DALLAS, Texas — It was a week before Thanksgiving.
A man in a yellow cowboy hat was driving across the parking lot of a Mexican-themed restaurant with a full bar.
He was talking to customers and ordering a $10 plate of tacos.
A waitress was on her feet, working.
The food was delicious.
But I was still hungry.
I knew it was an hour before we were going to have to eat.
I knew that I was going to be hungry.
The man on the phone, I don’t know how he ended up at my restaurant in the Dallas area, had the same idea.
He was an American, I was an Irish-Canadian, he said.
But when he saw my name in his phone, he knew I was the person he needed.
The man who called my restaurant wanted me to share his story.
The Irish man was on the way to a dinner party and his wife and young daughter were waiting outside.
They were the only ones there.
His daughter was crying.
I didn’t know what to do.
The phone rang.
It was my friend, a man named Dan.
He had been a longtime friend and had a new boyfriend.
The woman who answered the phone said she was from out of town.
She told me to come back.
She would call me.
It wasn’t the first time Dan had called to tell me that he loved me and I deserved a good night’s sleep.
When Dan came to my house on a Friday night in March of 2018, he was still trying to make sense of his life.
We had just moved from Ireland to Dallas, where I had been living for eight months.
We had just gotten married and we were moving into our first apartment.
We hadn’t even bought a home yet.
We were getting ready to move into a new one.
I told him I was feeling good and that I loved him.
I told him that my daughter was going through a difficult time.
He told me that my mom was battling cancer and that he was trying to find a new way to cope with it.
I asked if I could come to his house and talk about it.
He said yes.
We spent the next few days getting to know each other better.
I noticed a change in Dan.
I think I noticed that he didn’t like to talk about his mother.
We became closer.
I felt like I was helping him cope.
We started talking about his wife.
I wanted to know about her.
He didn’t want to talk to me about it, but he asked me to.
I was very curious, I said, I thought maybe you would like to know more about her, because we didn’t really know each others family.
He gave me a list of things we both wanted to ask.
We didn’t get the answers we wanted.
I remember Dan saying that he couldn’t believe that we had asked him for a list that I knew he would never have the time to do so.
But it was his way of saying, I know you love me and it’s going to take time for me to really understand how you feel.
When I returned home, I told my mother.
I had done a lot of research about her health and about cancer and she was in tears.
She couldn’t understand why I would have been so hard on my own daughter.
I want you to know, she said.
You were always there for me and that’s why I am here.
I wanted to tell you.
I want you now.
I remember the day that I found out I had Stage 4 colon cancer.
My father said to me, Dan, you have cancer.
I said to him, What is this?
And I said it was my first time.
It had just been a year since I had had a tumor.
My mother said, My god.
That was so hard to hear.
I thought about her every day.
She was so sad.
I would cry.
But at the same time, she was so strong and kind.
She said, You have cancer, you are doing everything you can.
And I think you have a lot to be proud of.
I just hope you find a way to be good and make a change for your daughter.
Dan was just a young man, and we knew that we would be in his shoes for the rest of our lives.
I was devastated, and I was scared that if I told anyone, they would kill me.
So I told Dan.
Dan asked, How did I tell my mother that I had cancer?
And he said, Well, you told me.
And my mother said to my dad, How is it that I can’t believe what I hear?
And then she hugged him.
And that was it.
She didn’t tell anyone because she thought it was a secret, and she knew it wasn’t.
She had never told anyone that she had cancer.I