first dance here. I kissed a girl somewhere around the free throw line. It wasn’t that long ago that I was you, and moments like this would last forever. Every game was the big game.”
The room was quiet and the boys were anxious. I had no idea where I was going with this, and the other coaches knew it.
I proceeded to have an incredibly awkward one-sided conversation with a room full of teenage boys about things that had nothing to do with basketball. I painted a picture of my own (also) awkward youth and appealed to whatever sympathies their parents had planted in them. It may have been the worst halftime speech ever given, and by the time it ended I was sweating far more than the players.
We lost the game, and I was never asked to give another pep talk the rest of the season.
I was, admittedly, embarrassed—not because of the game, but because I had used their moment as some sort of therapy session I never knew I needed. I feared that I had lost whatever respect they may have had for me.
It is warmer here, and there is a time difference. I have a headache and a suit in the closet. The room is free of pets and children, along with their respective dander and infectious laughter. It is a quiet, white room with white, sun-faded curtains. The suit is black and it is time to put it on.
The next room is bright and full of color. There is music in the background and stains of steam clinging to windows still wet with morning. There is a mirror deep with reflection and in it stands a man with a tie in his hands, wondering which one she would have preferred. He will make a steady knot with shaking hands, and he will take several deep breathes. Then he will drive a mile to bury his wife.
I understand there will be bagpipes. I think she would have liked that.
When the phone rings shortly after 6:30 on a Sunday morning it is sharp and sudden and sinks straight to the gut. There is seldom good news at such hours and the fact that my stepmother was in Arizona rapidly losing a fast fight with cancer made the sound of the phone all the more ominous. My wife found it in the dark and answered quiet and simply, putting condolences where a greeting should be.
“I’m so sorry,” she said into the morning glow of a phone against her cheek. And then I was on it, not hearing what my sister was saying, and hanging on her every word.
Jan Lawson Honea died around four in the morning with my father by her side. They had been married 17 years, celebrating their anniversary just one week earlier.
I was an adult, or what passes for one at the age of 23, when they married, and most of the years between now and then have been spent bouncing around from place to place, but Jan and my dad found their spot immediately and they stuck to it. Their home provided an anchor upon which we were tethered, and we were always welcomed with smiles, sunshine and something cold to drink.
Jan had children of her own, also grown well before she met my father, and over the years came grandchildren to spoil and nurture. She was always kind and quick with a laugh, and though the moments were far too few when my boys came to visit, she made each of them matter.
She believed in the community where they lived and worked hard to its advantage. It is the community in which my father was raised and his before him. My sister and I were brought up there, too. We played for years between a patchwork of cotton fields and dry deserts pulled upward toward distant mountains and sherbet sunsets. My father is the mayor there, and has been for years. It was through their mutual investment in the community of Marana that they met, their love grew, and the town right along with it.
Towns, however, tend to last much longer than people, and all we can do is our best and hope that it makes a difference. Jan did, and she has.
Love is also prone to playing with time, and it dabbles equally in space. Love knows no boundaries but that from the start, and it moves in an endless dance across a home full of smiles, fields ripe with cotton, town limit signs of varying population, and purple mountains stretching toward a bright orange sky.
When I close my eyes I see my father standing in the backyard against the setting sun, his face warm, wet, and bittersweet smiles. He stares forever upward, anchored by his roots and a love tightly tethered, their home still warm from the echoes of her laughter.
Jan Lawson Honea gave us her best, and it has made all the difference. She leaves us always fond and forever thankful.
“If the stars were any closer I would fight them,” he said.
“The stars are not the problem, it’s the people between them that are causing all the trouble.”
“Then why is it called Star Wars?” he asked.
“Why aren’t you in bed?”
He stood there laughing in his pajamas, seeming so much smaller than a moment before.
“The doctor called,” she said. “They say she only has two months left. Maybe three.”
“Holy fuck. How is she? How is he?”
“They aren’t good,” she said into a phone far away. “They found out on Friday, but you were in San Francisco and we didn’t want to bother you. There was nothing you could do.”
There still isn’t.
“Is a cable car the same as a trolley?” he asked. His hands were grasping polls on either side and his feet were firm along the running board. The hills were fickle, climbing high then falling forever. The street was a blur beneath his dirty blue Converse.
“Are you having fun?”
He smiled against the wind and watched the peak rise to meet us.
“I am,” he answered.
“We are shutting it down,” she said.
“You have been here from the beginning, and this is hard,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” she added.
I walked for a while after that, lost in thought beneath a sky too blue and trees with the audacity to bloom.