I’m not sure how far I’ll get with this post. I’ll start and see what happens. It’s not going to be fun.
Today is Father’s Day and my dad is dying of mesothelioma. He was diagnosed with colon cancer 4 years ago and a year after surgery it metastasized to his lung. He had lung surgery, chemo, the works and was cancer free for a short 4-5 months. After a ct scan almost 2 years ago, his oncologist (who I am desperately in love with because he is PERFECT) gave us the news that a totally new cancer showed up on the film. MESOTHELIOMA. There’s no getting out of that one, for sure.
My dad is now 86. But he’s a young 86…at least he used to be. He was a young 84. Very independent, very hard working, very much an engineer. Everything he built was perfect: from engines, to furniture, models, machines, toys, and cabinets. Every line was straight, every hair in place, every shoe was shined. He’s a norwegian…a very typical norwegian. Healthy, quiet, stoic, and good. Truly, truly good. Still goes to church every sunday with my mom, sung in the choir for centuries. He’s on the building committee and the neighborhood water committee. He is the consummate voice of reason. He would do ANYTHING for anyone. Especially his children.
We had our dark moments, like every father/daughter. Keep in mind that adoption thing…I did not inherit any of the engineer genes. But he taught me well. What I lack in math skills, I make up for in noticing quality details in furniture and houses. He gave me that. However, as a teenager, I didn’t like my dad. He was strict, impossible to talk to and really not much fun. Except on vacations. Then, he was fun. He never drank to excess and rarely yelled, but looking back I now see that he was stressed much of the time.
We struggled with things. He could not for the life of him figure out why I would go out with such a jerk in high school. He hated my boyfriend. Which he should have, because the asshole totally abused me physically and mentally. He also couldn’t understand why I would divorce my first husband because he was smart, owned a house, and had a great job. The day I told him we were divorcing he asked, “What did you do now?” Then, there was the time I told him I was getting married (number 2) to a guy who was 10 years younger than me. I was 32. Dad looked kind of puzzled about that one. For 10 years. At year 12, when the entire world found out I was having an affair with a 57 year old man, he got PISSED. There’s another whole post to be written about THAT.
Yeah, we had some rough times.
The biggest of all, however, was after marriage #2 ended. I fell in love with a woman. Yeah, nothing could have prepared me for the year of silence from both of my parents. But they came around. She and I ended up getting married and have been together for 14 years. Both my parents love her. But it took some doing. Sometimes I think they were just so tired of my antics and bad relationships they were just done. Who knows. But they have accepted her into our family with love and open hearts. Not an easy thing for the old folks of a certain generation. I give them more credit for this than almost anything they’ve had to endure with me.
Today, as I mentioned, is Father’s Day. My dad is frail and weak. I want so badly to comfort him and tell him I love him and make sure he’s peaceful. But I can’t. I don’t know why. I’m struggling with the fact that this man’s life is going to end and I can’t say the “L” word. I gave him a card today and I wrote, “I love you, Dad”. His eyes are getting bad so he may not have read it but there it was. I love you, Dad. But I still can’t tell him.
In buddhism, we practice presence. Not turning away from anything but instead, turning in. Meditation is a tool in which to learn to do this. I’ve spent hours in meditation. Several week-long retreats, doing nothing but sitting in silence for hours on end. I’ve learned mantras and studied ancient sanskrit prayers. I have the bells, the cloths, the incense, the buddhas, the malas, the bowls, the sacred texts, the works. I should know by now that everything dies and that nothing lasts forever. But I don’t. Intellectually, I know it. But I don’t accept it. I turn away from it. STILL.
I stopped meditating about a year ago when I really started drinking again. The two decisions were not correlated they just seemed to overlap for some reason. I made the decision to drink again because I felt like I was turning too far away from it. How funny is THAT? A buddhist alcoholic can justify anything. Then I stopped meditating because I felt too addicted to it. Again, the justification thing. Seriously, what the fuck.
The interesting thing is that 26 days ago I made the decision to get sober again after 1 year of drinking, off of 8 years of sobriety. I am beginning to feel again and it’s scaring the shit out of me. I know I’m losing my father. I have no idea how long he has but based on his looks I have to say not very. I’m face to face with his death. And my own. It is colossally terrifying. I’m writing this post, not knowing what word will come next. I’m just hoping that somehow by pouring my fear into these words, that somehow a release valve will help me turn in and feel the fear of telling my father that I love him enough so that I actually can.