A note from Heather: I feel very fortunate that my dear friend Megan has agreed to share her stories here on THS. [don't you love that really fun photo of us together? Megan uncovered it from the depths of 2001, and emailed it to me this week. MEMORIES....] If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written about Megan, you know that I think the world of her. I like her so much that I want to share her with you. When I asked her to be a part of THS, I knew I would love what she contributed to the site. I knew her stories would be high quality and full of honesty. I knew she would make us laugh and think and want more.
This is part one of Megan’s family narrative In the Midst of all the Emotions, Chaos and Commotions. It’s a powerful piece and we’ve broken it into three parts, which will each post this week. It is more than simply a story to make us laugh and think and want more. Megan opens her memories up for our taking as she shares about her father’s diagnosis and death, and her own understanding, growth, and life because of it all. I hope take time to let this story move your heart and poke your soul awake.
In the Midst of All the Emotions, Chaos and Commotions, Part 1
by Megan Orcholski
“You cannot imagine how time. . . can be. . .so still.
It hangs. It weighs. And yet there is so little of it.
It goes so slowly, and yet it is so scarce.
If I were writing this scene, it would last a full fifteen minutes.
I would lie here, and you would sit there.”
Wit by Margaret Edson
My Dad had been having headaches. One night as we turned onto West St., coming home from the bar, he said, “It’s probably brain tumors!” with his big goofy grin.
A few months later, on Aug. 9th, a Monday, Dad went to “get his cat scanned.” That night, we sat around our kitchen table.
A week later we knew:
It was in the middle of the middle of his brain.
It was the size of three golf balls.
It was malignant.
It was inoperable.
It would not respond to radiation.
And no one had ever seen this type of tumor in this part of the brain before.
He was immediately sent to Mayo Hospital, 3 hours from our home. “I finally won the lottery,” Dad would tell people, “Just the wrong one!”
Even though it was inoperable, they knew he would die if they didn’t. That’s one of the few things they did know. I wasn’t there, but I love imagining the scene where the doctors tell my mom and dad about doing the surgery:
“We’d give you the odds, but we’ve never seen this before, so we’ve never done this surgery before. You could die, you could be fine. You could be blind, you could be paralyzed, you could be a vegetable. We don’t know, we’re messing with your brain.”
Immediately a shunt was installed, a tube that pulls fluids off the brain and puts them in the stomach where the body can process them. And a date was set. I don’t know how to explain the details, the trips, the information, the preparation that took us from August to November. But I can tell you that after the diagnosis, my father never drove again, never rode a jet ski, never worked.
It’s weird what you remember, the memories that stick out. For instance, I didn’t have anyone to go with to my junior homecoming dance that fall. I wasn’t going to go, and two of my friends Carrie and Erica, made me drive to Madison and get an outfit. I remember that Dad came along. He couldn’t drive anymore, but he hadn’t had the big surgery yet. He rode in the passenger seat, and I drove, with the girls in the back. We picked out pleather pants and a pleather tube top, the one Britney Spears wore, but mine was neon blue. I vividly remember that drive, in my brown Chevy Oldsmobile Royal. That car was significant because it was my main means of transportation, and I was my sister’s main means of transportation.
Months later, after the surgery, after I had fallen in love, it was in that car that my younger sister accused me of being a slut. She had figured out that I had let my boyfriend touch my breasts.
I remember that accusation.
As a family, you are often each other’s targets of accusation.
And that’s ok.
When I did go to homecoming, I didn’t go out to eat with my friends, I went with my parents. We went to Damon’s where we were surrounded by tables of 8, all in formal dresses, staring at the odd family; me in pleather, the 3 of us eating shrimp and steak, all enjoying it like it might be the last time we got to eat out together.
You get really good at enjoying those moments, at knowing you should be conscious, fully aware, so that if it is the last, you will remember it. Even years later, after he died, that has stayed with me. Every time I hug my mother goodbye, I know it may be the last. Each time I visit my best friend Natalie, I take in her smell extra deep, just in case I never get to again.
To be continued…