Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One Year for Dad

One year ago today, I called my father at the UW Medical Center to inform him we'd just adopted Wiley. I thought that such news might help cheer him up a bit after three brain surgeries. He wasn't able to verbalize much, but communicated his feelings of approval with his sobbing, which, as his wife confirmed, was due to joy, not sorrow. He knew how much we'd wanted a dog when Sam was alive, but we'd decided against bringing a canine into the house when she was sick; it wouldn't have been a good situation. Dad knew with a dog around, we'd be well looked after.

My dad and stepmom played cards that day. Kit finally left to go back to the boat and get some sleep. After she left, I got a call from the hospital - my father had suffered a pulmonary embolism and was going fast. I knew where this was headed. I started calling everyone in my family. Finally, I got the frantic call back from Kit at the boat. My father was dead.

He'd been diagnosed about three months after Samantha, with a rare form of leiomyosarcoma (LMS). It had started in a nerve bundle in his calf, and appeared to be gone upon surgical removal. But months later, it showed up in his lungs. Again, they cut into him, cracking his chest and removing a portion of both lungs. Again, it seemed to be holding back, then it metastasized to his skin. Then, just after Sam's death, he began getting bad headaches. A scan revealed the cancer was in his brain... in two places. Two surgeries appeared to get the tumors, but the second surgery gave him a bacterial infection and blood clot, and he had to have a third emergency surgery to remove the clot and treat the infection. He'd been in the ICU for several days, and had just been moved into the standard oncology ward when he died.

My dad was my hero when I was a kid. He had ample opportunity to repeat the patterns of abuse directed at him throughout his childhood, yet he did not. He survived the loss of a child and later, a marriage, and came out a better human being. He was a kind and gentle man, a traveller, author, philosopher, entrepreneur. He was a talented computer programmer and a passionate yachtsman. He was a loving father and husband and a devoted grandfather. He embodied the Roman motto carpe diem, "seize the day", in his early retirement to a liveaboard cruising life in Florida, his sail cruises with Kit up the Eastern Seaboard, across the Caribbean and South America. Thank God he seized the day and did that - your normal healthy 62 year-old would usually still be working that day job. He inspires me even now to excellence in my own vocation, and in my fathering skills. When Samantha was sick, he was the lynchpin of my support system, despite his own condition.

He made the world better by being in it. His wife will miss him, his siblings will miss him. The grandchildren will miss Grampa Bear. And, Pop - I will always miss you too. Fair winds and following seas, Captain. We will meet again where the setting sun meets the vast and open sea. And there will be drinking of Chivas and telling of dirty jokes.

Until then...


Ali said...

What a beautiful tribute.



Nice post about your dad. My dad has just made it one year after learning of his LMS...he turns 72 this week and we are happy for every day.