My dad will tell a risqué joke and point out the irony of a situation and dance until his feet hurt. He’s a barrel of laughs and a jolly good time. When my high school drama class wanted to learn about ballroom dancing, he came into my class and taught us the tempos of a waltz and tango. He (and my mom) took me to see ANNIE in lieu of the open house at school. I wanted them to meet my kindergarten teacher with such enthusiasm, but they had long ago purchased tickets for me to see my first full-scale production.
When I was a teenager my father took me to see a dress rehearsal of Bizet’s CARMEN. We got to see the diva perform in half-costume. The maestro interrupting her aria to fine tune the orchestra on a particular phrase. It was such an incredible experience to witness. Maybe it was that night that we waited for the valet, who couldn’t figure out how to start my dad’s fancy car. (His automobile was among the first to use a push button starter.) The frazzled valet returned to us and had to ask my for instructions on how to start the car.
My dad is an experienced boater. He’s taken out his sea worthy craft into the ocean, ran aground, faced hurricane winds and lived to tell about it. That same boat caused him so much stress and anxiety that he had a heart attack on it. He was quick to chew up some aspirin and get to the hospital where he had a quadruple bypass surgery.
Everything with my dad was thrilling. And different. He is a living success story. He immigrated through Ellis Island as a child. He remembers the magnificence of seeing the Statue of Liberty upon arrival to the United States. His parents divorced, which was scandalous at the time. He was well read and knows a little about just about any topic. History in particular. Though odds were against him, he rose up and made something of himself. I reaped the reward of his hard work and lived a privilege childhood.
Now, at 76, my fearless father faces cancer. And I believe he is afraid. Who isn’t when facing their own mortality? My sorrow is deep, my fear at surface level. This amazing character, this incredible guy, is also one who now gives me angst because we do not see eye to eye politically.
I’ve only seen my parents twice since the pandemic. My mom says “I know you get nervous” when I insist on wearing masks around them or when I decline an invitation to gather with them AND my brother’s family. What was an innocent difference of political opinion, has become a difference in how I see behaving in a pro-life model. The tables have turned. Now I’ve become seemingly more “pro-life” in my effort to keep everyone around me safe from an invisible enemy. And should my father’s prognosis be bad, scary, terminal, and daunting? How will we navigate this during a pandemic that only I believe is as dangerous as reported?
This is all so very difficult to process. Today we will learn the fate of my father’s illness. He meets with an oncologist to find out what treatment options are available to him and if they will prolong his life or save it from the grips of cancer. Because of geography + pandemic, I sit idly by and await secondhand play by plays. I wish to take on the burden of my parents’ pain and woe.
I keep reminding myself that this is not my journey. It isn’t my boat. And nobody has asked me to take the wheel. So I hope my marvelous parents are gently cruising toward smoother waters on the horizon.