October’s Leukemia

He stands on the front porch of our house in the October winds, punching our phone number into his phone, saying “I’m not sure when we’ll be back so if you’d pull in the mail, keep an eye on the house.”

Of course! Whatever we can do. When did you find out?

She called from New York this morning around 11. Said her headache was really bad and she was going into the hospital. Then a few hours later we got a call saying they told her she might have leukemia. She called at five and said they told her she did have leukemia and she’d be starting chemo tomorrow. So it all happened in about 6 hours. So we’re taking the first plane out.”

She is in her early twenties. Their only daughter.

He says, “I asked her how she felt and she said she felt fine. She had the headache, but she felt fine.” He shook his head. Stared off into the distance.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way for them. He’d been through his own bouts with cancer. Then came the unemployment. That’s still here. In advertising, you are an old man at 45. You hit 50 and you wonder if that’s it. His wife comes home from work while we’re talking. Trudging up her front steps, looks over at us standing on the porch next door. A light registers dimly in her eyes. She walks in her door without speaking.

I tell him that the only thing I know for sure is that every cancer story is different.

Every cancer story is different.

And in the early evening winds of October, I see dark houses, shattered dreams, the bewilderment of this isn’t how it was supposed to be.

I say a prayer for the smart young girl who grew up next door and all the promises she still could hold. Safe travels and strangers kindness to her lost parents making their way east on the first plane out tomorrow.

A lyric rises up. Born of how you just got to keep trying:

“But now there’s wrinkles round my baby’s eyes
And she cries herself to sleep at night
When I come home the house is dark
She says, baby did you make it alright?
For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels
Rumbling through this promised land
Tonight my baby and me are gonna ride to the sea
And wash these sins off our hands.”

4 Responses to “October’s Leukemia”

  1. Paul Haider Says:

    Roger, this is beautiful. As you know, “Racing in the Street” will always be my favorite song of all time right after “Thunder Road.” This live version of “Racing in the Street,” performed with Jackson Browne as a duet, is from the Vote for Change concert in New Jersey in October of 2004. Although Bush was barely re-elected the following month, Bruce made damn sure that W didn’t win his homestate of New Jersey! Every cancer story is different. Danny Federici, the man who plays the Hammond B-3 organ in this video clip, died from melanoma skin cancer in April of 2008. We will keep on standing up to cancer.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

  2. Tom Simeone Says:

    “You hit 50 and you wonder if that’s it.” Arguably, in all the sadness of this story, one of the saddest statements of all. I hope that, ultimately, this becomes a story of medical triumph and this young lady has many fruitful and happy, life-filled years ahead of her.

    Yet, while medicine strives to lengthen our lives, it seems that business and other parts of society are trying to decide which of us should be discarded. One of our basic motiavtions is to have some significance in our lives, a way to contribute… Where is that significance if, at 50, you think that no employer feels that you can still make a contribution?

  3. Ted Schneider Says:

    We were driving last weekend in Missouri going to my son’s baseball game and as I was looking for the exit a car suddenly pulled out in front of us from the next lane that was stopped. Somehow I swerved and avoided hitting him or causing a chain reaction to avoid him. Later it made me think of all the conversations I had with people in the last few weeks – things seemingly changed in a instant for them and things were not the same afterwards. One friend was happily employed, doing well at work and suddenly he was called into an office and let go. Another conversation was about a healthy person’s relative suddenly coming down with cancer. Several months ago a family we know lost their son in Afghanistan, one moment he was alive and then there was an accident of some kind at a ammunition dump and he was gone in an instant. Another example was something as simple as the weather, last Saturday it was a sunny, beautiful day that seemed would never end but on Sunday, when the baseball games were scheduled it was 20 degrees cooler, cloudy and it rained. I could go on but you get the point, things appear to be going along on cruise control and then suddenly change in an instant. Some things are minor and don’t have a large impact while others are significant and can change us and our lives forever. Can you prepare for these sudden changes? Probably not. At best you can be aware that things sometimes can really change quickly so you need to remain flexible, positive and look forward to getting back to whatever normal is for you. Enjoy what you have when you have it and be thankful. One a separate but related note, I am a huge Bruce fan – Racing in the Streets is one of his better ballads.


  4. Dale Says:

    A most unwelcome dose of reality. Last wekend, our niece and nephew in law visited with their three year old. His innocence, intelligence, and happy disposition all reminded me of our own kids’ young years.

    And then something like this happens. I know that there are hundreds of thousands if not millions more other families like this. My heart goes out to them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: