daddy has cancer. those words appeared on my text last thursday pm, courtesy of my youngest sistah tracey who was in the university of chicago hospital tending to my father's debilitating health. initially i was shocked. stunned. in complete dis-belief bcuz it was happening now, for real, to my father, to our family, to me. felt like the weight of the world, his illness, the uncertainty of it all, other family member's premature demise, my emotional instability were on my suddenly frail shoulders. perhaps grandma jefferson was right, "the lord works in mysterious ways,"she used to always say, to no one in particular, though i suspect folks were listening.
at the time i was coming from a trusted friend's 16th year anniversary in recovery at a na mtg in spanish harlem. her family was present, folks carried the message of hope & freedom, food was abundant, the room was packed...my cup had runneth ova. i routinely check my messages after a mtg & received the ominous text. his doctor mentioned cancer was probable yet didn't know for sure so we had an inkling. still, when the word becomes official shit changes. as i walked home i felt anxious, frightened, insecure & sad. my body was in pain. darkness was the color of the wind as i tried to make sense of it all.
i started thinking about who to call, what to say, where to go & yet my body kept walking home in a steady pace. grandma jefferson used to also say, "let your conscience be your guide." spirit said it was safe to be alone with my fallibility & feelings. when i got home i cried. i wasn't angry with god or the doctor or my father: i just needed to cry. a friend once told me tears are liquid prayers. my intellect quickly took ova. worry is a lack of faith, i tried to assure myself. i can get thru this with sanity & serenity. but what the fuck am i supposed to do, now? i started to feel shame bcuz i only have $200 in my savings account & should be able, at 48 years of age, to have enough money in the bank for emergencies like this. my aunts jean, martha ann & maxine told me to save for a rainy day but i neva listened to anyone bcuz i wanted to do things my way.
the impending sorrow was seemingly unbearable. daddy has cancer. daddy has cancer. daddy has cancer. those three words fully permeated my consciousness like nothing in recent memory & i didn't have a reference point. you only get one father in this world. he was a decent hue-man being, good person, hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying (well, after the irs handcuffed him) citizen. he doesn't deserve this. not cancer. not my father. not after all he's been through in almost 79 years in white america. yeah, i went there. always do. my father once told me america is a lie. he ain't lying...
we share the same perspective on america's ugly supremacist his-tory though he persists on reminding me i'm not black, i'm a a hue-man being. in fact, he cites barack hussein obama's recent historical presidential win as evidence stating, "one day we will no longer use the term black or white to identify ourselves in this country." this is the same man who predicted, in the spring of 2007, obama would win, because, "america is ready for change & hilary won't win bcuz she's white & she supported the war in iraq." at the time i thought he was crazy. typical knee-jerk reaction. his wisdom is appealing bcuz my mind opens to a world of endless possibilities.
in addition to the cancer diagnosis, he's showing early signs of alzheimer's & dementia. at one point, he thought one of his grand kids belonged to the jenifer hudson family. as if she doesn't have enough to deal with her damn self. getting him to adhere to treatment has been a religious experience by most accounts. my father hates doctors, hospitals & medicine. in fact, he resents being told what to do by anyone (!) who is younger and/or female. black male pride is alive & well in the tuggle household. unfortunately he's been dishonest, irrational & uncooperative as it relates to getting better. he thinks he can sleep his pain away. ironically, i think the same way at times, so my compassion & empathy for him is real yet we are now in a battle to save his life.
the hospital social worker suggests he consider accommodating a daily (five days, four hours) home attendant, going into a nursing home, or moving into "assisted living." if he accepted "assisted living," the pending institution would seize his pension benefits & leave him with a nominal monthly allowance. my father spends more time in nevada than las vegas: i don't think so. like a good little boy my father tells me & the medical staff he'll "do whatever they tell me to do," yet when he leaves the hospital he tells other family members a completely different story. it was suggested he see a nurse twice a week, in addition to receiving physical therapy. earlier this week he told the homemaker upon arrival to his apt to leave bcuz he "gets meals on wheels twice a week."
at present he's being hospitalized thru the weekend. for that i'm greatly relieved. its not safe for him to be home alone & as my cousin lorraine aptly noted the burden of care shouldn't fall on my mother or tracey. he needs a colonoscopy, suffers irregular bowel movements, has acid reflux, inconsistent appetite, breathes heavy, hypertension, physical discomfort, arthritis & other ailments too numerous to document. i'm going home for a week to hopefully knock some sense into his stubborn skull. like many people with various health challenges, he is his worst enemy. i don't expect a medical miracle when i get home, but he is my father, i love him dearly & will try to make him smile. after all, laughter is god's universal pill.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.