Governing Ana has been quiet lately, and the weekend for the 4th Annual Love Spanks has come and will soon go.
The writing has been put on hold, and the evil day job has taken a hiatus. I returned yesterday, stunned and fumbling through the motions of life.
Last October, I wrote about my father’s return to the world of cancer. If I had to choose three events that have shaped my life and who I am, his cancer would be the second. (Numbers one and three are too private to share.) Because he has been living with cancer and its side effects for about twenty years, he had to undergo some scary and long-term treatment.
When families go through serious, long-term illnesses, all of the unhealthy existing dynamics seem to increase exponentially. No matter how much people love each other, fear and stress can contribute to some unpleasant situations. For most of my life, I have worried that my father might die. These past few weeks was the first time in years that I thought it might happen now.
Due to the incredible generosity of a friend (hard to even call her a friend, as someone like this is so much more), I was able to fly to visit my dad and surprise him in the ICU. (I checked multiple times with his nurses to make sure a surprise wouldn’t negatively affect his health.)
Visiting him was more than I could have dreamed, and yet I couldn’t shake the utter devastation of watching my father’s body wracked with illness.
His formerly strong, big hands that performed difficult physical labor.
His once-balding head, now almost devoid of hair thanks to chemo.
His eyes, squinting through his eternally scratched glasses and a fog of three pages’ worth of medications.
His thin back, not quite covered by the hospital gown.
The legs and ankles swollen with IV fluids and weeks of bedrest.
The lips blackened with sores from chemo, sores unable to heal while his white blood cell count remained dangerously low.
I darted to and from the nurses’ station (ICU nurses, I have come to believe, are angels straight from God), anticipating every need and asking a million questions to make sure he was receiving the best care. Most of all, I let his teams (he was so ill that he had, at one time, four separate medical teams doing rounds on him each day) know that his “I’m fine” did not mean he was fine. Instead, it meant he didn’t want to be a bother and felt he could suffer in silence.
At one point, he asked me to leave the room while the nurse administered his medications. He was too weak to lift the spoon himself, and he didn’t want me to see.
In the midst of his daily battle to live, his only complaint was about trivial, should-have-been-long-forgotten family drama issues.
When he was pronounced ready to graduate from ICU and return to the regular floor (after days of false promises), I thought we would celebrate. Instead, all of the family drama came out.
And I returned, frustrated in my need to make things better.
Instead, I’ve come back to the evil day job and the peculiarities of normal living. My father has now developed pneumonia in addition to everything else he’s fighting. I’m struggling to make peace with what my world will look like without my father. I don’t mean a physically living and breathing dad, but a father. The man in my life who adored me when I was a child, sitting me on his lap and insisting everyone listen to my latest achievement. The dad who was more nervous than I when I performed a concerto with my high school orchestra.
The dad who, despite all of his and my imperfections, thought I was the smartest and best student in the school.
Maybe one day, family drama will lessen and relationships will become easier. Maybe not.
Until then, I hold in my heart the dad who loved me more than any father loved his daughter.
I love you, Dad. And I miss you.