During the hours that I sat in the waiting room for Oncology, I studied dream interpretation. I bought several books on the subject, and while the doctors radiated my mother, I read about symbolism. The waiting room was large, so large that I could sit alone and never worry that anyone would need to sit next to me. I always sat in the section away from the TV and close to the refreshment center. I kept to myself and spoke to no one. I just read until the nurse called me to go out and pull the car around for my mother.
One Thursday, a woman sat next to me, which forced me stop reading and acknowledge her. She smiled and pointed to my book. “Dream interpretation,” she said. “Sounds neat.”
“It can be,” I said.
We introduced ourselves and began a lengthy conversation on the symbolism of colors and numbers.
After talking for about ten minutes, she told me that she moved her father in with her family so she could take care of him, her husband, and her three kids. Bone cancer. Even now, I still wince at the thought of it. Not as bad as pancreatic, liver, or colon cancers but bad, very hard to treat, usually fatal. He was to the point where he had to wear a neck brace all the time. It was the first time that I was ever thankful for the type of cancer my mother had.
For the next week, she brought her father at the same time I brought my mother, and we talked about dreams and cancer. I feel a bit ashamed that I can’t remember her name, especially since I remember her dreams. They were normal dreams about every day sorts of things with the exception that she was always dragging a heavy black garbage bag. About the time he reached the point where he could no longer care for himself, her father began throwing all his trash down the ravine behind his house. The hillside was strewn with black garbage bags of trash, and this woman and her husband had to clean it all up before they could sell the house. She was angry and burdened, and those feelings made her feel guilty. After talking about it, she felt better and joked that I ought to charge her for my time.
Near the end of that week, her father’s white count was too low for him to receive more treatments. After that, I never saw her again, but one of the nurses, who overheard our conversations, commented to me that I was a sweet girl for talking to her. Her father’s prognosis was poor, and I had likely eased her guilt about the situation.
Of the meeting, my mother said, “God works in mysterious ways.”
I replied, “Of course He does. If He didn’t, we would all understand everything, and there would be no cancer.”
“You know I believe that everything happens for a reason,” she said.
“Yeah, well, why do you think you got cancer?”
She shrugged. “Maybe to bring you and your father closer together.”
“That’s fucked up,” I said, to which she snapped at me for cursing. “I think you got cancer because you grew up in a city before there was any regulation on what toxins industries to pump into the air, and you went to college in a town where the morning air was so filled with chemicals it was yellow.”
“And I didn’t wear sunscreen like I should,” she added. “Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes things just break.”
So I thought, Even God answers his children’s questions with, “Because.” It’s not an answer at all, so why bother asking?