'Not From Here,' stories by Nathan Deuel

Into the sea

We all find our own place.

We awoke at dawn — the whole family — and met at the beach. My uncle Jeff carried my dad’s ashes, and I had a pair of shears. Everyone else carried cut flowers, and we waded into the cool waters off St. Augustine.

The sun was only just breaking, and shades of red sat low on the horizon. Leaving the others behind, Jeff and I pushed deeper, the water up to our chests.

We gave each other a nod. I cut the sack, Jeff submerged the bag, and my dad swirled into the Atlantic Ocean.¬† I grabbed Jeff’s shoulder and pulled him back. A few paces behind, my mom called out. We all held hands.

Three gulls streaked low over the horizon. The sun burned higher in the morning sky, and we stood in the sea. Waves rolled in and the flowers we’d thrown sank into the deep.

Bye, dad.

At last, you — and all of us — have maybe come closer to being¬† free of all this.

Filed under: Cancer, Death, ,

Sweet grief

Tribeca 2008

I'd like to be a part of it. (Image by jenschapter3 via Flickr)

Last night, I encountered old friends who didn’t know and — recounting the story of my dad’s recent death — turned an otherwise lovely gathering into my own personal weep-fest. I managed to get out the door before it got really messy, but en route home, I found myself walking down the middle of a Tribeca street, sobbing, attempting to eat a cupcake. Crying while eating: It’s so right now!

* With thanks to Penelope Cray for the new title.

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Filed under: Cancer, Death, Family

A strange fellowship: Veterans of the cancer ward

Washington Monument, Washington D.C., United S...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in our nation’s capital for a few days, reuniting with family, among them my Aunt Mary, with whom I shared many hard and final hours in the hospital with my dad. Seeing her again is like coming across a fellow soldier; we both have the same 1,000-yard stare, the same ease with tears, the same shaky need to talk.

This battle analogy is a bit much, I know. But I must admit: It is only in the last 24 hours or so that I have slowly gained the perspective to know how crazy I’ve been, how dark and short and unfocused and unhinged. To all the people I’ve been difficult for — especially my dear, patient, also-grieving wife — please accept my apologies. This is so damn hard. Who could possibly be good at this?

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Filed under: Cancer, Death, Family, , , ,

Thirteen days since my dad died

Miami Beach and Port of Miami Skyline

(Image by joiseyshowaa via Flickr.)

The Miami sun that’s been shining for two weeks has given way to rain. Friends and family have been mostly dispatched to airports. The house is quiet and slowly approaching clean and for the first time in days I’m not having beer for breakfast. It’s small, it’s tentative: A new, unfamiliar era is upon us, and I grant you that I am at once scared and ready and grateful and very tired. This is the way I live.

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Filed under: Cancer, Death, Family, , ,

Embedded at the Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic

The badge of honor. (Image via Wikipedia)

Your correspondent is no longer based in the Middle East. I am instead reporting from the ICU floor at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, where my dad is battling cancer.

This is my sixth day here and it’s been a constant state of siege. Basically, we’re battling to keep my dad stable enough in order to undergo the daily radiation that could prolong his life. Every hour, it seems, we confront a new and significant hurdle to that plan.

In our tiny room, my mom, sister, and I take shifts staying up all night, holding his hand, skipping meals, trying to cater to his every need. He can’t talk anymore, so we talk for him, charming the nurses into giving him his pain meds on time and to treat him like man, not meat. We listen carefully and take notes and ask tough questions, and when a doctor appears to discuss some new terror, we remain calm.

But it is impossible not to become emotional: A doctor reports that a scan of his brain is negative, and we soar. A surgeon tells us that replacing his trachea tube — an urgent operation — might kill him, and we slip into sobbing horror. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Cancer, Death, Health, Medicine, , , ,