“Dad I know you’re trying to fight when you feel like flying…..”
July 25th, 2016
My dad had surgery to remove the tumor from his colon. The prognosis of Stage 4 Colon Cancer happened suddenly, and without much warning. My dad wasn’t even supposed to need a colonoscopy for another year. You don’t need those until you’re fifty. He had just turned 49 that June.
We weren’t allowed to see him that night, so I stopped by the hospital the following morning, before I went to work. It was my birthday. July 26th. I had just turned 31.
I went around to the left side of the bed. I watched him for a moment as he slept. So peaceful and unaware of what the future held for him. I tried to find parts of myself in his face and his facial expressions. I wondered how much alike we were. I realized that I know nothing about him. Sadness washed over me when I understood that I was staring at a perfect stranger.
I gently picked up his hand and held it in my own. He immediately woke up with a confused expression before recognition settled in. His smile lit up the room, and line of perfect white teeth gracing me with their presence. Hey sweetheart. I was the first person he saw after surgery. It’s something he has reminded me of many times over the past year.
I’ve watched my dad struggle for the past year. He has done holistic treatments, changed his way of eating, He has tried to live as much of his life as possible in the short time that he has left. He bought seasons tickets to a hockey game that he will never get to go to. He didn’t plan to die this soon, but God has other plans for him.
Last week, things turned south very quickly. Sunday he was checked into a Hospice facility that will keep him comfortable until he transitions from this life to Heaven. He isn’t a religious person, but he’s spiritual. His girlfriend of five years has been tireless in her efforts to make sure that everything goes the way that it should, and that he is comfortable throughout the transition. She is amazing.
Be prepared for what you are going to see when you walk in here. His girlfriend gave me fair warning. Not to fear, I have been through this death stuff before. First with my grandmother and then with my Uncle. The past seven years have been full of loss in my family.
I took an early lunch on Monday so that I could see him and assess how bad it is, and where he’s at in his transition. He’s breathing from his stomach rather than his chest. Bad sign. His feet and hands aren’t cold yet, so at least I know the blood isn’t traveling to his organs before everything shuts down. I felt his pulse. Nice, strong pulse. His breathing is heavy, but it isn’t labored yet. There’s still time. Maybe a week if we’re lucky. I racked my brain for the statistics of how long one can go without anything to eat or drink. I developed a raging headache and wondered if the methadone was giving him a headache and I was empathing it in. It would certainly be the first time I’ve been able to feel anything from him directly. I love you, dad.
His girlfriend asked me to go into the sitting area and talk to her for a bit. Not long after she started talking, she stopped suddenly and tears sprang in her eyes. My god, you look just like him. I’ve heard that one before – at least a million times. I look just like a man that I hardly know anything about. The first 31 years of my life I have seen him a handful of times. We talked about other things regarding estate matters and what to expect. My dad didn’t think he would get this sick so quickly. He never finished his will. I don’t care either way.
I looked at his girlfriend, debating on how to say what I wanted her to know. I had lunch with dad a few months ago. He told me that if he started to feel better, he was going to ask you to marry him. That’s how much you meant to him.
She started sobbing at the table. I had no idea. Thank you so much for giving me that. She needed to know that this man, someone who has shut everyone out of his life, wanted to open it up enough to make her his wife. But life has been slowly seeping out of him. It will never happen. But at least she knows that he wanted it to. That’s the only gift I could give her. I will never be able to repay her for everything that she has done.
My dad and I weren’t meant to have some awesome father-daughter relationship. I will never know what that is like. But it’s okay. I have had my closure with him, and he has explained his version of things. He told me that he wished he could wave a magic wand and take it all back.
On June 29th I sent him a text to tell him I loved him and was thinking about him. He said he loved me too. That was the last time I will ever hear it from him. I’ve been able to tell my dad that I love him for a solid year.
On Thanksgiving he brought me flowers and kissed the top of my head while standing at the kitchen sink with his arm around my shoulder.
On Christmas he gave me a Visa Gift Card inside of a card that said “Thank you for everything that you do.” It was the first card or present I ever received from him. It was also my last.
We had lunch one-on-one earlier this year. It was the first and last time we sat down together, alone and just …. talked.
We had a lot of first-times that unknowingly turned into last-times. I will miss him. I will miss what we will never have. We had only begun to scratch the surface of our relationship, and now he’s unresponsive and unaware of what is going on. I still talk to him and hold his hand, hoping that he will at least know I’m there when he starts to transition. I know that I will see him again one day. And I’m just glad that if he has to leave this earth, he at least knows that I hold nothing against him.