Awkward exchanges with chronically cancerous people

I really like the accountant I’ve consulted for many years. Mr. Money is a friendly, helpful, and ethical professional who has consistently reduced my stress at tax time. He appreciates how organized I am when I submit the required information to his office. Come to think of it, he is the only person in the universe who thinks I’m organized. Perhaps I should question his judgement after all?

I last met with Mr. Money soon after my leukemia diagnosis in 2012. I was scrawny and weak, having just left the hospital a few months prior. I needed his help sorting out the tax implications of slowing down my business. I sought his assistance over the following few years, but then realized that paying someone to complete the taxes on my paltry income was not financially viable anymore, so I did them myself.

J. and I are returning to Mr. Money this year. J. needs assistance with her complicated tax situation, while I’ve decided life is too short to do paperwork. To this end, I emailed last week to set an appointment. How did he respond? “So glad to hear from you!” It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We’ve always gotten along well, but I wasn’t sure he’d even remember me. Perhaps I’m hard to forget?

Let’s examine his opening further, though. Do you read the subtext like I do? All I hear is, “You’re still alive!” Maybe I’m overinterpreting, but this is the way my mind works. We haven’t spoken in some time; of course Mr. Money would think I’ve kicked the bucket. I have leukemia after all, and I looked like death last time I saw him. I’d probably be thinking the same if I were him.

Then I considered all the other inappropriate ways he could have opened his letter. “I thought you’d be long dead by now.” “I figured you were six feet under.” “I’ve been watching for your obituary in the paper.” “I wondered why I hadn’t yet heard from J. about your estate taxes.” There are so many other off-colour options, I can’t possibly fit them into one blog post. With your creative minds, I’m sure you’ll come up with others yourselves.

Therein lies the awkwardness of the chronic cancer survivor’s initial interaction with anyone following a long lapse in contact. How does the non-cancerous person withhold surprise? What if that person shared his inside voice? How would that go over?

When Mr. Money opened his letter as he did, I could sense his relief, which reminded me that he and I both believed I’d be long through the pearly gates by now. His response also reminded me that, by some twist of fate, I’m still here. Yes, I’m alive, and can’t wait to dump this year’s taxes on him. His expertise is worth every penny.

I’m aware, however, that Mr. Money may not be so happy to see me when he learns that, four years in, my business continues to operate at a loss. I’m still subsidizing the few clients I see because I’m not ready to stop calling myself a psychologist. “Hey Mr. Money, while you thought I was dead, in fact I’ve been throwing my hard-earned savings into a failing business.” Hopefully he won’t feel a need to lecture me. I hate lectures.

Dog sits across from man and woman, says:

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