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Remembering the Folly
by Maryann
February 21, 2010


“Good morning, Maryann. Are you ready?” It was Eunice on the phone, asking me if I were ready to go hiking. We were supposed to go to Lynn Valley in the morning. “I told you I can’t today. My family is coming over for dinner, remember?” She must have forgotten that I would be busy preparing the dinner.

  My sister and her husband arrived first as always and then, my brother, Henry’s couple and so on. By now, we kind of know who comes when. Despite the schedule, each one has his or her mind-set about “arrival time.”

While ladies were helping me to set the table, men were entertaining each other on the deck: chatting and giggling as they drank cold drinks.  After Henry’s graceful prayer, everyone enjoyed the feast and complimented my cooking.

 During the dinner, we talked about our work and children. I noticed Henry stayed silent.  He didn’t say a word except the prayer. He is not a talkative person; however, he always brings us a warm laughter through his wit.

 “Hey, what’s wrong with you?” My sister must have noticed him, too.

 “Oh, I’m little bit tired today, and actually, it’s been like this for a while,” he mumbled.

 “Maybe you are getting old like me,” my big brother teased. Henry nodded his head, frowning.

 Conversation went on about aging and its correlating diseases and preventions as they shared June’s (my sister) most delicious fresh blueberry pie.

 One by one, guest began to lament their gluttony.

 “Let’s walk down to Deer Lake, I can’t even sit down because I’m too full,” June moaned. Everyone was quite pleased at the suggestion except Henry.

 “Don’t worry. I’ll be downstairs watching TV,” he grinned as he gently pushed us to the door.

 “Come on, let’s go. Walking might boost your energy level,” I, as a novice hiker, insisted.   

“All right, Maryann, I’ll join with you guys,” he said with a wry smile and put his grayish sports jacket on and followed me. 

“I went to see my family doctor two days ago and did a whole bunch of blood work,” Henry sighed. During the walk, I could sense that he was deeply concerned about his health. So, I tried to comfort him and encouraged him to try a healthy diet.

Two weeks later, Joan, Henry’s wife, told us that they went to see the oncologist and were waiting for the result--her voice was very shaky and quavering.  We became worried about our brother, Henry.

A few days later, I received a phone call from Henry.

 “My doctor said I have cancer and it’s vicious.” He said it with a cold, sharp tone as if he were talking about his friend’s business and then, was silent for a few seconds.   Finally, he broke down, sobbing.

 As soon as I hung up the phone, I ran to his place and found him in his backyard, sitting at the lawn chair.  He tried to smile faintly and shook his head and started pouring out his anguish: “Can you believe this? My doctor told me that I only have a few months to live because the cancer has already spread all over my body. I can’t believe what the doctor said. How can that be possible?  I don’t feel anything except this little weakness. He just followed his medical books and ramble unreasonably. I think he is very cruel, talking that way about other person’s life.” He took a long and deep breath, struggling to control his painful emotion.

Henry was admitted to the cancer center near Vancouver General Hospital to receive chemotherapy. We all felt devastated, numb and frightened.  It was torturous to watch his figure change drastically.

On a bright early autumn day, I took Henry (in his wheel chair) outside from his hospital room so that he could enjoy the fresh air; he really appreciated the cool autumn breeze and started to talk about the family night, “the gathering at your place could be the last family dinner for me. If I had known that was my last one, I could have enjoyed it to the fullest by using my last drop of energy.”

As I drove away from the hospital, my mind was crowded with many thoughts, including that evening walk with Henry.  Since it was not so long ago, his body condition must have been the same as now (terribly weak), and thus he shouldn’t have walked at all. And I shouldn’t have insisted on him walking with us. I couldn’t imagine how he managed to drag his sickly body for more than an hour, walking.

Tears began flooding.

Walking is good. Healthy diet is good.  That conventional wisdom can be fairly beneficial to people when it’s applied properly; however, on the other hand, it can be awfully poisonous to some people when the timing is not right. 

The next morning, I confessed the folly to Henry and asked for forgiveness, although he put a reassuring hand on my shoulder, smiling. (846 words)