Mario Sikora is an Enneagram 8, an Asserter type. This is one of the stories in Chapter 8 on Asserters in “The Enneagram of Death– Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear and Dying” by Elizabeth Wagele. In parts I & II on this site, we found out Mario’s cardiologist had said, “It could be no big deal, or it could be something like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
I often travel on business. Once, toward the end of a three-week trip, Alexei, son number three, said, “Mommy, I’m starting to forget what Daddy looks like a little.” Alexei is five now but he was only three during those twelve days. After three weeks the memory gets a little fuzzy; what happens in three years, or ten?
Sure, I could make one of those “dying-dad” videos, but I always imagine they end up in a closet somewhere, unwatched, or watched as something obligatory and oddly historical. My wife would tell them fond stories for a while, but life would go on and the stories would become less and less frequent and eventually stop. What terrified me was that I had not had enough time with them to leave my mark on these four little boys who I cherished, that I wouldn’t be there to guide them and shape them, to pick them up and dust them off when they fell, to hold them when they needed it or push them when they didn’t think they could go on.
One afternoon Warren Zevon’s Keep Me in Your Heart shuffled onto my iPod in the car. At the line, “If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less,” the dam broke. They wouldn’t understand and I feared they would hate me for not being there.
I feared my kami would wander alone, unbeckoned and unnoticed.
When the diagnosis arrived, it too was anti-climactic: enlarged lymph nodes, non-cancerous, consistent with sarcoidosis. I had a condition with no known cause and no known cure. “It can be fatal in African-Americans,” my pulmonologist said, “but typically it just shows up in some people and in a year or two it goes away. You’ll be fine. Stay away from saw dust and talcum powder.”
I have a scar at the base of my throat (which I jokingly tell people was from a knife fight if they ask). I saw the hospital bill that my insurance company paid. A quarter of a million dollars.
“Stay away from talcum powder.”
Six months later, the symptoms were gone.
I wish I could say something was different, that having stared into the abyss and survived I had some profound insight or made a significant change in the way I live my life. But life goes on pretty much as it did before.
My one aim, my one straight and true goal, is to last long enough to matter to my sons. I don’t feel an urgency to mold them like clay (St Paul’s potter I am not), but I’m acutely aware that every inadvertent moment leaves a mark, and gives the kami breath.
So every once in a while in the midst of the chaos when everyone is yelling and we’re in a hurry to get them out the door to school and son number one can’t find his shoes and son number four is flailing on the floor because he wants the car that son number three is playing with and son number two realizes he forgot to do his homework and says you know I don’t like jelly on my sandwiches, I take a moment to remember Sisyphus. I feel my muscles brought alive by the weight of the rock and my heels digging in to the dirt so as not to lose traction. I take a slow breath and I press my cheek against the cool, rough surface, losing awareness of where the rock stops and I start. In such moments all sounds are muffled, and everything happens—briefly—in slow motion. I look down the hill and see a long way to the bottom; I look ahead and see a long way to the top.
Feeling momentarily in on the joke, I raise my face to the gods and I smile.
Mario Sikora is an executive coach. He is the 2011-2012 president of the International Enneagram Association and he has an Enneagram certification program for professional users. Visit him at http://www.enneagramlearning.com/ and www.youtube.com/user/mariosikora