You know what conversation is awkward?
“Oh, hey, how are you?”
“Oh, no, what's wrong?”
“My father has a brain tumor.”
It's just unfair to people. With every new development, I may be bursting all the more to pour my feelings out to someone, but it's too heavy to put on anyone without flummoxing them. They don't know what to say. I don't blame them. I wouldn't know what to say. It's happening to me and I don't know what to say. It paralyzes people, puts them on the spot, in a bad position for no purpose. It demands a response and there's no response suitable.
So, I'm just going to tell all my feelings to the void. Someone who knows me reads it, you have my official blessing not to say anything or even acknowledge it.
So, my father has a brain tumor. He has three to six months to live. He, and my mother, just called me on the phone.
This is the result of the malignant melanoma he had removed from the top of his head. We were expecting something like this, at least I was. When they took the melanoma off they removed a few sentinel lymph nodes and found traces of the cancer in them. He was too old to be a candidate for radiation or chemotherapy. The other treatment, removing all the lymph nodes from his head, were invasive and carried too much of a chance of nerve damage for him to want them, and I don't blame him. But when nothing happened for a while I thought perhaps he'd just die of being old before the cancer got him. So much for that.
What am I supposed to say when he asks me how I am? "Oh, I'm pretty sad. I just found out you're dying." No, of course not. You say 'I'm okay'. You think anything I might feel about it would compare to how he feels about it? They didn't even mention it. They just asked if I'd heard they were having 'some health issues'. Of course I'm not going to bring it up if they don't. Maybe I should. Maybe they want me to. I don't even know what I would want in that situation. I think I might want to have everyone ignore the issue and not make A Thing out of it. What could anyone say to me that would make me feel happier? “I'm sorry you're dying.” is what you write on a card to someone you don't know very well. If it were me the dying wouldn't be the bad part. Death simply means that, at some point, future events will no longer be as directly connected to those making up my personal experience as some events were. I didn't mind all the time I spent not existing before I was born.
All my life they spent their time talking about ‘going home to be with the lord’. I don't expect that to be very much comfort when facing things. Especially when you know that you're going to spend the next three to six months having your brain smashed by a tumor, removing your ability to speak first and then erasing everything else you are while you're alive and conscious to experience it happening.
He had aphasia when I talked to him. He lost a few words here and there. I'm told that people with aphasia don't know what and when they're failing to say, that it sounds normal to them. (Which is interesting. Is it because they're not listening to themselves talk while they're talking? I guess that might be trying to think about what you're doing when you're walking.) I imagine he didn't notice, because he wasn't getting frustrated and trying to correct himself. It's surprising to see him seemingly go from nothing but a bit of memory loss and passing all his neuropsych tests to having trouble speaking in under a month.
I'm more unhappy now, after talking to him, than I was before. Before I just felt numb. It felt unreal. Hearing him try to speak and having a nonsensical word salad come out instead made me hurt in a way my sister telling me he would be dead by next year didn't.
If it were me, I'd shoot myself. I wouldn't see any reason to stay around. The only nice thing is that it's fast. Three months is almost nothing at all. What would I do, just try to sleep through it? No. I'd try to shoot myself, obviously. Or go to Oregon for assisted suicide. Barring that, I don't know. I once had a dream where I discovered I was dying of cancer and tried to make everyone I knew hate me so none of them would mind.
My parents don't believe in assisted suicide. I don't know if they'd want it if they did. They probably would. I know my mother would, considering how much time she spends insisting on not getting life-saving treatment, being allowed to die, hoping she dies in her sleep, all that sort of thing.
I can accept people dying. Grudgingly. It's making the best of a bad situation. If we have finite resources, finite land, people working as they do with their ideas and personalities ossifying, becoming resistant to change. Removing some people so others can come into existence, learn, adapt to the world, take a place in the power structure is excusable…someone omnipotent could do better, but a finite earth is a hard thing to get around.
I won't accept this business of people having their minds and bodies degrade. If there were anything but a stupid, blundering, iterative algorithm that doesn't care about anyone's well-being and merely optimizing for reproduction, people would live a full, healthy life then suddenly stop moving and fall over dead. Maybe get a notice a week beforehand to get their affairs in order.
I sometimes regret not becoming a medical researcher. Doing my own, small part to rescue the products of evolution from the harm it does them.
I want to punch someone in the face, but there's nobody there.