A Trimline Phone. April 24. And Cancer.

Posted April 24, 2018 by jimhigley

I was upstairs in the bedroom on sunny yet cool Sunday morning. My boys were downstairs watching television. We were the only three Higleys in the house.

April 24, 2005.

It’s a date I’ll never forget.

Not a date that rivals other important days in my life – including the days each of my three children were born. No.

April 24, 2005 fits more in the world of March 18, 1975. Or December 17, 1997. Or June 6, 2001.

The birth dates of my children brought joy and hope for the future.

The others – the dates my mother, father, and brother all died of cancer – represented nothing short of emptiness.

The phone rang around 10:30 a.m. and I almost let it go to our answering machine – the one with the newly recorded greeting made by one of the kids – down in the kitchen. But something told me to pick up the receiver of our tan AT&T Trimline phone. The one that was left in the house from prior owners. The one that still had the wrong phone number handwritten on the piece of paper under a tiny clear plastic plate that I could never figure out how to remove. The one that had a dirty 20 foot curly-que cord connecting the receiver to the handset.

“Hello?”

“Jim?”

“Yes.”

“Hi, It’s Dr. Bormes. I’m sorry to call you on a Sunday but I knew you’d want to hear this.”

I actually thought to myself – in that moment – that I still had a 50-50 chance of it being good news. 

“Your biopsy results came back on Friday and I’m just doing some paperwork….”

Still 50-50…

“I really wasn’t expecting this but it is cancer.”

I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation. And I don’t know if it lasted two minutes or ten. I do remember him saying that surgery was my only choice based on my age. I remember him telling me to call his nurse first thing on Monday.

And I remember him encouraging me…

“Don’t let this ruin your day.”

When I went to hang up the phone I realized that I had fully entangled my body in the dirty 20 foot curly-que telephone cord. Like a mummy trapped inside.

A somewhat appropriate image because that’s precisely how I felt. Trapped.

*

That was a bakers’ dozen years ago. I truthfully never expected to be writing a story about that 13 years later because I assumed I wouldn’t actually live for 13 years.

Why should I? Our family – as one doctor told me – was experts at drawing short straws.

I could write another book centered on all the life lessons I’ve learned since that day – but no one wants to read that. But I will say that one of the most important lessons I’ve gained though my cancer journey centers on that image I still l have of me with a gnarly telephone cord wrapped around and around my body.

Life is full of curveballs. They come in all sorts of ways. For me – that day – it was cancer. For others it’s other serious health issues – physical and mental. It’s abuse. It’s ruined relationships. It’s infertility. It’s lost jobs. It’s lost love. The list goes on. None of us are immune to being broken and if we say we are we’re not in touch with the world we live in.

Whatever those challenges are – they can make you feel like you’re smothered by the weight of the world, drowning in a sea of sorrow – or simply having your blood circulation pinched by your Trimline telephone chord.

Through all of these, however, there’s a path to fresh air. There’s a course to find peace.

And, unfortunately, many of those paths aren’t easy – few things of value are.

But there are paths.

For me – for the many times I’ve been caught in the proverbial telephone chords in my life – the redeeming place of value has been my three children. They are in a stratosphere all their own.

I hope you have an abundance of things in your life of value to help you weather your life curveballs.

*

13.

I don’t know why but I know it’s considered an unlucky number for many.

For me – and especially today – it’s the luckiest numbers of all.

 

 

  • Rich Christensen

    Great piece. I’ve been in a rut lately and that gave me a bit of rejuvenation of purpose. It also reminded me of my best friend. He also lost his mom at 14. His dad was distant and remarried soon after. I don’t think my friend ever had a chance to go through things, physical or mental, after that loss. I’ve always kept an eye out for him as I imagined his mother would have.

    • jimhigley

      You are a kind, loving man and your friend is lucky to have you. Hoping you find some wonderful things in your own life in the days ahead. They’re waiting for you to find them. Cheers.