After the reconciliation
On a Tuesday, one week before Christmas I got a phone call that would change my life forever.
My Dad hadn’t been feeling well. He and David had been out Christmas shopping the previous weekend and David noticed that one side of his face was kind of drooping. It didn’t improve so my Dad went to the doctor. I received a phone call that they had checked him into the hospital for testing.
I was on vacation that week trying to prepare for the holidays so I was at home when I got the call. I picked up my stepmother, Gayle, and we hauled ass to the hospital.
We talked on the way there about what could have happened. We were convinced he had had a stroke. He didn’t eat well, was a little overweight, smoked like a freight train, and had an incredibly stressful job. Actually he thrived on stress (that must be where I get it).
I remember sitting in a hospital room when two doctors walked in looking very serious. The bigger one sat down in a chair by the bed. He was wearing a white shirt and had reddish curly hair. He looked down to earth and smart and very practical. I hated him.
He looked at us and told my Dad, “You have cancer. It has metastized and you have four large lesions on your brain, which is causing the numbness on your left side.”
I stared forward in horror not believing what he said. I even replied, “You must be wrong. My Dad had a stroke. We have a history of heart disease in our family.”
He looked at me, with the understanding and resolution that only someone used to delivering bad news can have, and replied, “I am not wrong. I’m sorry.”
My Dad replied, “I need a smoke.”
The rest of my family left the room, but I was paralyzed with denial and a fear that I didn’t even understand yet. While I was stunned into physical silence, inside my head I was screaming profanities at an enemy that couldn’t hear me and even if it could have it wouldn’t have cared.
The doctor looked at me and said, “You have to convince them that this is serious.”
But how I was supposed to do that when I didn’t want it to be serious. I didn’t want my Dad to be sick. I needed him to be well. I needed more time. Over and over again my mind screamed, “Why? Why? Why? This is not fair. We need more time. Why? Why? Why?”
The doctors performed their testing, prescribed him anti-seizure medication, and set up an appointment for his radiation treatments to start immediately. He was released from the hospital, and we took him home. They gave him six weeks.
I was driving home with my brother, Jason, when it finally hit me. I couldn’t breathe. I pulled over on the side of the road and jumped out of the truck and started screaming. Jason had to pull me out of the highway so that I wouldn’t be hit by an oncoming car. I had hit a wall.
Little did I know that the nightmare was just starting. What followed was radiation and chemotherapy and doctors and cancer hospitals and false hope and regret. So much regret. He fought hard for three months, twice as long as the doctors gave him, and was finally release to hospice care at home. I was laying by his side when he slipped into a coma. He passed away the next day.
I have lived with the regret of those years wasted to hurt, anger, and pride every day since.
Next is The Understanding.
Note: This a series I’m writing about my relationship with my Dad. This is the story of my pain based on my perceptions of events. Some of it will not be pretty, but it is time for me to set these memories free. Mistakes were made by everyone, including me, so please read with a soft heart and forgiveness so that I may forgive myself. Also, please keep in mind there are always at least two sides to every story.
Some people will probably think that I should not write this, but I offer up two quotes from Anne Lamott for the reason why I should.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them they should have behaved better.
Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.
This post was originally published on November 4, 2010. I have edited parts of it to make it flow with the recent posts about my relationship with my dad.