Dad Chimes In

My dad – the infamous author Spider Robinson – would like to share a few thoughts about the noble task of caring for a loved one with cancer.  Having been on both sides of the equation I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments.  So here we go…

EU TE AMO, MEU GENRO! (a guest post by Spider Robinson)

I am grateful to my daughter for allowing me to hijack her splendid blog for a day.  I want to use it to propose a quick toast to The Unsung Hero, the overlooked warrior who is currently fighting one of the most difficult battles imaginable: one in which there isn’t a damn thing he can do, but keep smiling as if nothing were wrong.  I speak of course of Terri’s Heroic Hubby, Heron Gonçalves da Silva.  I happen to have walked a very long mile in his shoes, and I’m here to tell you all—since he can’t—how much his feet hurt, right now.  So much, it’s hard to remain standing.  And still, he keeps going.

There are two full-grown Graceful Warriors in the da Silva family, and only one of them is a woman.

When something attacks their loved ones, men are supposed to fight bravely, ferociously.  It doesn’t help at all that there is no enemy available to attack, here.  Heron’s wife is under deadly threat, and everything in his warrior heart yearns to hunt down whoever’s doing it, and kill the bastard, as many times as necessary.  And he can’t.  He is more helpless than if he had no arms or legs: he can’t even try to bite the enemy to death.  I remember very well the sense of total panic that can overwhelm you in those circumstances.  It’s the kind of dilemma that can send some completely round the bend; I don’t mind admitting that at times it very nearly finished me.  But Heron knows he can’t afford that kind of self-indulgence.  He just keeps on coping, quietly, steadily, every day, every hour.  I have watched him deal with Terri’s situation literally from day one, and I want to say I am seriously impressed, fiercely proud of my amazing son-in-law.

All the time Terri’s mother was battling cancer, well-meaning friends would always thoughtfully remind me to be sure and remember to take care of myself, too.  Unfortunately, none of them ever came up with a concrete suggestion as to exactly how I might do that.  Not their fault: there just aren’t many good suggestions for how to endure the unendurable.

But by accident, I stumbled across one thing that helped more than you might think: small self-indulgences.

I found it really helped to treat myself, in small ways, any chance I got.  Go a few extra bucks for the Haagen-Daaz, for a change.  Buy some of the CDs on your own amazon.com wishlist.  Spring for the really good coffee.  Get that hardcover book you’ve been jonesing for, instead of waiting for the paperback.  Little things like that.  You might be amazed how much such silly little things can affect your morale.  If you feel powerless, empower yourself.  My personal hero, Robert A. Heinlein, taught me, “Budget the luxuries first.”

So if you’re making up a care package for Terri—goodies, dollars, whatever—please consider throwing in a few good cigars for Heron, or a twenty dollar bill or two earmarked specifically for him, perhaps for purchase of cachaça, the magical ingredient of his favorite drink, the caiparinha.  And don’t forget to throw him a personal Attaboy, every once in a while.  What he’s doing is, although he’d probably deny it, at least as hard as undergoing chemotherapy….and the person who’s usually in charge of improving his morale is busy at the moment, letting him improve hers.

So let’s remember his courage and sacrifice, and throw him a respectful salute: he deserves it.

Hip, hip—Heron!  Hip, hip—Heron!  Hip, hip—Heron!

Obrigado, meu genro.  I am so glad my daughter chose you—and so was her mother.

–Spider