So, we got some amazing news yesterday. My dad’s cancer is almost totally gone. No more chemo, one outpatient surgery on his adrenal gland and all signs of cancer in his liver is gone. No one can know how much longer he has on this beautiful Earth, but for now he is here and he is gaining strength every single day. I am over the moon with this knowledge and so proud of him. He is the strongest person I have ever known in my life.
Though my childhood is almost entirely consumed of memories of my mother, my sister, my aunts and my amazing grandmother… there are very significant memories I have of my good old dad. He is entirely surrounded by women and their wild hormones, but somehow he manages to fairly consistently keep it together without leaving us. I feel very grateful that my parents worked through so much in their marriage to keep our family strong and give us a sense of what it means to truly work at a marriage. The poor guy was raised by men and then ambushed by women, I don’t have any idea how he coped with us!
My dad taught me how to drive. When I was 12 years old. In Mexico. I will never forget the pride I felt knowing he trusted me. Well, it may have been the large amounts of alcohol impairing his judgment, but it sure felt like trust to me. He would take me on his hunting trips, we would rise with the sun get dressed in our hunting gear and I would take the wheel. I could hardly reach the pedals and could barely see over the dashboard, but I was determined. I let the men and dogs off at one end of the field, drove to the other end and waited for his signal. Then with all the might inside of my young soul, I would gun it and head flush the birds for him. We cleaned the birds together, praised the dogs and headed back to the little house on the lake. The men would drink over the fire while the dogs rested at their feet, and I would sit back and marvel at the man who so lovingly embraced me into his most revered passion in life.
I am in so many ways a mirror image of my father. From the inside out. I inherited his mind and body and soul. Some of these traits have served me well in life, I am spontaneous, outgoing, outspoken and can make conversation with a cardboard box. In other ways it has hindered my ability to function normally in society, I have ADHD, a wretched stomach and the inability to cope with stress of any kind. I don’t blame him, because I know that in some ways it has brought us closer together and it was of no fault of his own that he himself inherited these traits. I am grateful for these things, because they have made me stronger and weaker and stronger again.
Watching him go through the past 6 years of hell has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. The man who could hold my sister and I hanging from his biceps became the man who’s hands and feet were numb, who’s muscles deteriorated because of the chemo. His eyes were still strong and he continuously radiated love and life, but his body was betraying him. I think that it triggered a surge of anxiety that I have yet to let go of. Each time he became sicker, I worried. I worried he would not walk me down the aisle, I worried he would never see me graduate, I worried he would never hold my baby in his arms. More and more time passed and although sometimes the outlook seemed bleak, he managed through some miracle of his own manifestation to recover and come back to us. He walked me down the aisle, he will see me graduate in December and I know that he will hold my child. I hate saying “know” but I don’t see any other way to describe the feeling I have inside. A deep rooted faith in him, that he will survive. He is a survivor, there is no other way to describe him.
When my room is a mess, and the dishes are piling up and the laundry is overflowing, I hear his voice in my head… “Its a green bag day! Its a green bag, green bag, green bag day!” I rush around, having flashbacks of my childhood. My mother was too easy on us, asking politely over and over again for us to clean our rooms. My dad would barge in the room with a trash bag and laugh hysterically while he began throwing our things into it while singing his green bag song.
When I can’t wakeup in the morning and my alarm has been snoozed twenty times, I hear his voice in my head…”Time to wakeup, Holly. I’m going to pour this water on your head in.. 3… 2… 1…”… Splash. I was up. I hear him laughing as I scream in horror as my bed and my face are soaked. My mother would sit at our bedside softly asking us to get up for school, which never worked. He was the enforcer. The hammer.
When I can’t sleep, I imagine myself as a young girl, sitting in his lap in our old rocking chair. Looking out the window into the stars in the dark. Only lit by the fire always going in our house. He would tell me about what star was my grandfathers star, while rocking me slowly into a peaceful sleep I don’t think I’ll ever attain again.
He taught me how to skin a rabbit, clean a fish, shoot a gun, properly bait a hook and throw a solid right hook, “Always protect your face”, he would say to me.
He taught me many things about life, about myself, about love.
His most infamous words of wisdom include:
“Stupid is, as stupid does.”
“The love you give is equal to the love you take.”
“Never marry a man with a temper or a drinking problem.”
“Don’t sit around and eat bonbon’s all day.”
Words to live by.
I am grateful for his life, for his love and for modern medicine for keeping him alive.