When my brother calls and the news is not good, I know because before he says, "Hi Nina," he does this intake of breath - a long inhale - a sucking in of air so as to have the power so say whatever it is that sucks in one breath.
So when I got home from the doctor today after getting typhoid, tetanus, Hep A, and Hep B vaccinations (a comedy of needle fun I'll explain on some other sunny day) and reclined on the couch with a bottle of water and a handful of new prescriptions for God knows what all anti-malarial, altitude sickness prophylactics and the odd benzodiazepine refill... and the phone rang... and I heard the sound...
Let's just say I am so accustomed to it that it has become almost boring. I say "almost" because it's a lot like being forced to watch a puppy being kicked to death every single day for two years; it remains colorful and filled with the usual screeching, clawing, horror and existential flora (and fauna) but it lacks that special tang of all-new flavor one gets, you know, the first time one is forced to watch the kicking of the puppies.
Today, the sound meant that my brother was about to tell me that my dad's leg needs to be amputated, which my brother did tell me - after he made the sound and before he started to hyperventilate a little bit and say a lot of words that (if we are to believe what the good Sisters of Perpetual Agony say) guarantee us a spot in the roiling lake of fire kept hot just for us bad people. But like puppy kicking, those words have lost that special tang, too. They are hardly worth saying anymore, which should make you wonder why we bother. (Not wonder whether we do, but why. Because do we? Definitely).
The surgery will take place tomorrow afternoon. By the end of the week, my dad should be out of the hospital entirely and if we are extra lucky I should have the results of the pancreatic enzyme test my doctor ran today to determine whether the thing we were calling an ulcer is in fact not an ulcer and is really a pancreas problem of one of two kinds: pancreatitis (which is unpleasant but mostly just bullshit) or pancreatic cancer (which is unpleasant and entirely bullshit and would mean I would have an expiration date closer to that of the kicked puppy and for sure on the close side of my dad's).