My Dad was perfect, I really am convinced.
In high school he was voted best looking, most athletic, and most likely to succeed.
(Uncle Mike, My Dad)
That was my Dad.
My Mom always talked about what a stud he was – looked just like Tom Selleck. (haha!) She always recalls how nervous the first time he came into the bakery she worked at to ask her out on a date. She was so anxious that she tied her finger to the box of a dozen jelly donuts he ordered.
She said she knew the firs day that she met him, that they would get married some day. Guess she was right!
We were the perfect family. My mom and Dad were incredible. They encouraged me to be who I wanted to be and that I could do anything I set my mind to! No goal was out of reach!
I could be as creative as I wanted – dressing up in nothing but a t-shirt, sunglasses, socks and my mom’s high heels was a normal attire for me. I would put on shows where I would sing or I might just lounge in my pink plastic beach chair that my parents allowed to fit in with our living room decor. Further more, they even let me keep my teepee in the house which was where I took my naps.
Life was normal.
My dad was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer at the young age of 34. I was 6 and my sister Maggie was 3. He was giving a year to live and thus Maggie and I had a brutal awakening to life and the possibility of our father not being a part of it.
Over time, we watched as his massive 6’4’’ frame shrunk. As he began his treatments – surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation we tried to make sense of it all. As children we tried to cope with the normalcy of our new lives – trips to the hospital were our new routine. Every time I saw my father throw up due to the chemo I tried to imagine he was getting rid of little bits of cancer that way.
It wasn’t long before he showed me the scars of his battle. His thin frame was constantly hooked up to a colostomy bag and a catheter. I could even see where the tumor was growing out of his back and his actual colon was coming out of his abdomen.
Life wasn’t fair, but my Dad was a fighter.
I used to cry in the shower and tell God that if he saved my Dad it would be okay if I got into a horrific car crash. Maybe I could offer a arm or leg to him to appease his need to make my family hurt. I would gladly suffer for my dad – if it made everything alright.
Times weren’t always bad though.
I was a daddy’s girl in every sense of the word. I recall the time that my mom walked in on my dad and I in the bathroom – both shaving our faces. I must have been about 6 at the time and I remember my mom yelling “Scott, what are you doing – you’re going to make your daughter cut herself!” My dad laughed as he told my mom that the razor safety was on the razor and that I wasn’t even shaving. I was so disappointed and spent the next few minutes try to figure out what a safety was and how I could get it off. Thankfully I couldn’t!
I wanted to be just like him though.
(Dad & I)
(Dad & Maggie)
I remember when I was in middle school, I told my whole class that I had a baseball signed by the one and only – Babe Ruth. Later that night I told my Dad what I’d done, and how upset I was that I said something so stupid. He just laughed and helped me forge a sloppy Babe Ruth signature on an old baseball. It would be our little secret.
I vividly remember him walking me to school on my first day of middle school. No other kids had their parents there, but I was scared of being in a new school and wanted him to come. I laugh now as I remember him towered over all the kids as he helped me find my locker and get it open. He was larger than life.
Even as Hospice moved into our home – I would talk with my Dad and plan things in order to slow the inevitable – like adding to the strawberry garden we were growing together. I hoped that if he promised to do something with me in the Spring, that he would make sure to be there for it, no matter what.
He died in early morning March 9, 2000.
The night he died was a shock to me, I guess I can thank him for that as he always put on a good face and told me never to worry. I remember my whole family was at my house and when I came in the door after school and said hello to everyone, no one would look me in the eye. I knew something was terribly wrong. I spent the whole night in my room yelling and screaming – refusing to let the inevitable happen. I never went downstairs to say my final goodbye, something I will always regret.
Six long years he had battled this disease. He was only 41.
People talk about the phases of mourning – anger was apparently my favorite.
I was angry at Life,
I was angry that I was the only kid I knew to go through this,
I was angry that everything had to change,
And I was angry at my Dad for leaving.
It has taken me many years to come to grips with the reality of my situation.
10 years later, I am still angry - I was robbed of time with my father and that is unacceptable.
It was just us girls for a while, my mom, Maggie & I.
(Maggie & I)
I had to grow up quickly and learn life’s lesson fast.
Slowly, amidst the anger I came to see that my Dad remained.
I know that he is with me.
I hear his voice in the voice of my uncles.
I see him in my little sister’s face.
I have his eyes.
I learn from him every day too.
He has taught me to not worry about the small things in life.
He’s showed me that the most important things money can’t buy.
He let me see that a man is defined by his character alone, so be trustworthy, honest and hard working.
He showed me how to love and how to laugh.
Over time I began to realize that there were many more families out there just like mine. I was not alone. That through our suffering we were united in the war against cancer. Although my battle was over, others were still raging. My anger turned to passion in the quest to bring positive change to others facing this situation. I am to change my focus from my own needs to be a support for others.
I will not stop, until cancer surrenders.
I am a fighter I guess, just like my Dad.