Wednesday, November 02, 2005

All Things Change


"There are people out there working, trying to make a living. Do you think that they care whether or not an actor is typecast? I make a lot of dough...I never look at the left side of the menu where the prices are. Why would I care that I got the chance to play one of the greatest characters in the history of television? I always answer that very quickly with 'It's not cancer.'"

-Peter Falk, on typecasting and Columbo

I haven't been blogging for the most basic of reasons - either busy bouncing an infant on my knee, or too tired to put together cohesive thoughts, and fighting a desire to write about favorite movies, messy US politics, weird office interactions...anything but the impassibly wide gulf between what I know to do as a father and what will be required over the next, well, henceforth. And it's a substantial henceforth.


I have a healthy baby boy, my wife is intact and happy and in good health after the birth and my mother's Oncologist has thrown her out onto the street (I'll get into that later). And being thrown out of an Oncologist's clinic is tantamount to being thrown out of a leper colony, or being told "Listen, this place is hot and stuffy and full of riff-raff, why don't you just go home?" when that place is the Kingston Pen. Those three pieces of good news put everything else into perspective. Life in a broad term is good and that's worth writing about. None of it is cancer.


Mention cancer, think of cigars. I still smoke a cigar every year or so, which I don't think will kill me. I broke that particular rule on a brief vacation in Cuba, which was horribly, seductively easy to do. I wandered along the beach with a full-sized Cohiba accompanying my a second rum and coke (heavy on the rum and lime, light on the coke), feeling the blue cool water lap against my feet. It was 9:15am on a Wednesday and I could only see the day go uphill from there, but recognized that it was perhaps not a good habit to get into.

I didn't hand out cigars at my son's birth, primarily because so few people smoke them in the 21st century and I was too frazzed/tired/overwhelmed to worry about such things (any activity learned from re-runs of 'The Flintstones' is not a wise life-choice). But I desperately wanted a cigar for a few hours, smoky clothes and tar and everything. I lived for awhile close to a tobacconist with a walk-in humidor and an espresso machine, every so often I'd go in and say "I don't smoke, but could I buy a coffee and just sit in there and inhale for a few minutes?"


Here's to petty luxuries. Somebody had suggested that we have a small bottle of Champagne in the delivery room, Abby was indifferent and it did nothing for me...I didn't want a bottle of lukewarm champagne in a room filled with afterbirth, I wanted to leave the hospital with a healthy wife and a healthy baby and have a crisp cold bottle of Champagne in the privacy of my own home.

To be more specific: I wanted to leave the hospital with a healthy wife and healthy baby. And while the odds were in our favour, I wanted it over and looked back upon fondly at a safe distance.

Midway through the procedure (the birthing? the process? the labour?) I sort of changed my mind- the nursing staff and obstetrician were so efficient, professional and genuinely nice that I would have run out and bought them bottles of whatever they wanted. That said, they probably would have declined- this was at the end of the day a hospital and part of the objective was to have a safe birth and move to a room and go home as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible. But I paced the hallways fighting the impulse to offer them anything and everything I owned. Immediate gratitude. A sort of forced attrition, channeled into a focused, perfect wave perspective.

I wanted to fall to my knees and thank the staff because they were allowing my wife to give a safe childbirth, in the same way that I can't quite look my family doctor in the eye because of the attention and caring that he gave my father. Gratitude doesn't say it. He tried to save my father and did everything he could to make him comfortable in his last days. The delivery staff were about to do the opposite, they were going to hand over a new life. How do you say thank you in enough detail?

And on that topic, last week my mother's Oncologist told her "You're cured. You can go back to your family doctor." This means that the frequent check-ups worked and the Platinum chemotherapy worked and, years later, there's been no relapse. If 'cure' is too broad a term, I'll still take it given the alternatives. There's another side to this story - a good friend of mine is facing cancer in his own mother, and I know what he's going through, literally. His mother also sent a card and gift in honour of my baby and that's uncalled for and welcome. Can't let a little thing like cancer get in the way of decorum, so to this woman, thanks. Attention has been paid.


So stick to something small. I'll splurge a few bucks on a small Cohiba, swirl the sweet smell of rich tobacco around my mouth for a few minutes (before it turns acrid and overwhelming) on my back patio on a cool night. A belated cigar for Matthew, and celebratory for my mother. An acknowledgementof tabula rasa, a small one, propped clean and without dust in the corner.


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