Waiting For The Phone To Ring

It has been one week since the nurse from the dematologist’s office called to tell me the results of my mole biopsy.


When I washed the dishes this morning, I kept looking at the telephone. The results of my excisional biopsy are sitting on someones desk – or the slides  are in a microscope now, and someone is looking at a slice of my skin. The truth of the cells in my skin exists, I just haven’t been told yet. The phone is silent.

The last time I saw my father alive. He was laying on his back in his bed in the hospital. His closed eyelids facing the ceiling. He was surrounded by the sound of the morphine beeping into his blood and the rattling sound of his breath. His body was shutting down. The warehouse of organs were closing the store. His body was going out of business. The nurse said he could probably still hear, as hearing is one of the last senses to go.
” I love you daddy”, I said.

I kissed him on the forehead and walked out of his room to go home and wait. The nurse said she would call if I needed to come back to the hospital. I went to bed to dream.  The phone rang in the darkness.

“Hello ” I said.

“Please come back to the hospital,”

“Is he dead?” I asked.

“Please, just come back.  We will tell you when you get here.”

The nurse wouldn’t tell me on the phone if my dad had died.  Until the nurse told me he had died, or until I saw him dead, my dad was alive.

My brother drove to the hospital. I looked out the windows at the praire fields covered in snow, the dark houses. People asleep, not aware of the sorrow driving past their homes. I remember taking off my gloves and looking at my hands. They felt warm.   I wanted to remember that specific moment sitting in the car. The moment where I could have my dad alive for just a few more minutes.

Dad’s room was  quiet. The silence felt like a physical force. His belongings were in a plastic hospital bag on the window ledge. The cord from the morphine machine was unplugged and wrapped around the base. I looked at his chest, to see if it was moving. It was still. He was silent.  His hands were by his side, and the sheet was pulled up just under his chin. Someone had run a comb though his hair, and combed it straight back. The fresh tracks from the comb made little rows from the front of his forehead to the back of his head. His eyes were closed. His mouth was open. There was dried blood on his tongue and on the roof of his mouth.

I walked to the side of his bed and said,

“Hi Daddy. I love you.”

He looked like my dad. I bend down and kissed him on his forehead. His skin was cold. It felt loose, like it had separated from him, and was now just laying next to his skull. I felt like I was kissing a stone.  My dad didn’t live there anymore.

I asked if I could have a few minutes alone with him. The nurse and my brother went and stood in the hallway. I took a  pair of scissors out of my pocket and cut off a  piece of his hair from the back of his head. I put the hair in my pocket and walked out.

Until the phone rings today and the nurse tells me the results of the latest biopsy, I don’t have cancer.  I will believe that all the cancer was cut out in the surgery. I will believe that I have good margins. If I don’t know about it, it doesn’t exist. I will look at the hands of my children, and I will remember this day.


18 responses to “Waiting For The Phone To Ring

  1. cheryl aguirre

    Pamela please know that I am praying for you and your family…I still remember the very first time I met you at De La Veaga park, my kids still have the little wagon you gave my little Samuel. May you find all the strength you need during this difficult time in Jesus who is the only source of true strength, comfort and peace.

  2. Your connection between your current situation and that of your dad is very powerful. I love how you revisited the hands allowing yourself to believe what you choose to believe. Good luck with your phone call.

  3. You touch me deeply with your words and the story you tell. It is difficult waiting for news. I pray that the nurse will call, and the news will be what you want to hear. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  4. Pamela,

    As with your photography, you are gifted with your words. You should write more. You touched me, you can touch many people.

    I will pray for your results to be good and for your peace.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. This was…wow. It made me think of my grandfather’s death, missing his last moments in the time between the phone call and running into the nursing home. This is such…muscular writing. Muscle and bone. Brave, open, highly moving. Wow.

    Cheering for you, and praying.

    • Thank you Paul for your comments. I am encouraged by them. Have you ever written a poem about missing your grandfathers last moments? You were running. He must have been well loved.

  6. Beautiful, moving piece. Full of voice and strength. I will remember you in my prayers.

  7. Your words and memories brought tears to my eyes. What beautiful descriptions. It was like I could clearly see everything you were seeing. I love that you cut some of his hair to keep. I did the same after Aidan died. It was like if I had the locks of hair a part of him would physically stay with me.

  8. Wow. What a powerful story. Thank you for this gift, I know that it will stay with me. Your writing draws me in and I feel as if I am right there with you.

    • My experience with my own father’s death was so similar to yours. So very similar. Thank you for putting words to your thoughts and emotions. And I have waited on that same phone call you await now. My prayers are with you. I know you are in God’s care.

      • Thank you for your prayers. I am sorry for your loss of your father. Thank you for sharing that you waited for the same phone call.
        I trust God with my life. I was told on yesterday was all clear. Such relief.

  9. Francine Portelance

    Hello Pamela

    what a beautifully written text on your last moments with your father. I lost mine to alzheimer it seemed he had left his body long before he died. Anyway… your words moved me. Thank you for sharing this very personal and deep experience, few people talk about such moments.
    Hope the phone call brings you positive news, I am praying for you even though I am more of a free thinker and more influenced by the words of the Dalai Lama.
    If you have cancer do not give up, I remember you as my graceful neighbour in Calgary, curious, and adventurous. Not afraid to live. You are an inspiration to me.

    With love

    • Thank you Francine for your kind comments. I am sorry for the loss of your father.

    • Thank you Francine for your kind words. I am sorry your father died. And sad that he left before his body. The doctor gave me good news that the cancer is gone. Thank you for your prayers. Oh Francine, you were a wonderful neighbour, so creative and kind. I miss your smile. Sending love and hugs to you in Canada.

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