This story is dedicated to all those who have been hurt or affected by cancer. You are always in our prayers.
Keeping Things Whole
By Helen F. Keleher
* * *
What’s the worst present you’ve ever gotten? It’s a simple question. Everyone’s received at least one shitty gift in their life. Of course, there are different ranges of crappiness, from “well, this sucks but thanks for the thought” to some completely unbelievable crap. Usually, though, I’d say that they’re not all that bad. At least in almost every case except for mine. Up until the day I nearly aced the SAT exam, the worst gift I ever received was a disgusting fruitcake from my aunt when I was eleven. That was upstaged, however, by the surgeon’s little bombshell on as she stood beside my hospital bed. It came in the form of this absolutely verbatim statement:
“Shiloh, you have a possibly terminal brain tumor.”
Damn, way to break it to me easy! I mean, shit, that kind of news really ruins your day, doesn’t it? Dad wouldn’t even get off his cell phone, and the doctor had to repeat it, like, four times for it to sink in and make him shut that goddamn Blackberry off. Honestly, what was going through his head? Excuse me, doctor, I have this deposition to work on and—what? My son has a progressively fatal neurological disease that can potentially kill him in the next year? Let me finish this call, then we’ll talk.
I mean, I’m surprised he didn’t throw his hands up and sing ‘hallelujah’; with me dead he’d never have to bail me out of jail again. Don’t get me wrong, none of it was that bad. I was caught tagging a wall last month, so sue me. Well, they almost did, I guess. And of course there was the time I got drunk and took Ethan, Alex and their girlfriends on a joyride in dad’s BMW. That pissed him off. A lot. But nobody died!
Being the son of San Francisco’s head district attorney has its perks, of course, but it has its drawbacks too. I’m able to get out of trouble a lot easier this way, but I’ve got to admit that there are a lot more negatives than positives. It sucks for him, too, though. After all, his only kid’s a screw-up who’s probably going to die from a possibly terminal disease in less than twelve months. Dr. Owens said it was called anaplastic ependymoma; it’s some kind of cancerous brain tumor that grows in your head. First of all, I don’t even know how in the hell you pronounce that. She said something about it being extremely rare that kids my age get it, though what purpose this statement serves, I have no clue. Should I be proud or something? Walk up to my friends and say, “hey, you say you won the track meet? Well guess what? I have a growing tumor on my brain that hardly anyone ever gets and it’ll kill me in less than a year.”
The only reason Dad took me to the emergency room in the first place was because of the seizure I endured four days ago. I had been complaining about having huge headaches and weird muscle twitches for the past two weeks, but I guess that wasn’t serious enough for him. He said, “you probably just drank too much at your last party” in that disgusted voice he saves for the criminals he prosecutes and yours truly. And really, I don’t drink that much.
…The BMW incident was an exception.
But last time I checked, a few glasses of Budweiser isn’t the cause of a full-blown seizure. Dad wasn’t even home for half of it, and I don’t remember much; there was this bizarre haze that settled itself on the room, then disappeared almost as quickly—I think people call this the “aura”. I remember not being able to talk or make any noise, and then my fingers and toes started fidgeting, and then bam—it started. I think my eyes rolled back and then everything just… went out of control. It scared the shit out of me. It’s not like I’m used to this; I never had seizures as a kid. That’s when Dad came in, just a few seconds before I passed out.