Things I Learned from R. B.

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4482)

Episode 26

I purchased an old-time gazebo for the front yard of my home on Bayshore Drive. I envisoned it as a place where time could slip away, as two or three friends perched in the gilded cage and talked about important matters of life.

After three treatments of chemotherapy, R. B. requested one of our private sessions—so I suggested we meet in that gazebo, to give us a different perspective, a surrounding of antiquity.

He sat before me with his yellow legal pad and pen in hand. His fingers seemed longer because they were free of flesh—suspended by bone.

He began the discussion by telling me that he had gone from 193 pounds before the cancer to his present weight of 118. I asked him about his chemo and he told me that the doctors were not certain how much shrinkage had occurred in the rectal tumor, but they would take X-rays next week, to gauge whether an operation could provide more Earthly time.

He was amazingly coherent and free of self-pity. Matter of fact, if I had met him the way he was that day in the gazebo, we probably would have been lifelong friends, bonded with mutual respect and devotion.

Everything went well until he brought up the subject of the meeting. He was worried about his bills.

Now, he had not expressed any such concern over the past two years, but all of a sudden, the spirit of a quite-dead father had tormented him from the grave, into fretting over credit rating and propriety.

I was incensed—not mad at R. B., but rather, angry at the human race, because for some reason, we launch out on our teen rebellion and then circle back as old people, defeated, to scrounge at the table of our parents.

Yet I saw a door.

For you see, I did not want to be there for R. B.’s last breath. I did not want to make the funeral arrangements for this man, who was so close, yet so far away.

I suggested that considering his condition, it might be time for him to go back to Rhode Island, to be closer to his family. As I heard myself explain the suggestion, I thought how rational it sounded—almost compassionate.

But R. B.’s reaction was quite different. He was astounded, hurt. He challenged me, asking why I didn’t understand that he had no relationship with his kin—the only family he had was right here and right now.

I was stunned but wanted to be careful. R. B. was a child of God. He deserved a dignified answer and an appropriate ending.

I paused, took a deep breath and replied, “I’m sorry. Of course, we want you to remain here. I just wanted to let you know that if you did feel the urge or the compulsion to return to your loved ones in Rhode Island, we would not be offended.”

His eyes, which had been filled with tears and rage, dried and softened.

We continued our talk. I soon realized that he had no intention of paying his bills. He just wanted me to know that he had a conscience for them. I suggested we take care of these responsibilities after he got on his feet, gained some weight and was on the way to healing.

We only talked about an hour-and-a-half, but he was exhausted. Matter of fact, I asked my son, Jasson, to walk with him to his car, to make sure he wouldn’t fall.

I sat alone in the gazebo as nightfall was creeping its way down our home-town street.

I didn’t know what I thought.

I didn’t know what I felt.

Fortunately for me, it was not an unusual sensation.

 

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