Sunday, May 11, 2008

Deeper History

These thoughts have been swimming in my mind since I started having problems with the Girls. Since my diagnosis, they've been circling like sharks in the periphery of my mind. And only a few minutes ago did they finally come into focus, not to strike-- not yet, at least-- but to coalesce into something that I am able to articulate.

On October 1, 1976, my father died of cancer. I was three.

He was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease when he was a senior in high school, 17 years old. He fought it, skipped the first year of college, and went into remission. He met my mom in college and married her in 1972. I was born on his 25th birthday. By that time, he was out of remission. There had been talk that he might not live to see me born. He did, of course. Ma or my grandmother-- someone-- always tells me that my mom went into labor on August 30 and he begged her to hold on until the 31st so I would be the best birthday present ever.

Ma hung on. And he hung on for three years. We celebrated our last shared birthday together in his hospital room. Our shared birthday cake had hockey and golf figures on his side and a dollhouse desk and chair on my side-- I was to enter day care soon, and I was smart.

I'm sure I'll be thinking a lot about him as I go through this, but the thoughts that finally came into focus a few minutes ago are these:

1) He was 17 when he was first diagnosed. When he came out of remission, he was married and his wife was pregnant. I've always admired his bravery. I owe it to him to be as brave.

2) My mother lost her husband to cancer. She never remarried. And now her only child has cancer. I can't imagine how that must feel. From this point forth, I need to carry that with me and understand what a horror this must be.

3) As of this morning, my mother had not yet told my grandmother-- my father's mother and my only living grandparent. When I asked her about it today, it didn't strike me how hard this would be for my grandmother to hear. I need to carry that with me too.

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