In December I lost someone important to me to lung cancer (she didn’t smoke).
Last Sunday I found out my Dad has either multiple myeloma or bone metastases (origin unknown) with a dozen lesions on his spine and pelvis.
People in my family live forever. My grandmother on my mom’s side, Rosalia Gagliano, who never really learned English and always sent birthday cards in Italian (buon compleanno, bella!), lived to be 107.
My grandfather on my father’s side, was a hard-drinkin’, goateed Democrat (the opposite of my Dad) and lived to be almost 90.
So my Dad, 74, thought he had another 10 years, or so.
“That’s just not in the cards,” he said matter-of-factly on the phone this last Sunday. My Dad’s a pretty pragmatic guy.
The only thing that worries him right now is that any of us might be upset. So, the goal is to be there for my Dad in the way he wants me to be there for him.
Like he was there for me.
One of my most prized memories: It was a sweltering July morning. I had just gotten home from the hospital after my double mastectomy and was in the bathroom cleaning my drains–one of which seemed to be held in place by barbed wire. Of all the people in my house that day, I asked my Dad to come help, because being a pragmatic guy, he could handle it.
While the Dixie Chicks played on the radio, he tenderly cleaned my drains with peroxide and tucked gauze under the barbed wire then taped it in place. Comforted, I walked around the house with my concave chest, watering the plants and opening mail.
“I cannot believe how she has bounced back from this surgery,” I would hear my Dad say. “It’s only been three days. I’ve never seen anyone recover like this.” It made me feel strong and resilient and maybe even a little powerful. I don’t know if he’ll ever know it, but it was incredibly motivating and healing.
Now it’s my turn.
My Dad is very private and very self-sufficient. I need to strike just the right balance between being there and not being there. I have a feeling it might be a little tricky. My prayer is that I’ll instinctively know the right thing to do, just like he did.
I love you papa.