My Father’s Daughter

Start with a bang, they say.

A little over a year ago, my dad text me to say he was going to the hospital. Over the next few days, my whole adult life changed.

Cancer

It’s whispered. It which must not be named, had fast become a scream in my head. With no warning, it reared it’s ugly head and has affected every day since.

Stage 4. Nightmarish. A death sentence.

Softball size tumor. Inconceivable. Living and growing inside my large surly father. A committed 2 pack a day smoker — Camels. Dad will tell you himself, “I knew I’d die of cancer. Just not now. I’m 54 years old!”

He got the news over the phone. I got the news via text. The hits, as they say, just kept coming. 4 days of tests. Stage 4 lung cancer. It had spread to his bones, lymph nodes, and brain.

Devastation.

There had been no warning. The doctors couldn’t give us a time line. He’d been scanned, poked, prodded, samples taken, but hadn’t received his expiration date. Radiation was to start immediately, pending more tests. The cancer had weakened the bone in his leg to the point of fracture. My father had been walking on a broken hip for ???? Weeks? Months?

A 12 inch rod was to be placed in his leg. Chemotherapy for the growth in his lung. Palliative chemotherapy- meaning, this is how we’ll keep you alive.

Conversation

I suppose normal families discuss final plans at some point. If you haven’t, do it. Trust me, you don’t want to wait until the black clouds are looming above you and you choke on every word.

My father doesn’t want a funeral. He doesn’t want people looking at his body. He wants me to have a party and play Sammy Hagar. He wants to be buried next to his mother, not his father. He wants me to sneak a joint into his casket… not a fancy one, cause it’s a goddamn box.

I’ll do these things. We still don’t know when. He hasn’t had a cigarette since his diagnosis, but man is he ever high. And I’m glad he is. You know, the big bad tumor in his lung is shrinking. That Stage 4 sonofabitch is down to a tennis ball. Alas, his bones are crumbling. I’m watching my 6’2 beast of a father struggle to mount a step. Begrudgingly use a walker. Cry out in frustration and pain. And all I can do is watch, my brain screaming.

-ap