My Dad Might Die Today, But I Can’t Say That Out Loud
I think I assumed he’d live forever.
It’s 2:30 in the morning. I can’t sleep.
For the first time, I’m thinking about my parents’ mortality.
My dad will be having open-heart surgery in a few hours and I’m worried.
As someone who has survived her share of surgeries, lethal car accidents, and an assault, considering my own mortality is not a foreign concept. There have been a few times in my 40+ years on this earth when I thought I might not see the next day. But so far, I’ve been lucky.
So why did it blindside me when my dad announced he needed open-heart surgery?
Mydad was awarded a purple heart for his bravery in Vietnam years before he met my mom. So they’re going to do his surgery at a Veterans Hospital. He has several blockages and a bad valve.
While in the Army he drove a tank and shot an M-60 machine gun before waking up in a Japanese hospital. He landed there after an ammunition shed was blown up as he was running toward it. As a sergeant, he didn’t feel it was right to ask one of his men to go, so he went himself.
Dad has an entire team of physicians and specialists helping him. They all sound very confident regarding his prognosis. That’s a good sign, right?
And yet I worry, which I realize is normal.
I think it’s because the thought of losing either of my parents has never occurred to me. I realize how naive that sounds, but I’ve honestly never considered it.
Even when we thought my dad might have had a stroke and found out it was Guillain-barré syndrome, I never considered he might die. I simply wondered how it would affect his day-to-day once he beat it.
My dad has survived a lot.
I’m not ready to lose him.
But I’m afraid I might.
Dad has always been a man of few words. I don’t know if he was always that way or if it was the effect of raising three girls. I imagine he never had many opportunities to say anything between our chattering.
We grew up as a small Catholic family in Ohio. God, family, and community were all priorities. I hold tight to the memories of our many family adventures. We often took trips to explore the U.S.
My dad has always been a big nature lover. Not until I was an adult did I learn he thought about becoming a park ranger before marriage and family happened for him.
I’m fortunate to have traveled all across this country multiple times as a kid. I’m certain it’s why I love the mountains, Northern California, and the state of Oregon so much. The redwood forest is the cleanest, most humbling, and beautiful place I’ve ever seen. And the most brilliant blue in the world resides in Crater Lake, Oregon.
In between big trips my folks would haul us two hours each way to southern Ohio’s Mohican State Park for the day. We hiked, canoed, picnicked, cooked over an open fire, and more. And as we got older, we got to bring along friends to explore the park with us.
Fishing was another family hobby as well as a staple food source. My dad, my grandfather, and my uncles all loved to fish. Dad even set a record in Ohio one year. The fish was as long as my older cousin was tall. It was the biggest and ugliest catfish I’d ever seen.
Once in a while, Dad would take one of us girls with him. Before the sun was up he’d lean close to our pillow and whisper.
Wake up. You wanna go fishin’?
The deal was that if it was your turn to go with Dad, you got to skip school, have breakfast at a cool old diner, enjoy a packed lunch, and hang out with Dad for the day — as long as you were quiet enough not to wake your sisters.
I’m guessing we never caught much. I can’t imagine me or my sisters being calm or quiet enough for the fish to bite. My memories are only filled with the fun I had. Fishing with Dad was like a mini-break for a day.
Your loved ones are superheroes. — The Extraordinaires by T.J. Klune
Dad’s tough. He and my mom have raised three tough, independent, kickass women. We were always told we can do anything we put our minds to doing. And I still believe that today.
Dad’s a survivor. I have no doubts he passed on to me his stubbornness to live and survive whatever is thrown at me. I’m not sure I’d be here without it.
I have faith that my dad will not only survive his surgery but thrive after his recovery. I have to hold on to that feeling or I won’t get through this day.
Death is inevitable but fearing death is a choice. I can choose to stay positive. This doesn’t mean I get to ignore reality. It simply means I can recognize all the possibilities and choose to focus on the positive ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scared. I don’t want to lose my dad.
This is why I write. It’s my therapy. My way of sorting through the emotional mess in my head and heart. I dare not say the bad things, the horrible and inappropriate things aloud for that may make them come true. So I write them down in the quiet of my office. Allowing them to exist only on the screen or on paper.
And around family and friends, I speak aloud all the positive possibilities. How my dad will be running circles around his three daughters this summer. How he’ll be creating in his woodshop again before Thanksgiving. How his surgery will seem like a lifetime ago by Christmas.
The hardest part is that I believe in all the possibilities. I believe the words I write down. And I believe the words I say out loud. It’s all true.
And that’s why I can’t sleep right now.