I apologize, in advance, for such a solemn first entry, but today, on this date, is a day I generally dread year and year again. You see, seven years ago today, I lost my dad to cancer.
Seven. Years. I'm not sure what's harder to come to terms with. The fact that it has been seven years or the fact that I have to even mentally conjure such a notion. Speaking the words "my dad is no longer living" is what I imagine to be the equivalent of an alcoholic publicly declaring "I'm an alcoholic" for the first time in an AA meeting. It is something that is often excruciating to come to terms with but you know it will haunt you forever if you don't.
I remember the day he came over to tell me that he went to the doctor (finally) because he had been having some issues. Apparently, shitting blood is something you should really let go for an entire year. After a brutal few days of waiting for his test results, we received his diagnosis: Stage IV Colorectal Cancer. If you can remember one thing about cancer, Stage IV is generally not a good thing, but it isn't always the worst thing. He immediately began treatment, had surgery to remove the cancerous part of his bowel and was given a colostomy bag.
Further and further into his treatment he began to slow down. He lost a lot of weight, buzzed his head and his happy, carefree disposition in life began to dwindle. He sold his boat and he required the assistance of my grandpa and uncle to help him with his heating and cooling business. I used to take him to chemo and sit there for hours with him. I'd do his grocery shopping and sometimes we'd just sit on the back step of his condo drinking vodka/cranberries while shootin' the shit. Our relationship had really transformed into something it had never been before. Something I think we both wished would have happened sooner in life but our bull-headed, painfully stubborn ways got in the way.
After putting up a near four-year struggle, cancer won. That day plays over and over in my head like a broken record. As each year passes, it becomes more and more vivid than the year before. After he went into a coma, it was just a waiting game. All the words had been spoken and we waiting for him to exit.
The emotions that stem from waiting for someone to die are the polar opposite of those feelings associated with the anticipation of the birth of a new life. Sky-high excitement vs rock bottom lows. The two most opposite feelings a human can ever experience.
I remember sitting there in the room with him as his breathing became more and more labored, and in my head I was just screaming, "DIE! JUST FUCKING DIE ALREADY!" I just wanted it to be over. Like a Band-Aid, I knew it would sting at first, but that eventually I would heal on my own. Unfortunately, even seven years later, it's still a gaping wound.
The thing about death is that it is painfully permanent. It runs deep into your soul and can unexpectedly erupt at any given time. Grief is a bitch, and it never, ever goes away. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him. Some good, some bad, and some that will forever leave me wondering why he was taken so soon.
When the day comes that I am finally brave enough to tell my children about their Grandpa Bill, I know that I can count on Lake St. Clair, Punch cigars and Fleetwood Mac to get me thru....