Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Life Journaling: A Story About My Dad

I remember the day my step-mom called me and explained my dad needed to have a procedure done. They'd found a mass in his bladder. The doctor knew it was cancer without a single test. I went with them to the hospital. I held his hand. I hugged him. I told him he would get better or else I'd kick his ass.

We held onto hope. 

That was the last week of February 2012. Or was it the first week of March? I don't remember. It's a blur. On his birthday, March 12th, we got the news, it was cancer and it had likely spread. But we didn't know how badly. They'd have to rebuild his bladder. I told my mom. I told my brother and sisters. I told them our daddy had cancer, but his chances were good.

We held onto hope. 

He wasn't eating. My siblings and I got him a basket. We filled it with nuts and chocolate and dried fruit and juices and books on baseball. He had a catheter. He carried a bag of pee around with him. He was so thin. When I hugged him I thought he might break. He tried to eat, tried to laugh, tried to be normal.

We held onto hope.

I got the call. He'd gone to the ER. The pain was unbearable. His heart was palpitating. I rushed to the hospital. I sat with him. Alone. Me in a chair in the corner trying to stay out of the way of the nurses. Him in a bed, half asleep. Sometimes he'd wake up and looked at me. He'd say: I love you, Bonehead. And I'd say: I love you too, Daddy.

We held onto hope.

They moved my dad to the intensive care unit. The man in the room next door died that day. He looked so alone. The tests started. MRIs. X-rays.  Blood work. Fasting. Heart meds. Pain meds. The whites of my dad's eyes turned yellow. We had our favorite nurses. Our least favorite doctors. We took over the ICU. We hung pictures drawn by my kids and colored in coloring books. My nineteen year old sister wanted to sleep on the floor at night, she didn't want our father to wake up alone.

We held onto hope.

He had a good day. His eyes cleared and he promised he'd do everything he could to get better and we'd all go on a trip to see the Grand Canyon. He smiled and chuckled. He watched baseball and teased us.

We held onto hope.

We got the results. The cancer had spread. It was in his gallbladder, his lymph nodes, his lungs, his brain, and so many other places I can't remember them all. We called our extended family. We told them things had taken a turn.

We still held onto hope.

Tuesday evening. I went to visit my father after settling the kids. I had a few new pictures they'd drawn for their Poppa. The room had become familiar. Beeps. Flashing lights. Tubes. IV lines. But the man in the bed, he was different. He struggled to breathe. His skin like paper, eyes bulging.  I said, "Hey, Daddy. Bet you've missed me." He looked at me as if I were a stranger. I knew-- knew in my very soul...

There was no hope. 

He crashed that evening, alone in his room. They shoved a tube down his throat. Pumped him with meds. His eyes wouldn't close. His feet were ice cold. A machine breathed for him. Medications kept his heart pumping. We gathered around his bed. We had to decided what to do. I held my baby sister close to me and watched my fifteen year old brother clutch our dad's hand. My grandmother kissed my father's head, said she was the first woman to kiss him and by God she'd be his last. We prayed. We sang songs. We decided to let him go.

....

On March 28, 2012, my father died of cancer. It happened suddenly. One moment, he was running marathons and laughing louder than any other living soul and the next he was laying in a hospital bed dead. Before my very eyes, I watched my father take his last breath.

Why am I tell you this? Why have I decided to share this with *strangers* online?

I don't know.

Sometimes, I feel like the cancer that killed my father wormed its way inside me, craving out a little piece of me. Maybe if I let it go, release it into the wild, I can start to breathe again. Maybe I can let go of the guilt. The guilt of him not knowing about all of this. The guilt of living when he's not. The guilt involved with life having continued and it not being unbearable without him.

I naively thought there'd be a day when all this would be a distant memory and I'd have to force myself to remember. But the truth is, I will never forget. The real challenge is living with the memory and allowing myself to move forward without the guilt or the regret or the fear or the envy I have of those who get to share all this with their fathers when I don't.

And as I sit here and cry and type these words, it is my humblest prayer, that these mixed up, morose memories will find a place where they can rest and allow me to move forward. Because that's what my Dad would have wanted, but more importantly, it's what I want too.


20 comments:

  1. Oh darling, this one made me cry. I so so so feel this with you. And I will walk forward with you (and it ain't just us two in the entourage). Love you!! [[[HUGS]]]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay. *sniffles* Who in the entourage has tissues? Cause I could use all of them. *HUGS*

      Delete
  2. Oh, my dearest Ang. I remember when this happened and I hugged you as hard as I could in those 140 characters and I wish to do so again.

    Having had a parent ill this year, this is a newly poignant situation for me and I send you all the love and any consolation I can muster.

    I hope you can hope again and write. I didn't know your dad, but my guess is that he'd want you to do what makes you happy. <3

    ReplyDelete
  3. hugs, my friend. thinking of you today. ~daphne

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hugs, hugs, and beyond hugs. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That group hug is just going to have to get so much bigger Ang, we love you and thus your father too...such a poignancy to your words. Your tears are my tears...let them fall and remember him. xxx
    ((Hugs))

    ReplyDelete
  6. What can I say, nothing that will make this better, or make the time pass quicker. I have come to realise too that some things stay with you forever, they change you in ways you couldn't ever begin to imagine before. I hope by writing this you can move on a little to a place you want to be, to that safe place where you can write because I know you have so much to say and I so much enjoy reading your words, every one written from the heart.
    Take care, hold on to all the hope you can find, we are all here cheering you on, dear friend.
    Sending you hugs and prayers xxx

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'll start with a hug. And a huge kudos for putting this up and sharing it with us, letting us into your world just a little bit.

    My husband's birthday is the 12th of March, so I have an impression of your dad. It was also the same date my father died, 3 years ago of prostate cancer. But I didn't know my father well, barely at all, met him at 16 and he kept his distance after. I cried after his death as the hope of ever knowing him died with him. But I watched my father-in-law die 5 months earlier, of lung cancer, which spread. I watched his fight, took him 9 years, and probably mourn his loss more than my own fathers.

    So I understand a little of what you have been through. It brought tears to my eyes reading this. *big fat squishes*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *gathers you into the group hug, holds back more tears*

      Delete
  8. *THE BIGGEST OF HUGS*

    I'm not one to cry easily, Ang but this had me in full water-works mode.I know how much this post means to you, and all of us really. You are not alone. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Angie. I wouldn't have written this without you & it was the bestest thing for my soul.
      *ALL THE HUGS*

      Delete
  9. Hey my sister...
    I love you something fierce.
    Always have, always will...
    Thank you.
    *blows a kiss*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, sister. This is the hardest comment to reply back to...
      I love you so much. Just all the love.
      *sniffles & blows kisses back at you*

      Delete

Hey, you. Yeah, you. You know you've got something to say. I'd love to know what it is. So just type in the little white box and let's talk. Don't be shy. I swear I don't bite.