Five years


It was five years ago today that my father died from an aggressive form of brain cancer: Glioblastoma Multiforme. I'll never forget the specific name of the disease that killed him. I remember speaking to him on the phone the day the biopsy results came back. His voice with its usual stoicism but the tone, lacking its characteristic optimism, instead held more gravitas. Perhaps reading too much into it and misinterpreting it for despair, I felt compelled to address it quixotically, "What's it called?" I asked. He told me the name and I repeated it with disdain and said, "Good. Now we know the name of the beast we're fighting". The exchange would have been better appreciated read out of one of his favorite books, but I felt it lost on his distracted mind that half listed to my voice on the other end. I'll have to be strong for him then and together we'll slay those windmills giants, I remember thinking.

This was when I was living out west and comfortably removed from the situation at home. Naively, I listened when my dad told me to stay out there and not to worry about him or disrupt my life. We were all trying to go on with our normal lives, hoping perhaps that by doing so we'd make the cancer disappear. Did it work in reverse: Out of mind, out of sight? I convinced myself that it's what my father really wanted but really I knew it was only a matter of time before duty would take precedence over my own selfish preferences. I practically coached myself on the plane ride home when I finally went. It’s hard to ever feel prepared to see a parent so physically and emotionally fragile though and I wondered if I actually had the strength once in the presence of his vulnerabilities. 

He had us all fooled for a while; working full days at the office then taking long walks along the canal with my mom in the evenings. We would all sit for dinner and talk about the day just as we always had done as a family and then when the night laid her soft, dark blanket over the entire house to rest, he'd be in his den, like a kid under the covers with a flashlight, reading book after book. He didn't have to fight off sleep because the treatment and medications had robbed him of it. No moment ever warranted idleness for Papi though, so he read. We counted and his record at that time was 10 books in one month - and I'm not talking big-fonted, 100-paged, paperbacks. No, these were hefty biographies and memories, better suited for hard covers and hearty binding. That was my dad though; a life-long student, always thirsting for knowledge, trying to absorb every last bit, even when his mind was dispersing it. So when I was woken up the morning of his passing and was told that my father was "actively dying", it was of no surprise.  If I ever heard an oxymoron, that was it, but it was so ironically appropriate too because Papi never did anything passively.

Some days his absence feels heavy, almost tangible - the way my arms feel after holding August for such a while that even after I've put him down, the memory of his weight is still felt in my biceps. More often though I think of him in quiet celebration, proud to have known such a man. To have been raised by him. And to have maybe even sort of become the woman version of him. Running on the canal is when I feel the most at peace and closest to Papi. I'll often imagine him trotting along side me with his steady cadence, enjoying all the beauty and being sure to point out all the critters to me as we pass them. He once told me "When you feel the wind at your back know that it's me pushing you along".  Even when there is no movement in the air, I know he is there.


Ann Burt said...

Lucy, what a beautiful reflection on your Dad! Reading it brought tears - It was a blessing to have met him though it was for just a short time. One of my favorite memories of him was when I stayed at the house one night and we stayed up late and he showed me everyone of the photo albums of the big house being built! I enjoyed it so very much and you could just see how proud he was of the entire project. I pray for him every morning along with my own Dad. May their souls rest in the peace of Christ! I know he is so proud of all you guys and smiling especially on the beautiful grandkiddos

JosiJoy said...

Hey Lew,
I've been catching up on your blog, because school was so busy and I now have time to sit, do nothing, and read a lot. I have enjoyed your posts and it's a good way to catch up with you. I miss you and Claud more than ever and it's nice to get into your brain a bit and help me feel like I am more involved in your life.

So, yes...Papi...your dad had one of the most amazing "presences" I've ever experienced. He didn't even have to say anything, but his presence was a very strong one and I am glad that I got to be with him a few times.

My favorite memory is actually the first day I met you twinsies and your family- you and Claud came to move in (Gorman) and he called me a sheep because of my tattoo! hahahaha! And I remember having a great discussion about tattoos and being a sheep in society, and not once was I offended, but very much respected your Papi's opinion. I think I only met him a handful of times, but his presence touched me very much.

I think about him sometimes, because I think about you and I miss him FOR you and your family. Life's great events-as they call them-are the times that I, personally, miss him the most through you. However, it is comforting to know how much of HIM still lives in you and Claudi. I see glimpses of his strength in the both of you and it's very comforting to see you and Claud carry him with you.

Who knows where Papi is, but one thing is for sure, he would be very proud of you. I'm not sure if he would say it, but you would know it.

Love you.

Chuck Holton said...

You are spot on, Lucy. We are all better for having known him. That was his way - to help others be better. He is one of the finest human beings I have ever known, and my heart still hurts that he is gone. Blessings on you as you carry on his legacy.


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