Saturday, June 16, 2007

In the Name of the Father

Tomorrow is Father's Day, so I figured I'd post something in honor of my dear old dad, who I miss more than I can ever say. The photo is of my dad and mom at the club, where they spent many a weekend afternoon. Nice looking couple, right?

Note: I wrote this in November 2001.

This summer, I found out that my father has cancer. There was surgery, physical therapy, radiation and now chemo. There was the emergency room, CCU, the nursing home and now the visiting nurse. He has lost weight, but not his hair. He walks with a cane.

From the end of June through the middle of August, I shuttled from my home in New Haven to my sister’s place in New Jersey every weekend. I’d work Sunday through Thursday then catch an early Friday morning train to catch up on the what I had missed. I called home every day after work, trying to keep up with what was going on and struggling to keep it together when the news was not so good. I tried to make sense of all the medical jargon I was being hit with, but I couldn't. I tried to throw myself into my job, the only distraction I had, but I failed. I found myself on the verge of tears all the time. I was frustrated because I couldn't be there all the time. Mostly, I felt useless. I felt guilty and I was exhausted. I was tired, but I was supposed to be coming in on the weekends to relieve the others. What could I do? Like I said, useless and guilty.

One Saturday toward the end of July, I found myself alone with my father for the first time since before his diagnosis. We had a few hours together without the usual steady stream of visitors and well-wishers. I remember feeling uncomfortable, but I don’t remember why. I sat with him and we made small talk: baseball, who had come to visit and when, the latest antics of my sister’s kids. I made sure he ate his breakfast, he sent me to get myself some food. A doctor came in to check his vitals and how his surgical incision was healing. I translated English to Spanish and back again. He was ready to sleep after that, so I turned out the lamp, adjusted his covers and held his hand as he drifted off. Watching him sleep, I realized that I wanted to be there, needed to be there as much as he wanted and needed me to be. This was what I could do for him. I could be there to hold his hand while he slept. Eventually, I fell asleep too, but I didn't let go of his hand, I couldn't. I probably slept in that chair for half an hour and my father teased me about it later. But he didn't let go of me either.


Anonymous said...

I know it hasn't gotten any easier with the passage of time. I wish I could take away your sadness and sense of loss.

- M

Anonymous said...

Ditto - on the previous comment. Wish I could help, but know from experience - it takes as long as it takes. Love Laura