I made a new friend in the waiting room at my CT on Tuesday. A cute little old bald guy with no teeth who talked and talked, and talked.
The first thing he told me was that he’d been diagnosed with cancer 2 days before. I told him I had it too, that it’s been almost 5 years. I was hoping to make him feel better but I don’t think it worked.
He told me he’d be 71 in three months. Then he told me he has already planned where he wants his ashes spread. I think he started to tell me they had told him he didn’t have long to live but he teared up and said “I won’t tell you that part”. That was the last thing he refused to say.
Other people were giving him looks. He was talking really loudly but I didn’t care. I understood why he was talking so much. Most of the time he had a kind of far away look in his eyes.
He needed someone to listen while he remembered his life.
He told me he grew up in rural Mississippi and that he’d played football on a really tough team right after they’d “integrated with the colored boys” and how much fun he had with them even though that wasn’t a popular opinion at that time.
When he was young he had an 11 toed cross-eyed cat who “was doomed from the beginning”. He had a tough old bird of a momma who didn’t put up with much from her 5 sons. He loved her very much.
He has a daughter who lives with her “lady friend”. They have given him 2 granddaughters who are the light of his life. He keeps pennies in his pocket just for them. The little one is blond and the older one is brunette.
He lost his son to drugs 2 years ago even though he’d tried over and over to warn him of the dangers. But before he died, his son had his own son so he hasn’t lost him completely.
I know that he left Mississippi when he was 18 and never went back except to visit his 109 yr old grandfather but somehow he didn’t lose his accent.
Mostly I know, and appreciate, that after hearing he has advanced prostate cancer he felt the need to review his life. I got the feeling he was talking to himself as much as to me. He was sitting by himself, he was a bit lost, he was a little lonely and more scared than he wanted me to know.
But I did know. I’ve been there.
He said it hasn’t been an easy life, then he changed the subject to his old labrador retriever, his boxing days and the time he’d been shot.
I was simply a sounding board as he looked back and reflected on the part of his story that has already been told. As he faces what is probably the final chapter of his life.
The techs were saying he was being difficult by not drinking his contrast. I know that in this new unknown scary world with cancer in it, he was trying to be in control, of anything, even if it was only the amount of oral contrast he drank.
He was feisty as hell but he knows he’s probably dying. It was my job, my honor, to listen to his stories. I lost my grandfather to prostate cancer when he was 68 – and I was 14. I miss his stories but Tuesday I got to listen to somebody else’s grandfather. I’m grateful that our paths crossed but I’m sad that his granddaughters will lose him too soon.
When my father is introduced to somebody he always says “glad to know you” instead of “nice to meet you”. I’ve always liked that. With him it’s always very genuine, it comes from the heart.
I don’t know if our paths will cross again but I’d just like to say, I’m very glad to know you Mr. Hardy.