The Class

This is a continuation of my last post, The Club.

* * *

I didn’t take much. Everything fit into a small backpack, even the laptop which I carefully got out and placed inside the gray plastic tub. As I watched it glide away, I was overtaken with déjà vu. It was just like the last time.

Well, not really, I suppose. The last time I was a bachelor. That day I was the married father of four. The last time I was unemployed. That day I was a small business principal. The last time I was flying back to a home I had abandoned right after college. That day I was leaving the same home I had eventually reclaimed. The last time it was right after Halloween. That day was the Fourth of July. The last time I was lost as a bat and searching for answers. That day I knew exactly where I was, but not because I had found those answers. I just better understood where to look for them.

The last time I was going to see my dad. That day I was going to see my sister.

Maybe it wasn’t exactly alike. But it sure felt the same. Bits and pieces of 2002 flowed through me. I closed my eyes and walked through the ICU, then into his room again for the first time. So that’s what it looks like I thought with equal amounts of fear and awe. It was dehumanizing. Which made sense to me, though I’m not sure why. Except, I guess, because what was happening to Dad was what sets our spirit free. And our spirit isn’t human.

“Sir. SIR. You can come through now, please.”

For once, the metal detector didn’t go off, but my mind was going off like never before. On a reflective and psychological journey to the past. I brought it back to the present in part by assuring myself that it was okay. To think about it, that is. After all, these occurrences are rare. Shit. They’re more than rare. They’re watershed moments, and it only makes sense that each successive one evokes feelings from those prior. To move forward, sometimes you gotta look back. If for no other reason than to get an idea of what lies ahead.

The flight to Dallas was a short one. Especially compared to the layover. Mom dozed in a leather chair across from me and I tried to do the same, but couldn’t. I kept thinking about our club and the common experiences thereof — the ones which had molded us into such different people. Yet each of us would attest that we are who we are because of those common experiences. That’s always been difficult for me to reconcile. But I think I’m starting to figure it out.

Gone was the odd but beautiful childhood we had spent in the ivy-covered stone house, unable to be seen except with the mind’s eye which sees only what you want it to see. Unless you train it to see everything, which is a lot of hard work. But even then you can never be sure. Still, the footprint remains. I know because I saw it with my real eyes just an hour and a half earlier. When it stubbornly rose above the blanket of darkness to vividly remind me of everything and nothing all at once. Maybe that’s why I didn’t see Mom when she had first come out. I was too busy looking at it. And in turn, us.

We’re grownups now. I was always the baby, and at forty, even I am creeping toward middle age, if not firmly occupying it altogether. Which means the other four are there, too. But none of us are old. Enough.

To die.

Holliday grew up the fastest. She lost her mom to cancer when she was just a toddler. Then, at age twenty, my sister was diagnosed with a leiomyosarcoma near her thyroid. She was treated off and on for the next five years. It was during that era when I became defiant. I blew off authority figures, grew my hair out, stayed up late, and chased girls. It was during that same era when Holliday became compliant. She listened carefully to authority figures, watched her hair fall out, went to bed early, and chased life.

And she caught it.

Naturally, I was proud of her. She had beaten it. But I had no idea just how incredible her accomplishment was. Her odds hadn’t been good. But she was just glad to have had them, no matter how slim they were. Me? I was arrogantly be-bopping around like the Head Motherfucker In Charge, living to the very fullest a life I arrogantly assumed was mine to craft however I saw fit. So while, on the one hand, her victory thoroughly impressed me, on another it was nothing more than pearls before swine.

My sister, I’m certain, could teach the class we all eventually take. The one in which we learn about our mortality. She’d taken it twice by age twenty. Once as a toddler who was less aware but very affected, and once as a young woman who was incredibly scared but bravely determined. Though she passed both times with flying colors, she would be forced to enroll yet again. Unbelievably, Holliday went on to be diagnosed with melanoma.

Wouldn’t you know it? She kicked its ass, too. So when she found out last year that her nemesis had returned for a third time, it simply didn’t seem fair. But Holliday never concerned herself with getting a fair shake. She knew, for whatever reason, such was not her fate. Instead, she concerned herself with life. And all she knew was she’d be required to fight for hers once again.

Holliday and I don’t chat on the phone very often, but each time we do, I wonder why we don’t speak more. During one such conversation, she was explaining to me just what a beast this latest brand of cancer was. Her toughest foe yet. I reminded her that she was undefeated, and told her I had all the confidence in the world that she would prevail. And I meant it.

Was it her grownup brother talking? Or the arrogant, rebellious, and defiant teen? Tough to say, but whoever it was, he meant well. And he spoke out of love.

Back in my white-collar days, I traveled just about everywhere, but I never made it to Houston. It wasn’t as hot as I had expected. Probably because they had received epic amounts of rainfall the entire two days prior to my arrival. The vegetation was lush and green. Filled with life. It taunted me through the window of the shuttle which transported my mom and me to the hospital.

The glass doors opened automatically as Mom and I approached, and the next instant, I entered MD Anderson for the first time, something Holliday had done nearly thirty years prior. It was there where she had waged her first successful battle.

MD Anderson’s slogan is “MD Anderson Cancer Center. Making Cancer History.” Usually, I’m a sucker for a good double entendre, but that one seemed cruel. Because cancer, in many ways, is Holliday’s history.

Defeat it? Yes. Cross it out like it doesn’t exist?

You can’t.

I walked exaggeratedly slow so my mom could keep up as we made our way through the labyrinth of carpeted hallways. Though Mom’s the one with COPD, it was me who was short of breath — my brow moist with perspiration, my hands clammy with angst.

Once finally on the elevator, I pressed the button for the seventh floor and watched the doors close with a tear in my eye, a lump in my throat, and a hole in my heart. We were going up.

To see Holliday.

Only she wouldn’t be able to see us. Even though we planned on sitting right next to her. She’d be too busy with her class to even notice.

To be continued.

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • Nicki

    John – As I am sure you know, I get it but at the same time, I don’t get it. Just know I continue to pray for your whole family – including Holliday!

  • Nicki

    John – As I am sure you know, I get it but at the same time, I don’t get it. Just know I continue to pray for your whole family – including Holliday!

  • Melisa Wells

    Gah. Can you post the next part at lunchtime, please?

  • Melisa Wells

    Gah. Can you post the next part at lunchtime, please?

  • http://2chicklets4me.blogspot.com Suz

    What @Melissa said – your writing is beautiful & evocative, but please post the next installment!

  • http://2chicklets4me.blogspot.com Suz

    What @Melissa said – your writing is beautiful & evocative, but please post the next installment!

  • http://www.myspellingsucks.com Kevin(TheDADvocate)

    John,

    Your writing is beautiful. Thoughts and prays are still with you.

  • http://www.myspellingsucks.com Kevin(TheDADvocate)

    John,

    Your writing is beautiful. Thoughts and prays are still with you.

  • http://www.twinsforlife.blogspot.com HT

    Such beautiful writing, even though it is about such a heartwrenching topic!

  • http://www.twinsforlife.blogspot.com HT

    Such beautiful writing, even though it is about such a heartwrenching topic!

  • http://www.almightydad.com Keith Wilcox

    Hmmm. That’s sad. I guess we’re all sorta bound by our circumstances, but we are always free to decide how those circumstances affect us. That’s what I get out of it. Well done: waiting for the second half.

  • http://www.almightydad.com Keith Wilcox

    Hmmm. That’s sad. I guess we’re all sorta bound by our circumstances, but we are always free to decide how those circumstances affect us. That’s what I get out of it. Well done: waiting for the second half.

  • graham

    Once again…Thanks for this.

  • graham

    Once again…Thanks for this.

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

    Like I said before, if you need a friendly ear I am here. That is a rough road my friend.

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

    Like I said before, if you need a friendly ear I am here. That is a rough road my friend.

  • clay

    as u know — i can relate — but its all relative. this is your best work yet. cb

  • clay

    as u know — i can relate — but its all relative. this is your best work yet. cb

  • http://www.holymolytoledos.blogspot.com susy

    Absolutely LOVE your writing, but it’s so heart-breaking b/c it’s a true story. I’m praying for you, your mom, Holliday and the rest of your family. Huge Hugs, my buddy!

  • http://www.holymolytoledos.blogspot.com susy

    Absolutely LOVE your writing, but it’s so heart-breaking b/c it’s a true story. I’m praying for you, your mom, Holliday and the rest of your family. Huge Hugs, my buddy!

  • http://www.fabricmarketknoxville.com Laura Higdon

    I hope your writing has been a comfort to you during all this, because it is beautiful, and we are ALL blessed by it.

  • http://www.fabricmarketknoxville.com Laura Higdon

    I hope your writing has been a comfort to you during all this, because it is beautiful, and we are ALL blessed by it.

  • http://Youthinkyoucanblog.wordpress.com Angelia Sims

    I am humbled by your sister’s grace and humility, consider me a new student as my heart goes out to you all.

  • http://Youthinkyoucanblog.wordpress.com Angelia Sims

    I am humbled by your sister’s grace and humility, consider me a new student as my heart goes out to you all.

  • Patrick (yeah, that one)

    Not going to write a book here. I’ll do that elsewhere.

    As always, well written and touching. My thoughts and prayers are with your family, as always.

  • Patrick (yeah, that one)

    Not going to write a book here. I’ll do that elsewhere.

    As always, well written and touching. My thoughts and prayers are with your family, as always.

  • http://barbaramanatee.wordpress.com barbaramanatee

    As I read on and realized it was a sibling that this story tells of, it hit hard. I lost my oldest brother very suddenly earlier this year. I have not been able to put into words how I feel about it all. We didn’t see each other but every couple of years and we only spoke around holidays, etc…so his absence in some ways is not always felt…but yet it has left the biggest hole that can’t be filled.

    I am hoping and praying that Holliday’s record remains undefeated…anxiously awaiting to read more.

  • http://barbaramanatee.wordpress.com barbaramanatee

    As I read on and realized it was a sibling that this story tells of, it hit hard. I lost my oldest brother very suddenly earlier this year. I have not been able to put into words how I feel about it all. We didn’t see each other but every couple of years and we only spoke around holidays, etc…so his absence in some ways is not always felt…but yet it has left the biggest hole that can’t be filled.

    I am hoping and praying that Holliday’s record remains undefeated…anxiously awaiting to read more.

  • http://liayf.blogspot.com Seattledad

    Written with so much feeling John. I enjoyed reading this while at the same time not enjoying what it represented.

    Well done.

  • http://liayf.blogspot.com Seattledad

    Written with so much feeling John. I enjoyed reading this while at the same time not enjoying what it represented.

    Well done.

  • http://www.irrationaldad.com Irrational Dad

    Man, this is so positively sad. My thoughts are with you and yours. This is a really good tribute, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next post, even though I know it’s not a good thing.

  • http://www.irrationaldad.com Irrational Dad

    Man, this is so positively sad. My thoughts are with you and yours. This is a really good tribute, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next post, even though I know it’s not a good thing.

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