The Caprice of Anticipation

By Bill Chatfield


I have, for most of my life, thought of the word “anticipation” in connection with things/events hoped for, like the anticipation of a vibrant Spring after a cold-to-the-core Winter. When I was about four and living in a tight old-house neighborhood in Quincy Point, Massachusetts, I rolled out of bed simultaneously with my Mom around 5:30 a.m., a habit developed when she grew up on a farm just outside Washington DC. On decent weather days, I gulped down breakfast (cereal, Wonder Bread toast, and o.j.) and shot out the front door to hop on my tricycle. Dad had added wooden blocks so I could reach the pedals, and boy could I pedal with single-minded focus and determination. Every day, I could barely wait to race up and down the narrow-crooked sidewalks. When I was school-age, I eagerly anticipated the new baseball season, to be followed soon by a carefree Summer.

Nearing college graduation with a degree in Philosophy, I had no anticipation of a ready-made career. Instead, I would see what pure happiness I could wring from my friendships and the wider beckoning world. A few years later, married with my first child on the way, I had no doubts that my charmed life would carry on. My wife and I mused in a harmony of pleasant expectations with my cousin and his wife (also pregnant with their first child) about the companionship that our two children would enjoy. The first reckoning that things could go awry without warning came when my cousin’s child died three days after birth. With a jolt, I learned not to be brightly and blindly optimistic. My wavering between optimism and cynicism continued throughout the years between early fatherhood and my senior years.

When I made my first appointment with a urologist at age 72, I overcame my typical “ignorance is bliss” method of dealing with medical and health-related issues and agreed to be blood-tested for prostate cancer given my symptoms. Now, about a year and a half after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, I am rethinking the abstract idea of “anticipation.” I hope I have sufficient latent optimism to develop the capacity to get beyond my dread of new news to enjoy the magic of anticipating joy again.

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