The daughter in James Joyce’s story “Eveline” sits at a window in her home and looks out onto the street while recalling her childhood. Reminiscing about her memories of playing with the neighborhood children in the field where houses now stand. Eveline is faced with a difficult dilemma: remain at home, or leave Dublin with her lover, Frank. Eveline worries about fulfilling her promise to her dead mother, keeping the house together. Frank is a sailor who wants Eveline to live with him in Buenos Aires.
Joyce tells us Eveline is sitting by the window and hears a street organ playing and recalls her mother’s voice “saying constantly with foolish insistence: “Derevaun Seraun! Derevaun Seraun!” meaning the end of pleasure is pain.” Her mother is wanting Eveline to move out of her father’s house and get out and explore the world. Joyce used the window as a symbol to show that Eveline sees the world as an unknown entity, something that she actually fears and that she is not prepared to face.
Eveline decides it is better to be surrounded by what is familiar than what is not. Three years ago, I had a situation with my dad that reminded me of the daughter in “Eveline.” Like Eveline, I had a parent that was suffering from an illness. I will never forget hearing the most harrowing words when my dad told me he had Ocular Melanoma, cancer in his eye. He got some paint in his right eye and he closed it and then realized he couldn’t see anything at all.
The oncologist told him he would lose his left eye as it was full of cancer and would need to be removed.
After hearing this devastating news from my father, I said to myself, what did I do to deserve this? Seven years ago, my mom had open heart surgery replacing her aortic valve with a mechanical valve. I was ten years old and I didn’t know what I would do without my mom. As Joyce noted, “The pitiful vision of her mother’s life laid its spell on the very quick of her being.” Fortunately, everything went well for my mother, and she is now healthy and active. However, I now had thoughts of my father lying in bed, suffering in pain and his life come to an end all too quickly. Everything was going well, then one day it all comes crashing down, my dad has cancer. My life won’t be the same! It was painful knowing that I couldn’t do anything to help him.
When my daddy was diagnosed with cancer, I was thirteen years old. I was deeply concerned about how my family would be able to survive since my dad made the most income. I was not old enough to drive so I couldn’t go out and get a job. My mom couldn’t get another job as she would need to stay home and take care of my dad or take him to his many doctor’s appointments. I would lay in my bed at night with so many bad thoughts running through my head. I would wonder if we were going to be poor and if we were going to have enough food to eat for the week. What was going to happen to my father? Was he going to lose his hair, would he be able to go back to work? What would he look like with a prosthetic eye?
With our world turned upside down, my sister and I had to grow up and act like adults. With this type of cancer, my dad had to go to the University of Kansas Cancer Center in Kansas City to see his surgeon, oncologist, and ocularist. An ocularist is a person who specializes in making and fitting the prosthetic eye. My mom would make this trip many times each month for many months leaving my sister and me to take care of the things around the house. As Joyce tells of Eveline “Her promise to her mother to keep the home together as long as she could.” We took on the “mom” role by keeping the house together by preparing meals, keeping the house clean, and doing laundry. My sister, Courtney, and I used to get into fights but with my dads’ illness and the stress everyone was under, Courtney and I decided to quit arguing and came together as a team. Since she was older, she decided what needed to be done and when to do it, and then we completed the tasks together. When I needed help with homework, she would explain to me how she would get the answer. By keeping up with the housework and homework we were able to keep busy and not worry about my dad and his cancer.
My father always had a positive attitude when he found out he had cancer. He continually reassured us that he would beat it and not to worry about anything. He wouldn’t get emotional when he saw my mom or my crying about it. He stayed strong for the family and wasn’t concerned about what the outcome would be. With his positive attitude, it made it easier for everyone in our house to keep a positive mindset.
Even after he had his eye removed, wearing a patch over the hole in his head covering his blackened eye socket, he continued to go to my sister’s high school rodeos, her prom, and all our school events, showing support for me and my sister. When people would ask him about the patch he always talked openly about his diagnosis and of course still remained positive of the journey, even though at that time the surgeon wasn’t sure if he’d gotten all cancer out.
As Joyce stated, “She had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all her life about her.” Waiting for the results of my dad’s cancer I would wonder how long I would have the dad I’ve known all my life around me. After many intense treatments of radiation, and the outstanding work of the surgeon and oncologist my dad finally received the news we had been waiting to hear, he had no signs of having cancer and he could be fitted for his prosthetic eye. After the eye socket had healed up completely from all the trauma it recently sustained from the surgery, the intense radiation treatments, and getting used to this new device replacing his eye, he would tell people about his cancer journey, oftentimes ending in a joke about his new prosthetic eye. Most people couldn’t tell which eye was real and which eye was was fake. In order to reassure them that he did have a fake eye, he would ask if they wanted him to take it out, of course, no one wanted to see this.
Cancer has taught me to appreciate life. It showed me not to fear cancer but be courageous for the patient as well as the family members. I have overcome my anxiety and fear of cancer due to my dad’s experience. Being around my father with his courageous and positive attitude made me realize that even though cancer is a deadly disease remaining upbeat makes the experience easier to cope with. Joyce used the window as a symbolize the world as an unknown entity, full of fears and experiences you are not prepared to face. Experience cancer with my dad was like I was looking out the window of my life and realizing that family is the most important thing and you should do your best to take care of them. I did not know what was going to happen to my dad and I was fearful of the outcome. Unlike the mom in the story, the illness did not take my dad’s life, but Eveline and I both stepped up and took care of the family when they were in need.
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