I’m not a superstitious person. Really I’m not. But today is my Friday the 13th and for the next year 13 will be my unlucky number. You see, today is the 13th anniversary of the day that changed my life. Thirteen years ago we lost my father to the demon disease, cancer. My dad was the kind of dad that every kid wants. He was funny, brilliant, dedicated, and he loved us. We always knew he loved us. He was affectionate and would never hesitate to give us a hug or tell us he loved us. And on the flip side, he was the bad guy when needed. I was sure his hand was as big as a frying pan when I was little. Or at least it felt like it was.
My dad was my first knight in shining armor. I remember being a little girl and just knowing I was going to marry him. Well, I was four, give me a break! But as I grew and started dating, he was the standard all men were measured against. And let me tell ya, he set that bar pretty darn high.
My pop was a big bear of a man, but he was all squishy and loveable on the inside. And a joker. Ohmygosh did he love a good joke. Or to pull a joke on someone, like his friend Mike Tyler. Mike owned a furniture store next door to my dad’s office and they were like-minded in the dry humor department. For grins, one day my dad bought a can of Skoal (disgusting, repulsive stuff), dumped it out and replaced it with chopped up raisins. Dad was a smoker, not a dipper. blech to both. Anyway, so he’s standing around shooting the breeze with Mike and casually pulls the can out of his pocket and proceeds to place a ‘dip’ in his lip, as if this is nothing new and happens every day. Mike’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head and he started in on my dad,
‘What are you doing?’
‘What? what do you mean?’
‘That! You don’t dip!’
‘Sure I do. I just started.’
it goes on for a bit and at some point my dad finally came clean. (I wasn’t actually there to see this, I heard about it later, I’ve inserted what I think may have been said.) But it really happened, we found the can in his desk after he passed.
He had a stubborn streak too, maybe that’s where I get my determination from. When he was in his very early 40’s he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I have a vivid memory of visiting him in the hospital. His tumor caused him to have a seizure commonly called an absence attack. It’s like the lights are on, but no one’s at home. He was driving late at night and had one of these seizures and wrecked his car. This was when the tumor was discovered. The news just kept getting worse. Not only was he in a bad crash, he had a brain tumor on top. My visit to the hospital after his wreck was earth shattering. Here was my Superman, lying in a hospital bed with an oxygen mask, two black eyes, and numerous other cuts and bruises. He wasn’t supposed to look like that. Things like that weren’t supposed to happen to my dad. That was the day I learned that yes, it can happen to me.
Dad went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for treatment. They did the best they could, but were not able to remove all of the tumor, so he did chemo & radiation. My uncle bought my dad a goofy Tina Turner wig as a gag so he wouldn’t have to be totally bald. That stubborn streak served him well. The doctors told him that the 5 year survival rate for his type of cancer was only about 5%. Which means only 5% of people with that diagnosis live to the 5 year mark, post-diagnosis. What did my dad do? He told the doctors to piss off, they don’t know everything, and they’re sure as hell not gonna tell him when it was time to die. GO DAD! He changed his diet and lifestyle significantly and he did it, he lived, and lived well, for 18 more years.
I don’t know how I would have turned out if he’d listened to the doctors and not made it to the 5 year mark. I was 13 when he had his wreck. Thirteen is an awkward enough age and I was still reeling from my parents divorce when he was given this diagnosis. I am so incredibly thankful that I didn’t have to find out. I am however very sad that my children will never know him and how much fun he could be. How his laugh sounded or how great his hugs were. He always wanted grandchildren. He had big plans to spoil the heck of them and send them home. My oldest was born the year after he died. I tell them about him all the time and what he used to do and the things he loved and enjoyed. Fathers have a profound effect on their children. I just wish that every child was fortunate enough to have a dad like mine. The world would be a much better and different place.
Even though it’s been thirteen long years, I still miss him terribly and think of him daily. I still talk to him sometimes too. Not as much as I did in the beginning, but I do. Even though it does get easier, you never get over it. The pain is just not quite as raw as it was initially, but it’s still there.
I love you dad.