One could almost feel the silence, that silence that hangs in the air like a cloud. I walked through the house making all the noise I could to try to blow that away. When I rounded the corner, I saw my mother at the kitchen table, tears streaming down her face. She started to speak, but I immediately knew what she would say. I hugged her tightly and felt the tears rolling down my cheeks, too. I found Dad in the backyard working on something. I dried my tears as I walked outside. “What are you doing?” I asked.
“Well, I promised the twins I’d build them a tepee and now I’m not sure how long I will have to keep my promise, so I thought I better get started.”
I had been trying to act as strong as he was, but he saw right through me. He put his arm around my shoulders and the tears I had just attempted to dry welled up and ran down my face again.
That was the day my family found out my dad has cancer. That was only seven months ago. Mom had told me Dad was having trouble swallowing food, so she took him to the hospital for a check-up. I knew the pain must be bad if Dad was willing to see a doctor. He casually assured me that he was not worried, but I had seen the concern in Mom’s eyes. When the tests came back, the results were devastating. Silence filled our house.
That seems like a long time ago now. Since then I have seen him endure more and more pain. He has been through chemotherapy, radiation, days without eating because of the pain, and heartbreaking visits from family. But through this all he has had the same will, the same determination, the same strength as he did that day he held me in the backyard.
Through the pain I learn more about myself every day. I have learned what it is like to struggle with the heartache of seeing a loved one die. I have learned to be selfless and put others’ needs before mine. I have learned to deal with pain. It is ironic that the same person I draw strength from has so little himself. My dad is often weak and constantly ill, but he has the strongest character of anyone I know. There have been times when he has been the sole source of strength for my family. His sickness is the reason we are upset, but he is the one comforting us.
Now it seems as if he suffers more and more each day. I have given up trying to be as strong as he is. Now I can only hope to learn from him while he is still here to teach me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.