Devastation: First Time He Cried
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they finally realize life will eventually come to an end. Growing up in my small, family orientated neighborhood, I never stopped to think that life ends someday. As a child, I never really had to face losing those around me. I focused my energy on riding bikes with neighborhood children. I climbed trees with the neighbor kids. I was so consumed with just playing in my happy little world. You remember those days? It seems like yesterday.
Our imaginations ran wild on that concrete porch that had a drop off of maybe just a foot. “Geranimo!” off we’d jump over and over. We were super heroes, and we were magic fairies. A smile crosses my face when I look back and remember all the childhood games I’d play. All the energy I had to invest in one day. Never once thinking that one day is all you may have.
Yeah sure, I lost family over my childhood years, but that didn’t stop me from thinking my parents were an exception. Maybe it was too painful to think that my parents would be gone one day. I’m not sure why the thought never crossed my mind. I actually believed my parents were going to be around forever.
The smile fades slowly though when the day comes back to haunt me. I’ll never forget. The day I realized, that my parents were not going to be around forever. I had just pulled in from getting out of school. My dad was standing outside the kitchen door.
“You want to go for a drive?” my dad said as he dangled the keys towards me. “Yeah, you need to go somewhere?” I didn’t know this car ride would be the ride that crashed my world.
It was a gray Corsica that had four doors. It wasn’t the cleanest on the inside, but it was a dependable car. The hood of the car needs a paint job; it was chipping off in different places. Dad never cared what the cars looked like we owned, as long as they could get to Kentucky and back. He was a simple man.
I took him to run some errands. He wanted to pick up some cigarettes for mom and we had needed milk. We went to the bakery that wasn’t too far from home.
It was a mild summer day. The sun was shining and the breeze came just at the right moments to cool you off. It was an ordinary day, nothing unusual, so I had thought.
Returning home a song I loved so much was on. Dad loved the song as well; he introduced it to me years before while we were traveling to Kentucky to visit family.
“Down in the boondocks, down in the boondocks…” singing along with the radio as I turn on CCD. My dad reaches from the passengers’ side to turn the radio off. “What are you doing? That was a good oldies tune.” I was a little upset at him for turning it off. I went to turn it back on but he covered the power button. When we reached the stop sign, I remember looking over at him. His elbow rested on the door with his right hand above his eyes with a weary look upon his face.
“Dad, what’s wrong?” He didn’t want to answer me. He just stared out the window. “Go on, people are behind you and they want to get going.” I pulled away from that stop sign very slowly as I asked again, “What’s wrong?”
He had known for sometime that I smoked behind his back. He knew he couldn’t stop me so he never really gave me a lot of grief about it. He never let me smoke in front of him ever though. When he would find my hidden stash, he’d throw them out.
“Your mom and I didn’t want to say anything until we knew for sure.” I was surprised a little, and wondered what he was talking about. “Did you bring your cigarettes with you?” I glanced over real quick at him but I didn’t say a word. He reached into my purse; it funny the things you remember. I will never forget that purse. It was black suede patchwork and it was small with just two compartments in it. He pulled out a pack of Marlboro Reds from there. I was scared and thought I was in trouble. I wasn’t in the kind of trouble I thought though, and I wish today that I had been.
“You want a cigarette?” He asked as if it was so natural for him to ask me that. I nodded simply because I knew him asking me that and what he had to tell me would make me need one. I remember seeing him taking it out of the pack and lighting it for me, and then handing it over to me saying, “You really need to throw these things away.”
I took the cigarette in my right hand and switched it over to my left. “Until you knew what?” Still he acted as if he didn’t really want to tell me. This hesitation the second time and him letting me smoke in front of him let me know that whatever he was about to tell me was going to be some pretty bad news to hear. I started getting anxious as we traveled down the road towards the house.
“You know I’ve not felt good for a while and you know I went to get some tests done, well…” there was that hesitation again that made me be concerned so much, “I was told today what the results were.”
I started thinking about when dad first fell ill, and it wasn’t usual for my dad to become sick enough to see a doctor. He never went to a doctor for as long as I can remember. The only time that is an exception is the time he was using a chainsaw cutting down a very small house that was next door; he nearly chopped his toe off that day. Mom was so frantic
I remember him telling her, “Just get a pan of water for me.” She got the water meanwhile yelling, “You need to go to the emergency room D. Let me take you.” He was so against seeing doctors that he argued with mom for a quite a while before she actually convinced him to go. He was a stubborn man. It was good for him that he went; they were able to save his big toe. So, I knew deep down that having the tests done were a matter of life and death for him.
I stayed silent as tears filled my eyes. I just kept driving and when we reached our turn he told me to continue going straight. We reached another stop sign and it finally came out. I heard such sadness in his voice. This was the hardest thing he had ever told me. I still cry thinking of that day, and the days that came before that day. I cry even harder when I think of the days that followed that day.
“I have been diagnosed with cancer.” My tears just seemed to gush at the words I heard. I felt my heart in my throat. I was speechless. “Your mom knows. She went with me today. I thought we’d drive around for a while so we could talk. It is OK to cry.”
Through my weeping, I could only ask one question. “Are you going to die dad?” I’m not sure why I asked that question because I already knew the answer. The only sound in the car was my crying.
“Come on, let’s drive up and park in that empty gravel lot.” So, that is what I did. It was only a few houses down from that stop sign. I drove so slow trying to stay focused on getting to that lot. It wasn’t easy at all with the tears just streaming out and the thoughts that filled my head. When we got there, I stopped the car and my face collapsed into the palm of my hands. I was still holding the brake with my right foot and dad slid the car into park for me.
“It doesn’t look good for me. The doctor took X-rays when I first became ill. The other tests followed when the first test came back as bad news. The others came back the same.” I wiped my face with my two palms and looked over at him. It was the first time we made eye contact during the whole episode. He had tears in his eyes and that made me cry even harder. I never knew I could cry so hard.
“They found some tumors on my lungs that are too close to my heart to attempt surgery. They also found a tumor on my brain. That isn’t all…” he paused for only a second. I didn’t want to hear anymore! “This is not happening! Not to me, not my dad! You are too great of a dad to be in this situation! Please, tell me you’re not going to die!!!” He reached over with his arm and I know it was uncomfortable to do, but he hugged me.
My dad was never really good at showing his love in this kind of way. He never really had to though. I knew my entire childhood that he loved me very much. Never once did I ever doubt that.
“Listen, I want to tell you all of it.” He held me while I cried and he finished. “They found tumors in my prostate and I have tumors on my liver. I am going to die. I need you to be strong now for your mom. She is going to need it.” With my head tucked under his arm, I felt him wiping tears from his own face as he paused again before finishing. This would be the first time I had ever witnessed my dad crying.
“The doctor gave me three to six months to live even with chemotherapy treatments.” I then raised myself out from under his arms and I hugged him so tightly. I held onto him as I cried. “I love you so much dad. How am I going to live with you gone?” He just put his hand on the back of my head and rubbed it as if I were an infant child again. That is exactly how I felt, like an infant child. I felt so helpless and so alone. I still feel very much alone.
The thoughts that raced through my mind then still come to me today. I was having flashbacks of how things were when I was just a little girl. The things he had done for me. The talks we had, the jokes we would tell each other, and the writings I’d share with him. I remember one particular memory in those moments. It was when dad had finally let me get my own dog.
It is strange the things you remember when crisis is placed into your lap. It is strange how gullible a child can be, and how vulnerable a teenager can be, but mostly how crushed a grown woman is.
(This is a true story of my life and it has been published- this is the shortened version)