I took the week to cool off from my dad’s comments about not wanting financial help for his cancer treatments. Mine and my half-sisters thwarted efforts left me feeling like an asshole. It was like further proof that I didn’t know my dad at all. Like, if he would have been apart of my life, I would have known that things like this made him uncomfortable.
Since my boss is Muslim, we get off of work on Friday’s at 12:30 so he can attend Mosque. It works out for us, because half-day Friday’s are awesome. So after work I drove down the road and met my Dad at the Ale House for lunch.
I wish I had a picture of him when he was healthy, before Stage 4 Cancer invaded his body without his permission. Even though I don’t have a relationship with my dad, the memories I do have of him are of a healthy, vibrant, larger than life man. This man still has the same smile, the same personality, the same dreams – but he’s dying. He told me that without treatment, he has less than a year to live. He is choosing the Holistic Treatment route. He firmly believes this is his best chance to beat the tumor that is growing on his liver. Chemo and Radiation are 100% not an option. The tumor was taken from his colon and lymph nodes, and only half from his liver. The other half is too dangerous to remove without it first shrinking.
We talked about little things, unimportant things. I told him the story of the time that I got Grams (his mom) to smoke a bowl for the first time. She has Crohn’s disease. I read that weed helps with the pain from Crohn’s. I tried weed for the first time that year (at 29 years old) and only smoked it for a year ….. and one night she came to sit on the couch while I was packing a bowl. I asked her if she wanted to try it, and she said yes. Which shocked me, because my grams hasn’t ever so much as smoked a cigarette in her life. But she hit that bowl with a professionalism that I was proud of. And then she slept for two days. And she had no pain. She never smoked it again, and I stopped soon after, but it is something I will always remember. Sharing this story with my dad, and hearing him laugh a real laugh, was priceless.
He apologized to me for his absence in my life. To be fair to him, he did sign his rights over to my step-dad so that he could legally adopt me. As far as anyone is concerned, legally he is nothing to me. His name was removed from my birth certificate, and my step-dad’s was put on there as if he were the one that had been in the delivery room. When he turned out to be a piece of shit, it just all kind of seemed like this was done for nothing. My dad said that he has done nothing but make excuses in his head to justify his lack of involvement in my life, and that there was no excuse. He was 17, he was scared, he had nothing, he wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility. My mom told him she was on birth control. He didn’t want to have to deal with my mother (who he refers to as Satan’s right-hand man – and I agree), and then by the time I was older, and he figured out he’d fucked up, he said he was too scared to try to start a relationship with me.
I told him I was fine. He apologized for the childhood that I had; being subjected to the horrors of my mother and her drug abuse and choosing men over me. I regaled him with tales of my mother giving me fake cancer to get hundreds of thousands of dollars for my fake treatment, out of a friend of hers that had moved out of state. I told him about how I busted her scheme, called her friend, and told him I was a perfectly healthy 14 year old, and that I had a brother, and that my mom had been married before, divorced, and was currently living with another man. Those checks stopped quickly, and so did their friendship. My dad sat there looking amazed and confused. To me, this is the life I had. While I know it wasn’t normal – it was the one that I knew. Telling these stories is as simple to me as breathing. He told me my wedding band set was pretty. I told him that it wasn’t real, and I refused to wear real jewelry ever since my mom’s boyfriend pawned all of my rings (I had one to two for every finger) for drug money when I was 16 (Including the expensive diamond cluster engagement ring that belonged to my great-grandmother). I vowed from then on that I would never again wear expensive jewelry – or any jewelry for that matter, that had any value. He looked sad for me, but I didn’t want him to be sad for me. I reminded him that despite it all, I always had Grams. She was always there for me. Besides her being my family, it’s the main reason that she lives with me and I will take care of her until she dies. She saved me from my mother more times than I can even count, and so I will make sure she never goes into a nursing home.
I told him about my job, and my frustrations with my denied pay-raise, my inability to be able to take normal vacation time, and how we aren’t really allowed to get sick without suffering some form of punishment with extra work and cute comments from my boss. I found it so incredibly easy to talk to him. It felt like we hadn’t missed a day. We’ve missed an entire lifetime, and the gap closed in an instant over one lunch. We haven’t ventured into the territory of the fact that he is very much a grandfather to a 12 year old at the age of 49; I figured I’d save that for another lunch meeting.
Since his surgery, I suppose using the bathroom is rather difficult for him. He abruptly stood up and declared he had to go to the bathroom. I gave him a hug and he told me he loved me. I walked out to my car feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from me. I connected with my father. We had lunch like normal people. We shared stories of our childhood. We sat the same way; our right hand in a fist, covering our chin and our lower lip. Looking at him was like looking at myself.
I could never be glad that he’s dying. I’d trade another 31 years of non-communication if it meant that he weren’t sick and he could continue to go on with his life ignoring me. But, it doesn’t work like that. He has a terminal illness, and that illness has brought realization on him, and has made him reach out to make amends. I feel that I at least owe it to him to give him peace-of-mind that when he leaves this world, he will be free of guilt. I pray that God is lenient on him in judgement. After all, he was a decent dad to my half-sister, and he did what he thought was right for him and for myself when I was four years old. He had eight years of freedom before my half-sister was born. I guess by then he was ready to be a dad.
And no matter what, I will always be his daughter.