Thursday, December 27, 2012
Since my dad went on ahead almost two years ago and especially over the past year, I have been struggling with the fact that the way I see him in my mind is as he was when he was sick, but today when I happened upon a picture of myself helping him walk using his walker I was struck by the fact that he looked even more frail than I remembered. So now I’m troubled by the fact that apparently I don’t clearly see him as he was well or as he was sick, although maybe the latter is for the better.
It was excruciating to watch Dad struggle and to witness the physical and psychological effects of his illness as it progressed, especially because I felt that we had all but been promised that there would be improvement after he had gotten the "Magic Bullet drug," Avastin. My heart broke for Dad as I watched him struggle to grasp the severity of his illness, time and time again. As long as I live, I will never forget the look in his eyes when he was struggling to get around on his walker one day not long after he got out of rehab and he stopped for a minute, obviously deep in thought. I was holding onto the waistband at the back of his pants, and he looked back at me with tears suddenly in his eyes and said, "Am I handicapped?"
"No, Dad!" I responded. "You've been through a lot, and you're having to work on some things, but you're going to get better." I was so sure, and, from my perspective, so was everyone else around us, maybe not that he would be cured but definitely that his physical skills would improve with effort and with time.
But that didn't happen. He didn't get better; in fact, he got worse, and little by little his independence and then his life slipped away. Or maybe I should say they were stolen, or ripped away from us, because saying they slipped away implies that we weren't holding on and fighting tooth and nail every step of the way, which we were, Dad included.
I don't think he realized that the end was very near for him those last couple of weeks; likely, the invaders in his brain - the cancer, the trauma from the seizure and the surgery, the chemicals in his body that collected as his organs were shutting down and could no longer filter out the toxins, and the array of medicines he was taking - clouded his knowledge of his rapidly worsening condition. I hope so - Dad didn’t deserve to be given a death sentence. It was heartbreaking enough that the rest of us had to know what was coming down the pipe all too soon.