I was completely in awe of my dad from the very first time I saw him, from the very first moment my baby blues opened. I had his heart, and he had mine. I’ve been a daddy’s girl every day of my life. When mom said “no,” I’d rush off to ask dad, knowing he’d give into his only little girl. It was never a happy day until dad came home from work and I could run to the door to give him hugs and kisses. It was like I hadn’t seen him in years. He would pick me up and swing me around, even if his work day had been an unpleasant and stressful one. I cannot explain how much those little moments of happiness mean to me. Those memories overwhelm me with warmth and happiness, of safety and comfort.
Everyone always tells me I look like my mom. I don’t see it. In fact, I have always been a bit delighted that I am different from other members of my immediate family, especially when I was little. Not that I didn’t like my family (I love them very much), I just enjoyed the fact that I was unique. I had blond hair and blue eyes while everyone else in my immediate family had dark features. Secretly, though, I always admired that I had the same thumbs as my dad, even if they were in miniature form. We have the same eyebrow shape, too. I was always thrilled to find little traits my dad and I had in common. When I found out that my dad had bright blond hair when he was little, I was ecstatic! That was just another trait passed down from my dad, another connection I could make just for the two of us to share! From afar, my dad and I do not look much alike, but when I look in the mirror, I see tiny bits and pieces of him in me. This makes me happy—keepsakes from my father that will travel with me no matter how far apart we are.
When it comes down to the really important stuff in life, I hope I do get more than just looks from my dad. He’s the greatest man I know.
He is the hardest worker I have ever met. His work ethic rivals that of the Egyptians who built the great pyramids. He never misses work, he takes pride in every task he encounters, and gives his all every chance he gets. He takes on mountains of stress and pressure that would make the rest of us mere mortals crumble.
He’s probably one of the most generous people I have ever met, too. He never places his own needs first. He is constantly thinking of others and how he can help. He goes out of his way for people who wouldn’t do the same for him. People can sense it when they’re around him. His personality uplifts spirits. He’s literally the life of the party. I’ve never met a person that did not like my father. And if there is anyone out there that doesn’t like him, they’re probably just a crazy person.
He is loyal and loving. I don’t think I have ever met a man who loves a woman as much as my dad loves my mom. He wants to be near her as much as possible. It doesn’t matter if they are watching TV or if they are hanging out in the backyard enjoying some sunshine. If they are together, that’s enough for my dad. He supports my mom in every way. No matter what decision my mom makes, my dad is there standing behind her. He holds her up when she is down. Everything he does, he does for her—and not because he wants praise or recognition. He does it all because he wants to, and because he loves her so very much.
“Family first” would be my dad’s motto. When my brother and I were little, my dad created this funny little thing called a “family kiss.” We’d all huddle up and give Eskimo kisses while we all made obnoxious, silly smooching noises. My dad’s family rule was that you never go to bed mad at one another, and even if you are really mad, you always say “I love you” before you go to sleep. What can I say? My dad is the original family man. Family first—always.
It’s hard for me to say, because saying it makes it real, but my dad (the first love of my life) has been diagnosed with stage four diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. He has developed a large tumor on his lymph node near his armpit, several smaller cancerous legions on his chest and neck, legions on his spleen, and also on different parts of his bones. This cancer is as aggressive as it gets. In return, my dad’s treatment is as aggressive as it gets. The wonderful and knowledgeable doctors at Northwestern have decided that R-CHOP chemotherapy is the course of action. My dad will go to the hospital for a treatment and stay 5 days for observation. He will then come home for 15 days. This cycle will happen 6 times, in total.
I know my dad can beat cancer. I know this deep inside of me. At least, I’m trying to convince myself of this philosophy. The hardest part, however, is seeing all the ones I love most suffering, stressing, worrying, and the “what-ifs” that steadily creep into my thoughts. The “what-ifs” are eating at me every waking moment and causing sleepless nights. I cannot imagine life without my dad. It’s just not an option.
Today, before my dad left for the hospital, we all had a nice chat about kicking cancer’s ass and being strong for one another. It almost seemed manageable. But then time for goodbyes rolled around. The embrace between my parents would have made the meanest, scariest, roughest guy cry for his mama. Seeing my mom and dad refuse to let go of one another was almost too much to bear. Then it was my turn for a hug and a kiss. I was a mess. I didn’t want to let go, either. I know there lies a long, dark, and difficult path in front of us. I just wasn’t ready for it to begin.
Before today, I had been successful at putting on a brave face for my dad. Every moment I’m not around him, though, I am either bawling like a blubbering baby or I am fighting back the tears. Whatever tools people develop in life to cope with something like this, I do not have. Maybe there are no tools and it just seems like other people have better coping mechanisms than I do. Whatever the case may be, this is just plain old hard. I’m helpless. I can’t do anything to fix the situation. I can’t do anything to make my dad heal. I can’t do anything to take away the pain this is causing my mom. All I can do is try. I can try to be a stronger person. I can try to be a shoulder for my mom and brother to lean on. I can try to be positive and hopeful. Try is the operative word. I’m not doing a great job just yet. I have to try harder. I have to try to do the best I can for my dad. That’s the way he taught me, and that’s exactly what he would do for me.