Can You Keep a Secret? : Memoirs Of An Illegal Alien Part 63

I remember where I was when the call came in. I was in the kitchen cooking my favorite quick meal; bully beef and white rice.

It was my mother. She was a bit reserved. She was solemn. She was not her cheerful self. At first I wondered if she had spoken to Rosa. We had an argument recently but nothing serious. These disagreements were becoming a little frequent since I started the club and as we got closer to a wedding.

If this is what upset my mother I would be upset, because I asked Rosa not to talk to my family about any problems we were having.   It was not about Rosa. My mother mentioned she had not spoken to her in 2 weeks. Then it came.

I have some news to tell you” she said in a soft voice, “Are you sitting down? Is Sue there?”

“Sue is not here”, I replied. I was still standing in the kitchen.

The first thing that came to my mind was she was leaving my father. I learned from Sue that my other sister Kerri, who still lived with my parents, told her our father was cheating on our mother. She did not know about the past affairs so this was new for her.

She was shopping at Sovereign (a mall) when she saw our father in a store with a scantily clad girl in her 20’s. Kerri was always bold. She confronted him. He told her that a co-worker had asked him to take his daughter to the store. She did not believe him and pressed him. I told her she was “out of order” and should go home. Sue said she was very upset. She was the “wash belly” and daddy’s little girl.

I am sure it was this public affair that caused my mother to leave him. It was good that she finally work up to his affairs.

“What do you have to tell me?” I asked.

She paused. There was silence. Then I could hear her sniffling like she was crying. She was leaving him. I was now starting to have mixed emotion. I like the idea of them being married all these years. No one wants their parents to break up. I always hoped my father would change. He never did while I was in Jamaica. Sounds like he still has not since I left.

“Your father is very sick” her voice trembled.

This was not what I expected.  

“With what?” I asked.

“He has cancer” she replied.

I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

I went numb. I had to sit down. This certainly was a surprise.


“You there” she asked.

“Yes, I am here,” I replied “where is the cancer?”

“Its prostate cancer” she replied “He has to do more test to be sure it has not spread?”

My father used to smoke years ago. He quit when I was in 3rd form. I remember because I used to sneak cigarettes from him and take to school.  I smoked with my friends. Once he quit, I quit.

“When did he find out?” I asked.

“We found out last week”, she replied.

She proceeded to tell me the full story. He went to the doctor for a routine checkup. He had seen blood in his stool. He had not been to the doctors in years. He never did a prostate exam before. My mother says he refused.

He did the prostate exam and they found something abnormal. This lead to some other tests that confirmed it was cancer.

He would need surgery. They would be coming to Miami in 2 weeks as his doctor had recommended a treatment being used at Mount Sinai Medical Center. She mentioned the name of an oncologist at that hospital.

You cannot tell Sue or Kerri right now, I don’t want to affect their studies “she pleaded with me.

Sue was having exams for the next 2 weeks. Kerri was in her second year at UWI and she was preparing for exams next month. I understood why they would want to not tell them with the investments they made in their education. But I also had reservations about keeping this news away from them. They will be really upset.

“Your sisters will be told we are on vacation.” She continued “when we go for treatment we will tell them we are in Orlando”

They had friends in Orlando.

I wanted to ask my father directly how he was doing emotionally. But it may not be the “man” thing to do talking about feelings, especially to my father.  In America men can talk about their feelings to another man but not so in Jamaica. This is probably why he had my mother tell me.

I think my mother sensed my questions.

“Your father is doing fine. He does not want us to make a fuss about it”

When my mother hung up there were many questions in my mind. Was it hereditary?  Would I get cancer when I was older? I did not know much about this type of cancer but in my mind any type of cancer is bad.

There was a lady at work who recently passed away from cancer. It was quick. She discovered she had cancer 2 months before she died. She looked fine and very healthy. Everyone was surprised how quick it happened.

I had to speak to someone. I did what I should not have done. They say men do not gossip like women and can keep a secret. They are wrong. I called Rosa and told her everything.

I needed my questions answered. Rosa being a doctor was the perfect person.