The cancer has exploded in my father.
As I watch him in his final days, I realize something that I should have realized long ago: this is one strong, brave man. I realize that what he has gone through, these last fourteen months, is a hardship that I can't even fathom. He's never whined; he's never asked, "Why me?" He's gone through the procedures and the operations and the indignities of disease with a pragmatic, dogged determination.
How much do I say? How much do I write? How much do I leave out?
I say this: Robert is a fighter. He's a damned heavyweight, though the skin and flesh sloughs. He is a battering ram, though the fucking disease renders him still.
It tears my heart apart. It fucking tears my heart apart to see him as weak as a kitten. I look at him resting, head slanted on the pillow, hair mussed, face puffed and red from the steroids and other medicines, and I weep--the tears just spring through my clenched eyes--because I remember him as Bobby B., my strong Daddy, a man of natural strength, and--I should have been more cognizant--a spiritual strength, a mental strength, an emotional strength.
Pragmatism as a rule. Get your ducks in a row, make sure that all the lights are off and all the T's are crossed.
He was dealt a blow two Septembers ago when he learned that he'd "caught" Stage Four lung cancer. As his brother was passing from cancer, my father learned that he, too, had the disease. In fact, they were both patients in the same hospital--my Dad was wheeled down to say good-bye to his brother. It was like some fucked-up baton pass. Brother Two gives it to Brother One. No. But...it was a pretty surreal weekend.
And today was surreal, as well. I was paged from my class at Maplegrove--the class was about spiritual health--and I sauntered to the lobby, assuming that the page was for me to see my Addiction Therapist. I strode through the double doors to the lobby and then stopped short. My mom was sitting in a chair in the lobby, her purse at her feet, her cane across her knees. "Mom?" I asked, "what are you doing here? I get out Wednesday." She started to talk and then, glancing at another lobby-sitter, said, "Come here." And she gestured to the seat next to her. I got a funny feeling in my gut.
"Dad's not doing too well."
I was out and I--and my sisters and my Mom and my uncle and my cousins--spent some or most of the next ten hours at my father's bedside.
He winks in and out of reality. He's got something going on in his mind, his brain, and it scares me to look at it. Is he still getting his ducks in a row? I think so, yes. Heavy pain-reducing drugs could account for some of the shifts between realities, yes, but...God, I don't know. I just don't know.
Have I mentioned how helpless a person can feel when he or she is presented with a family member--the Love overflows--battling end-of-life issues, both physical and, especially, mental and emotional? Helpless.
I want to slam my fist through a fucking wall. I want to alleviate any pain that I can for my father. But I can't. I. Can't. I can only watch. Fucking watch. Yeah.
Impotent rage doesn't scare a soul.
And I look back over these last fourteen or so months and I flat-out kick myself. Tell me this: why did I wait until my Dad was in Code-Red before I fully accepted the gravity of his situation? I had friends tell me to spend as much time with him as I could and I had family members exhorting the virtues of kinsmanship...hell, even I thought I wasn't seeing him and my mom as much as I should. (Especially since I live only 20 minutes away.) Yet I stayed aback. I kept my distance.
[A slang word for vagina is pussy.]
I didn't want to see my Daddy get sick and old and die. So I pushed that thought--and my mom and dad--away. Any thought or mention of the situation failed to penetrate my denial. Intellectually, I knew it'd happen. Emotionally, I'd hear none of it.
So we are left with what we have now: son with regrets and father reliving his life through his dreaming eyes. And mother sleeping on the foldaway seat in the hospital room.
I have heard theories on grieving and loss and how people deal with said issues. Avoidance is not cool. It's emotionally busted. Yet that's what I did.
I can coo and crow and kiss my Daddy on the cheek all I want, now; it's too late. I can wipe his brow and dab at his sweat. For what? Should I not have been there for him three, five, ten months earlier? Should I not have made it a point to get to my parents' house at least once a week? How hard is that? It isn't.
I know how this story ends, but I don't know the timetable. I know how this story ends, but I don't know the machinations of the disease--I don't know how much of a fucking bastard cancer can be.
I know how this story ends, but I don't know how much my Daddy is aware of how much my sisters and I love him. I hope that our Love seeps through into his dreams and fills him with Courage. I hope that our Love seeps into his dreams and gives him an inward smile. I hope that our Love for him is apparent.
When I left tonight, I kissed him fiercely on his bearded cheek. His skin was cool and sweaty. His eyes were closed and his breathing was labored. "Dad," I choked, "I'm gonna leave now. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" He didn't answer. "Dad," I repeated, "I'm leaving now." I stated, "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay," he murmured, his eyes glazed shut.
Call me selfish--and I am--but I want my father here instead of in a near-death state. I doan want him to leave. I'd rather not have him dead. He's my Daddy.
I need to measure my love for him and my insecurities of living in a life without my father against his...pain. His fucking pain. I? I am an asshole. The dude's got cancer shooting through no less than six organs and I'm pitching a fit 'cause I...don't...want...him...to...go.
How sad is that?
"Purty sad," drawled John Wayne.
Okay. I gotta leave here, now. I have spoken my piece(s).
But, no. I'm not done.
They leave, they die, they "pass on." And it fucking hurts. As much as I tell myself that it is a cyclical process of life--one of the food dieticians was pregnant (or grossly fat)--I can't get over, really, that my father is going to die. I think that there may be a world-wide amnesiac state in which people...insulate.
I am not prepared.
Life flows, so does death.