60/40


My mind keeps wandering back to the afternoon of Saturday, September 17, gathered around my dining room table looking at the bright little rectangle of my iPad with Carl, Heather, and Daniel. Somehow, Mom and Dad's insistence at talking to all of us together on FaceTime had set off no warning bells in my head.

Which made Dad's news that much more shocking: "My kidneys will never recover, and we don't know if the chemo will buy me any time at all. I've decided to go to Davis Hospice. You need to come as soon as you can."

Somehow my brain went to UC Davis. I thought, "Oh, California must have some sort of great program for acute myeloid leukemia, so he's going there. Not what I expected, but cool." It still amazes me, looking back, how long it took the truth to trickle in: He didn't say "hospital." He said "hospice." No one goes home from hospice.

I've never talked to the others about that moment, but I imagine their brains were undergoing similar struggles to process this informational monolith. There was a very long silence.

During that silence, I split in two. The parts weren't equal; it was more like sixty/forty. Forty-Percent Allison stood and snatched up that iPad and hurled it through the window. Then she grabbed Cancer by his lapels and, with fire in her eyes and teeth bared, screamed, "You cannot have him. Do you understand me, goddammit?! You cannot have my father!! I WILL NOT LET HIM GO!!!!"

Sixty Percent Allison, meanwhile, remained quietly in her seat. She blinked rapidly to clear the tears gathering in her eyes and swallowed the lump in her throat. She took a deep, wavering breath and said, "We'll start looking at plane tickets for tomorrow."

Sixty Percent Allison, you see, is not only bigger than Forty Percent Allison; she's also smarter. She knew that if Dad saw Forty Percent Allison's reaction, it would break his heart. And she was damned if she was going to heap a broken heart on top of cancer and kidney failure. So she quietly brought Forty Percent Allison back to their seat. Then she pressed the little red button on the screen.

And as her father's face winked out of sight, she put her head on the cool teak of the table and sobbed.


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