Banff
My parents are going to consult a mystic about my aunt’s stomach cancer.  Aunt Lila* is in post-op recovery after having a section of her stomach removed.  The next stage of her treatment is to undergo a rigorous chemo session.  Even knowing this, that she has a fighting chance post-chemo, Aunt Lila continues to weigh the pros and cons of it, to the consternation of her daughter and the rest of the family.  This hesitation gives us all pause.

My parents are going to visit Aunt Lila in March.  I think they’d like to bring her hope.  I can understand the need to have good news to bring to her, if any news at all.  Every ounce of hope they can filter into the space where a third of her stomach used to be, whether she swallows it or not.  And although they don’t say it, I think they’d like to sneak some for themselves.

They say thousands of people journey from afar to see the Mystic and that hundreds gather around his temple on the weekends, praying and chanting in his general vicinity.  They say that these hundreds - comprised of people of all races, creeds, kinds - are drawn to him, flies to honey and that he offers answers and predictions around the future.  But what they are really saying is that he gives them some semblance of hope and tranquility when everything seems to be falling to pieces.

The skeptic in me is mildly alarmed at the five hour drive they’ll have to make to see the mystic.  The skeptic in me is also doubtful that it will do any good and refuses to ask more about it, uninterested in the details, as though to discourage their seemingly misplaced need for appeasement from someone who they don’t know, who doesn’t know my aunt, who has no medical training or background.  I have to bite my tongue to keep from goading them.  Oh yeah, well why don’t you consult her horoscope as well?!  They most likely think I’m angry, which they would be right about.  But angry at the cancer and not at the Mystic and also not at my parents.  So I keep quiet.

I realize, as real or unreal as it all is and will be, it’s the motions that we all go through, to know that we have done everything in our power to ensure the well-being of those that we love.  It is not my place to decide whether or not making this pilgrimage is a waste of time and or a productive use of energy and effort (and a weekend).  Perhaps it’s not so much that my parents will be told good news or bad but that whatever they’re told won’t come true.  And that they’ll lose faith in their decision-making ability and the tenacity that has gotten them so far as immigrants from a foreign country who arrived stumbling through a non-native language and unfamiliar culture and landscape.  I am afraid that they’ll lose hope.

But they won’t.  It could be that they’ve never bought into any of this to begin with and honestly, I can’t tell.  There will be other things in life that will disappoint them and there are things that will leave them pleasantly pleased and surprised.  As they grow older, I feel the need to protect them and shield them from life’s disappointments, when not long ago it used to be the other way around.

And regardless of what divination they actually receive, they’ll tell my aunt it was good.  And I hope she’ll hope.


*None of these are real names