Sunday, April 1, 2012


I hastily grabbed the closest thing that could serve its purpose – to hold my place in chapter 3 of Mind As Action.  The buzzer was flashing red, vibrating violently for such an early morning.  Although it looked just like what you would hold while waiting for a table at Olive Garden, this buzzer seemed to urge, “Hurry.  Now.  She’s waiting.”

I shoved the peach, coupon-like slip of paper branded “Surgery Center. POST-OP” in between the pages where Wertsch had imagined Bakhtin conversing with Vygotsky.  The last words I remember reading were Bakhtin’s:  “All words have a taste…” but many other utterances were busy tracking through the mud of my brain as I scurried, book still in hand, to the reception desk.  There sat a non-descript hamster of a lady next to an intricately decorated hammered-metal sign, staunch script reading “Our family is taking care of your family.”  I flashed the peach pass as she waved me to Family Room C.

Black letters stood out against my new bookmark:  “Two visitors per patient, please.”  Its words seemed to echo my own pleas. The last time I walked this hall, my definition of family was different.  Home was a well-defined place I knew and recognized, and I had a dad, mom, and sister. I wish dad were here, please.  I wish Ellie were here, please.  I wish it weren’t just me left to face this new place alone, please.  Last time, Ellie, dad, and I sat in the consultation room together, a safety zone protecting me from the medical jargon of the surgeon.  “Stage IV invasive lobular carcinoma… metastasized regionally… definitely intensive radiation treatment with follow up of Tamoxifen…” I had stayed quiet, watching my sister’s face turn to fear, and we let my father lead. But last time was over a decade ago.

I settled into the faux leather love seat in the family room, taking a defensively rigid posture I recognized as my father’s.  Dr. Stanza walked in with his head in the charts.  I stood, shook hands with a firmness and looked him dead in the eye.  He explained the situation after I asked, “So, what's the prognosis?” the final word leaving a dry bitterness on my tongue. I recognized its flavor from a different place and a different time. 

Considering how advanced the cancer is, Ellie probably has less than eight months left…  My head spins…  His heart’s not strong enough to make it through the night; you should say your goodbyes now.  I could hear Wetsch’s echo:  “This has become a familiar speech genre.”

Dr. Stanza’s chipper voice barreled through my traveling thoughts:  Everything’s going to be fine.  The tumor was benign, and we caught it much earlier this time.  For a moment, I found it difficult to digest his words, so I just echoed them:  Everything’s going to be fine.  My posture relaxed and my gaze moved beyond him.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, Kerri. Beautiful, friend.
    Can I re-share with a student who's working to weave nuances of past and pain into a short piece?