Wednesday, October 26, 2011
What Mattered Most
Today would have been my dad’s 68th birthday. On this day last year, he’d been in the ICU for four days and was about to have surgery to biopsy and remove as much as possible of the brain tumor. It was a tense, rough week for him and for those of us who loved him.
When I think back to the “me” that I was in the days before Dad’s diagnosis or even during the time when he was sick, I’ve debated about whether I should be envious of that person or, now that I know what’s coming, if I should feel sorry for her. Dad would say that kind of thinking is ridiculous; he was never a fan of thinking about or worrying about things that he felt didn’t matter or didn’t affect the outcome. Just for the record, though, I’m leaning towards being jealous of that person (me at this time last year) because she still has time to spend with him. She can still talk to him and hold his hand, and that’s something that matters a lot, to be sure.
It wasn’t a good birthday for Dad. He would probably say it was, though – he would say, “It could’ve been worse!” Unlike a lot of adults, Dad looked forward to ticking off another birthday each year and didn’t mind being the age that he was. He typically gave us his Wish List for “birthday ideas” well before his birthday, even though he was always the easiest person around to buy for, probably because he had such distinct hobbies that could always be supported with clothes and/or equipment and because he was always grateful for whatever he was given.
We gave him a couple of his gifts in the hospital – the ones that weren’t related to running, biking, or swimming – but he was too distracted and anxious for it to really matter; there wasn’t much celebrating going on for any of us. We didn't have even a trace of the thought that that would be his last birthday or even that it would be the last holiday for which we would be able to buy him a “normal” present. Even looking at him in the bed in the Neuro-ICU that day, we had no idea at all what was coming down the pipe. We did know, though, what mattered most; we didn’t need an ambulance ride or surgery or cancer to remind us.
Happy birthday, Dad. Damn, I miss you. I know you'd want us to celebrate your birthday for you, since you're not here to do it yourself. It's just so tough, getting through this day that marks an age you didn't have a chance to reach. I'm trying, though, and I want to celebrate your life more than I am mourning my loss, to smile when I remember you instead of crying. But, as we all know now, just wanting to and trying aren't always enough.