I've mentioned it before but my father and I have never been close. Not because I didn't want it. He made the choice to not be present in my life until I pursued a relationship at about the age of 16. Since then, the relationship has been tentative at best with our conversations sounding more like two people who are working through verbal pleasantries without any depth. I'm not sure if he is not capable of giving more, and I am worried about scaring him off so we keep things relatively superficial.
Until 2 years ago...
I happened to call my father one day and was told that he was recovering from "minor surgery." We talked the next day and he mentioned that he had just had surgery on his throat. He talked about the surgeon, the cutting edge technology and how he was pleased with his decision. It wasn't until later in the conversation that he casually mentioned that the surgery was to remove cancer of the throat. A choke stuck in my throat as I asked as casually as I could how he found it. He explained that he had a bump on his neck while shaving that wasn't going away and was in fact growing. A biopsy showed it to be malignant but that it had originated someplace else..it happened to originate in his throat. Prognosis was supposed to be good and he was going to do radiation and chemo for about 4 - 6 weeks. It was very clear that he didn't want me alarmed and I felt like if I was to be alarmed, he might withdraw so I kept it casual. 4 weeks later, I called him to check in. The voice on the other end of the line sounded like someone on his deathbed and I was devastated. He croaked out a "i can't talk, will email you. bye." 2 days later, I got an email from him saying that the treatment had destroyed him and his body - this man who had been larger than life, stronger than any man I've ever known (physically, mentally and emotionally) had been toppled by this disease.
Over the next couple days I had to face a lot of reality. Why we hadn't been close, what part I had played in the lack of relationship and that if I didn't say what I felt to him, I might lose the opportunity. I wrote a long, very vulnerable email telling him that I loved him but had chosen to hang back because I didn't want to try to make him the dad he had chosen not to be many years prior. I told him that I wanted him so badly as a father and I needed him. His response? For the first and only time in my entire life, he told me that he loved me.
We talked more often after that, but neither of us made a true attempt at spending time together over the last 2 years. In fact, it has been almost 13 years since we have seen each other. There is always something else to do, money to spend on something else, etc., and despite the health scare it hasn't been a priority for either of us.
Yesterday I got an email from my father. He told me not to be alarmed but he has cancer again. He downplayed it in an attempt to not alarm me. He doesn't want a fuss made, no drama, no fanfare so I acted casual on the phone and we agreed to talk more with the end result being a visit where we can talk and get to know each other. I got off the phone and sobbed. Again, facing the mortality of the man that I desperately need and haven't had. And although he may not ever be the dad that I envision in my head, he is still alive and there is opportunity for more than we have now. The time is now.
Life doesn't come with guarantees. We only have the moment we are in...the hangups, the wasted energy, the "what ifs", the lost time. I have a nasty reminder called C A N C E R to let me know that I need to seize the day and do what needs to be done. Today. No more excuses.
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