Friday, February 01, 2002

Wednesday was quite the layer cake of a day. We were negotiating and counter-negotiating to sell the house. I was waiting for the phone to ring with the latest counteroffer. The phone did ring, it was my father, saying "Hello, <Jonquil>." "Hi, Daddy, what do you know?" "Bad question."

Yesterday we signed papers accepting an offer on the house. Now it's time for inspections, loan approvals, and the like.

Today I'm waiting for the next phone call from my father, telling me what his surgeon says and when the surgery will be.

The story I posted Wednesday is actually a Zen teaching story about the Japanese master Sengai.

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

This is a story I read. Tonight, for once, I'm not going to do the research to verify that this is an authentic Chinese story, giving you links and cites. Just listen.

Long ago, when China was already a gracious and ancient civilization, a man had something to celebrate. Perhaps his son had passed the civil service examinations; perhaps his grandson had been born; perhaps something even more wonderful had happened. In any case, the man went to the local sage and scholar and asked him, as a great favor, to inscribe a blessing.

The sage thought. Perhaps he returned to his house; perhaps he just sat and thought where he was. He took out a lovely clean sheet of paper. And then he wrote "Father dies. Son dies. Grandson dies."

When the man saw the scroll, he said something courteous and indirect and respectful. It boiled down to "What are you, NUTS?"

And the sage explained. The worst thing that can happen is to see your child die before you. What the sage had wished for the man was that he should die before his son, and that his son in turn should die before his own children. In short, for the world to move in its natural order.

My father called me this afternoon. He's been diagnosed with colon cancer. He's 72. I'm 42. My daughter is 11. My son is 8. My father's mother died of colon cancer when I was 13 and my brother was 10.

Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.

Not much of a comfort, is it?

Nobody's dying yet. My father's only got the diagnosis. We don't know what the surgery will find, what treatments will be recommended, what the prognosis will be. My mother's mother had colon cancer 20 years ago and is still ticking along at 90-something. I may look at this note a year from now and say "What an overreaction!"

God, I hope so.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

I am sick and tired of waking up and wishing I hadn't.