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Cirque du Familie: Psst, Your Mother Has Cancer

I woke up this morning, like most mornings, around 10:30. I immediately realized that the carpet-cleaning people were here, so I grabbed my cell phone (yes, I seriously did this), called the home phone, told my dad I had allergies and didn't want to come out in my pj's, and asked if he could bring me some soup and ginger ale.

He actually did it.

That should have tipped me off that today was going to be one of the most abnormal of my life.

As he left the room, I asked where my mother was.

"At the doctor," he shrugged, and left.

Fast forward two hours.

I wander into my father's bedroom/office to ask a question and read an e-mail from my cousin. We have some idle chit-chat. I start to leave the room.

"By the way," he says, in a voice that usually means I'm going to get yelled at for leaving a beer can on the porch. "Your mother just came home. She has breast cancer."

And with that, he turns back to the computer.

I am rendered speechless. When I do find my voice, "What? Where is she?" I ask, a feeling of horror creeping over me. No one in my family has ever had cancer.

He waves his hand in the general direction of the other part of the house. "In her room, or downstairs, I think."

And that's that. No tears, no hugs, no discussion.

I find my mother sitting downstairs. She is reading a catalog. She glances up at me, makes a wry face, and goes back to the catalog. I walk over and give her a hug.

"I'm so sorry," I tell her.

"Well it's certainly a surprise," she answers, cool as a cucumber.

She offers no details and answers few questions. Finally, I ask if she would like me to contact my siblings.

"No, I don't think so. I think I'll send them an e-mail tomorrow."


An e-mail?

"Hi, it's Mom, just wanted to let you know I have breast cancer. Call when you can!"

Somehow, my already surreal world has become even stranger.

"I wouldn't have told you yet if you didn't live with us," she tells me. She calmly goes back to her catalog.

I shut myself in my room for an hour, trying to make sense of this. The cancer I understand. Their reactions, I just don't get.

When I emerge, my mother invites me to "a dumb movie" to "take our minds off things."

My father goes along to whatever romantic comedy Jennifer Aniston is playing herself in. Afterwards, we go shopping at Ulta, an expensive hair and body care store. We drive home, chat about the movie, and my mother makes supper.

I arrange to spend the next two nights with my boyfriend. Things here are just too normal for a day that should be really really weird.


Claudia Hunter is the Beachwood's pseudononymous family affairs correspondent. She welcomes your comments. She welcomes your comments.



* Home for the Holidays: The Preamble
* Home for the Holidays: Day 1
* Home for the Holidays: Day 2
* Home for the Holidays: Day 3
* Home for the Holidays: Day 4 (Christmas Eve)
* Home for the Holidays: Day 5 (Christmas)
* Home for the Holidays: Day 6
* Home for the Holidays: Day 7
* Home for the Holidays: Postscript
* Home for the Holidays: The Sequel


Posted on August 31, 2010

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SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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