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Entry date: 7-6-2022 - The Trees part 3 - Things I made up

It wasn’t as bad as he thought.

As he and Jan walked along the canal, Dan laid out what Dr. Rasmussen had shared with him. Jan was quiet for a long time. A single tear was perched outside her tear duct, ready to fall at any time, but it held on for the quarter mile it took Dan to get through what he had to say.

They stopped when they got to 32nd Street and looked at each other like they had done many times before. Usually this is where they would decide whether to cross the busy Phoenix street and head into the land of the rich and famous or turn back and make the loop between 32nd and 40th Street.

Today was different.

Today they couldn’t hear the cars rushing by or the footsteps of the joggers passing them. Jan looked into his eyes and the tear fell. Seeing this made Dan’s own tear ducts kick into overdrive as well. They stood there, crying, looking into each other’s eyes, saying the first of many goodbyes.

When they got home, they decided to call Cole and Annie into the den to talk about the news. With J.R. down in Tucson at University of Arizona, they decided to drive down over the weekend and let him know in person. There was little chance of him reaching out to anyone before that as he was busy with work and school.

Dan sat in his favorite place. The brown corduroy lazy boy had seen better days, but it was still comfortable, and everybody knew it was “Dad’s chair.” It was adjacent to the L shaped couch so that everyone could watch a movie together, play Scrabble or Monopoly, or have one of the many family meetings the Lewis family tended to have.

As Jan went to collect the kids, Dan thought about how to start the conversation. While they were walking, he just blurted it out.

“Rasmussen says I have a large mass in my pancreas and my options are very limited.”

From that point, he had just talked and talked and gotten everything he had been thinking about for the previous hour or so off his chest. This was not the way to go with the kids. He knew he would have to be gentle, but not give any false hope. He knew that was a bridge they would have to cross on their own all too well.

He fumbled in his pocket for his iPhone and pulled up his browser to look up how to tell you kids you were dying.

He saw a ton of results and started scanning the first few things that popped up. It was overwhelming and Dan instantly wished he would not have looked at this. There was no way he would remember all the things on these lists. One article from an Irish website caught his eye, though, and he scanned it quickly.

It said to give out the information gradually and do this in a comfortable place. Dan was glad he had gotten one thing right. They were definitely in a comfortable place. There had been many celebrations in this room.

Some of the celebrations were immortalized and on the walls around him. Jan was something of a photographer and their home was a showcase for her pictures. Most of these were of family and shots from various vacations. Dan often lamented that Jan was not in many of the photographs because she was the one behind the camera, and it really sunk in today.

He wanted to see her face, as much as possible, and preferably with the kids there and smiling, too.

Dan looked at one of the pictures on the mantle above their fireplace. It was of himself and the kids at their cabin in Strawberry. Next to it was a picture of he and Jan that J.R. had taken when he was about 14. She was laughing at him because he had just said something really dumb.

J.R. always told his friends that he took the picture. He would say something like, “This is my parents in their natural environment. He’s an idiot but she’s entertained.”

Jan did often say that she was entertained by him, but now she was gathering their kids to tell them the worst news they could share.

Dan had tried to go the gentle route the Irish writer had shared. He started off by saying that he had just come from an appointment with Dr. Rasmussen and that the news was “not very good.”

Both Jan and Dan had expected Cole to say something sarcastic like, “When’s the funeral?” but he didn’t. It would have been just like Cole, though. Sarcasm was his sword and shield lately. He was a senior in high school and the only one of the kids remotely interested in what his dad did for a living.

Cole talked about taking a gap year and working on the phones to learn the business all the time, but that was not what his parents wanted. He was a natural and would be great, Dan thought, but he also wanted Cole to have the college experience he never got to have. Watching J.R. bloom from a distance was one of Dan’s favorite things.

Cole was silent now, though, and it was Annie who broke the ice.

She asked what was wrong. Dan said that he had pancreatic cancer and he would probably not have as much time with them as he would have liked. Dan was always as precise as he could be with his language, so hearing the word “probably” from their Dad’s mouth did not sit well with the kids.

There were tears. Lots of tears. Anger, too. Cole continued to be quiet. He got up abruptly and left the living room. When Dan got up to follow him, Jan touched his arm and quietly asked him to sit back down. Jan always knew when to give the kids some space.

Annie sobbed and shook her head from side to side as if to say, “No, that can’t be true.”

Dan stood up and moved over to the couch and sat between his wife and daughter and put his arms around them both. All their stories on the walls around him. All the stories he got to be in before…

See you tomorrow.

I did not take this picture. I stole it from the etherworld. I'm sorry.

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