Dad, Grand Canyon, 1968

I have found it more and more difficult to write since learning how serious my father’s cancer might be. The reasons for this are hard to put into words. I guess I’m dealing with a combination of anxiety, worry, anger and a dawning understanding of the nature of my own mortality.

Part of me thinks that my inability to express myself well beyond 140 characters (apparently I can always gin up some stupid tweet about whatever) since Dad got sick may be recognizing, at last, at forty-fucking-seven years old, that I am not a child anymore. I haven’t been one for ages.

It isn’t that my parents took care of me much after I turned 18. They have helped me too much financially through years, when I did not remotely deserve the help, but they never truly tried to keep running my life after 18. I never had to argue with them even one time after that, nor did I have to strongly defend any of my choices, good or bad. I am sure that between them they’ve discussed my idiocy a thousand times and shaken their heads at dumb things I’ve done, but they made no effort whatsoever to put that on me. And honestly, I’m as grateful for that as I am for the financial help. Maybe even moreso.

But they are in a place in my heart and head labeled Always There. A place I created as a baby and until the extent of Dad’s cancer became clear, left untouched.

It isn’t that I lack hope about Dad. He’s undergoing very aggressive treatment and may pull through in great shape. He’s the eternally Angry Man, on some level, and the good side of Dad’s inner fire is it is evidence of his inability to give up.

Yet this is cancer we’re talking about. It takes no prisoners.

So I have begun to try and grasp the idea that one day the country of Always There will be a desert. It will live only in memory.

Many have had to deal with that all their lives. Many more never had it at all. Thinking of them, I realize I can’t afford any self-pity about it. I can’t afford it, but I will feel it. But more than that, I’ll miss the voices I learned there.

My father’s voice, which I share — physically I bear a strong resemblance to my mother, but my voice box is a clone of his. I sound just like him.

I think much of my life I’ve been braying about, confident in the fact that I’m an echo of his broad-shouldered trumpeting. ‘That’s got to be Bob’s boy, with the red hair and that voice.’ I’ve lived inside an unconscious pride in that, and spoken purely from that pride.

There will come a time, I now know, when I’ll be the only one ringing out into the darkness. I’ll be the remaining, braying, angry, redheaded Huff. Bob’s son, bellowing alone.

And the phrase, “I’m not ready for that” is an ostinato in my head. It’s a leitmotif, a ground theme.

But age has a way of helping you recognize that whether you’re ‘ready for that’ or not, whatever “that” is will still come.

That is what I know. So I’m waiting for Always There to evolve into Bellowing Alone, and I can’t really grasp it, no matter how many words I spin.

No matter how many words I spin, he’s still Daddy, and he’s still standing unimaginably small and alone before whatever it is life does to everyone, eventually.

And it makes me angry.

Angry, and like him, somehow, for a moment, alone.

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