I Never Asked This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

No one told me that he was sick. I mean, it wasn’t surprising considering his age, but no one told me. They did tests at his annual checkup and there it was, the lump. It was nestled in his tongue and throat, burrowed so deep that surgery wasn’t an option. And it didn’t just stay like that; it multiplied and spread into his throat and ears and mouth, affecting his taste and hearing. And there it stayed. No matter how hard we tried, he tried, it never left.

We heard he had six months to live. We secretly hated the live-in nurse and the movers who brought a bed into the living room. We hated the empty library, the untouched National Geographics and the unopened bills. We hated the Astros, whose poor performances he had to watch. The TV blaring over hushed conversations and concerned glances. I hated the headphones. They came with the deafness. He sat, oblivious to everything, watching the Astros lose.

I hated his office. The desk with letters he never opened. The oil journals and Investors Weekly thrown away unread and untouched. I hated the painted rock paperweight that never moved, the locked drawer that never opened, and the pictures of youth and health that covered his walls.

I worked that whole summer in his messy office. I sat at his desk, in his chair. I shredded his old pay receipts; I added up the checks and cashed them in his name. I parked in his spot, ordered from his menu, and drank from his mug.

I hated his car the most. It sat in the driveway with an air of haughtiness unknown to most material things, its giant Mercedes symbol shimmering in the sun, begging to be driven. I wanted it to stay there, to wait for him to get better. But that didn’t happen. My uncle bought the car and I secretly hated him.

I started to hate the holidays. At Christmas he sat in his suit and opened his presents. He walked to the kitchen to get food pumped into his stomach. I hated the forced happiness when he opened his gifts – slippers and foot massagers and other items only used in the home, only when you’re sick. No more birdwatching binoculars or tennis-ball throwers. And I hated that.

Most of all I hated the time. I hated the wait – the long haul to the finish line. The month he started sleeping downstairs, started going to the hospital more, and then he stopped. Stopped the chemo, stopped the pills, just stopped. I hated it. I never asked but I always wondered. How could he give up the fight? How could he die? How could he give up hope? Never going to Aspen again, not seeing me graduate, marry, or have kids. How could he do that to me, to us, to her? How could he leave her so dependent on him, the only thing she had left? How?

I know now, though. I know now, and I have stopped hating. I stopped wondering and wishing and wanting. I accept. I understand. I know. Hopeless. No taste, no sound, no smell. No relaxation. No freedom from pain. That’s why.

He was the strongest man I ever knew, and I had so much time with him, yet all I could do was hate.

If anything, he taught me to accept, to lift myself above a situation. To be better than anything that comes at me in life. To accept each strikeout with dignity and take each walk with humility. That’s what he would have told me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2008 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.

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Marigold said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 8:05 pm
My dad died of lung cancer this summer, and you put into word what I feel. Hate, hate, hate. I hated the Support Workers and the doctors and my mom and even my dad. I hated myself, I hated the drugs, i hated his diet, i hated the hospital, i hated that he wouldn't see me grow up like you said.
LarkMCJoseph said...
Dec. 22, 2009 at 8:28 am
I think your story is realist, is "individual", unic... Like if no one else had experienced it before..
And it's special, very good...
meredith P. said...
Mar. 28, 2009 at 10:27 pm
i can relate to this so well.i once thought why he gave up.and why he left me.my papa used to call me his little girl.and the smile on his face when i walkked in lit up the room.it comforts me knowing that i can look at pictures and think back to all the happy times we used to have together.thanks for writing this.
linda009 said...
Dec. 27, 2008 at 8:00 am
There surely were times when I did not know what questions to ask, when everyone knew what was going on and only I was kept in the dark, but now I thank my parents for keeping depressing experience from me, for I was too hypersensitive.
Crystal 270 said...
Sept. 2, 2008 at 6:18 pm
I love the way I can relate this article. It is a very sad thing to go through.
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