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Editorial Comment

Phone Call to a Friend


(SNN) - Yesterday I made a phone call that I did not want to make. I was afraid to make, actually. Afraid I would screw it up.

I tried to talk myself out of it, in fact. But as a man of some conscience, that was not an option. The call was not about me, it was about the person I was calling. And it was important to him. And I dared not postpone it.

So I called him that morning and a relative answered and said he was temporarily unavailable. The person who took the call stepped away from him and explained she would call me back after some things had been taken care of that needed taking care of. She brought me up to date. She prepared me. She said she would be in touch in a half hour or so.

In the time between the initial call and the return, I thought about the person I was calling. I tried to remember details of the good times we had spent together long ago, but many of those memories had faded. I had moved from the city where we both lived almost 30 years earlier and I had not seen him more than once or twice in person since. We had talked on the phone a few times, kept in touch through the social media, exchanged funny emails and gossip every so often. He’d run through another wife or two in the interim and I honestly could not remember how many times he’d married and divorced.

Inevitably, I came back to the idea of what might have happened had I not left the city where each spring my friend and I and many others worked together for about six fun-filled weeks. We literally helped put on a show for charity. He acted. I wrote. We all laughed. Had I stayed, I am certain we would have remained in touch, stayed friends, seen each other more often, laughed again many times.  

It was more than an hour and a half later when the return call came.  The person I’d spoken with earlier handed the phone over to my friend.

My friend was in bed, she reminded me.

My friend was heavily drugged, he might be difficult to understand, she reminded me.

My friend is dying

He has terminal Pancreatic Cancer. He had just been sent home for the end game. His family had gathered.

Then he said “Hi, John” in a surprisingly strong voice. And it was my turn to talk.

So, what do you say to a dying man, Mr. Glib? I'm pretty good at carrying conversations, but frankly, death and dying is a lousy topic for chit-chat. It wasn’t like I was the bearer of tidings. He already knew he was dying. He knew I knew he was dying.  

He was weak, I could tell. I did not know how long he would have the energy to speak. Ordinary conversational topics like “How’s the weather?” sports, or gossip were not worth getting into. I doubt he cared about the deteriorating situation in Iraq, whether or not Hillary will run, or the Central American coffee rust crisis.

I asked him if he was getting enough of the good drugs. He said he was. We spoke of mutual friends and good times together ostensibly “working” for our charity shows but knowing full well we’d had entirely too much fun to think of it as sacrifice. His voice grew a little weaker and strained and at one point he had a violent coughing spell.  But trooper that he is, he fought it down, and continued.

Soon we reached the point when we had to say “Goodbye.” Not goodbye to the conversation at hand, but goodbye forever.

I didn’t know how to say it. I needn’t have worried. My friend did. He said it with words that do not pass easily between men who are not relatives or in love with each other. 

My friend said: “I love you.”

I said the same thing back to him. And I promised to call again soon which we both knew was probably an unnecessary promise. We said our goodbyes, I asked the woman who was taking his calls to call me if “anything happened.”  And then I hung up and it was over.

I fervently hope I said all the right things to my friend I’ll never see again, and probably never speak with again. I was careful not to try to delude him—he would see through that. As an actor he knew a false line immediately. A Paul Simon lyric occurred to me:

“No I would not give you false hope

On this strange and mournful day…”

I had feared making the call and now I felt better because my friend enjoyed it and the sound of his voice confirmed to me, someone who does not make friends easily, that I had chosen well in his case. 

I looked up the email I had gotten from him telling me that he had just been diagnosed with this fatal illness. In typical fashion, the subject line was “Not with a bang but a very loud Fart”  and the news that his doctor had promised him “two more years.” Then I checked the date on the email. It had been sent six weeks ago.

And then I went on with my day.

John "Cork" Corcoran. Visit Cork's websites here and here. Connect with: "John Pesky Corcoran" on Facebook and "@OldCootCork" on Twitter

More from John "Cork" Corcoran Jr.
DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.



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