I had been planning to do a post like this when February 19th drew nearer, but reading SJ’s eloquent and touching post about the death of her friend Carol inspired me to write it now. The post is in memory of my father, who passed away two years ago on the 19th. Those of you who know me well, know his absence is always present. I recall the day he told me of his condition and the poor prognosis of it all. When I began to cry he said there was no reason to—that we had had 27 great years together, and while he would take whatever treatments he needed to, there was no reason to be sad…all things come to an end and at least we had a great time while we were together. This made me cry more because it seemed so reasonable and Buddhist-like, and at the same time resigned. We ended up having 30 great years together, as he went on to shock even his doctors with his faith that he could survive stage IV colon cancer. The doctors later said they wouldn’t have given him six months (had he asked, which he didn’t), and were astounded when he went on to live for three more years. His chemo didn’t keep him down long; as soon as he felt up to it, he’d be out chopping wood, or visiting with friends. My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at this time (she’s now in remission from breast and ovarian cancer and doing very well), and she would get pep talks from him. He had not spoken to her in years because of their bitter divorce, but now he was trying to buck her up, and get her not to dwell on the negative.
During this time he traveled to South Florida to see me and Spence get married, and toasted us at our wedding reception. And within seven months from that day, he was gone. My aunt called me in January to say things weren’t so good, so I returned home at that point and stayed there until after he died. We had good times even then. The television was on constantly; I think it served as a distraction for him (it certainly did for me). At one point he flipped around and found a John Wayne movie. I gave him my “we are sooo not watching this movie” sideways glance, to which he responded with his little eyebrow dance (moving his eyebrows up and down in quick succession), which meant “we are totally watching this movie.” Other days we marveled at the bad judgment of contestants on The Price is Right, who were clearly overbidding on their showcases during the showcase showdown. We never failed to miss the drama on Dr. Phil, and our nights were filled with the sitcom Becker, his favorite tv show at the time. And during it all he was on a massive dosage of painkillers (yet still in pain, tho you couldn’t tell from his demeanor); his body continued to weaken, but his hope did not. I honestly don’t think he could fathom that he was dying. I think the idea was so beyond what he could imagine that he didn’t dwell on it. Right until the last minute, I believe that he believed he would somehow make it through. Perhaps having such unquestioning faith in such times is a good thing.
I try to use his memory as a reminder of life—that it doesn’t go on forever. When I feel myself getting worked up over what others may think of this or that, or whether I made a mistake by saying or doing this or that, I make the effort to think of him, and to remember that we only go around once. Who knows how long the go around will last? The only certainty is it won’t last, and occasionally reminding myself of this helps me to lighten up.