Last November on the one year anniversary of my Grandfather’s death, I had come out a test feeling horrible because I knew I hadn’t done well — I was ready for Thanksgiving, ready to be home, and wasn’t digging the day which was simply a reminder that I missed someone I loved. At such moments the only people who are really willing to put up with your whining are your parents, so naturally I shot my Dad a token text, “Daddyyy I just want to come home 😦 ” and was surprised when his response was, “Rescue team wll be in its way to collect you. Things will be alright. Don’t forget how much we love you!”
I don’t know if you ever tried to fake sick when you were little, but even if you haven’t I don’t think I have to explain why I was extremely surprised his response wasn’t something more along the lines of “just a few more days and you’ll be home, keep going, etc.” Mentally shrugging it off, I would accept the strange offer to come home early, although something felt off about the circumstances. I naively thought maybe the reason my Mom was also acting weird via text was because there was some sort of surprise in store – my uncle was visiting from South Africa and in some wild region of my mind I thought maybe his kids had flown to America as a holiday treat. The expression on my mother’s face when she and my uncle showed up at me room quickly changed my mind as it hit me that whatever was going to be discussed wasn’t going to be good news.
To make a long and uncomfortable conversation very, very short, they both told me in tears that my Dad had been diagnosed that afternoon with an aggressive, terminal kind of cancer. To say that you’ll never be prepared for this kind of news is an understatement. It hits you in waves. As you’re going about your day you’ll have some sort of small, horrible epiphany like, “Who is going to walk me down the aisle at my wedding now?” There’s really nothing you can do about that when, for example, you’re in a checkout line trying to get tea before a class – it just becomes an unfortunate realm of your everyday thought pattern.
As one of my childhood friends put it, I’m kind of obsessed with my Dad, have been for years. He’s a bro and a half, has a killer sense of sarcasm, and undoubtedly is someone I idolize. His compassion, determination, and bravery are off the charts. The lock screen of my iPhone has only ever been one image which was immediately uploaded the day I got it.
Clearly I didn’t need a new reason to constantly be thinking of my Dad every day — I already was.
I was supposed to go abroad this past spring. I quickly changed those plans just after Thanksgiving, mainly because when I visited the hospital doctors told me that my time with my father was most likely of the “months” not “years” variety. They said I should focus on making the most of my current time with my Dad, focus on making memories count. I didn’t need it to be spelled out for me — Europe was always going to be there and, as I was being so aggressively reminded, Daddy wasn’t. They told me I had three months. Seven months later, I cried while writing this because they were wrong.
Though I got the good news the day after Father’s Day, it has taken me this long to really decide what I want to say or think about the fact that my father underwent surgery successfully which was able to remove what the doctors feel was all of the tumors. I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am to all of the people who have supported my family through this, especially close friends who have been there for me in every capacity — whether that meant answering a text at 3 AM, hugging me when I needed it, or simply understanding when I went out the door to go running at 10 o’clock at night. I also cannot begin to describe how proud I am of my Dad, who at Christmas time was unable to eat anything, was bedridden, and was getting the majority of his nutrition through an IV.
To use the phrase “miracle” seems almost sacrilegious to me — miracles are things like Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus allowing a blind man to see. Miracles are written about in sacred texts and are not something any regular person can claim to have experienced in their own lives, right? I’ve never considered myself holy enough or strict enough with my religious practices to think that I deserve to say that any event I’ve witnessed in my life has been a miracle — except I’m not sure I feel that way anymore.
The definition of a miracle is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency” and for the most part, that’s how I have always felt about my Dad getting sick. There was never an explanation for it, but I knew there was some reason I didn’t understand. And now, I feel the same way about his healing — I’m eternally grateful though I don’t understand the outcome.