On the Nose

Remember a few weeks ago when I said that I had a knee-jerk reaction to moving to Houston? Well, the things I could not tell you are public now, and though I am making my peace with them, I am glad that I am released from keeping the secret. It’s time to process everything I’ve been feeling since my dad’s last trip to DC.

I spent every moment memorizing his face, whether he was aware of it or not. I spent every moment wondering what his new face would look like, and whether he would still look like my dad when his plastic surgery was finished. He’s not having anything fun like an eye lift to make him look 30. He’s got a tumor in his nose, and surgery is the best option… and not a small one. In fact, it may take several before it is all said and done. He will go in for the first surgery to take out the tumor, and then they will let that heal before they take a flap from his forehead and recreate a nose. The pictures I’ve seen of others who have had this same surgery look relatively similar once the surgery is done, but not THE SAME. And then this comment on his Facebook page made me crumple in agony when they said, “will you still be able to play the trumpet?” I hadn’t even thought of that.

Six weeks before my dad’s senior-year-of-high school All-State Band audition, he had to have an appendectomy. He spent the entirety of his recovery working on fingerings without even putting his horn to his lips… and ended up winning first chair, which means that his senior year of high school, he was literally the best trumpet player in the state of Texas for the 18-and-under crowd. He got 26 scholarships, from Julliard to Curtis to University of Florida, an invitation to tour Russia with the great Frederick Fennel. He’s kept up his chops, and is still one of the greatest players to ever pick up a horn, even though he knew he was going into the ministry by the time he got to college and never pursued a place in a symphony. When he was a sophomore in college, he was invited to give his senior recital, because as his then trumpet teacher said, “I have no more to teach you.” The thought of these surgeries ruining his embouchure is a gigantic loss if it happens, but I know for certain that if there’s a way, he’s got the will in spades. But that comment, tho…. Nothing like having the shit scared out of you this early in the morning.

Only time will tell as to whether he’ll be able to play, because I can’t imagine him “tooting his own horn” the day after surgery, but again, if there’s a way, he’ll find it.

The reason he came to DC in the first place was to see me before he was stuck in his house for months in recovery. We did some sightseeing, but mostly we just broke bread together and talked. While I was at work, he toured DC on his own, taking incredible pictures and finding out of the way gems in places like Rock Creek Park. He taught me how to use Air Drop on my iPhone, because even though I am a computer person, my dad knows more about Apple products than I’ve forgotten. As he sent his pictures to my phone, it was a metaphor for the brain dump I was trying to acquire, because I knew it would be a long time before we saw each other again. Letters and text messages can only go so far, and I imagine there will be a lot of video calling once he’s well enough to talk on the phone.

I have much less feeling about my dad’s face looking different than I thought I would; it’s more that I hope the surgeons get clean margins on the tumor before it has a chance to spread. However, I am trying hard not to look into the future, because there’s no way to prepare for it except worry, and that always does a fat lot of good. I’d just be sitting and stewing in my own misery, afraid of the unknown, when in reality I need to be trusting of the process and waiting until the doctors tell me I have something to worry about. No need to worry preemptively, as it will do nothing but make me miserable when in reality, there may not be anything to be miserable about. The best I can do is to move on with my own life, checking in as we go along.

My father’s Facebook post about the subject started out with take a long look at my face… I was already asleep when the notification came through, and the buzzing under my pillow woke me up, and that sentence has rung in my ears for hours… because when he was here, it was all I could do.

My sincere thoughts and prayers are with my family as I sit 1800 miles away, in a small and helpless place. I am glad that I have such good friends here that are willing to catch me when I falter, because I talk a big game in terms of not worrying… and the reality is that it is not ever-present, but comes in waves. He is one more person to add to my prayer list as it grows, sending light and peace and joy through the chord that runs between us. I wish I could do more than that, but at the same time, even if I was in Houston, there would be a limited amount I could actually do for him… he is in his oncologist’s hands, and not mine. I’m not a surgeon, and even if I was, I wouldn’t be allowed to work on my own father, anyway.

Again, I just have to trust in the process, trust in his doctors that they will always have his best interests at heart, and hope that things like possible infections are resolved quickly and easily. At times like this, prayer flows ceaselessly from me, but I also turn to writers like Atul Gawande, whose words of comfort in the world of medicine bring me comfort in the chasm between concern and hope.

It also leads me to thoughts of my own mortality, because at this point, both my grandfather and my father have had cancer in different areas of their bodies, this being my father’s second bout. But I am not being selfish about it- this is not about me, and never will be. But when someone you love is going through something traumatic, it reminds you just how precious life is and continues to be with enough gratitude for small things… like how one day, we will be together again, my father’s face regenerated like my precious Doctor.

It is here that I place my hope and fears in the hands of The Great Physician, hoping that His influence will extend to the doctors on the ground…………………………


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