Reprise: The clinic visit biopsy result was clear.
Warning: You may not like what I have to say.
The container I discovered had a September expiry date. The package at the gas station, also had a September expiration date; just a handful of days later.
The chew wasn’t old and I wasn’t angry. I was astonished and livid. I went directly to the den where the tv was blaring. Jeff was sleeping, so I startled him awake by shouting his name. “What! What?” he came awake, swiveling his head in a panic.
“Here’s what!” I slapped my evidence into Jeff’s hand. “The expiration date.” I clipped. Not completely awake, Jeff stared at me.
“Within a week of Speedway.” I continued. Jeff continued to look puzzled.
“I took it to Speedway, Jeff! It’s NOT old!”
Shaking his head from side to side, he rolled his eyes, and very rhetorically and quite dejectedly, asked, “Why’d ya have to do that?”
My reply was a throw-back, “Why’d you have to?”.
“Don’t do it again, Jeff,” I warned him. I didn’t specifically define which one he shouldn’t do – lie or chew. I assumed he knew it was both.
I have a weird sort of smile on my face as I look back at this one. My warnings were weightless, useless, and void of consequence. If he did it again, it wouldn’t result in any drastic action. I wouldn’t stop loving him. I’d never leave him. It happened. Again, and again. I’d be angry and he’d be sad. He’d be sorry. I’d be forgiving. That’s how it went. Every time.
The thing is… I can’t just leave it on that loving note. That’s not how the story ends for me.
It was a mission trip discussion that clued me in. I have no proof. I’m the only eye-witness. Everything I know, leads to an unpleasant theory.
One of the ladies I evening coffee’d with began a conversation about smoking that revolved around a male member of our team. I mentioned how I’d bugged Jeff to quit smoking way before I think he was really ready to. I shared that the next step for him, in order to avoid smelling like smoke, was a clandestine move to chewing tobacco.
I reiterated the mouth cancer biopsy story and how that’d turned out. Then, went on to share that he never did quit and that it became a sore spot between us. One of my friends asked, “Even after the doctor said it was benign? He didn’t quit?”
“Nope.” I said. “He just couldn’t do it.” I don’t think that he didn’t try. I think he truly did. It just took me a few years to recognize it for what it was; an unbreakable addiction.
Hours later, I thought about the word ‘benign,’ and the fact that I’d never heard it.
1. Jeff went to the desk, he said, “To ask a question.” I assumed it was about the wait.
2. He insisted on going without me. “You stay here.”
4. Body language: as far across the room as he could get from us, arms crossed, looking at his feet, lips pursed, seemingly annoyed.
5. The doctor, curtly reporting, “The results were clear.”
6. He never told us in what way, or which manner, they were ‘clear.’
6. Those few words used did not include: cancerous, non-cancerous nor benign.
7. The abrupt end to our meeting. One sentence, and we were dismissed.
8. I hear the attending’s voice in my head in a different tone, now. A warningly sarcastic parting shot. “Good luck to you, Sir.”
Two years after Jeff passed, on a bunk bed in Slidell, Louisiana, I put two and two together and came up woefully short. I no longer believe we dodged a bullet.
I wonder if Jeff told the clerk that he didn’t want the doctor to say it in front of me if he did have cancer. I wonder if he maybe said, “I don’t want my wife to know the results.” I wonder if he already knew the results before we even got there. I wonder about the doctor visits he went to with his father. I wonder if he confided in anyone. I wonder if it didn’t matter anyway; if he was already too ill for treatment, or if it was just too late.
If it wasn’t for 8 years of tobacco half-truths, little lies and bigger lies, I wouldn’t wonder.
Quote for the Week: (ps. yes, that’s a real onion. made a pot roast.)