When I was 7 years old my daddy died. He was 31, my mom was 28, and my younger brother was 4 years old. We were all devastated. I retreated into a shell. I took to books, writing in my pink dairy, and talking to my daddy in my dreams. My brother became glued to my mom.
When my mom met the man who was to become our (step)dad I wasn’t sure about the whole “new” dad thing. I already had a daddy. He was in Heaven with the angels and God and I was just waiting to be with him, or for him to come back to us.
But he was such a gentle soul, this big and tall bear of a man. He never tried to take my daddy’s place. He stood by the car as he waited for us when we visited my daddy’s graveside. He talked to us not at us, listened to us–really listened, and he genuinely loved us like we were his own children. We couldn’t have asked for a better dad, and my mom couldn’t have asked for a better husband.
Now it’s forty-one years later, in May my mom and this gentle bear of a man were married 41 years, and I am heartbroken… I am losing another father, this time it isn’t unexpected like my daddy’s death (car accident). This time it’s cancer. Aggressive cancer that has taken over my dad’s body and reduced him to a shell of the man he once was physically. And I can tell he hates it. This strong man that I love and who has been a real hero in every way that a person can be a hero, has been reduced to being a victim of extremely aggressive cancer and all that that entails. I am devastated. My mom. My children. My nephews. My brother. Our family is devastated. My mom is losing another husband. We are losing another father. My children and nephews are losing their grandfather, and my grandson is losing his great grandfather–his Papa. His siblings. They are a close knit family and they stick by each other through thick and thin. We are all helpless, and feeling every single bit of that helplessness down to our core.
I have been blessed to have had three wonderful parents. My Daddy, my Mom, and my Dad. My Dad has taught me so very much about life, unconditional love, resilience, family, determination, and he is and will always be a hero to me. My father is dying of cancer. It’s basically a matter of when, no matter how much of a fighter my dad is, the cancer has taken over. I truly wish there was going to be a happy recovery story. I wish that Cancer didn’t suck. Like most people, just hearing the word “Cancer” made me cringe. It’s one of those words that leaves a bitter aftertaste when you say it. And now the man who has been a real life hero to me, to my children, to our family is dying of Cancer. I am past the denial. The diagnosis a few weeks ago was bad enough, and then the news that it was inoperable, but since then my dad has went downhill quickly. It’s like his body sighed and said… “okay, we’re done fighting…let’s rest now.” Only my dad is fighting it. Is that worse or better? It’s heartbreaking is what it is. I want him to be well. I want him to get a shot. To take a pill. To get some damn help and get better. But I’m not sure that’s going to happen, and today I realized that. Reality set in and it sucks beyond words. I know that my words will not do him justice, but I feel like so many people shy away from the truth of what happens when someone becomes chronically ill, when cancer sets in. My mom took care of my disabled grandfather for over a decade and in the end cancer got him as well. We are not alone. I will never be alone. My daddy, my grandparents, my family, my dad, my mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my friends, are with me. We’ve all been through something, and because death is inevitable will all go through things in life that are heartbreaking. My dad would not want all this attention. He loves me and is proud of me, proud that I am who I am and that I doing something with my life that makes me happy, but he really wouldn’t want all the attention. He’s a humble and proud man.
My Dad is such a wonderful person. He’s laid back. Generous. Compassionate. Hardworking. Honest. Honorable. Loyal. My Dad has taught me so much about life, love, unconditional love, resilience, family, determination, and so many other things. Things like, I am stronger than I think, worth more than I think, smarter than I thought, and I can do anything I put my mind to. That though there are some things that are not probable, there are very few things that are impossible if I put my mind to it. He is one of my biggest fans, my strongest supporters, and I would not be the person I am today without him.
I have not given up hope that today was just a setback, but I am realistic enough and tough enough to know that it might not be a setback. A few weeks ago my dad was tired, and he’d lost weight but he could stand and walk on his own. A few weeks ago, my dad could still walk without assistance. A couple of weeks ago my dad was still able to do all of those things. Today broke my heart and I’m not going to show the photos I took today right now. Maybe later. Right now I can’t bear to look at them. I’ve finally stopped crying. Am I crying because I know I’m losing my Dad? Yes. Am I crying because my mom is losing another husband? Yes. Am I crying for all that my Dad is going through and will go through? Yes. Am I crying because of all our family is going to endure? Yes. My Dad knows he is dying. Most of us, my family, have now accepted that he is dying. Reality is setting in, or has set in. Have we given up? No. Has my Dad given up? No, I don’t think so–it’s not in his nature to give up. BUT I do know that right now I have a chance to tell my Dad how very much I love him, what a wonderful and amazing father he has been, how grateful I am that he came into our lives. We were blessed the day he and my mom met, the day they married (or as my brother said back then, “we’re getting married.”
For 41 years, my dad has done his best by all of us. I’m thankful for the blessings that he’s brought to us. I know he knows that I love him, but I’m not sure he knows just how very much I appreciate him, how much I value him as a person not just a dad. This is my chance to do that. To honor him with my words, although my words do not do justice to this man–my dad is a real life hero. He is a hero to me and he always will be.
I know the struggle has only just begun, not just for my dad but for all of us. Everyone who is close to my dad. I reach out across the divide of miles, things that keep us busy or keep us from reaching out to one another to say: “Life ain’t always peaches and cream, baby. You gotta make it happen if you want it.” I can hear him saying that to me throughout the years. I can also hear him telling me “there’s no such thing as can’t.” And my favorite, “You catch a lot more bees with honey than with vinegar.” He’s right.
My dad is a hero to me, and many others, and he always will be. Right now I have a chance to tell him and show him how very much I love him, how very much I appreciate all that he has done for us. And how very proud I am to call him Dad.