Ben phoned me up today. It was nice to hear from him.
BR: Hey, how're ya doin'?
CS: How you been?
BR: Ehh. Y'know. Hey, can you come over and give me a hand today? I've got the kids, because my parents couldn't watch them. Plus I think they're trying to ween me back into fatherhood again.
CS: Sure, when?
BR: Umm, now?
CS: I'll be right over.
It was raining on the way over. I got to his house and knocked. Ben answered with their (I guess his) youngest, Ajax, now two, in his arms. Ben didn't look great, but he looked better than the last time I saw him.
BR: C'mon in. Thanks for coming.
CS: No problem. Anytime.
BR: Izzy! Craig is here!
Most kids don't really care much for me, but for some reason, even though I don't see them much, Ben's kids seem to like me a lot. I don't know what it is.
CS: Hey Ajax how are you?
Ajax didn't respond, and seemed a bit shy.
BR: He's tired. I'll put him down, if you wanna go find Izzy. I think she's in the basement.
CS: Sure thing.
As I headed through the house, which was much cleaner, I might add, I heard Ben getting some milk for Ajax's nap. I went to the basement, following the sound of some kids show, that sounded Slavik, probably one Agnes' mom brought from the Czech Republic. I was pretty happy to hear it, because they always have cool cartoons in that country.
CS: Hello? Izzy?
Nothing. My kids get hypnotized by the TV too. She wasn't in the TV room, so I looked around a little bit. She was in the other room with the plastic kid's kitchen set.
CS: Hi Izzy. How are you?
IR: Hi Craig.
She smiled. What a sweetheart.
CS: Well you're sure happy. What are you doing that's so nice, huh?
IR: Mama's teaching me to cook 'knedliky'.
It took me a second to process that.
CS: That is nice. Can I try one?
IR: Oh no. They're much too hot.
CS: When will they be ready?
IR: I don't know. Ask mama.
I didn't really want to ask this.
CS: Where's mama?
Ben came up behind me.
BR: Why did you ask her that?
Izzy didn't answer, and kept pretending to make the food, handing things to what I assume was her imaginary mother. Ben didn't see it, since I was in the doorway.
I heard Ajax screaming upstairs. Ben went to check on him.
CS: Need a hand Ben?
BR: No, I'll be right back.
Izzy brought me over some make-believe food.
IR: Here you go. Be sure to blow on it.
I did, and pretended to eat it and enjoyed it in an over the top way. She laughed.
IR: Craig. Is my daddy going to die?
What do I do? My immediate thought is to say no, just to ease her mind, but maybe she's too smart for that. If she asked me the same question about her mother a year ago, I'd have said no then too, and I'd have been wrong. But I can't exactly say yes either.
CS: Not for a long time, sweetie.
And she went back to pretending to work. I decided to leave her to it, and went upstairs to find Ben.
He was coming down from the second floor as I entered the living room.
BR: Ok, so what were you asking her down there?
CS: Well, I think she's got an imaginary friend. And I think it's Agnes. I asked her what she was doing and she said her mama was teaching her to cook something. So I asked her where mama is, but she didn't answer.
He looked at the floor and sat down on the couch.
BR: This isn't fair.
CS: What do you mean?
BR: Well, maybe you should sit down too.
CS: Uh, okay...
I sat in the chair beside the couch. The furnace kicked in during the silent moment before he spoke again.
BR: I have some bad news.
He was choking on the words. His face was grimaced and he was grinding his teeth a little bit. He breathed in and spit out the words in a remarkably normal way, considering what they were.
BR: I have stomach cancer... Really bad.