It’s been a rough month.
A few weeks ago, my dad went to the doctor to treat a mild cough. An X-ray revealed a mass in his lung, and after multiple follow-ups, what we thought was a lingering virus is actually advanced lung cancer. We’ve gone from a pesky cough to hospice in a matter of weeks.
He’s a lifelong on-and-off smoker, but in that illogical way people have when faced with dire events, I never thought this would happen. The uncertainty of not knowing how long he’ll be with us has made for many ups and downs.
My relationship with my father (like most relationships) is complex, but I have always been able to count on his love and support. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine what life will look like without him.
Dad has always encouraged my creative efforts — from singing, to writing terrible poetry, to karate lessons, to drawing and photography. He gave me my first film camera — his old Pentax ME — and his Time-Life photography books.
Dad is the one who knew I would be a web developer, long before “web developer” was a common profession. What I saw as a frivolous hobby of playing with code on the fledgling web, he saw as a potential career.
He introduced my brother and me to video games like Myst and Prince of Persia and Sim City, and I am strangely proud to say I’ve raided Molten Core alongside him.
My taste in music is questionable, but I like to think the few rock-solid influences — Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, to name a few — can be attributed to his good taste. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve singing folk songs with my family around the kitchen table while Dad played guitar.
Most poignant is how he and my mom have shown me what 37 years of commitment looks like — loving, respectful, imperfect friendship — something that’s framed all my relationships as an adult for the better.
When I was 11 or 12, I went through this phase where I clung to my father’s arm and called him “Daddy”. I’m not sure what it was about; a last-ditch effort to hang onto my own babyhood, I suppose. My dad was bemused by the extra attention, eventually I grew out of it, and that was that.
That girl is still part of me. She wants me to stomp my foot and selfishly declare that he is not allowed to die, that she is not done with him, that this is not fair.
But I’m 32, not 12, so writing this is as close to a tantrum as I’ll get.
The truth is that people die. All the time. Even my dad.
I suppose the last lesson a parent teaches a child is about loss. How to endure it, survive it, and live without.
I’m not ready to learn this one.