Sweet Sixteen

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Many girls celebrate their sixteenth birthday with some type of celebration. Whether they choose to have an out-of-this-world party or a Sunday brunch for their six best friends, the occasion is more than recognized. Presents are also provided for the birthday girl, more so than on a “regular” birthday. Several girls get a key that typically represents the car with a big red bow waiting in the driveway. Or in my sister’s case, in the Drago’s parking lot. Essentially, the day is intended to be memorable and full of excitement. Well, for my sixteenth birthday, I got a day I will never forget, but not exactly the day that would be expected.

The date was January 25, 2007 -- my super sweet sixteen. My dad had been in and out of doctor’s offices for two weeks and was finally admitted to the hospital a few days before. He had a severe case of bronchitis, no, not bronchitis, pneumonia. He had a severe case of pneumonia. My family would gather at 6:00, on my sweet sixteen, to learn that my father did not have pneumonia, rather he had mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma- a rare form of cancer that usually occurs from exposure to asbestos; symptoms appear 30 to 50 years after exposure; patients have a life expectancy of under a year once diagnosed depending on how progressed the stages appear. (so says the website I constantly referenced throughout his sickness).
WHAT?!? What on earth did this mean? Did this mean that my picture-perfect life as I knew it was over? Could this really be happening to my family? How could something that affects less than 20,000 people a year affect my dad? God, are You serious? What part of sweet sixteen is it that You don’t understand? The disease that has no cure. How could you do this to me, God?
To make my sweet sixteen even worse, Cameron was in town. Cameron is my half-brother who my mother detests more than anything in life. There is no denying that Cameron is arrogant, but when you are a super-genius who speaks Arabic and have a secret smart job for the government being arrogant comes naturally. The actual reason my mother does not like Cameron remains unknown, but I would guess it had something to do with the fact that he is a jerk. Now they had something new to argue about: my dad’s health and healthcare. I was sure my mother would win, but Cameron would put up a good fight. Cameron’s presence would, without a doubt, enhance my somber sixteen. Thanks for coming in town, Cam.
My parents had been too busy going between the oncologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist, radiologist, and every other doctor you see to contain this monster growing inside my dad’s body to get me a present. Instead, I would receive my dad’s car once he became too sickly to drive. I would drive myself to school even though I wasn’t supposed to be driving anywhere by myself under any circumstance because, as my mother claimed, I was too “inexperienced.” I guess since she would be too busy now I would figure out how to drive. Also, this would be the car I would transport my dad in to and from the oncologist for chemotherapy. The same car he had taken me in to the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor for years. Somehow God thought this would be a fair trade.
January 25, 2007 -- my super sweet sixteen. The day I began to grow up very quickly -- the day I was forced to grow up very quickly. The day I realized that if I wanted to wake up at 6:00, I was fully capable of setting my alarm clock. The day I realized that if I wanted a lunch at school that day, the lunchmeat was in the meat drawer in the fridge. The day I realized that if I wanted my sweater washed every Wednesday, the soap was to the left of the washing machine. This would be the day that I realized that if I wanted to survive the next few days, months, years, I had better get a new attitude. Grow-up. And that is exactly what I did.
James. That was not his name and it bothered him and me to no end when people called him that. His name was Jimmy, not Jim, not James -- Jimmy. Jimmy would be proud of the growing up I’ve done. I owe it all to him, actually. It is possible that daddy spoiled his little girl, but he taught me the things I would need when he left. He encouraged me to always do my best and be the best person I can be. He was hard on me at times but only because he wanted the absolute best for me. My dad spent my whole life teaching me that he was proud of me and loved me; therefore, I should be proud of myself and love myself since he would not always be here to tell me.
So, perhaps my sweet sixteen wasn’t the usual sweet sixteen, but like I said, it was a birthday I will never forget. I didn’t get a party, but I did get one of the greatest gifts in disguise. The gift of family: appreciating them and loving them. I also received the gift of time. The next two months would be the greatest, yet saddest months of my life. I would spend valuable and irreplaceable time with my family, especially with my dad. Not knowing when someone will be taken away certainly teaches a person to cherish each and every day. What better gift could a girl ask for in celebrating her sixteenth birthday?





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