Crying in the dark
The news is not good.
After my first lecture yesterday morning, I called Chris' cell phone twice and was put into his voicemail immediately. I kept hoping no news was good news.
Chris finally called me while I was outside of the building, sitting on a park bench in the shade, a nice cool breeze going by. He was crying.
The doctors began to perform surgery on his dad and basically closed him right up. The cancer is so aggressive there is nothing they can do. They give him 4-5 months at best.
Chris is devastated. So am I. I am probably one of the few daughter-in-laws that feel like a daughter instead. I have always loved both of Chris' parents, and they in return. We've done a lot of things over the years together, shared laughter and tears and they were there when Chris was not around when he was in the Marines.
I'll never forget when I was driving Chris' shitbox of a car, the Isuzu Trooper, from Maryland to their home in Dover, NH. I had it packed to the gills, with Bandit and Guin and when I hit New Jersey, it broke down.be towed twice (it's a New Jersey legal thing - one tow company takes care of cars on the highway, then it transfers to a local tow company off the highway. Yes, it's true and a pain in the ass).
It was in late summer, hot as hell and I had to deal with it while trying not to panic. I was lucky enough to have a writing friend in nearby New York to come and rescue us, but had to deal with a local repair shop over the next couple of days to decide what to do. After consulting with Chris, who was busy getting out of the Marines and couldn't do much, and his dad, we decided to pay for a flatbed tow truck to take me and the dogs to Dover.
So I spent the next however many hours in the cab of a tow truck with a driver, who was really nice, but it was admittedly strange. Bandit and Guin were in the front seats of the Trooper, sometimes looking out the windows, down at the other cars. Every once in a while a car would honk its horn and we'd see kids pointing and waving at the dogs. It was pretty amusing.
When we got to Dover, I got out of the cab and Chris' dad came up and gave me a hug and I burst into tears. I was just so glad to be home. That's how his parents are, they always make you feel at home, even in their home.
So I talked with Chris on the phone, we cried together and I just kept hoping someone from the conference wouldn't walk by and see me crying my eyes out. Chris kept apologizing, telling me he shouldn't have told me until after my next lecture, but I would rather know than not. And I had two hours between talks. I would deal with it. Chris needed someone to talk with and that was more important to me, even if I was crying.
When we finally hung up, I just sat there, crying and slowing pulling myself together. It sucks being here in Washington state, too far away to just hop in a plane and be home right away. But I had an obligation to fulfill and I would fulfill it.
I composed myself and went inside. Allison, who had booked me, knew I was waiting for the phone call and took one look at me and asked me if I needed a hug. I burst into tears again.
How is it that complete strangers can be so compassionate and caring?
I went into the bathroom, cleaned up, fixed my makeup and got ready for my next talk. I had to be sociable, so I went into "Marine" mode and pushed everything back in my mind so that I could work for the next couple of hours.
I did my talk and faltered only twice. I don't know where I get my strength from sometimes. I finished, got some great questions, sold some books (they wouldn't let me sell the actual books, but I could take orders), then went to wait for Allison to take and another speaker back to the hotel to wait for the shuttle to the airport.
I called Chris again and kept my composure. My mom had called him (bless her) and talked with him a long time. She was the only other person I had called earlier. He sounded a bit better, but still devastated. The next few days, weeks, however long are going to be so hard.
The shuttle finally made it to the airport to drop off the other speaker, then to take me to the Radisson (literally across the street from the airport). I had already made plans to meet with a Seattle Times reporter for dinner. I'd been interviewed for articles by him before and I was starving. I really wanted to just do room service, but I made a promise and I kept it.
Dinner was quick, but pleasant and it was hard not to say anything. I'm not going to yell to the world my dad-in-law is dying.
I went up to my room and collapsed in bed, slept fitfully, then woke up in the dark and the sadness hit me. I cried.
I called Chris and before we said hello to each, we just started crying. He sounds horrible. At least he has the dogs. He'd called his best friend Bill, who wanted to stay over last night, but Chris told him no. I stayed on the phone with him for a bit, then he said he was going to try to sleep. He didn't sleep much last night, either.
So here I sit, trying to stem the tears. I have to pack, but I have two hours to wait until I can go to the airport.
It's going to be a long, sad flight home today.