When I was younger, we had a pool. I learned to swim in that very pool and all the neighborhood kids used to come to our house to use it. Summers were a constant revolving door of bathing suits, snacks, and tiny, wet footprints surrounding the perimeter.
I remember the joy of waking up one day on the first warm weekend of the season and hearing, “Dad is opening the pool today!”
He would pull off the tarp and there would be hundreds of salamanders, swimming and squirming against the burst of sunlight infiltrating their winter cave. There would be the occasional dead frog, maybe one still alive, that my dad would chase me with and then fling back into the woods.
Once the pH was balanced (another chore I loved to do once I was old enough), we would swim. My mother always called me a fish and would have to drag me out with blue lips and fingers that had been long pruned.
My dad was the one who always swam with me.
When I was smaller, he would catapult me off his shoulders and I would scream in delight at being tossed around. We would swim laps, talk, and just enjoy what having a pool is all about. Without fail, every time my mom and I would fall over laughing because my dad’s hair would be flung around every which way so he looked like Larry from the 3 Stooges, another one of our favorites.
If you go to that house, my tiny handprints with the date are still etched in the concrete.
My dad has always been strong. The go to work in a suit, always home by 6, pay the bills, horrible cook, fix anything, complete personification of gender norms type of man. I loved that about him. I rode on the tractor with him each weekend while he cut the grass. He taught me to throw a baseball and is still the only person I know who can throw that perfect pop fly to practice catching.
He never gets sick. He recently went to the doctor simply because my mom had strep and found out he had it too, but was symptomless. He never calls out of work or sleeps in past 6am. He is dependable, trustworthy – a rock.
These past months have been jarring for me. When my mom called me to tell me that my dad threw his back out changing her snow tires, I didn’t believe it would be a big deal. After all, both of my parents had thrown their backs out before, recovered, and tried to see chiropractors regularly.
This time was different. The pain didn’t go away, it got worse. My once incredibly active father was chair bound. Walking pained him. He was working from home because the walk from his car to the office was too excruciating. For the first time, he began to look weary and tired.
I’ve always been aware of his age. I am the baby of the family, so when I was born, my father was already 40. I know it was difficult for him to be as active as he wanted to be when I was growing up, but I never saw it. I just saw my dad as strong. It created this built in invincibility in my mind that was cast around him. Nothing could happen to him because he’s my dad.
Having this happen was a slap of reality. I got scared. Working in cancer clinical trials has scarred me to always watch for the worst. I saw tons of girls come in with bone pain only to find out its bone mets from breast cancer. I worried that he had a tumor on his spine or something even worse.
I haven’t experienced things that my mom has. When I was under a year old, my dad went to a dermatologist for a skin lesion that turned out to be malignant melanoma. The only reason he is alive today is because he had surgery quick enough and the cancer had miraculously not spread to his lymph nodes. My mom faced the very real possibility that she would be raising my sister and me on her own. I almost never knew him.
So the something worse to me was a cancer recurrence that had spread. I didn’t tell anyone this…it was just my worst fear. When he finally saw a surgeon, he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and a herniated disc. After long months of pain, today he finally will be having surgery to hopefully fix the ailment.
|Walking me down the aisle, despite how much pain he was in|
It’s been a harsh reminder. My dad is not invincible and time does have a limit. I won’t sit here and lie to you that I’m scared to know that my dad is going under anesthesia. People go in for routine procedures and don’t wake up. It is always a terrifying experience.
In the end, I know he will be okay. I am looking forward to him reclaiming his life and vitality. It’s been hard to see him so inactive, especially when he continues to push himself beyond his limits because he so badly wants to be doing the things he knows he is still capable of.
It’s also a tough reminder of why Carl and I want to have a family sooner rather than later. Carl is 38, so he will be about the same age hopefully when our future child is born.
And just like my dad, our child will never know that his shoulders creak when he tosses them off his shoulders into the pool. They will know him as strong, capable, and dependable, just as I did when I was small. With any luck, my dad and Carl will be tossing our child into the water together.
Please keep my dad in your thoughts today & wish him a speedy recovery, xo.