A conversational quandry

My next-door neighbor is dying of brain cancer, and I do not know what to say.

Yes, really. He has been sick all summer, with this illness that seemed to come suddenly and horribly; first he just wasn’t going to work, and suddenly intensive chemo, emergency treatment. He is just six years older than I am.

He just returned today from a fancy hospital in Oregon, where he got some kind of invasive surgery, which caused a mild stroke but may otherwise have worked; I am getting conflicting reports. I haven’t seen him since and don’t know how he’s doing, but he wasn’t supposed to be home this early. When you’re recovering from chemo, that’s not a good sign.

I just don’t know what to say, at all. I am a shy person, as is he, and I keep myself to myself; we never visited much before, and I am not the type to go knock and say hello, though I could knock on our shared wall, I suppose — knock out a morse code of sympathy, apology for nights when I kept the tv up too loud. His family is here — some live across the driveway and are my landlords and source of information, some are simply visiting. My friend and former neighbor, sitting over port at my dining table last night, bewildered and talking about it all, suggested the only thing there is to say, which is “it’s good to see you.”

I desperately hope I get the chance to use this one perfect phrase, because it has never been truer.

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2 Responses to A conversational quandry

  1. jtglover says:

    That’s actually what I say too. Not invasive, not drippily sentimental. “Good to see you” conveys everything that needs being said to someone suffering like that who isn’t friend or family.

  2. anonymous says:

    ‘Hope you enjoyed your session, and wishing you a painless log-out experience and a rockin’ time wherever you go next, and perhaps we’ll see you somewhere around the universes again..’

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