I’ve had that title in my head for a future blog post once all was said and done, though originally it was going to be called “The Worst Fucking Cancer Advice You’re Ever Going to Hear.” The irony being, my dad would get upset if you ever said that something “sucked.”
I never really spoke much about my father having cancer. For someone who is on teh Facebooks and teh Twitters more than anyone should be, sharing every idiotic pondering that crosses his mind, I’m not one for sharing personal aspects of my life. As it is, I had originally only e-mailed a few close friends when my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, just to say that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and that I didn’t really want to talk aboot it otherwise.
But now that he’s passed and my family is finishing the mourning stage over two refrigerators full of leftovers, I thought I’d share some…well, thoughts…that have crossed my mind as of late.
Make it up as you go along. Those seven words best describe the past year and a half, and were why this was originally going to be called “The Worst Advice…,” because really, it’s all I got. It was easier when my mom had breast cancer eleven years ago. It was diagnosed, the doctor said we were going cure it, and that’s really all I needed to hear unless he had some reason to change his mind. That wasn’t the case with my dad, where the prognosis was a. they couldn’t remove the tumor, and b. we’ll try and figure something out.
This is where the making things up as you go along comes in, because not only did I never know how “trying to figure things out” was going to affect him, I never knew how it was going to affect my mom, my sister, or even myself. “Should I go out or not go out?” “Is this fight one that I need to get involved in?” “Do I need to throw [family member X] in the car and drag them to a therapist myself?” You find yourself trying to hold your family together as well as figuring out your own life, tell people to fuck off whether they actually need to or not, and second guess every decision you or anyone in your family makes. That’s why I say “make it up as you go along,” because most of the time that’s all you can do.
There are two types of friends: those you talk to aboot cancer and those you don’t. Both are equally important. The reason for the former is obvious; you need to talk about it to someone whether you like it or not.
In the later case, while I always knew all my friends cared about me and my family from the bottom of their hearts, when they would ask how things are going the best I could come up with is, “meh.” Instead of rehashing everything that was going wrong or has gone wrong since the last time it came up in conversation, it was just as important to talk about anything but: politics, movies, football, who got drunk, who hooked up, etc. It’s those nights and conversations, whether it’s for a few minutes or a few hours, that prevent you from going insane.
Send quiche. My family appreciates the outpouring of support from everyone we know, and it’s not like we were incapacitated from helping ourselves. It’s just that when you wake up after the initial avalanche of food, and you dig through the chicken dishes and I-talian food and the stews and the pork and beans that are going to feed your family for weeks to come…sometimes you just want breakfast.
Appreciate the humor in everything. I know you want to be anywhere else, but there’s something inherently funny aboot sitting in the “showroom” of a funeral parlor that looks just like the showroom at Verizon, being shown plots the same way a real estate agent would show you homes, and obsessing over what to dress someone when at most all anyone is going to see is the upper half. It’s the worst week of your life and there’s going to be plenty of tears and sad moments. Don’t be afraid to laugh. I’m sure the cousins and friends of the family whose names you suddenly can’t remember would agree.
Police escorts. My dad had twenty-five years on the job, and while there are some “perks” that come with that when you pass, now that I’ve become more involved with politics I found myself thinking aboot the overtime cost to taxpayers. Of course like most taxpayers, I’m a hypocrite when it comes to my own family.
Share Your Stories. I didn’t have a particularly close relationship with my dad. It sucks and has sucked over the past year and a half wrestling with that and never really knowing how to rectify it. He could be cold. He would always get upset over the dumbest things. Sometimes it even felt like he only really cared aboot my mom. I never thought I got anything from him, or took after him in any way. Then I spoke to his cop buddies for fifteen minutes, who spoke of him the same way my friends speak of me. Same with the people from the diner he would go to. Same with his best friend’s (who also recently passed) sons. After thirty-six years, I now know where I got my personality and sense of humor from. I wasn’t sure how to feel. On one hand, the highlight of the week was hearing these stories and hearing the effect my dad had on people’s lives. On the other hand, it would have been nice to have heard these stories from him, and to have known the man they knew. It makes me wonder how different our relationship would have been if that was the case.
And I guess that’s my main take away from this entire ordeal. With my mom’s cancer, it was to never say goodbye without saying “I love you,” because you never know (and thankfully I never did).
With my dad: share your stories. Make sure your family knows who you are.
P.S. The other take away, especially now that I’ve become the “man of the house” so to speak, heaven forbid anything ever happened to me I know both my mom and my sister would be in good hands with my brother-in-law Keith.