My father died in 1998. He was 49 years old.
It all started in 1988 when he came home from the Doctor one day and told us all he had lung cancer. The Doctor discovered he carried the MEN1 gene, a rare disorder that affected various glands and often resulted in carcinoid tumors.
When the surgeon operated he discovered the entire right lung had to be removed.
He was a jack-leg driller and had a grade 10 education. The night he found out the mining company he worked for would no longer permit him to work underground, he smashed two coffee tables to splinters and completely destroyed every glass, plate and dish in the house because he thought he was out of a job.
The next day he got a call from the mine. They told him they were going to train him to be a hoistman. My stepmother Lynn grabbed his Visa and went shopping. She replaced everything he demolished with items that were at least twice as expensive.
And that was her genius. Instead of losing her mind when my Dad had temper tantrums like my mother did before her, screaming at him and in the process making things worse for everyone, she waited until he calmed down and hit him in the pocketbook.
We got a lot of nice new furniture that way. When my Dad saw what his outbursts were costing him, his freak-out sessions were fewer and then stopped completely after she replaced the television he put through the living room window with a brand new 50 inch Sony.
Man, that was a sweet TV.
In 1995 a MEN1-related tumor metasticised on his liver and slowly turned the organ into a solid mass, eventually killing him.
My Dad's wife maintained that he was responsible for much of his illness because he stressed out hard about things he couldn't control. Instead of letting his anger out in wild bouts of violence he began internalizing it and in the process made himself sicker.
I don't know how scientific Lynn's theory was but it did have a certain ring of truth to it.
When I learned I was positive for the MEN1 gene I was in handcuffs and ankle shackles, sitting in Dr. Varghese's office decked out in prison orange with two guards from the SDJ as escorts. I kept passing kidney stones while in custody. After the third instance of renal failure the medical staff at the jail decided a field trip was in order. I still remember the looks I got from other patients and how mothers clutched their children closer to them as they walked by. I thought it was pretty funny back then.
Before we left one of the guards got in the back of the van and told me essentially the same thing my stepmother did. Being healthy and fighting illness is just as much mental as it is physical. Stay positive. Let go of shit you can't control avoid stress.
For much of my life, asking me to stop stressing was as pointless as asking me to stop breathing. I simply did not know how.
In the Sudbury jail they have a strict no-narcotics policy, and that includes prescription pain killers. No oxy, no T3s no nothing...no matter what.
Got a bullet wound? Fuck you, too bad.
Chronic pain from a catastrophic spinal injury? Fuck you, too bad.
Legitimate prescription from a physician? Not in there you don't. Fuck you, too bad.
When I had the excrutiating pain of passing jagged shards of crystallized calcium through my ureter, the guards put me in medical segregation. It's just a fancy word for the hole. I was pretty much left alone to scream each stone out one by one.
Everyone says isolation is one of the worst forms of punishment. Some groups want to see the whole practice abolished, calling it cruel and unusual.
I dunno man, I liked the hole. It was cool, it was dark and it was all mine.
On the new side of the jail (they call it new, but it's 30 years old and there are no windows. No natural light whatsoever....and no fresh air at all) The pipes are often backed up and there is a strong sewage smell combined with the farts and sweat and general body odor of every other guy on the range. In the winter the ranges are freezing, and in the summer it's like an oven.
The hole cells are in the old section of the jail. There is a window directly across from your door, and if you crouch down to the meal slot you can feel the breeze and smell the outside air.
Unless you have a basket-case in the hole cell next to you, it's quiet. Peaceful.
After my stones had passed I learned to love the feel of the concrete floor. I learned to sleep on a thin security mattress. I learned to love that breeze from the window when it came through the meal slot in the door. I had forgotten simple things like how the morning sun felt coming through the window and the sounds of the birds singing in the trees outside.
And then I realized for the first time in my life I was able to completely clear my mind.
So when the lieutenant came around in the morning and said "Hey there Dominelli, feeling better? Wanna go back to your range?"
I smiled and said "Hey there boss, your mother's a hooker and your wife and kids hate your guts."
30 more days in the hole. Sweet.