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I Remember MAG
I remember when my dad was sick, when his skin turned an unnatural sallow color and he went to the doctors to see what was wrong.
“It could be a couple of things,” they explained. “There’s a chance it might be cancer. We’re going to have to run more tests.” Why does human nature always force us to fear the worst when things might just as easily go the other way? I suppose it would be a cruel trick of the mind always to believe the best, but without hope, what is the point?
I remember the day the test results came back. I knew they were coming, but I went away anyway. I didn’t want just to sit all day and wait to find out, as if the waiting and worrying would ensure better results. A call came at my friend’s house – come home. The route home was never so long as it was that day. I had nothing to do but pedal and think. I parked and could see my oldest brother through the sliding-glass door waiting for me. He was pacing the dining room floor, and that told me more than words. We didn’t say anything, just hugged each other as tightly as we could and cried. He must have squeezed all the tears out of me, because I never cried so much, before or since. Then we went from there to the hospital to visit our dad.
Six months to live – tops. It is an awful thing to tell a man when he will die. That is something I believe we are not meant to know. Dad told the doctor he would send him a letter in six months – and one day.
The next few months were almost normal. We went camping, fishing, rappelling, jet skiing, a little more than usual, but not a whole lot. Then Dad started getting sick again.
I remember sitting at recess one day, clutching a picture in my hand and trying hard not to cry. It was the only picture I had of him and me, taken at a daddy-daughter activity. He was making a fake serious face, wearing a tiny red cowboy hat and a bandanna around his neck. He had his arm around me. It was as if he were already gone, though I knew he was lying in bed at home, still alive – for the moment. Everyone knew. I hated that everyone knew.
I remember when my dad was dying. I remember when he was sick. I remember the awful smell of vomit and decay that permeated his corner of the house. I remember the air freshener that none of us can stand to this day because it brings back the horrible memory. “Summer Breeze.” How ironic.
I remember him before the cancer, so full of vitality. His sense of humor – everyone loved his sense of humor. I remember the beginning, or rather, the beginning of the end. I remember his skin turning yellow again. I remember him lying in bed, all control of his body and mind slipping away, striving to hold on. I remember a client coming to see him. He tried to get up, babbling, “Gotta draw some lines. Gotta draw some lines.” I remember my aunt, his sister, whom I had never been very close to, holding me in her arms as we sat on the floor of the bedroom, crying.
I remember crying a lot. I cried more before he died than after. I think we all did. A wife and eight children, one already gone. He would soon be with that one again. I remember Rachel singing his favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”
I remember the phone ringing, and for minutes that seemed like hours, him mumbling, “Hello? Hello? Hello?” I ran to the living room and threw myself on the couch, buried my head in pillows, wishing I could sink into the couch and disappear. I hated to see him like that. It tortured me to hear the nonsense coming from him. He was such an intelligent man, rich with talents, but his mind was gone. I couldn’t take it anymore – I pleaded with God to free him, to take him home.
It was a relief when he finally passed on. But, although I knew this was best, the finality was hard to take. He was physically gone, I could no longer see him and hope beyond all hope that his wits would return and he would recover. He would not. He was gone.
Over the years I have adjusted. We all have. Our lives have gone on. I wish he were here, but he is not. Sometimes I do things I know he would be proud of, things I know would impress him. I want to see him smile and tell me how wonderful they are, and then, very gently and very carefully, tell me how I could do them better, not because it’s not good enough for him, but because he believed I could. Sometimes I feel his smile, and the warmth it gives my heart. And that is enough for now, because I know I will see his smile again some day.