My Dad Died
Three little words, so simple, nothing fancy about them, but they have forever changed my life. In the wee hours after Memorial Day last week, my father passed away. He was finally at peace, and I believe with God to bask in the joys of heaven, never again to remember the pains and agony of cancer.
It was early last September when my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The ER doctors who found it were life savers, given that his doctor at the VA just kept giving him more pain meds when he complained about a pain in his abdomen since last May (but my issues with the VA healthcare system are for another post at another time). Regardless of how they found it, they found it early enough and were actually able to perform a procedure called the “whipple” (which I fully admit to only knowing about via my many, many hours of Grey’s Anatomy). This procedure was supposed to increase his chances of living past 6 months by 20% and for my Dad, they did. He made it almost 9 full months with stage III and then stage IV pancreatic cancer. For a cancer that has very few statistics past 6 months I consider my sisters and I very lucky that we had the time we did with Dad.
However, even knowing all this, the hardest part has been that we still thought we had some time left with him. He was discharged from the hospital for a complication of another tumor on the Thursday before Memorial Day with a chance of having 3 – 6 months left and by Memorial Day morning only days, and by the afternoon only minutes or hours. I got the call from my brother in law at 10am Memorial Day morning while I was standing at the counter at Old Navy buying a sweatshirt. I could barely pay with my credit card as my hand shook from shock. Yes I knew my Dad had a terminal cancer, yes I knew he could go in the next few months…but not today, not when I wasn’t there, and not when I wasn’t ready. I had just talked to him the day before and he was all ready to watch the Indy 500. I was even hoping I could take him the following year if he felt better.
But there I was faced with the reality that my Dad, MY DAD could be gone before I could get on a plane from Chicago to Charlotte. I honestly never thought that I would lose my Dad at such a young age. I know many people say that, but my Dad was a Dad with 9 lives! He
has had driven off a cliff in Hawaii, been in a severe snowmobile accident, a severe motorcycle accident, he has been electrocuted and shot into the wall behind him, survived a heart attack and having 5 daughters!!! I thought for sure he would have a few more lives in him, and at least one to beat cancer and of course one to help me with my house.
Ever since I can remember my Dad and I had talked about me buying an older house and flying him out to where ever I lived and helping me to fix it up. Being the oldest you would have thought that would have happened by now, but a detour to NYC and marrying a man who then goes to medical school can put those plans on hold. So my Dad kept himself busy helping my other sisters fix their houses, but always told me he would be ready to come out when I needed him.
And this is just one of the many reasons I HATE cancer. It has robbed me of time I thought I had with my Dad. He was always healthy and although his body was being to show signs of wear and tear, my Dad had always managed to work through the pain and get back on the horse doing what he loved most, working with his hands.
It’s those hands that taught me how to fix my first car, how to solder metal, how to use almost anything to create a tool that I might need at the moment. And most recently my Dad was the one to talk me through changing my breaks (via speaker phone on my cell) while 7 months pregnant and then talk me through how to remove my radiator in the back alley of my apartment in Chicago this past fall.
Although great at talking me through any fix on my car, my Dad was never one to chat long on the phone. I could almost time it that after about 5 – 10 minutes he would say “Well #1, I really don’t have much else to say, so I’m gonna let you go.” And with that he would tell me he loved me and was so proud of me and the conversation would be over until we chatted the next week or so. But the last few days of his life, our chats were much longer, not that he talked anymore, he was in a lot of pain and it hurt him to talk, so I would just sit there on the phone with him. I could hear the TV in the back ground or the nurses coming in, but it was nice just to be there in that moment in time with him. To tell him over and over that I loved him and that I couldn’t wait to see him in just a couple of weeks.
So it is with a heavy heart that I will one day do my future house on my own. But I know that I will take a piece of my Dad with me, and like my Dad I will take all the knowledge that my he bestowed on my over the years and pass it on to my #1, my own daughter. (I’m almost positive she will one day be the only kindergartner who knows how to change breaks, fix her own bike and put up sheet rock) And I know that my Dad (aka Papa George) will be looking down on my and whispering in my ear “take your time and do it right the first time honey” and you know what I will.
I love you Dad and miss you so much, but I know that we will see each other again some day. And until that day I hope God’s keeping you busy with some “special projects” created just for you.