As an only child growing up I learned to appreciate the little things, and maybe got overly excited about them. I was the type of kid who would watch the “Back To The Future” trilogy over and over until bed. I remember one thing I would jump up for in an instant moment of bliss every time: when my dad would pull into the driveway. One day when I was six or so, I got so excited that I defied my mom, burst through the front door and sped outside to see him, gracefully tripping over the sidewalk and falling flat on my face. Blood started to ooze from my knee. Now it was my dad’s turn to run. I’ll always remember it clear as day the first thing he said to me when he picked me up.
“Don’t tell your mother.”
That’s my dad. There for me when I need him, and always good for a laugh. Every exciting trip to Disney World and every historic snooze fest we went to he had a way of always knowing exactly when I needed his big bear hug.
Fourteen years, a divorce, a new fiancée and a lot of angsty teenage years from his daughter later, my dad didn’t change much. His thick glasses made him look like he was stuck in a Steven Spielberg flick, curling behind his all-too-obviously dyed hair. You would most likely see my dad scarfing down another milk-soaked Oreo, watching handyman shows, trying to teach his clumsy daughter those lessons, or trying to figure out how to download some ‘hip’ new song he just heard.
Then my dad was in the hospital.
I give no lead up or ease-in here because there was no lead up or ease in when I got the phone call. There was nothing out of the ordinary about that day last semester. My dad had always been the big strong 6-foot-something guy who’d help you lift that heavy couch. Not someone who would be in the hospital.
I thought the waiting would be the hardest part, but the hardest part was hearing it was Leukemia. Suddenly, I reverted back to the only child who just wanted her dad to pick her up and tell her it would be ok. The nosey dad who would ask her what boy she was texting.
The longer the treatment went on, the more my dad changed. He didn’t want Oreos anymore. He couldn’t stay awake for the handyman shows he once enjoyed. I saw the dad I love get discouraged by his illness. But I saw so much more.
I saw the power of a support system I never knew existed. I saw the love of perfect strangers during the holiday season, and the caring of co-workers who didn’t mind the gowns and masks and visited for hours at a time. I saw my dad get beaten down by an impossible situation, and I saw the father I love get up and fight through the Cancer.
It is not over. There are still more tests, chemo and ultimately a transplant. But I like to think back to the time I fell and my dad picked me up from time to time. Because now, along with my stepmother and the help of so many great people, it’s my turn to help him get back up. I have faith that soon my dad will be back to his old self, scarfng down cookies with his daughter watching “This Old House” and trying to get me to help re wire lightbulbs. But for now he’s pulling off the bald look better than Bruce Willis. Always appreciate the little things, folks.