A Strong Connection This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     I’m a sophomore. I’m involved in Spanish Club, basketball and softball; I enjoy reading, shopping and spending time with friends. I work part-time. My life doesn’t seem very different from most teenagers, but it is. Recently I moved in with my aunt and uncle after my dad died of cancer. Up until then, it had been just the two of us since my mom died of cancer when I was four.

On April 18, 1993, my mom died of cancer. I was scared to death, but my dad was there, and he made everything all right.

I am with my older cousin getting food for lunch. When we bring it to my aunt’s house, my dad is on the phone, so I start eating. When he gets off the phone he comes over and tells me my mom died. I climb up on his lap and bury my face in his chest, my eyes bursting with tears. He holds me and somehow I feel we will be okay.

I was devastated when my mom died, but I was young, so I did the only thing I could and found someone to make everything better - my dad.

As they close the casket at the funeral, my dad lifts me to take down the picture of the three of us. I hold it tightly. We go to the cemetery and bury my mom; with my dad by my side, I’m okay. Our life without my mom begins now.

Time went by fast and my dad was there every minute. I started preschool, then kindergarten. I had birthday parties, even a sleepover with 13 kids. We went camping twice a year, shopping for clothes and presents, even my first bra (that was memorable, especially since Dad shared the story with everyone). Dad enjoyed watching me grow, though he wished I would stop. My brother has three kids, so my dad got to experience the joys of grandchildren. I graduated elementary school and then my joyful, carefree life with Dad changed.

Cancer is a disease in which cells multiply, destroying healthy tissue. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. In 2004 there were 173,770 new cases diagnosed and 160,440 deaths. Nearly 60% of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within a year of their diagnosis, and almost 75% die within two years.

It is a summer day like any other. I’m at my friend’s house relaxing when the phone rings. My friend races to the caller ID; it’s my dad. She hands me the phone.

“You need to come home,” he says. “We need to talk.” His voice is a little shaky.

When I get there my dad is on the phone, tears in his eyes. I only hear one word, “cancer.” I collapse on the chair, tears quickly filling my eyes. I look at him, speechless and scared. I hug him tightly, not wanting to let go. My life will never be the same.

So many things were said that day and I don’t remember even one. My dad saw a specialist who decided to operate. Without any treatment they gave him six weeks to live.

I’m in the waiting room, waiting for someone to take my family to see my dad before he goes in for surgery. I jump from reading a book to looking at a magazine to watching TV. I don’t know what to do with myself. I know if I stop for just a second, I’ll break down. I’m scared like never before.

They finally bring us in. One by one people give my dad hugs and tell him things they think are important; I just watch with tears running down my face. I don’t hear anything anyone is saying until my sister’s boy- friend asks my dad permission to take her hand in marriage. My dad starts crying and whispers,“Yes.” I cry even harder, happy my sister is getting married.

I look into his eyes; neither of us says anything, our words are choked by our tears.

“Give your dad a hug and kiss,” says the nurse, as my brother pushes me forward. I fall toward Dad, wrapping my arms around him and burying my face in his chest, like I have so many times before. I kiss his cheek and then lean my cheek toward him. I know he knows I expect a kiss. He kisses me. “I love you,” I say.

“I love you, too,” he says.

I watch as they wheel him away. What if this is the last time I see him? I can’t live without him, I just can’t. Now there is nothing to do but wait.

Many hours later we go into recovery. The family all crowds in, so I just stand in the hall. When my dad asks where I am, they pull me in through the group.

The sight of my dad scares me, but I’m relieved to see he’s alive, though he looks weak. I stand there looking at him until someone pushes me toward him. I melt into his arms, like when I was little and scared. He feels so fragile that I’m afraid I will hurt him, but I know he is alive and for now that’s all the comfort I need.

After the surgery, my dad went through chemotherapy and radiation. With that came probably the hardest time. Chemotherapy brought endless, sleepless nights of vomiting. I cooked for him, and he was happy, but he always lost it all a couple hours later.

My dad slept more and more. He would always curl up on the chair with Sadie, my dog, who really was his dog. She kept him company while I was at school. She watched out for him; if he fell when I wasn’t home, she would lay with her head on his side whimpering until he got up. My dad would never admit it, but he needed Sadie.

Eventually the tumors were so small that they were almost nonexistent and the doctors stopped the chemotherapy. Although Dad never got back to normal, he regained some of his strength and enjoyed himself again. Then one day my dad’s shoulder began to hurt, and he wasn’t feeling well. He didn’t go to the doctor until he couldn’t stand it any longer. Dad knew the cancer was bad; he didn’t need a doctor to tell him. So, they started chemo again.

The treatment wasn’t as bad as before, but it weakened him. He started having trouble doing even simple stuff. The doctors did another brain scan and found 13 tumors. They started a different kind of chemo, but it wasn’t very effective and just made him sick so the doctors decided to stop. And once again, it was a waiting game.

On May 27, 2004 my dad went for an appointment, and the doctors decided to hospitalize him to see if he could regain strength. Then they moved him to a nursing home; he still had hopes of going home. May 26 was the last night I spent at home with my dad.

I bury my face in his chest. He lies motionless on the step outside our home, unconscious. I am so scared, too scared to cry. My uncle pulls me away. He says, “Susan, it’s bad, three to six weeks at the longest. He’s not supposed to get up without three people helping him.”

The paramedics come and pull me away. Dad slowly wakes up and I’m immediately at his side, not caring what the paramedics say, my only thought is that this could be my last minute with him. The paramedics get him in a wheelchair and bring him into the house, something he keeps asking for. He is throwing up, but I hold on around his neck anyway. Tears pour down my face, tears run down his. He just holds me and says over and over, “We did alright, kid,” and all I want to say is, “We did great, Pa,” but I can’t, I just hold him close and say, “I love you,” over and over, knowing I need to treasure these moments. Every once in a while he chokes out, “I love you, too, kiddo.”

Up until the last three weeks of my dad’s life, he was determined to regain strength and bring me home from my aunt and uncle’s house. He knew that was the only thing that would cheer me up. I now realize he probably didn’t really believe he would go home again, but he said it because he knew I needed to hear it. It was all for me. Dad once told me he wouldn’t have had surgery, or chemo or radiation or even have gone to the doctor, if it weren’t for having a daughter to raise. His whole life was about me. Ever since my mom died, it was all about me. It was true; I needed him more than anything, and it turned out he needed me, too.

A cloud is a visible body of very fine water droplets or ice particles suspended in the atmosphere at altitudes ranging up to several miles. There are eight types of clouds and with them come many forms of precipitation necessary for life on earth. But sometimes clouds are much, much more ...

I come into the room in the nursing home, like I always do, and sit next to my dad on the bed. This time instead of sleeping or visiting with someone, he is staring out the window.

“What ya looking at, Pa?” I ask.

“Baby polar bears,” he says. I wrinkle up my forehead and look out the window again. I realize he is looking at the clouds.

I smile and remember when we used to lie in the grass and watch the clouds. I wish we could go back to when I was little and my dad was strong and healthy. I wish we could lie in the grass and watch the clouds again, with no cares in the world. But I can’t, so instead I sit with him and watch the bears through the window.

My dad taught me something that day. No matter where I am in life, I can stop and enjoy the little things, like baby polar bears playing in the clouds. To this day I cry whenever I watch the clouds.

My dad died peacefully on June 28, 2004 at 11:30 p.m. He spent 41 nights in the hospital and nursing home. I visited him every day. I know my dad loved me and knew I loved him. We had a great life together, and yeah, I cried the night my dad died, but only a few tears of relief because I knew he was finally happy again. It was at the funeral when I saw him in the coffin that I knew he was gone. Then I really cried.

My dad taught me many things: doing dishes, grocery shopping, and common courtesy. He always told me to respect my elders and not talk back. My dad taught me to have a positive outlook, yet be realistic. He taught me to be honest. He showed me I am capable of anything I put my mind to. One of the most difficult things I learned is that if you love someone, show them; make sure they know it, because one day when you wake up they might not be there anymore. But most important, more than what he bought me or did for me or what he taught me, is that my dad loved me. Dad loved me more than anything, and that is all that really matters. Knowing that someone loves me that much has given me confidence; this love and confidence is something I will pass onto my children and so really my dad will live forever.

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 September 2006 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

NobodyYouKnow said...
Feb. 13, 2011 at 8:47 am
What a great article. It has so much depth.
 
Mohammed H. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 1, 2011 at 1:45 am
Very vivid. Amazing. I loved it.
 
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