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I Was Six
I climb down off of my bed. Ellie, my little pink elephant lays sprawled out on the floor. She must have gotten knocked off during the night. After tucking her back under the pink covers, I head for the hallway. It’s very quiet. My step mom is still in bed. She won’t be up for at least a couple more hours. I’m not surprised to find my dad sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. He has already been down to work and just came back up for a glass of orange juice. His dark hair is sticking up in some places. He doesn’t seem to care.
“Well, good morning,” my dad says as he lifts me up onto his lap. I wrap my arms tightly around his neck.
“Good morning,” I say. His scruffy chin grazes my forehead.
“So, what’s for breakfast?”
“Scrambled eggs of course,” I answer. Ever since my mom taught me how to cook scrambled eggs, I make them for him every morning I’m at his house. It makes me feel grown up.
My dad has cancer. I don’t really understand what this means, but the tears in my mom’s eyes let me know it’s not good. My mom explains that he’s very sick and going to have to go through a lot to get better so we need to help him as much as we can. I was six.
My dad flings a branch into the cool, crisp water of Lake Dillon. The lake is enormous, but is hidden in a vast hole and surrounded by towering pine trees. I watch as Chester leaps into the water, swimming as fast as he can through the tumbling waves until he reaches the branch. He clamps onto it and paddles back to shore. Chester is a big golden brown Chesapeake that loves the water. My dad has had him since before I was born.
“Your turn,” My dad says. I take the wet branch out of Chester’s drooling mouth and throw it as far as I can into the water. It goes a good three feet.
Treatment and Surgeries
The cancer is in his lymph nodes. They take it out, but it does no good. A malignant tumor develops in his brain. He gets surgery to take it out. I go visit him after the operation and am startled by the very large scar that takes up the right side of his head.
“It looks just like a horseshoe, don’t you think?” he smiles. I do my best to smile back. I was six.
I jump up and grab the shiny metal bar of the trapeze that hangs from my living room ceiling. Our apartment is right above the True Value hardware store where my dad works. He’s a part owner of the store with my grandpa and loves it. He’s constantly working, but always finds time to spend with me. The trapeze was his idea. I feel pretty special. How many other kids have a trapeze in their living room? I love pretending I’m in the circus. I swing back and forth dangling by my legs. My dad claps.
Another tumor grows inside his brain. The doctors will attempt one more time to remove it. It hurts to see my once active, crazy, funny dad lie in a hospital bed with hardly any life to hold on to. I don’t know what to do or say. I feel helpless. I was six.
The Silverthorne swimming pool is my favorite place to go. I love splashing in the shallow water and swimming on the bottom of the pool. Sometimes I’m a mermaid, but today I’m a dolphin. My dad is always the shark. I decide I want to go down the big slide. My dad waits at the bottom while I climb the many stairs and eventually come zipping down. The force of the water pushes me to the wall of the pool where I’m supposed to get out. Instead I decide to attempt to swim in front of the slide to the other side to show off my swimming skills to my dad. Not a good idea. The undertow sucks me under. My dad jumps in and grabs me.
I’m waiting for a miracle. Everyone else waits but knows the outcome. We’re standing by the hospital bed and my mom asks my dad if he wants us to come back tomorrow.
“No, Jordy and I are going fishing in Steamboat tomorrow,” he replies.
I’m confused but don’t say anything. I was six.
I sit quietly leaning up against my dad watching the TV screen. We’re watching Beauty and the Beast. It’s my dad’s favorite movie. Gaston is his favorite character. He roots for him every time even though he’s the bad guy and knows he’s going to die at the end.
“Stop it, he’s the bad guy!” I scold.
He smiles, “He’s not the bad guy; he’s the hero.”
I glare at him and continue watching the movie. I’ll never win that argument. The movie ends and I know it’s time for bed. I get up, do one last trick on the trapeze, and head to my room. My dad tucks me tightly beneath the covers.
“Goodnight, Jordy,” he says and kisses me on the forehead.
“Goodnight, Daddy,” I reply. He flips the lights off and I close my eyes.
January 2, 1996
I’m sitting on the couch when the phone rings. Even though I knew it was coming, the news that my dad had died caught me off guard and unprepared. That night I lost my Dad and my best friend forever. I was six.